Keller Williams | 11.12.08 | Oregon

Words by: Mike Bookey | Images by: Mark Davidson

Keller Williams with Moseley, Droll and Sipe :: 11.12.08 :: Domino Room :: Bend, OR

Williams, Moseley, Sipe :: 02.21 :: NYC
Almost two years to the day after his solo show almost sold out the Midtown Ballroom, Keller Williams returned to Bend. But this time around, there were two striking differences. First off, the often-solo Williams was playing with his all-star cast of musicians, billing the show as "Keller Williams with Moseley, Droll and Sipe" (enter any and all law firm jokes), and secondly, the show was in the Domino Room, the much smaller club adjoined to the Midtown. The crowd was smaller, the dynamics of the full-band sound a little looser than typical Keller, but at the end of the night it was the same old Keller.

In a time when the jam band scene is both shifting and shrinking, as Williams noted in interviews before setting out on the West Coast tour that landed his band in Oregon, the onstage chemistry of Keith Moseley (bass), Gibb Droll (guitar) and Jeff Sipe (drums) is a reminder of why the genre still matters. The act doesn't necessarily deliver the mathematically precise numbers Keller is able to master during his looping, instrument-hopping live solo shows, but it's in KWMDS' unpredictability that their true appeal lies.

Keller, dressed in a baggy t-shirt and what appeared to be pajama pants, and the rest of the equally casual lineup ushered in a late arriving crowd with an instrumental jam, keeping things largely funky and more or less on the slow side. Hardcore Keller fans shouted out requests, many of which were the time-tested standards that have powered the one-man band since his String Cheese Incident-following days of the late '90s. Possibly by coincidence, Keller and company launched into "Kiwi and the Apricot" soon after a bouncing young woman shouted out the title, and the cut had all the panache it does when Keller takes it on solo. If there were any picky Keller fans (i.e. the type of folks who've knocked the full band tour on the message boards – and there's plenty of them out there) in the mix they were keeping their reservations to themselves.

Williams & Moseley :: 02.21 :: NYC
Late in the first set, Moseley, just as he did during his String Cheese days, shyly got behind the microphone and used his rootsy voice to lead the quartet in a dead-on rendition of The Band's classic "Ophelia," with all four members lending their efforts to the chorus. A cover of "Ophelia" might not seem that remarkable – it's a common staple for other touring acts as well – but KWMDS nailed it with an eerie sort of precision that hints to the fact that this band could probably play just about any cover they want, and do it well.

Without overpowering the band's namesake, Droll put his guitar in the spotlight – at least figuratively, considering he was hidden behind a speaker stack for much of the show, a position he didn't seem to mind. Droll lit up the room with explosive, quick-paced solos that shied away from excessive noodling in favor of attention to melody that snuggled him nicely into the dynamics of the band's improvisations.

In the second set, Keller emanated his bubbly, sometimes goofy personality of old (which seemed somewhat absent from the first set), clearly not minding the silliness dripping into songs like "Ninja of Love." And the goofiness continued as Keller half-rapped/half spoke about a dream he had of riding in a convertible with Aretha Franklin and Carole King. Without much hesitation, the band broke into King's "Natural Woman," with Keller taking the lead vocals and the band in whole, as well as the 500-some-odd assembly of fans, blasting out the classic chorus. Again, these guys are damn good with covers, which in a way makes sense given that three-fourths of the band is, in a way, playing a set of Keller Williams covers.

With the Cascade Mountain range towering over the town, Keller used his snowboard-themed track "Freshies" to pump a crowd littered with ski bums anxious for the upcoming season, despite the fact that balmy temperatures on that night and much of the week to come worked to delay the opening of nearby Mt. Bachelor. Keller has always been funny as hell (at least when he wants to be) and this night's rendition of "Freshies" had the shaggy haired songster freestyle rapping over a sexy funk groove about the importance of waking up early for a day of skiing.

The laughs soon melted into the sorts of hoots and hollers that result when musicians as terrifyingly talented as Keller and company are moving at full speed – which they were as the second set rose to a fever pitch, culminating in a second-set closing "Best Feeling." There was a certain scent of nostalgia in the air during the poppy track from Keller's Buzz album, that is now (perhaps unbelievably) almost 13 years old, as the somewhat thinned-out crowd belted out the song's super positive chorus.

For Keller, the venues and crowds might be getting smaller but it seems his following is as devoted as ever – and for good reason. This guy is still bringing the heat, and still isn't afraid to wear his pajamas onstage.

Keller and crew are on tour now, dates available here.

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[Published on: 11/20/08]

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PooDolla Thu 11/20/2008 11:38AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I was at the show a week earlier in San Diego. They kick ass. It seems like Keller kind struggles to keep up with the jamming abilities of the rest of the band but he still pulls it off. I would recommend to anyone that has not seen these guy to go out a get a ticket to a show. You won't be dissappointed.

willydog Thu 11/20/2008 12:55PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I was at the Fillmore - SF show and was totally impressed with the energy that this band can put off. It was a loose crowd but that did not stop them from bringing it...Fat Eyes of the World, Fat Sometimes a River and Look At Where we are...some SCI in the house. Moving Sidewalk another high point. I just can't say enough. Long Live the Freek K to the Dub!!!!!!

moephishH2O starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/20/2008 01:26PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Solid show in Eugene last week. The McDonald Theater went nuts when they busted out a 'Birds of a Feather' good stuff!

ScIFreak Thu 11/20/2008 02:01PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I love keller, but I think he overcharges when he is by Himself, isn't around 40 dollars to see him now a days? I mean c'mon brha!

dirtbike1 Thu 11/20/2008 02:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


First saw these guys at HSMF this year (kicked ass) then again in LA and S.F both great shows. Keller looked like he was having alot of fun with this band.I like keller but the looping thing was getting alittle old and this band was a nice change up.I think this tour is just about over :( but I hope they will return in the near future.

phunkle starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/20/2008 04:47PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I love these guys and not a bad write-up, but calling Best Feeling "poppy"??? You don't hear good stuff like that on pop radio...

pugs689 starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/20/2008 07:34PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Anyone know anything about the Grunge Grass deal?

RedHeaven starstarstarstar Thu 11/20/2008 07:47PM
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"Poppy" isnt a bad thing can sometimes mean catchy with a lot of melodies. I think poppy is good. Wish I would of caught the Tahoe show....Im all about keeping the jam band faith, with the goodins that is.

iwantstogetfunkedup Thu 11/20/2008 08:45PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Sipe! Gotta love the drumming

id rather be phishing Thu 11/20/2008 09:20PM
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They were awesome in Boston, awful in West Virginia.. seemed like 2 completely different bands.

Ter starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/21/2008 09:34AM
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dirtbike1 nailed it... keller needed to change things up and try out a new adventure I mean he is the mad scientist. bummed I missed the show in Portland last week...MMW was playing on the same night (coin flip)

Bryan24 Fri 11/21/2008 09:37AM
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i might be stupid but i've been seeing for a long time people using the phrase IMO, someone please tell me what it means.

sschaffner Fri 11/21/2008 10:05AM
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^in my opinion.... blah blah blah, LOL, abbreviation this and abbreviation that. pretty soon the youth of our nation won't even know how to spell, or form complete sentences. although, maybe it's worth it to save 2 seconds of your time? hmmmm, doubtful.

mhbookey Fri 11/21/2008 10:16AM
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Pugs689, I talked to Keller about the Grunge Grass thing. He's only doing a few shows with it, and as you probably guessed it's bluegrass reworkings of popular 1990s "grunge" tunes. He acknowledged that he's not the biggest grunge fan, but thought it would be fun to arrange the tunes for bluegrass. According to Keller, "you should be able to sing along to about 99 percent of the tunes."

pugs689 starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/21/2008 11:48AM
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mhbookey, That's what I thought. I am headed to the Lancaster, PA show tonight and this show falls into the Grunge Grass category. Thank you!

jus100odon Fri 11/21/2008 01:08PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i think kellers kinda bad at playing with others. i saw him in milwalkie about a month ago and to be honest his new band gave me a head ache. the room was almost full when cornmeal opened and by the time we left, it was down to about 200 people. i feel that his band would be way beetter without him, no offence keller. a way better solo act. to terr ell, i recomend mmw way way way over keller. but thats just me

torn&treyed Sat 11/22/2008 12:00PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

def alwyas go check out KW regardless of se up but the solo stuff is hat I fell in love with and he just isnt fired up on it all, he says in interviews how he sees it as his day job........ kinda sucks the fun out of it a little

RussellRubin65 starstarstarstar Sat 11/22/2008 02:02PM
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Does anyone have that Keller show from NYC im me @ russellrubin65

Deklen Mon 11/24/2008 04:22PM
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I enjoy him more with this band. In Ithaca, last year, they played this same Aretha Franklin / Carol King "Natural Woman" jam and it was hilarious. He should keep it up with this band, they sure put on a good show.