KELLER TO CLEANSE THE PALATE

Keller Williams, Martin Sexton, Ari Hest :: 12.04.04 :: Webster Theatre :: Hartford, CT

One thing about this past year seems clear, Keller Williams has blown up. In 2004 alone, the time-tested road warrior has earned two Jammy nominations, a coveted spot on the cover of Relix, appeared on a VH1 special, received a number one ranking on the Jamband's 30 for his live, double-disc release Stage, sold out show after show, and though not a "double decker double wide," Williams has upgraded to a rather large tour bus. But two months ago, Williams received a much greater honor, the title of "Daddy" with the birth of his child.


Keller Williams :: 12.04 :: Webster Theatre
On this Saturday in Hartford though, minus wife and baby, Williams takes his stage persona as the one man jamband... or quite simply, "Mack Daddy." The triple threat bill of all male, solo, acoustic guitarists also featured Ari Hest and the velvety voiced Martin Sexton. Williams, in the headlining role, strolled onto stage strumming and quickly began belting out the lyrics to "Gate Crashers Suck." This song is about KW's annual pilgrimage to Deer Creek to see the Grateful Dead and the '95 show that was cancelled due to rowdy "fans" that crashed the gates and stormed the venue. Williams' Zen-like understanding and simplicity, the driving force behind his charm and appeal as a singer/songwriter, are the focal point of this tune. Williams was in peak form with the juxtaposition of utter sincerity and dead pan comedic delivery on "Gate Crashers." Stone faced, deadly serious and glowing a warm orange hue from the lights, Williams delivered the lyrics:


Keller Williams :: 12.04
"I was there at Deer Creek back in 1995/ I think it was June maybe July but Jerry was still alive/ All the kids in the parking lot they tore that fence down/ And I blame them for the second show getting cancelled... party crashing/ buzz thrashing/ stinky bastards/ and if you're one of them and you hear this song/ fuck you, you cock sucking mother fucker."

Of course, Williams' stellar musicianship and self-taught mastery of all types of guitars are a perfect compliment to his wit. The complete package would continue to be displayed (as well as the Dead tribute) as common Keller cover "Birdsong" would follow. The ode to Janis Joplin would segue into a rip roaring jam before settling into "Kiwi and the Apricot." Morphing out of that would be the much welcomed "Best Feeling." The nearly sold out crowd of around 1,100 greeted the familiar intro with deafening cheers as Williams launched into the staple song. The tune was also a nod to the fast approaching holiday season as he sang, "For one second I felt just like a kid... on Christmas day."


Keller Williams :: 12.04 :: Webster Theatre
Williams would next begin his looping madness looking more like a mad scientist at work in his lab than musician on stage. The experiment began with a signature, booty shakin' bass riff. Adding a layer of beat box amidst some button pushing and pedal kickin', the wily wizard, in his lab coat of "love handles" and a shaggy mane, would then play the Theremin over the top of it all. And over the top is exactly where Williams took the crowd as he motioned and manipulated his hands in the air and the energy-sensing device emitted its trademark high-pitch cries and shrieks. Ending the segue that started with "Birdsong," Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" followed. I couldn't help but wonder if this was a message from the notorious stoner about his habit and the birth of a child. Probably not.


Martin Sexton :: 12.04 :: Webster Theatre
Later in the set Martin Sexton would come out on vocals to join Williams on the piano for Sexton's "Black Sheep." The smile on my face grew at the observation of the slightly portly and tad pudgy duo. A vocal jam ensued that wound into an amazingly entertaining take on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" from "The Lion King." Sexton actually had the headlining role the previous evening at The Orpheum in Boston, the city where Sexton rose to fame. His set on this night, prior to Williams', was full of audience call and responses and chorus sing-alongs. I would not necessarily call Sexton a "jam" musician, but his lyrical talent, golden voice and acoustic guitar prowess make him a big draw for fans from varying genres. Sexton would however satisfy the jam freaks sandwiching a smoking cover of the 80's hit "Electric Avenue" between his selections. Another Sexton highlight would be the tune "Tree House," a song about... well, a tree house where he stashed his drug paraphernalia as a kid. When the stash was discovered, the tree was cut down. Sexton's final offering would be a rousing cover of U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."


Keller Williams :: 12.04 :: Webster Theatre
As strong as Sexton was, KW would be the star on this night and before reaching the encore, now solo again, Williams paid homage to Michael Franti with the popular cover of "Stay Human" – and indeed "All the freaky people make the beauty of the world." The first encore would eventually be Sublime's "What I Got," and when Williams reached the line, "...and I can play the guitar like a mother fuckin' riot," the roof of the Webster Theatre nearly blew off. His second encore would again prove that his musical genius goes beyond the guitar as Williams set loops on djembe, bass and then Mallet Kat leading into a show closing "Boob Job."

The audience, grinning ear to ear, spilled out into the crisp December air smiling, stomachs and souls full from a buffet of amazing acoustic guitarists of all varieties. And still after every K-Dub show, the first timers and even repeat offenders continue to mutter "he is absolutely amazing," with a dumbfounded look and a newly birthed musical love in their hearts.

All Words & Images by: John Smrtic
JamBase | New York
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 12/21/04]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!


You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!