October 14, 2010
Driving from Indianapolis to Bloomington, seems like a hefty drive for a night’s show but Keller Williams, the one-man jamband, was on the bill at The Bluebird on Thursday night and well worth the trip. The Bluebird sits just north of Indiana University’s main campus and parking can be murderous, even if spare change is readily available for the meters in the garage. Meter maids are a true force with which to be reckoned. The sights and sounds along the main hub reeked of October mayhem, no pre-holiday Christmas deco going on here. The club buzzed from the nearby campus college kids perusing the streets in scanty pre-festy Halloween gear looking for a good time. Worrying about having a good time was not time well spent; Keller was nearby.
The Bluebird is a historical staple and has housed some of the finest performers on the jam circuit. In previous years The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Umphrey’s McGee and many others have played at the site. The venue comfortably holds about 300 patrons and comes equipped with two bars in the front and one located in the back by the stage making it pretty easy to get a drink. Lining the halls towards the stage, the photos from past performers are somewhat awe-inspiring and always make for a cool set break glance or pre show to gawk.
On this night, the stage set with Keller’s gear looked like a strange circus show. As is average, his guitar and bass seemed to float in the air waiting to have the some sort of static trapeze act take place around them. Keller opened the night by covering John Prine’s "Illegal Smile," which primed the audience’s vocal cords for the night’s mantra of howling back at Keller as he weaved and bobbed through amazing loops and tunes. A master mind of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronica/dance, jazz and funk, Keller holds his own in any genre. If Trey Anastasio is the electric Jedi, then Keller rightfully is the Jedi Grand Master of all things acoustic. Watching his charismatic movements from instrument to instrument as his precise timing submits the funkiest beats and rhythms is amazing. "Doobie in My Pocket" further warmed the crowd nicely. In typical Keller fashion, before even beginning to sing the lyrics he peeped into his pocket with this huge cheese grin on his face that sent all that were "in the know" into a frenzy of cheers and as though on cue, the air filled with smoke. He paid tribute to the haze with Petty’s "Mary Jane’s Last Dance" and to Deer Creek Amphitheater (which is located about an hour north of Bloomington in Noblesville) with original "Gate Crashers Suck." Completing a magnificent trilogy, "Best Feeling" would close out the jam which intensified KW to the point that even knocking a mic down in the middle of the tune did not stop this mad man from his caveman-like dance.
Unleashing an especially funky interpretation of Erykah Badu’s "Tyrone" with guitar in hand, the second set got under way much as the first had finished. He boogied as if he’d watched Badu perform the song a million times. Not missing a swish of the hips or a single finger point, he sang the most sassy verse of the number, "you say no and turn right around and ask me for some ass, oh well hold up, listen partna I ain’t no cheap thrill cause Miss Badu is always comin’ for real…" then he proceeded to grab his Macbook, flip it open, and ask permission from the audience as to whether or not they minded if he "played with it for a second to show some funky beats." This is the part where one realizes that Keller’s act never gets old, as the now open Mac, started streaming a live feed from a rave in NYC that he linked into his system reintegrating his own brand of funk back into the mix.
All in attendance seemed pleased to hear their favorite Keller tunes although some were mildly disappointed when they stopped by the merch table to pick up Keller’s new children’s album, Kids, only to find out that the release date is not until later this month. The dissatisfaction died quickly and as the crowd exited, smiles were abound as they rejoined the recreation and mayhem on the streets of Bloomington.