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Last Night: Keller Williams at House of Blues

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Keller Williams and WMD'S January 25, 2008 House of Blues

Better Than: Spending your evening trimming Grandma’s corns for gas money.

Before I dig into the show, let me first drop my disclaimer: Going into the House of Blues I was about as familiar with Keller Williams and WMD'S as I am with the underground world of Dutch porn, meaning I know enough to bullshit my way through a conversation, but I’m not a knowledgeable fan. That being said, I went to this show with much more anticipation than any Dutch porn has ever merited from me. That’s saying a lot. I love porn.

My anticipation was well met right off the bat with powerful, transient nodes of musical bliss. This band takes simplicity and disguises it as complex rhythms, time signatures and expressive dynamics. I think Keller Williams has found the perfect hybrid of improvisation and structure, which pleases the jam band type as well as the trained musical ear.

The audience was led on a supersonic ride through musical metaphor and color-splashed rhythm. The reaction when there was a break in the action (and the action was nearly nonstop) was not one of deafening applause and shrill whistles, but one of appreciation. The crowd really bonded with the foursome on stage, following each note and facial expression with the intensity of a child watching Disney on Ice. Thank God Williams didn’t sport skates.

The WMD'S, Keller Williams' conglomeration of highly-talented musicians (Jeff Sipe, drums; Keith Moseley, bass and guitar; Gibb Droll, guitar), synced with the crowd, and the entire performance felt like we were all sitting around a living room together, passing a bowl and losing ourselves in a creative vibe. The WMD'S kept building and building the music into a sea of hands and cheers and colors and lights, like a Southern Baptist revival where someone spiked the punch.

Little samples and tidbits of songs were more prevalent than on a Kanye record, and every nibble tasted great. The bluegrass-inspired version of Prince's “Kiss” was a real treat, and the cover of G-Love’s “Back of the Bus” put a smile on everyone’s face as we all drifted back to memories of middle school bus rides with our truest friends. Keller Williams’ clever use of effects for his vocals and guitar added flavor as well. My new phrase to describe Keller Williams and WMD'S is phunktry. Barefoot Appalachian bluegrass fused with freestyle funk with a touch of old school country to create the group's unique sound.

The show left me with a revitalized appreciation for true musicianship. Keller Williams and the WMD'S were so tight you could bounce a silver dollar off of their aura, yet their instant camaraderie with the audience put everyone at ease to simply enjoy an incredible performance. -- Darren Burgfeld

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: As someone who has played trombone for too many years to count, I really liked Williams' vocal trombone solos. They made me want to run out to the car and grab my horn.

By the Way: This tour will stay relatively close this weekend, heading to Austin to La Zona Rosa tonight, so make the calls you need to make and get that road trip together.

Artist Suggestion: If you like Keller Williams and WMD'S, then check out Austin's The Illustrated Band, G Love & Special Sauce and The Non.

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