Keller Williams and His Compadres return to Keystone for 4th year
IF YOU GO
What: Keller Williams and His Compadres
When: Friday, Dec. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 19; Doors will open at 8 p.m. with music starting at 9 p.m.
Where: Warren Station, Keystone
Cost: Advanced ticket sales are $30 per person, per show or $55 for a two-day pass. Buy tickets early, as this show usually sells out.
When it comes to the music of Keller Williams, electronic and dub step are not words that come to mind. Although all that heavy whomp music is usually by a one-man-show DJ, that’s where the similarities end. But for Williams — he’s all about that bass.
“I secretly — well not so secretly — it’s been a slight obsession of mine as far as stuff that I listen to, dial into, normally complete polar opposite of the type of music that I’ve played,” he said. “Which is always really strange to play a completely different type of music than the type of music that you listen to.”
Keller Williams and His Compadres hit Warren Station in Keystone this weekend for the fourth year in a row, playing two nights on Friday, Dec. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 19.
On Saturday night, Williams will be bringing Keith Moseley and Michael Travis of The String Cheese Incident to the stage. Travis, also of EOTO fame, has had an impact on Williams when it comes to the music he has been hooked on. He recently did three nights with EOTO in Texas playing improvisational electronic dance music, and it was the first time in a couple of years he was able to perform the type of music he listens to.
“Michael Travis has been a huge influence on me the past couple years with this infatuation that I’ve had with the electronic or dub step type of thing,” he said.
He first got into that scene about 10 years ago listening to the duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation.
“I personally am the only one I know that likes it, I can’t really dial it up in a group situation,” he said. “It’s only in my headphones or in the car by myself or when I’m doing the dishes. Now, when I’m doing the dishes everyone’s gotta listen to what I’m listening to, that’s just the rule in the house.”
Over the last five years, he’s been listening to the heavy beats of Bassnectar.
“When we are at the show, it’s like a bass that goes right through you, ya know?”
It goes even deeper than that though, for Williams. Diving into Internet radio and SoundCloud, he loves finding obscure artists that are not on iTunes or the regular radio — “weird electronical stuff that only I like.”
“I’m weird like that, I like to learn and listen to different Internet radio and listen to different music you wouldn’t hear anywhere else.”
When it comes to that genre, however, he understands that it’s not super popular with the fans that listen to his music. He realizes to fall full-blown into playing the type of music he listens to would alienate a lot of people.
“The folks that listen to me are so forgiving and open-minded as it is, don’t want to drive more people away then I might already have,” he said. “I’m very grateful to people who listen and come to the shows and I kind of want to make sure everyone is happy in that regard — obviously it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time.”
FROM THE BEGINNING
Young Williams was a musical wiz with home appliances and furniture. Pots, pans and wooden spoons helped create his drum set, and that moved to couch cushions after his mother realized the original idea wasn’t the best. But the 360-degree kit he created out of the pieces of furniture mimicked Peter Criss from Kiss or Neil Peart from Rush, creating a surround sound heard only in his head. And although hockey sticks became electric guitars, it wasn’t until around the time Keller started working in the real world that he decided he didn’t really want to work in the real world.
As a teenager, Williams did some construction work, making $3.50 an hour to wear long pants and steel-toe boots in the middle of summer Virginia, picking up cinder blocks. At 16 he had his first music gig — it was 1986 and he made $100 to sit on a stool and play cover songs for two hours.
“That was probably the moment I realized, hey this could work out,” he said.
And lucky for him, he made it happen, finding inspiration from Michael Hedges, who he said showed him how one guy can demand the attention of an audience as a solo act. And after decades in the spotlight, he still isn’t ready to give it up.
“There is no backup plan, that’s the first thing,” he said. “What it boils down to at the end of the day is it’s fun, and I enjoy it. The music part, the being onstage part, I do all that for free. What I get paid for is to travel and be away from my family and all the stress and issues and fatigue that is caused by my travel — mentally, physically and with the family. But the actual music part, the performing, the being onstage, is a huge adrenaline rush, and I’m very, very lucky to have people that buy tickets that enables me to do this. Something this fun is usually illegal, but this is not, and I guess that’s what keeps me going — the joy that it brings me.”
Williams, although well known for his one-man-act of looping multiple instruments, has collaborated with plenty of musicians in his day. On Friday, he will be bringing bluegrass to the stage with high-roller musicians Drew Emmitt from Leftover Salmon, Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi from Infamous Stringdusters, and Garrett Sayers from The Motet.
“The bluegrass set is definitely going to go a little bit further than the bluegrass genre, because we’re looking to change that up a little bit,” Williams said.
The second night will be a completely different show, with Travis on drums and Moseley on bass.
“The trio set with Travis and Moseley, that should be really interesting because I’ve been playing a lot with different trios and I’m looking forward to getting back with my good friends and seeing what we can do,” he said.
Each night will feature a traditional solo set as well.
This is the fourth year Williams has returned to play at Warren Station, and he keeps coming back for the same reason everyone else comes to Keystone — he loves to snowboard. He has been riding Keystone for more than 10 years because his friends have a condo there, and decided he might as well play some shows while in town. The musician lived in Steamboat Springs from ’95 to ’97, and loves the feel of the mountain town.
“Any ski town in the middle of winter has this element of energy that is unlike anywhere else,” he said. “I understand that vibe and youth of the ski towns — the young and hungry folks that are just craving fresh powder on the mountain, and doing whatever it takes to get those fresh turns. And then the energy at night — work hard and play hard — and I get it. There’s always this fantastic energy at these shows that I really look forward to coming back.”
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