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Saturday, September 15

Review & Photos: Keller Williams - The Great Northern Brewery - Whitefish, MT - 8/4/12

The Great Northern Brewery brought Keller Williams to the top of Montana and in turn Keller Williams brought custom music with a jovial fury performing to a playful crowd of fans at the inaugural year of this intimate festival.  Keller began his headlining set with both bass and guitar placed up on stands in loop ready fashion, he mingled his way to center stage all the while sound checking with a third guitar- teasing the ambient jam ”India”.  
His guitar licks quickening, curling and at times almost slap happy, he smoothly segued into a full blown “Stayin’ Alive”, reminding us all of Robin Gibb’s life and great talents and officially starting this would be dance-party.  The unique and acoustically not fully acoustic show really got going though during a theatrical “Bob Rules” with a humorously placed, Fiona Apple cover of “Criminal” sandwiched between the drawn out game-show themed opus.  Williams has a method of performing as if his set were thrown together at a whim, yet listening closely one could tell that many hours of preparation had gone into his signature performance.  And so as the set continued, just a day after the great TRI documentary featured Keller talking about the music of Jerry Garcia, he played an enticingly-beautiful version of “Eyes of The World”, with a full on whistle, flute and then organ synth jam –all of which helped draw out the song.  

He took the jam so far off the songs original meter and path it was only after he returned to the lyrics that the song at hand was remembered, and on this day so was Jerry.  By reinventing the wheel over and over again, Keller has been doing the same thing, night in and night out for the past ten years and every time it comes back as fresh as a powder day on the mountain.  Performing at the rim of Big Sky country, he performed a full sounding version of “Big Country” and then played both a cover and original from his July 2nd release Pick, which he recorded in bluegrass fashion with The Travelin’ McCourys.  The songs were the rockabilly classic “Something Else”, originally by Billy Cochran and the light and rolling bluegrass ditty “Bumper Sticker” both situated around a strong and crowd moving “Positive Reggae” that “KDubalicious” released on his December 2011 album Bass.  The beats were solid as his synth driven drums expanded over the crowd.  Later, with the festival grounds shadowed by the grandiose mountains of Glacier National Park, all one could ask for was a custom made Kyle Hollingsworth beer- which they had specially on tap for this event and - a hulu-hop crazed hoe-down, and more of Keller’s mixture of reggae, bluegrass, bass, and beats smothered with the raw and ambitious guitar playing he is rightfully famous for. 
He pranced his way around his looping instruments like a Jester before a royal court as his hair bounced to his barefoot jaunts. Continuing this from one remix to another, turning hip-hop songs into ballads and top 40 radio hits such as Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” into one of the highlights of the night.  The show felt larger than it actually was, the grassy park and beautiful sea-shell shaped amphitheater handled the sound; with the weather perfect and the crowd amazingly courteous to one another.  Intense positive vibes were everywhere as Keller ran through 2 and half hours of his songs and covers.  All the while the love that his songs brought this Sunny Summer day, to this Great Northern Ski Town we’re truly all the songs of his own.
Words: Samuel Martin 
Photos: Kevin Kenly

 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication