Keller Williams, Buffalo, February 22nd, The Tralf Music Hall

On Friday, February 22nd, The Tralf Music Hall in Buffalo played host to multi-talented singer/songwriter/guitarist Keller Williams. Keller Williams is often described as a ‘one-man jam-band’ due to his frequent use of live phrase looping while incorporating multiple instruments. His stage shows are built around Keller singing his compositions and choice covers while accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar connected to a Gibson Echoplex delay system that allows him to simulate a full band. His music combines elements of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronica/dance, jazz, funk, and other assorted genres.

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This show Sold-out and for those who waited to the last minute were left out in the cold. The Tralf filled to capacity early and shortly before Keller appeared on stage the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder. Williams came strolling onto the stage gently strumming his guitar while spinning in slow circles. Keller Williams immediately drew the crowd in with the warm register of his tenor voice. His voice combined with his skilled guitar talents were enough to entrance and enthrall everyone in the building immediately. He seamlessly eased from mellow to upbeat and the crowd was right there with him every step of the way. Somehow he encapsulated the best elements of every type of music he’s known to blend in a perfectly clean and emboldened fashion.

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Keller makes the stage his own musical playground, dancing barefoot as he moves from one instrument to another. The diverse crowd present was willing to let Keller take them on any ride of his choosing. The performance was constantly shifting, with almost imperceptible changes from one song to the next. Keller’s improvisational adventure drew in the audience for nearly two and a half hours of music. Williams switches easily between instruments, electronic devices and microphone. It’s almost like watching a well-practiced dance production – seamlessly and comfortably moving between components to create a dynamic and propelling show.

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Though Williams’ keeps things interesting, his songs are full of hilarious puns and commentary his show relies almost entirely on pure skill. It was nearly impossible to stop watching this vastly talented musician perform, for Keller Williams it is all about the music. When performing, he pays close attention to the details which adds to the impressive nature of his music. With each new or unique instrument, loop or vocal, Williams adds dimension and largess to his sound. If you didn’t know any better walking into a Keller Williams show, it would sound as if there’s an entire band on the stage. He has developed his own distinctive compositional and performing style. His approach of wanting to go down different avenues musically with just a guitar and a microphone is innovative is impressive – and the crowd loves it, too.

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Throughout the evening he set up a vibe that kept people on their feet, crowding the stage, bobbing heads and dancing. After roughly an hour of music Keller took a short set break we all knew that the second set would be a real treat. His ability to incorporate all of the lessons that he has learned from a long list of artists who have found their way into his world, filtering their music through his own experiences until something wholly unique emerges. The first set featured such fan favorites as “Let’s Jam”, “Juicy Fruit” and “Uncle Disney”.

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Keller quickly dove into the second set with a standout cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street”. Keller’s knack for nailing Dead covers is no new concept. Of course he did a great covers of “Sugaree” and “Til’ the Morning Comes”, in the first set but he rose to the high expectations of the crowd with far more than a typical Dead cover of “Shakedown Street”. Certainly the highlight of the show Keller took the song in several directions with the most impressive display of his “looping” capabilities. While remaining a serious musician Keller has a sense of humor and sarcasm. For example, in his song “Gate Crashers Suck” he displays his anger towards deadheads who stormed the gates at the Grateful Dead’s yearly Deer Creek performance in 1995, causing the second night to be cancelled. Regardless of political views, it was clear that Keller was more joking around than trying to make serious political statements with his music.

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Returning for one last humorous song, Keller finished his brilliant performance with “Boob Job”. This was one of those shows at the Tralf and everyone walking out of the venue knew they had seen something spectacular that evening. The set list balanced acoustic, jam and bass – progressing perfectly from chill to lively. Keller Williams is one of those unforgettable musicians who you know when you see him on stage that he loves what he does, he loves the music and he loves feeling the vibe of others feeling his vibe, which is love for music. To best sums up what Keller Williams has always been about—something different. He is still continues exploring and expanding and is considered one of the most tireless musical seekers around. Just don’t even think of calling him predictable.

Set 1-
Jam->
Turtle in the Front Row
Breathe
Sugaree
Let’s Jam
Wicked
Juicy Fruit Theme Song->
Passapanzy
More a Little
Hear & See
Uncle Disney
Doobie in My Pocket
Between Your Heart and Your Head
Til’ The Morning Comes

Set 2-
Bob Rules
Gate Crashers Suck
Shakedown Street
?
?
Floatin on the Freshies
Love Handles
Mary Jane
Super Hot Girl

Encore-
Boob Job

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Marco Benevento’s Up Coming NY Shows: March 7th, March 8th & March 9th

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Marco Benevento is heading back out on tour with stops that include the opening night at The Haunt (Ithica) March 7th, follwed by Nietzsche’s (Buffalo) March 8th and Dub Land Underground (Rochester) March 9th. The 35-year old artist took a major step forward with the release of his latest album ‘TigerFace.’ The critically acclaimed ten-track collection is painted in a myriad of sonic colors, shimmering with acoustic piano, synths and analog keyboards, while the songs are seemingly conceptualized from every wisp of melody that’s ever tickled his ear. For more than a decade pianist Marco Benevento has been amassing an extensive resume of composition and collaboration. His albums set forth a vision that connects the dots between Explosions In The Sky and Tortoise on one side, Brian Eno and Brad Mehldau on the other. In the live setting, his performances reverberate with pulsating dance rock energy, which has led to numerous high profile appearances, ranging from Carnegie Hall to Celebrate Brooklyn, Newport Jazz to All Good Festivals. Benevento has been invited to open for The Books, Ben Folds and Rubblebucket, while headlining shows from coast to coast. As anybody who’s seen Benevento perform can attest, with eyes closed, smile wide across his face and fingers free-flowing across the keys, the pianist is a satellite to the muse. With a devout and growing fan-base, Marco Benevento is an artist whose career is only beginning to unfold.

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus and Dopapod at Nietzsche’s, Buffalo, February 9th

Wrapping up a four-day mini-tour, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus (UV Hippo) and Dopapod arrived in Buffalo on February 9th in the Allentown District to perform at Nietzsche’s, Buffalo’s legendary hot spot for music and the perfect place to host this show. Eclectic Collective Entertainment (ECE Presents), the promoter of the show, did another fantastic job in securing this musical talent. Despite the snow that blanketed the ground from the previous nights storm, many people arrived early anticipating a great night of music. As for me, this was my first time ever seeing either one of these bands, so I welcomed the unknown evening of music with open ears and eager eyes.

Starting off the nights festivities was Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, who are as unbelievable as their name. Many folks made it a point to come out early to see UV Hippo perform. This explosive five-piece progressive improvisational band performs an eclectic selection of technically demanding compositions and improvisational material. The group floats between funk, jazz, livetronica, space rock, reggae, bluegrass and progressive rock within a single show and sometimes within a single song.

From the beginning, right through to the end, Dave Sanders’ musical leadership role was evident as he performed from the keyboards and managed the tempo of the band while contributing on vocals. Establishing the foundation from which this music builds upon is drummer Joe Phillion and percussionist Casey Butts. The rhythm section of Russell Olmsted on guitar/vocals and Brian Samuels on bass/vocals filled in the empty space effortlessly with their extraordinary playing abilities. Their talent and style are unquestionable, leaving the audience with memories of monstrous/thunderous guitar licks and deep resonating bass notes. Exploring new ground and taking risks made their performance unique.

Those in attendance realized that the band was into a groove and they just wanted to go along for the ride. It was kind of like not knowing what a person has under the hood of the car, then suddenly, without warning, they hit the gas and off you go, pushed back into your seat due to the sudden acceleration. After taking the audience to the mountaintop, the band eased back into their composition, dropping everyone off just in time before putting the pedal to the metal again. The band’s ability to jumping from one genre to the next, sometimes within a song, shows how much they have excelled at developing their own sound.

They tore it up the entire night, chewing up tune after tune and spitting gnarly remnants of awesome all over the crowd. The talent within the band is unquestionable and it is only a matter of time before the band blows up the scene. How quickly it happens, of course, is for the band to decide. I’m just lucky to be a new fan that’s coming along for the incredible ride.

Setlist:
Georgie > Run Rabbit Run > Two Pigs, Kpanlogo, Making Flippy Floppy, Cream Soda > Fearless > Cream Soda, Tugboat

Encore: Hey Tommy

Headlining the evening’s events at Nietzsche’s was Dopapod. The sound from this quartet is as varied and diverse as the many influences that they adapt from. With no regard towards stylistic boundaries they are not so much a jam band as they are a band that improvises. They are becoming known for their improvisational exploration and as a result more music lovers are steadily growing in numbers eagerly returning for more.

Proceeding to the stage through the crowd, the band took their respective positions and were warmly welcomed by the audience. The crowd expectations were high since UV Hippo got everyone primed up and loose. They began with a smooth “Intro” number to warm things up a bit before launching into “Onionhead”. From that point it was game ON. The band raged on and what lied in store for us through the rest of the night was pure energy driven music that lit up Nietzsche’s.

Suddenly, without warning, the music took a turn into an outright funk jam that got the last of the people in the place moving. Dopapod’s ability and commitment to complement a distinct genre bending sound sets them apart from many of their contemporaries and keeps music lovers eagerly returning to shows. Dopapod’s existence resides at the crossroads of full throttle intensity, with intricate and technical playing centered in deep pocket grooves focused on limitless experimentation.

Rob Compa on guitar proceeded into scorching classic rock wailing with Eli Winderman masterful arrangements on the keyboards were complimented by Neil “Fro” Evans back behind his kit. Chuck Jones’ talent on bass was evident from the start with gnarly bass chords. In the midst of this musical insanity, Mike Gantzer from Aqueous was invited on stage to perform with the band. His guitar playing abilities not only complemented the band sound but enhanced it to another level all together and those present surely appreciated the endeavor. The audience felt compelled to keep their eyes and ears peeled as this sonic whirlwind continued on with their relentless pursuit. After it was over, musical interludes that took the listener off on an endless musical journey, riding the highs and lows. This constant change adds a unique dimension to their sound.

There was not much room for the band to step off the stage so the band remained for an on-stage break, catching a quick breath of air before delivering their encore “FABA” to the crowd, who were moving bodies all over Nietzsche’s. Dopapod is truly a band to watch live, for the energy that is poured into their music is incredible. This foursome’s compositional and improvisational splendor was put on full display tonight and offered a peak into their entrancing live experience. Dopapod showcased their meticulously crafted compositions as well as their commanding ability to improvise as both individuals and as one unit. Their quest to continue developing music that is premeditated and spontaneous, light and dark was accomplished. Dopapod’s ultimate goal each night is to keep people dancing, entertained, and intrigued. Mission accomplished!

Setlist: Intro, Onionhead, Blast, Bll, Bats in the Cave, Trapper Keeper, My Elephant vs Your Elephant, We are Not Alone, LMNO, Priorities, Flipped, Sonic

Encore: FABA

Keep an eye out next week for Pete Mason’s interview with Rob and Neal from Dopapod!