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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Two Takes: Big Gigantic Gives Stellar Performance at Upstate Concert Hall

Some shows are too big for just one review. For Big Gigantic, we sent UpstateLIVE staff photographers Chris De Cotis and Tom Miller to Upstate Concert Hall to capture the show. Here are their takes and photos.

Review and photos by Tom Miller:

Big Gigantic is the dynamic duo of Dominic Lalli (saxophone) and Jeremy Salken (drums). The pair brought their unique style of improvisational, livetronica music to the Upstate Concert Hall on February 12th. The high-energy performance, amazing music, and mind-blowing light show made for a memorable evening. An eclectic blend of tunes from all four of the bands albums; Wide Awake (2009), Fire It Up (2009), A Place Behind the Moon (2010), and Nocturnal (2012) had the crowd jumping and dancing at every beat.

Los Angeles DJ, Kill Paris and Chicago-based DJ Manic Focus opened the show.

Review and photos by Christopher De Cotis

On Tuesday, February 12th, Big Gigantic brought their 2013 Winter Tour to Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY. Having just seen them a month ago on Jam Cruise, I knew as soon as the show was announced that I was going to be there.  I’ve been a big fan of the duo after seeing them for the first time at the 2010 Nateva Festival in Oxford, Maine.  As I saw coverage of the first shows of this tour, I began to wonder what it was going to look like at Upstate Concert Hall.
The stage was covered with a large riser and a row of light panels from the band’s current light rig.  Drummer Jeremy Salken’s drum kit was on the right side of the stage and a table was set up on the left for the DJ equipment and laptop computers used by Manic Focus, Kill Paris and saxophonist Dominic Lalli.  The two opening sets sounded good and there was a short break before Big Gigantic took the stage.  The crowd had continued to grow throughout Kill Paris’ set and most people I asked were excited to see the band for the first time.  Their set was about an hour long and after the band left the stage the cheering crowd called them right back out for an encore and they played for almost twenty more minutes.

Badfish at The Town Ballroom in Buffalo on Friday, February 15th

I was so excited when I heard that the well known Sublime cover band, BadFish was coming to Buffalo. This band is known to put on a great, high energy show. We got to the Town Ballroom just in time to catch the second of the two opening acts. Tropidelic hit the stage with a horn section, keys, guitar, drums, percussion, bass and a lead vocalist. It was like a zoo onstage, but these guys made it work, capturing the audiences attention and creating a new-age ska style that any Sublime fan could appreciate. With the people packing in, Tropidelic seemed to take it to the next level showing off why this Ohio based band will be sharing the bill with Badfish again for another night in the future.

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After the set ended and the stage was rearranged, the lights went out. Out from the speakers came Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to which the entire crowd lit lighters and sang along. At the last chorus of the song, the members of Badfish came out and helped sing the final few parts. It was showtime! Another recording came over the system, from the opening segment of “Smoke 2 Joints” and the crowd went crazy, with an already foggy and green smelling room, the place literally lit up! Originally written by The Toyes and released in 1983, it became a hit among the Sublime crowd in which Bradley Nowell made his own. Next up was a Sublime original “Greatest Hits,” which pays tribute to the band The Ziggens. “Santeria” was started and the crowd took control singing the lead for the first verse of this one. The crowd response did not stop there as Badfish’s key player Dorian Duffy came out and started up some samples of “Garden Grove,” another Sublime original that is a staple tune among fans. Taking structure next was Sublime’s cover of Bad Religion’s “We’re Only Gonna Die,” which Sublime changed to “We’re Only Gonna Die From Our Own Arrogance,” released on their 40 oz to Freedom album in 1992.

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The guys then broke into “Doin’ Time,” a take on George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which Bradley wrote his own lyrics for. Singer Pat Downes had really proved to the audience in his range and way to captivate a crowd just like Bradley had back in the actual days of Sublime. “Slow Ride” was next, originally off the Demo Jah Won’t Pay The Bills, later found on Second Hand Smoke, and took flight into a great version of “Hong Kong Fooey,” written for the cartoon show of the same name. Although Sublime did not write this one, a version they did was produced  by Ralph Sall and put onto A Tribute To Saturday Morning Cartoon’s Greatest Hits in 1995. Following this mashup, the band started “89 Vision,” a studio song that was never released until 2007 on the box set Everything Under The Sun. Joel Hanks, bass player of Badfish, started up the opening licks for “Caress Me Down,” to which the crowd erupted, spitting out their best Spanglish to sing along with Downes. “Don’t Push” came next, with great lyrics that play on a part of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier,” while talking about Marley himself as well as some other quite famous people. A great version of “Saw Red” led into the original “And with it Rain.” This song fit seamlessly with the Sublime music, showing the diversity of how this band can react with their own compilations, throwing in a quick cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love” in the middle of the song as well.

We all then went for a comfortable ride to the “Pawn Shop” as the guys took the song out for a really nice jam that led into a wonderful acoustic segment. Pat Downes took the reigns and stood center stage to perform The Melodians hit “Rivers of Babylon”, made famous on 40 oz. to Freedom. With Scott Begin back on the drums and Downes still on acoustic guitar, they started another Marley classic, “Redemption Song.” The audience gladly sang along to a newer style rendition to this tune, that had great pauses and powerful breaks to help captivate the moment. As the rest of the members came back, the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias” started and the Buffalo crowd ate it up, consuming the lyrics of the Bradley Nowell rap segment that describes a girl that has taken control over him, enough to sell off his belongings and to purchase a microbus that they sell drugs out of while on tour. With perfect timing the band broke into “What Happened,” a tune about not remembering the last night of partying, in which I think most of the crowd would be understanding the next morning themselves. The Toots and Maytals song “54-46” was started and led into “Ball and Chain,” after which we were all transformed into Badfish ourselves, with the guys breaking into the song that they named themselves after, complete with members of the audience making the Nowell’s signature “BEEEWWWWWW”sound. Afterwards we were treated to another original “Scotty Don’t”, Badfish’s original name. Although “Wrong Way” was next, there really didn’t seem to be a wrong way to groove out to this band. With this monstrous set rolling to a conclusion, Badfish finished off the set with originals “Same in the End,” and “Date Rape.” The band had a standing ovation and left the stage for a brief moment, before returning for a four song encore.

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As the stage was filled again, trombonist Bryan House came running out to the main mic having the crowd chant ” OLE, OLE, OLE,  OLE,” getting the already excited crowd even more amped up. Although House is a new member to the band (new in 2013), his stage presence brought an amazing vibe to the setup that caught the attention of us in the audience numerous times. My favorite Sublime song, “Waiting for my Ruca!” was played next, with Dorian Duffy hitting the midi synched bass notes that romped through the system and sent shivers up your spine. Part of the melody for “Seed” was taken from The Bel-Airs “Mr. Moto.”, with “April 26th, 1992” on deck, which had all ready to participate in some anarchy. The lyrics portray a crazy night in California history, when the L.A. riots took place. The composition on this one is really well done and can really send you back to that night without having been there. The end arrived with the expected “What I Got” to round out the night. The band had a blast doing this one, asking for help from their fans to help them sing along.

The show was over and everyone was happy with the outcome. Badfish had done what they came to do, create an atmosphere similar to that of an actual Sublime show, and in my opinion they did it with ease. These guys are a must see for any Sublime fan that was or wasn’t able to catch them while Bradley was alive.

Setlist: Smoke Two Joints, Greatest Hits, Santeria, Garden Grove, We’re Only Gonna Die, Doin’ Time, Slow Ride-> Hong Kong Fooey, 89′ Vision, Caress Me Down, Don’t Push, Saw Red, And With It Rain-> One Love-> And With It Rain, Pawn Shop, Rivers Of Babylon, Redemption Song, Scarlet Begonias, What Happened, 54-46->Ball n Chain, Badfish, Karate, Wrong Way, Same In the End, Date Rape

Encore: Waiting For My Ruca, Seed, April 26th, 1992, What I Got