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

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.

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.