‘One-man-jam-band’ Keller Williams returns to Kent Stage

Brenna McNamara

Seven different instruments played at once

Keller Williams left college after three years as a first-year sophomore and now draws thousands of fans to his music. He has the ability to make seven instruments jam at the same time, with only two hands, and the charm that makes anonymous audience members yell his name.

This one-man-jam-band-loop-master will be at the Kent Stage for the second year in a row Sunday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for students and $23 for others.

Keller, as he is simply referred to by fans, plays a fusion of genres – rock, bluegrass, folk, electronica, funk, jazz – that, together, are usually clumped into the category “jam.” His nickname “the one-man-jam-band” derives from his looping of instruments. His main instrument is an acoustic guitar that is connected to a Gibson Echoplex Delay system, which records a riff and repeats it. He then jams out on another instrument, records that riff and repeats that, too. He moves on to do the same with other instruments – percussion, many guitars, vocal noises, piano and a synthesizer, to name a few.

“I’m excited to come back,” Keller said.

He said he draws thousands of people to his performances at shows such as the All Good Festival and the Rothbury Festival, but also plays at numerous small venues like the Kent Stage as well.

“Why’d I come back?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s what I do. I look for somewhere that preferably has a back stage, bathrooms and people in front of the stage listening to my music. The Kent Stage has all that and more,” adding that there’s “that cool record store next door” (SpinMore Records).

The local show is part of his “Guitar Store Tour,” which is comprised of 40 of Keller’s near 120 performances this year.

“I don’t want to explain that,” he said about his new tour leg. “I want to keep it a secret. It has to do with the stage setup. You can infer from there.”

His Web site, www.kellerwilliams.net, features an article describing the stage setup that looks like an old music shop complete with old copies of Relix magazine, with Jerry Garcia and Frank Zappa on the cover, behind the “counter.”

Keller has a lot of hair to hide a lot of surprises, such as his theatre background.

“I played Charlie Brown in 6th or 7th grade, and I was in Oliver Twist,” he said.

Keller’s major was theatre when he attended Virginia Wesleyan.

Although he didn’t pursue acting at first, he kept stages in his dreams for the future. He said his theatre background taught him that he wanted to perform for a living. If not that, he secretly would have been a radio DJ or a Walmart greeter.

“They make your day better,” he said.

But perhaps a more relevant Keller secret that fans will appreciate (and anyone who wants hair like his): His shampoo of choice as of late is Nature’s Gate.

Contact features correspondent Brenna McNamara at [email protected]