One-man-jam-band to perform at Kent Stage tonight

Brenna McNamara


Credit: DKS Editors

This past September, Keller Williams was about 40 minutes away from Kent, relaxing with his wife, four-year-old daughter and six-month-old son in the quarry at Nelson Ledges. Although he was at the ledges to perform that day, he still had time to kick back.

“It’s beautifully relaxing there,” he said. “We stripped down to our skivvies. I frolicked. I threw up in the air. I could see people jumping off cliffs. It was cool.”

A man that has released more than 12 albums, been long-time friends with equally successful musicians and drawn people from across the country to watch him perform can be labeled fairly as ‘famous’. The conception among many, perpetuated by the modern-day pop culture star, is that fame brings an out-of-touch, inhuman aura.

Not so for Williams, who will perform at the Kent Stage tomorrow night. Named the “one-man-jam-band”, Williams’ reputation for crowd-artist connection has been developed as he’s performed at small bar-like venues, theaters and colossal festivals.

“When people come to the show, I am just so grateful they are there,” he said. “My take is that you can pretty much do whatever you want except jump on the stage and attack me. The crowd dictates how the show will go down. If they stand up and start freaking, that’s how it’s going to be.”

Williams cites only one kind of problem with his artist-audience relationship. These “luxury problems,” as Williams calls them, occur when the audience calls out songs they want to hear in the middle of a heartfelt performance of another song.

“It doesn’t bother me much anymore,” he said. “It really is a beautiful thing that people want to hear a song so badly, and I am grateful for that.”

Williams understands the college-age crowd and believes college expands people’s music taste. After evolving his music taste from Cheap Trick to Kiss to hard-core punk rock to REM, college at Virginia Wesleyan introduced Williams to music that he is most accustomed to playing today – more experimental music, more Grateful Dead.

Yet, he said he doesn’t know exactly why college draws people to a more rhythmic, experimental kind of music.

“The way I look at it is young people go to bars, older people don’t really want to go out,” he said. “Hunger and boredom drag people out. They want to be entertained. Maybe this music is easier to party to. All I know is that good music is happening at the bars and through the clientele.”

Recently, Williams has been performing with bassist Keith Mosely (String Cheese Incident), guitarist Gibb Droll (Marc Broussard, Brandi Carlile) and percussionist Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Phil Lesh), as they just released an album titled “Live” in September.

Tonight at the Kent Stage, Williams will be playing solo. He said he’s excited to be playing for the small, intimate venue – an environment he’s comfortable in.

“I definitely look at my solo show as my day job and other projects are just fun side projects,” he said. “I really like the intimacy of being able to see the back of the room. I’m looking forward to these places.”

Contact all reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].