You’re at your first Keller Williams show, not quite knowing what to expect. The stage is littered with guitars, a drum pad, speakers, synths. A regular-looking guy takes the stage and the crowd perks up. “Is this Williams?” you think to yourself, slowly clapping. This seemingly average dude steps to the drum pad and taps out a beat, recording a quick loop before sliding over to one of the guitars where he strums a few notes to create a fuller bass line, recording another loop.
Williams, sporting shaggy hair and a t-shirt, steps back to fiddle with a few knobs, grabs a swig of his water bottle and approaches the mic. As he begins to sing, it becomes clear — this multi-tasking wonder is no roadie.
Seeing Williams perform is like watching a one-man jam band; while he’s got great stoner tunes like “There’s a Doobie in my Pocket,” he taps a much wider range, hitting genres from bluegrass to reggae, jazz to folk.
Williams, a Virginia native, has been touring consistently since the early ‘90s. Those years of solo musicianship went mostly ignored in crowded bars, leading to Williams’ decision to incorporate looping techniques for larger sound. As a result, the past decade has seen Williams selling out shows, headlining festivals and even mastering new instruments.
It’s not just the impressive looping that keeps you engaged during his show. A self-taught guitar player, Williams is a whiz on six, eight or 12 strings, and plays with a look of pure joy. There are silly songs, irreverent songs and even kid-friendly songs. With more than 16 albums and seemingly endless inspiration to draw upon, no two gigs are ever alike. Whatever you do, don’t forget your dancing shoes.
Keller Williams plays 9 pm Friday, Feb. 24, at WOW Hall; $19 adv., $21 door. — Jackie Varriano