Keller Williams at The Mish

Keller and The Keels at The Mishawaka

So my good friends Sean and Cristi raced to get into town early for Phish so they could meet us before heading up to The Mishawaka. It was time for some old fashioned K-Dub goodness up the canyon. The second of his two-night stand featured not only Keller’s looped set but also The Keels to open. The four of us hopped the shuttle and took the drive up arriving at the venue just before 8 PM. It was relatively empty so I got ready to take some photos while the rest of my gang got food and drinks for the festivities. The Mishawaka is a gem in the Poudre Canyon, it is located right on the river and it has an ambiance that is hard to match by any standards. Needless to say but I love seeing live music here.

Keller came on stage a little after 8:30 PM with Jenny and Larry Keel in tow. It was time for a bluegrass extravaganza at The Mish. I tried to keep track of the setlist but this is most definitely incomplete so if anyone has it shoot it over. They opened with a bouncy version of Rehab; here is the rest of what I was able to get from the show.

SET I: Rehab, Pepper, Don’t Cuss The Fiddle, Another Brick In The Wall, Play This, Local Outdoor Organic, New Horizons, Mountain Song, Connie Chung, Loser, Climb, Uncle Disney> Goofballs>?

SET II: The Shape of M&M’s, California, Birds of a Feather, Convertible, Moon Dance, Kidney in a Cooler, Vacate The Premises, Gate Crashers, Scarlet, Freeker, Star Trek, Dupree’s Diamond Blues, Port-a-Potty, Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown

ENCORE: Boob Job

The Keels set was everything you’d expect with most of the Grass album seeing rotation. J-man and I took our photos for the first three songs and ventured away from the front of the stage. We had all access but respected the wishes of the band and also did not want to get in people’s way. The crowd was fairly full but not so packed that you couldn’t move around. It was the perfect size in my opinion. The Play This was strong and the back and forth guitar work between Keller and Larry was mesmerizing. They play so well together it becomes a beautiful musical tapestry with Jenny holding down the edges. Keller is a guitar virtuoso but he is also a strong bandleader. I love seeing him in the different roles, which has been much more frequent in the last couple years. The Connie Chung was truly energetic and throughout the set I wandered around seeing old friends and watching people dance. Everyone just seems to really enjoy themselves at Keller shows. To me Keller equals fun and it was apparent that those in attendance felt the same way. I took a moment to stop by the Conscious Alliance tent in the back and thank them for all their hard work. For those that don’t know Conscious Alliance runs food drives at concerts and in exchange for donations they give out show posters. They do amazing work and are truly a Colorado tradition.

The second set was Keller doing his looped performance and he opened with his instrumental M&M’s, which was a lot like eating some musical candy. He busted into California, which easily became, “I love Colorado,” during the course of the song. The crowd was going nuts after the first song as they tried to jump into the pit but the fans were quickly ushered back onto the floor by security. This is the sort of infectious energy that is so prevalent at his live shows. There is truly a buzz in the air and everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. The Birds of a Feather gave me chills, while so many other jam bands will step back from covering songs by Phish or The Grateful Dead, Keller is not afraid. I’ve always seen his solo performances as a live musical flow of consciousness, and he isn’t shy about playing songs by bands that have been an influence to him. His version was crisp, clean, and out of control. I loved it. He invited The Motet’s Pete Wall out for his classic take on Van Morrison’s Moondance and I hoped up to grab some video of this live collaboration. That’s one more thing I love about Keller he is so willing to play with anyone. He sees value in the skills of other players and he is always ready to jam. The Moondance stretched on well over the fifteen-minute mark with Pete was blasting away on his flute like Ian Anderson on speed. Just when I thought it was over Pete walked off stage and grabbed his baritone sax to jam on Kidney in a Cooler. This has always been one of my favorite Keller tunes and to hear Wall nailing the bottom end gave me a whole new reason to love it. The Gate Crashers broke down into an R-Rated sing-along, which brought a smile to K-Dub’s face. He invited the Keels back onstage to close out the rest of his set, and continued to play crowd-pleasers until the very end. Dupree’s saw some sick flat-picking from Larry and Port-a-Potty was completely appropriate given the bathroom situation at The Mish. The Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown is like a bluegrass mashup of two Petty covers and it just works. I was totally stoked with the entire performance. Keller encored with his crass but true Boob Job.

Keller Williams and The Mishawaka are a winning combination. Whenever he makes the trip up the Poudre, which as of late has been a yearly tradition, he just slays the Colorado crowd. I’m glad that Keller continues to tour frequently because I know that at least a couple times a year I’ll be able to just go to a show and enjoy myself. When I was first coming up in the scene Keller was a festival whore, and I say that in the nicest way possible. The ultimate result is that I’ve seen him live over thirty times and every time I leave with a huge smile on my face. Last Saturday night at The Mishawaka was no exception.