Colorado at times can seem like a parade of yearly musical traditions. Denver, being a massive music hub, is a place where many performers pass through around the same time each year. One nascent tradition is the Keller and His Compadres shows in Keystone, Colorado. Last year’s shows originally marked the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. Well fortunately for K-Dub the world continued and so do these concerts. It’s a chance for the normally solo performer Keller Williams to grab a few friends and just jam. This year he got a chance to playe with Michael Kang and Michael Travis from String Cheese Incident on Friday and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon on Saturday. I opted to catch Saturday’s show, which turned out to be a wise decision.
I found out that Friday included a very young crowd and they pushed it to the limit. Saturday was a fairly casual affair with a slightly older audience. The show was completely sold out, meaning more than a few fans were turned away at the door. Unless the gig is billed as one of Keller’s official band projects, the format is always one set solo and one set with the guests. This night was no different. K-Dub’s first set started just after 9 PM. In his true entertainer style he began strumming his guitar backstage before emerging from the darkness. The Warren Station Center For The Arts was a square room with a bar in the back. It was cozy and by the time Keller actually started playing it was most definitely full. Classics from Keller like “Cadillac” and “Freaker By The Speaker” were sprinkled throughout the first set. Perhaps the most oddly satisfying song of the first set was an extended jam into the custom built version of Lorde’s “Royals.” Covers like this again reiterate Keller’s addiction to pop music. He rounded his solo set with a sing-along on “Gate Crashers.”
The main event could have easily been dubbed Keller Salmon or Leftover Williams. The inclusion of Vince and Drew meant there would be no shortage of bluegrass or extended musical interplay. I for one am a fan of Keller’s solo work, but for some reason I find his style so much more rewarding when juxtaposed against other musicians. They opened the set with an instrumental before going into a bouncy “Portpapotty.” Keller was playing the electric bass, with Drew on mandolin and Vince on guitar. We were treated to an incredible Drew-sung version of Dylan’s “Tangled Up And Blue.” The additional strings did a lot to fill out “What The World Needs Now,” before they went into a stellar version of Salmon’s “Troubled Times.” Keller was sure to keep it balanced with the occasional original, insert “Broken Convertible” here. The rendition of “Dixie Chicken” was the highlight of the entire night. It came in reference to their recent performances with Little Feat’s Bill Payne. Again I reiterate the need for Mr. Payne to join Leftover Salmon full time. The moment is now Bill. Vince got a chance to sing his rowdy but timeless “Fuzzy Little Hippie Girl.” The trio went into a bluegrass-tinged duo from Tom Petty with “You Got Lucky” into a set-closing “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The crowd kind of went off the chain at this point. Keller Williams and his Compadres came out for a quick “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie” to encore before the lights came on and it was all over.
The show just seemed to speed on by. Keller is many things, but he is always fun. His shows display a vibrancy and passion for music in all its forms. His performances become random drive through his musical consciousness. His concerts with other musicians push back his urge to just unleash whatever comes into his head, which at times gives us the more interesting outcome. Instead in these sets he plays his part, which is interesting to see from a man who built his career on going it alone.
As we left I said to my wife, “Keller Williams must be a huge Tom Petty fan,” to which she replied, “Who isn’t?”
Additional Video by Steve Wilner
Pretty Lights’ newest album, A Color Map of the Sun, just dropped and let me be the first to say that this is one high quality, groove pumping, tastefully produced record. The progression of the album makes the listener feel like they are on a journey through the human condition, experiencing every emotion possible through their spiral down the rabbit hole.
This album was made for vinyl with vinyl produced by Pretty Lights. In fact, it comes with a whole extra disc of bonus material that is just that: The raw vinyl cuts that were used to produce the tracks found on Color Map. Each cut was orchestrated by Colorado’s very own home grown, Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind behind Pretty Lights, who collaborated with dozens of musicians from around the country to produce one of his most soulful pieces of art to date. If you dig music, you better dig soul music, and A Color Map of the Sun smacks you across the face with soul.
The album’s first two tracks, “Color of My Soul” and “Press Pause” pack a soulful punch before Color Map really starts to throw down his bone moving grooves with “Let’s Get Busy.” The combination of both horns as strings brings layer upon layer of energy and purpose to almost every track on the album, yet the snap crackle pop of the vinyl brings the element of raw sound full circle.
While at times the album seems to lack the hip-hop references we are so used to hearing at a PL live show, it is almost as if A Color Map of the Sun is a nod to hip hop’s roots. In fact, too literal of a hip hop reference could have damaged the integrity of an album so full of raw musical expression. Pretty Lights seems determined to show the good, bad, and downright scary side of his musical aesthetic. ”Go Down Sunshine”, “So Bright”, and “Dead Wrong” explore the depths of PL’s dark side. On the other end of the spectrum, “Yellow Bird” and “One Day They’ll Know” have a more relaxed, ethereal sound that seems to provide balance to the album. It takes guts to express these types of musical emotions and it is definitely not commonplace within this genre of music.
As with all of Pretty Lights tracks, you can download the entire album for free or it can be purchased through iTunes or Prettylightsmusic.com. As an independent artist, he has found great success by making his music available to everyone for free over the years (with only the suggestion of donation.) In order to provide a bit more incentive for fans to pay, PL is offering a variety pack of goodies in order to entice fans to open their checkbooks. Color Map vinyls, pins, t-shirts, bonus tracks, and a neat little book all about the album have nearly all sold out through pre order. Luckily, there is more swag being produced and record stores are currently stocking their shelves with LP, but I am sure they won’t last long.
PL made a sweet little video on the making of A Color Map of the Sun you can check out here!!!
The PL YouTube channel also has music videos for every track on the album, along with visual art to emphasize the overall concept that is “Pretty Lights.” Check out the playlist here.
Euforquestra returned to Fort Collins for a hometown show at the Aggie with friends Roster McCabe and D. Bess. Both Euforquestra and D. Bess have performed at Summer Camp. In FoCo Euforquestra historically has been a solid draw, but the venue never completely filled in on Friday. D. Bess is the former lead singer of Iowa City reggae outfit Public Property. He currently performs as a solo project utilizing loops and his diverse skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Playing a blend of originals and covers, he slowly built up each song one riff at a time. Having seen D. Bess before, I have to say that he as come a long way with his looping skills. His performance lasted just under an hour before he gave up the mic for Minneapolis’ Roster McCabe.
Roster McCabe is an amalgamation of jam. They blend elements of soul and funk with electronic, dance, and rock. The band has been making regular jaunts out to Colorado for years now, and continues to energize audiences throughout the country.
SET I: The Traveler, MMM, Spark A Light, Paper Crowns, Speed, Regulate, Stargazer, Take A Breath
Their one-hour set blasted by rather quickly leaving some fans wanting more. The silky vocals of Alex Steele washed over the crowd, as their consistent rhythm section made up of Jeff Peterson and Scot Muellenberg stayed tight throughout the set. This allowed for some incredible interplay between the guitarists. They ran the gamut alternating between funky break beats and an all out electro dance party. The powerful and progressive “Paper Crowns” acted as the anchor point of the set, but the funky, retro “Stargazer” was the highlight.
After a short intermission Euforquestra took the stage around 11:30 PM. They opened with a nasty version of Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hangups.”
SET I: Hang Up Your Hangups, Let’s Dance> Called You, Hopscotch, Road Funk, Solutions, Price Is Right, Obatala> Change Me, The Events of December 11, Instant Coffee, Cause A Reaction, Dr. Standby> Sexx Laws
ENCORE: Yogi’s Day Out
You can download the show at http://archive.org/details/euf2012-10-06.mk41.flac16. Thanks to Eric Wilkens for posting.
Euforquestra is currently undergoing some changes. With the departure of original percussionist Matt Grundstad and bassist Ben Soltau, there has been a shift in the rhythm section. With Grosso moving back over to bass and newcomer Craig Babineau replacing him on kit, they were joined by yet another fresh face, Scott Mast on percussion. With all of the changes you would think that it would have a distinct effect on their sound, however I was amazed at how well they played together. A vocal rise gave way to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” which really woke up the crowd and got the night going. The bouncy “Called You” broke down into riff-.y “Hopscotch” which really gave guitarist Mike Tallman a chance to rip it up for the audience. Fan favorite “Road Funk” was a nice addition to the set, with a huge “Solutions” waiting in the wings. The energy-infused “Obatala” into “Change Me” was yet another highlight in this non-stop dance party. This band has the ability to shoot out of the gate like a bunny-crazed greyhound, or step it back into a funky groove that soothes the soul. “December 11” has become another standard from Euforquestra, but the building groove of “Instant Coffee” was a nice change of pace. They ended the set with “Dr. Standby” into Beck’s “Sexx Laws. Euforquestra performed the music of Beck at this year’s Camp Eurforia and have been sneaking his songs into their setlists from time to time ever since. They are doing a Halloween tour featuring Beck’s music at the end of the month as well. They encored the show with Ross Martin’s “Yogi’s Day Out.” This was definitely an eclectic show from Euforquestra with a little bit of everything. They pulled out a few covers and showed that even with some changes in personnel that they will continue to play well and in a manner that fans have come to expect.