Willie Waldman Project 2.9.11
Words, Photos & Video By J-man
Audio Recording By Deadhead Corey
Willie Waldman Project Live at Quixote's True Blue on February 9, 2011. <--- Direct Archive Link
We arrived at Quixote's on a cold February evening in Denver and entered the venue to see Chicago folk musician and guitarist, Jaik Willis, on stage checking his gear. The rest of the Willie Waldman project was no where to be seen. I noticed that there was no sound man present as well.
"Hmmm?" I thought to myself. "Where is everyone?"
Jaik unplugged his guitar and headed back towards Carly and I sitting in the back of the room. I expressed to Jaik that I was looking forward to seeing him in that capacity. We also discussed doing an interview, the origin of his guitar and he told us some stories of being on the road with Willie. A short time later I noticed Willie wandering around the club in disarray. He then settled at the bar alone for a drink and conversation with the barkeep.
I sat down with Jaik Willis just before the show began for a conversation...
Following the interview we stepped backstage to connect with Willie who was in the midst of an intense conversation about playing with Snoop Dogg, Perkins & Jane's Addiction. I interviewed Willie once prior and he spent most of his time on these key topics.
"Willie, I'm J from MusicMarauders," I interrupted.
"Hey, J. What's up Dog?" Willie said excitedly.
"Do you have time for a short interview?" I asked.
"Absolutely, man. Let's do it at setbreak. I'll sit down and do a nice interview with you," Willie said with passion.
That being said, we stepped out for a short time only to re-emerge when music muffled by the steel doors and the brick walls of Quixote's could be heard. I was taken aback by how loose the music was. I have listened to a lot of Willie Waldman in my time on the scene, but what I heard that night was some of the loosest.
The first thing that jumped out at me was Jaik's shred style approach to the now electric guitar that he has taken up on this current tour. It was quite a contrast from what I have seen from Jaik in the past. He was tearing through scales and sweeps with precision and vigor. He didn't hit every note, and sure his tone wasn't perfect, but his skill and efforts far exceeded my expectations and quickly made him the focus of the show. There were several times where the other three members of the group played while being completely focused on Jaik. Their reactions reflected admiration, respect, joy and excitement by what Jaik was putting forth.
Luc Parcell, the bass player got off to a slow start with a small technical issue and a glance from Willie. But once this kid found the pocket, he was good to go. He was all over the place, which is different from the bass you normally hear on Willie's projects. Tony Austin on the drums was tight and heavy, though sometimes struggling to keep the pieces together. As the jams strayed, he did his best to keep a coherent flow.
The music lacked direction. At times, it was just anti-directional noise... which I enjoy. Though I thought where Willie is usually tight and in control, he was loose and his tone reflected his clear physical and mental state. He appeared to me to be fucked up. He was sweating like crazy and drinking a ton of beer. Though for the turn out, I can't say that I blame him. It was by far the worst turn out that I have ever seen for a show in my entire life. There must have been ten people total.
The set wound down, climaxing and closing with more confusion. I scratched my head and thought, "What the fuck was that?" We headed backstage to interview Willie per his request. I opened the backstage door and could immediately hear Willie yelling. As we stepped into the room, it was clear what was going on... Willie was ripping apart one of the members of the band. Willie looked up and saw us walk into the room, knowing full well that we were journalists and yet he continued the assault, turning it up. He was mocking, condescending, loud and generally childish towards the gentleman. The incident ended with Willie reaching into his pocket, turning to the gentleman next to him and saying, "Come with me." Then Willie walked right past me, blowing me off and going into the other room where he could be heard still talking shit.
I was extremely turned off and we could tell that the gentleman on the receiving end was upset. We left the backstage area with no interest in following through with the interview or giving Willie any additional press. We talked with Jaik as we awaited the start of the second set...
After the longest set break that I have ever witnessed (potentially an hour to an hour and a half in total) the bad sluggishly emerged from the greenroom. The set started with the same general tones and approach, though it was a little bit more organized. Jaik mentioned wanting to create a groove and as the second set began, a groove they created. As the music went on the groove faded right back to freeform.
Willie appeared to be in worse shape now; sweating profusely and drinking constantly. His playing in the second set was extremely limited and noticeably not on par with what I expect from his reputation. Around one in the morning, Mountain Standard Time, we exited Quixote's. Our ears had heard enough sub-par noise for one evening...