Keller & The Keels 8.27.11

Mishawaka Amphitheatre
Bellvue, CO

Words & Photos By J-man
Video By Nicholas Stock

Mishawaka is one of the most uniquely beautiful venues in Colorado. Its prime location in the Poudre Canyon sets the background for all of the great music that it hosts. On Saturday, August 27th, The Mish played host to Keller Williams and the Keels. Leading up to the event, my client, Pete Wall (Motet) asked me to make arrangements for a sit-in if possible. That being said, I contacted Keller's management and made the proper arrangements. Driving up to The Mish with Pete and his wife, I knew that it would be a great evening. What I didn't know at the time was how truly special the evening would turn out to be.

We made the drive from Denver past Fort Collins up into the canyon. As we approached the venue, cars lined the road. Passing the venue we could see a sizable line of people at the main entrance. We pulled the car into the backstage area where Pete unloaded and I went in search of Keller's road manager, soundboard engineer and collaborator Louis Gosain. I found Lou at the soundboard and introduced myself. He was super helpful in assisting me in obtaining our parking pass and credentials, as were the folks who ran The Mish.

After squaring away our creds, I ran into Summer Camp counselor and local celebrity Nicholas Stock. It's always a pleasure to work with Nick as he and I have extremely contrasting views on music, the scene, ect. It always makes for good conversation and fun banter. We headed to the front of the venue to prepare for the evening's work.

Now, a little background information; I have seen Keller more times than I count over the past ten years at solo shows with his various project and at festivals. My love for Keller has gone up and down over time. I've seen some fantastic shows, and some average shows (which is the case with any artist that one sees excessively). Leading up to the show, I kept hearing, "Keller always plays great shows at The Mish."

The first set was a Keller and The Keels set featuring one of the best flatpickers on the scene, Mr. Larry Keel, and his beautiful wife Jenny on bass. The trio came out on fire. Keller's energy coupled with the chemistry and bright instrumentation of The Keels made for a really positive and clean sound.

The show opened with grassy rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," setting the pace for a fun and fast-paced picking party. Keller sounded great. His playing was clean and was complimented by Larry's killer picking. As well, Larry and Jenny sang backup vocals that fit perfectly with Keller's energetic vocals. The crowd was really excited to see one of their favorites and The Mish quickly filled in. Keller and The Keels went through several Keller originals as well as several familiar covers from popular radio hits to Grateful Dead tunes. The vibe was really great as folks danced their collective asses off.

One of the highlights of the first set came with Larry stepping up to sing "Mountain Song," one of his strongest songs. In fact, The Del McCoury Band covered "Mountain Song" on The Company We Keep. Larry's raspy voice gave me goosebumps and left me immediately satisfied.

As I wandered through the crowd, I saw several familiar faces and ran into a handful of folks that I knew including Nadia of Madison House. I really dig Madison House. They are one of the most respected management/publicity firms on the scene. Nadia's presence at the show reflected that they care about their clients by turning out to support them and enjoy the music.

The first set was incredible. In fact, it was one of the best Keller and The Keel sets that I have ever witnessed. As they exited the stage, I made my way backstage to see to it that Pete was good to go for his second set sit-in and to snap a few fun shots of the Keels.

I made my way into the greenroom to find Pete and Keller rehearsing and The Keels relaxing. It was a great scene, and I had no choice but to snap a few shots...

You could hear the crowd outside partying in anticipation of the second set, and as Keller made his entrance for a solo set, the crowd went wild. Keller's jams and loops sounded the best that I have heard from him over a ten year span. All of the parts from the guitar work to the bass lines to the beatboxing, while done separately, came together in perfect unison.

After a few songs into the second set, Keller called Pete to the stage. Pete came out smiling. As a fan of Keller, it was a cool moment for Pete who was extremely well received by the packed Mishawaka crowd. Pete said to me before the show that he thought it would be interesting as he claimed the flute and baritone sax were two of his weaker instruments. As soon as he began, I laughed. His humble claims were bullshit as he absolutely killed "Moondance" on the flute. Keller smiled and danced uncontrollably to Pete's flute work. They sounded great together as proven by the crowds overwhelming reception. It was a cool moment for me to see one of my clients meshing perfectly with one of his favorites in that sort of environment.

On a side note, a cool moment came for me when I heard the legendary Larry Keel say, "Oh man, that sounds great!" in regards to Pete's playing.

"Moondance" transitioned into "Kidney in a Cooler," with Pete picking up the bari to cover the low end. I was amazed at how effortlessly Pete blew into the bari at such a high elevation. The collaboration sounded great, and many in the crowd who were not previously aware of Pete Wall were now fans. The song ended, Keller hugged Pete and the set continued.

"How did it sound?" Pete asked me as he came offstage.

I laughed and smiled, and before I could answer, Larry stepped up and said, "That sounded great!"

There was nothing that needed to be said beyond that. I patted Pete on the back and smiled once again.

The second set continued with Keller performing the best solo set that I have seen him play in years. His loops were perfect, his energy and showmanship were top notch and as expect, the crowd ate it up. Towards the end of the set, Keller called the Keels back onstage to finish the show. I couldn't stop smiling. What a fantastic set of music! Following a solo encore of "Boob Job," Keller exited the stage.

Folks piled out of the venue onto large charter buses and shuttles, satisfied with their concert experience. As the tear down took place, we thanked everyone for having us out and snapped a few shots for the ol' scrapbook. Exiting through the back of the venue, we crossed the street where Pete was mobbed by a few appreciative fans.

"Dude, that was awesome!" said one guy.

"You're the fucking man!" said another as he reached out for a high five.

"Is that really the guy from The Motet?" one of the kids asked me to which I smiled and nodded.

It was great to see that Pete had built an immediate fan base at the show. It was also a good feeling to see how excited these young kids were about meeting Pete. We hopped into the car, smiles around, and made our way back to Denver. Success.

J-man's Photo Gallery From The Show


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