|Photo Cred: Marie Steele|
As I walk through the web-like mass of Keller fans lingering inside the entrance of Park West, I could feel the warm vibes emitting past security. I walk into the classic theatrical style venue of Park West and scan the crowd. A little older than I’m used to but that’s a good thing. No high-school teeny boppers, tutus, glitter or lingerie substituting clothing in this venue, not saying I dislike glitter but the people at this show are actually here for the artist playing not the scene. Bubbling with excitement, I quickly make my way to a spot with the perfect view of the stage and crowd before I order myself a drink. There’s lots of reasons why I enjoy Park West but these are the main ones: Their establishment sign is something straight out of Back To The Future; Due to the older crowd their shows attract, security is really low maintenance and almost non-existent ; There’s seating with tables plus a large dance floor if you feel like doing the Bernie.
Keller William’s, What the Funk Tour has been such a hit among his followers. His new album was just released and it’s fascinating how he names all of his albums with one word, Buzz, Grass, Bass and now Funk. His first set was him solely on stage, bare foot, jamming to the sensational loops he’s crafted while on stage. I absolutely love his use of improvised looping of music while he’s singing along and playing the acoustic guitar. For his second set, he came back in a full suit, still barefoot, with two saucy soulful gospel singers and a full band to accompany his show.
For his tour and new album he was joined by a 6-piece funk band dubbed ‘More Than A Little’. Once he came back on stage I immediately floated down to the dance floor to join the funky soul party. I literally felt that I was in an episode from Soul Train. Everyone seemed to be vibe-ing off each other and smiles, ear to ear, were being exchanged among the crowd. It was like one minute he was singing to a jam band ballad then another he was beat boxing. He literally funked up the entire venue.
In all what I have gathered since an article I wrote in Fall of 2012, What the Dub, funky is the new black and everyone even DJ’s have been joining this soul train. Taken from a biography on Keller Williams, he describes the show as “a self indulgent, hour-long narrated mix of stuff I’m into. It’s rule-less except for what the FCC says we can’t do. I don’t play contemporary country music. I don’t play contemporary Christian music—however, there is possibly some old gospel. I don’t play opera. Everything else is fair game. World music from all around—African music from all the countries, jazz, funk, reggae, techno, chill, lounge, lounge singers, rub-a-dub, dancehall. I pretty much stay away from smooth jazz. It’s definitely a fun outlet for me. I’m trying to do something different.”
Those who want to do something different are innovators, push the music industry forward. There needs to be more musicians who experiment with different genres and art platforms. We need different, and that’s exactly how you could sum up a performance by Keller Williams, an improvised soulful masterpiece.