A kick-off-to-the-summer show in Vail | VailDaily.com

A kick-off-to-the-summer show in Vail

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/C. Taylor Crothers

The last time Keller Williams performed in the area, in January 2011, he got the chance to jam with a younger-than-usual crowd. And no, it was not at the Vilar Center, even though that’s where he performed along with husband-wife duo, The Keels. The charismatic musician took the time to stop by Avon Elementary School and hang with a classroom full of second graders.

“I went to the school and hung out with the kids – it was definitely amazing,” he said. “It was really interesting because they learned one of my songs – ‘Hulahoop To Da Loop’ – and played it for me.”

On the night of the Keller Williams and The Keels show in Beaver Creek, local musician Kevin Heinz ran into Williams outside of Avon Bakery and immediately recognized him.

“I totally just walked up and said hello,” Heinz said. “He was so approachable and friendly. Off stage and on stage, he just is such a nice guy. I shook his hand and just get the feeling he’s a pretty nice guy.”

Indeed, the striking thing about Williams, who lived in Steamboat Springs in the ’90s and said he always feels at home performing in the mountains, is his down-to-earth, humble nature, which shines through in both interviews as well as during his live shows. You can see for yourself when he performs a free show tonight in Vail Village as part of the Teva Mountain Games opening ceremony.

These days, Williams is mainly a weekend warrior so he can spend time with his family in Virginia; he has a 4-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

“I just work on the weekends, fly out on Thursday or Friday morning and home during the week,” he said. “I have two kids, they’re at an age I don’t want to miss anything. I’m lucky to be able to have the best of both worlds.”

While Williams has been doing quite a few shows with The Travelin’ McCourys as of late, tonight’s show will include just Williams and his guitar. During the show, the multi-instrumentalist will do his one-man-band performance, where he plays a tune, sets it to a loop and then accompanies himself layer by layer.

During the solo shows, the energy exchange between Williams and the audience is very important, he said.

“When I do the solo thing, I really try to make the audience part of show, part of band,” Williams said. “Even if I play with other people, I try to feed off that energy in the audience, as well. Definitely when I’m solo it’s more focused on audience, though.”

Though Heinz has seen Williams play a handful of times at venues around the state, tonight will be the first “hometown show,” he said.

“It’ll be fun to see him in town, at one of those kick-off-to-the-summer shows that draws a big crowd,” Heinz said. “He’s a big name for the beginning of the summer.”

As a musician who also performs mostly solo, Heinz has a lot of respect for what Williams does on stage.

“He’s able to jump around in between instruments,” Heinz said. “A lot of times it’s hard to put down your guitar in the middle of a song, but he does, and then sneaks over to the bass and lays the bass line. I saw him at YarmonyGrass back when it was at Copper Mountain and I specifically remember the fun vocal loops he did, with vocal percussion and harmonies. It’s a lot of the same stuff I try to emulate when I’m playing.”

Williams’ latest album, his 17th, is called “Bass,” and is his only album where he (only) plays on bass guitar. It is also the first album to be recorded with his live reggae-funk band, Kdubalicious. In addition to Williams on bass and vocals, the group features Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums. The album is mostly reggae music, with heavy doses of dub, funk, jazz and even bits of pop and psychedelia.

Williams will play several large festivals this summer, including a return to Colorado for Nedfest from Aug. 24 to 26 in Nederland.

“I’ll be doing a set there on bass with Kyle Hollingsworth from String Cheese on keys and Dave Watts from The Motet on drums and Steve Kimock on guitar. That will be a really interesting set,” he said.