Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Freek’y Friday at Barrymore stage

This Friday, the “freeks” will come out to check out talented one-man jam band Keller Williams at the Barrymore Theatre. But they aren’t the kind of freaks that you’ll see at Freakfest. According to Keller, his fans are a totally different kind of “freek” — the ones who hang out by the speakers at shows, swaying and bobbing their heads to the music.

“It’s one that freaks out on the free things in life,” Williams said to explain the term, which is the title of his first album and the theme of one of his most indentifiable tunes, “Freeker by the Speaker.”

With just a hint of a Southern drawl, Williams simultaneously manages to joke around and extrapolate on the deeper meaning of his whimsical, sometimes nonsensical lyrical content. He seems about as chilled out as they come, but his creativity and passion for crowd-pleasing jams are obvious.


Williams is currently touring in support of his newest album, Odd, which was released in August. According to his website, the album is a collection of “road tested favorites.”

“I’ve been playing these songs for a year or two, some for longer than that, and I’m finally putting them to bed so to speak with this recording,” Williams said.

Williams described the lyrical content and sound of the album as, well, odd.

“Stylistically, it’s odd in the sense that it’s all over the map as far as bluegrass, jazz, acoustic reggae and full-blown dance music all on the same record,” Williams said.

Odd includes the bluegrass science-fiction song “Elephorse” as well as the crowd-pleaser “Doobie In My Pocket.” The album’s closer, “Song for Fela,” is Keller’s tribute to Fela Kuti.

“I’ve been in a Fela Kuti phase for a long time,” Williams said.

Using looping pedals and a huge variety of guitars, Williams creates a captivating wall of sound onstage, enchanting crowds and invoking some crazy dance moves. And he does it all by himself.

“I would simply describe it as solo acoustic jazz funk reggae techno grass,” Williams said of his music, perhaps poking fun at the fact his genre-bending, free-wheeling tunes can’t be properly classified in fewer than five words, if at all. “To shorten that, I like to say acoustic dance music.”

“There’s always a constant underlying dance groove,” Williams continued. “Whether it be bluegrass or techno or reggae or funk, there’s always some kind of rhythmic movement in my music.”

That constant dance groove is part of Keller’s appeal with audiences. His shows are like friendly, relaxed dance parties. You’re not going to get trampled on the dance floor and your ears probably won’t be ringing the next day, but you will be expected to groove — and you should probably be prepared for someone to try and share his or her crystal energy with you.

“You’ll possibly see young and hungry, hairy people smiling and singing along, and possibly bumping into each other,” Keller said of his audience.

In fact, he said, the adrenaline and positive energy he receives from audiences each night are his favorite things about being on tour.

“The audience provides a certain kind of energy mixed with adrenaline, and they send it up to me and I absorb it and hopefully send it back them, and it just kind of circles around like that,” Williams described. “That’s a pretty intense thing that I can’t really get anywhere but onstage.”

Williams is a self-taught musician, and he was inspired because of his experience as an audience member.

“I’m a music lover first, musician second, songwriter third,” Williams said. “My love for music got me into playing it and performing it and eventually recording it.”

Despite his success, however, Williams hasn’t forgotten what it means to be a fan.

“I constantly try and put myself in the place of the audience, because I was an audience member for many, many years,” Williams said.

But being the one onstage has its perks. Williams plays hundreds of shows each year, and he usually performs sans footwear.

“It started out as a comfort level thing, because I couldn’t be that comfortable for some reason with shoes on playing music,” Williams said of the habit. “Then it kind of turned into more of a precision tool to be able to hit small buttons with my big toe.”

So we know he’ll be playing at the Barrymore without shoes, and fans will probably recognize a lot of the music. But Williams still has some tricks in store for fans in Madison.

“This is a part of the extended Guitar Store Tour,” he says. “I’ll just kind of leave it at that and let it be a surprise.”

Keller Williams will perform at the Barrymore Theatre Friday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m. Visit to purchase tickets or for more information.

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