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Published: 2005/09/12
by Mike Greenhaus

Keller Williams-Sight

SCI Fidelity

At this point in his career, Keller Williams is both an entertainer and a personality. One of the scene’s most recognizable faces, Williams has jammed with everyone from the Disco Biscuits to the members of the Grateful Dead, offering his mug to Relix for a cover shot somewhere in between. An oft-described one-man jamband, Williams is also one of the scene’s most manic entertainers, jumping between instruments with ease while using a complex system of loops and pedals to create a thickly layered web of sound. So it makes sense that Sight, the first full-length DVD document of Williams’ live show, is both a performance souvenir and a semi-autobiographical look into how the one-man jamband pieces together his own personality.

A full-length concert DVD, built around a recent performance at the famed Pittsburgh venue Mr. Small’s Funhouse and Theatre, Sight follows the basic concert souvenir formula interspersing backstage shots, interviews, and other candid eye candy between relatively straightforward live footage. Yet, unlike many other live concert film souvenirs, Sight is also an intimate look at Keller Williams himself since, more than his peers, the guitarist’s personality bleeds into his performance. While he is skilled at several instruments most proficiently the acoustic guitar and bass it’s Williams’ delivery which makes him a star. Like a DJ, Williams is able to slice seemingly divergent sounds together. Though Williams’ albums are able to present his sound, Sight is the first true document of Williams’ showmanship and it presents the intricacies of his craftsman abilities.

Musically, Williams is in fine form during this two-night stand just outside Pittsburgh. Offering a mix of originals and covers, ranging from Ani DiFranco to the Grateful Dead, Williams essentially creates a live form of sampling, throwing bits of classic songs together to create his own original sound. Sonically, Williams fires off his big guns at rapid pace: his signature “Freaker by the Speaker” serves as Sight’s centerpiece while “Ship of Fools” provides the disc’s most tender moment. For gear geeks, Sight also gives fans a peek into Williams’ arsenal of equipment which at times resembles a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Which leads me to Sight’s non-performance aspects. Whether he’s chasing his dog outside or rollerblading around the club’s wooden floors, Williams’ hyperactive personalities shines through during each of Sight’s non-performance scenes. And while some scenes are admittedly a bit annoying, such as the aforementioned skate sequence, each are an important part of capturing Williams’ musical mojo. Like an athlete preparing for a sporting event, Williams’ mini-vignettes seem to muster up the energy required to move from. In one of the film’s early scenes, Williams is seen backstage strumming his guitar before the film shifts to him performing onstage. Similarly, one can imagine a rabid Williams, running with his pup to his own music, preparing himself physically to create a full band’s sounds.

I was lucky enough to catch Sight for the first time at a New York release party screening at the Canal Room. A performance space, which has hosted its share of live music events in the past, the Canal Room provided the perfect venue to showcase Sight. Projected on the big screen in this venue, Sight really does capture the complete concert feel, from hippie-rock kids bouncing on the club’s wooden floor to Williams’ backstage strumming his guitar. But, more than that, it captures Williams as he is today a well-respected talent and a rapidly emerging personality awaiting more widespread fame.

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