Keller Williams brought his newly minted acoustic group KWhatro and The Shook Twins, from Portland, Oregon, to the Crystal Bay Casino Saturday night and the place was bursting at the seams with bubbling energy.
The Shook Twins made a triumphant return to Lake Tahoe with its fantastic opening set. The band played WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley a couple weeks ago and it was a treat to see the four members strutting their stuff on stage again. Katelyn (vocals, guitar, ukelele) and Laurie (vocals, guitar, banjo) Shook had breathtaking harmonies that flitted over the pastoral playing of Niko Daoussis (guitar, bass, mandolin) and Josh Simon (bass, guitar) like a pair of starlings in a meadow. There are hints of rock, folk, indie and soul in The Shook Twins’ music that rushes around you and through you like fresh mountain air recharging your soul. To help add colors to the wind, various side instruments, percussion, loop machines and drum pads rotated among the group members.
An affable Keller Williams joined the group for a “Friend of The Devil” finale that wandered through fields of bluegrass and reggae. He directed mandolin and bass solos from Daoussis and Simon like a conductor and prodded Katelyn for an impromptu xylophone solo before adding his own. The musicians were all smiles as they exited stage left, the audience perfectly primed for some more helpings of Williams.
The more Keller the better, with his list of ongoing projects sitting pretty at 10 and probably counting. Most people can’t manage to stay in one band and this guy puts them together as quickly and enthusiastically as a kid building with LEGOS. His latest project KWhatro is another fun-loving group consisting of friends Gibb Droll (guitar), Rodney Holmes (drums) and Danton Boller (bass). A lot of his projects help him explore his various interests in reggae, bluegrass and R&B, where KWhatro bolsters the acoustic dance music that has made Williams so beloved.
The band’s flexibility to morph into all the tangential jams up Williams’ sleeve was a sight to see. “I Feel High” was as uplifting as its sentiment, with reggae-tinged verses giving way to soaring, nimble picking between Droll and Williams. Cracking open a can of cold-as-ice funk, Phish’s “Birds of A Feather” was transformed into a slinky dance number that was fueled by Boller’s pocket playing. Throughout it all, Holmes was the heartbeat of the masses with understated panache. He was a master for subtly injecting more adrenaline into songs with intricate rhythms on his cymbals and hi-hat, absolutely crushing a percussive “Making It Rain” from last year’s album “Vape.”
Williams is at his best when he is stringing musical ideas together like random beads and trinkets on the friendship bracelets you made at summer camp. “Off Time Chorus Line” was a rumbling instrumental of funky, thrash-grass goodness that led into the Keller classic “Breathe.” The band wallowed in the chill, radiant groove for a couple of bars before interlooping the intricate “The Drop” into the mix. The fluid jam that followed eventually flowed back into “Breathe,” closing the set to hollers and cheers.
What will Keller Williams focus his musical ambitions on next? It doesn’t really matter because he has shown time and time again that he can make any project musically impressive and naturally fun. It was a pleasure catching him with KWhatro and it will be a pleasure to catch him with whatever comes to his mind.
The Shook Twins