Saturday celebration to include music, beer and brats
Hurricane Irma is gone, Tuscawilla Park is no longer flooded and Keller Williams is ready to celebrate Oktoberfest in September.
On Saturday, the guitarist and often-quirky singer Williams will headline Oktobertest 2017, a craft-beer, German food and music festival on Tuscawilla’s outdoor stage next to the Reilly Arts Center. Williams performed here in January with fellow guitar whiz Leo Kottke. Now he will headline a bill with Come Back Alice, The Applebutter Express and the Voltron Collective performing the music of Stevie Wonder.
Williams is commonly referred to as a one-man-band, but as a collaborator on at least 10 projects, he is a musician of many bands. His musical roots include rock, jazz, funk and bluegrass. The man who once followed The Grateful Dead on tour now performs and records with iconic musicians he considers his heroes. He humbly refers to his bandmates as musical “wizards.”
He spoke with the Star-Banner last weekend, starting the conversation by asking about our area in the wake of Irma: “How are you guys doing down there?” he asked by phone while traveling to the Watermelon Park Festival in Berryville, Virginia. It was a relevant question, considering Tusacwilla — the park that will host Oktobefest — reopened late last week after floods from Irma
Here are highlights from Williams’ interview:
Question: In January, you were in Ocala to perform with Leo (Kottke). On Sept. 30, you’ll be back here, but performing as a solo artist at an outdoor venue. What’s different about these two tours?
Answer: The Leo tour was called “Shut the Folk Up and Listen” and I definitely tailored my set to that vibem which was really liberating and super fun. I was able to focus on playing guitar and singing. But this outdoor gig, I’m imagining it’s going to be more of the loop and dance party that I normally do as a solo act.
Q: Entertainment Weekly listed you as one of the “Top 15 Concerts to see in September.” What do think of that ranking?
A: Wow. I did not know that. I think that’s fantastic. And I wonder if my team knows that; that’s pretty cool.
Q: You’re ranked up there with U2 and Katy Perry.
A: Holy (expletive)! Wow, how ‘bout that?
Q: More and more people are being exposed to you and your projects. How does that feel?
A: It feels fantastic. I never expected to be able to do what I wanted to do for as long as I have. It feels like I’m getting away with something all the time. We always realize that it’s a real finicky, fickle business and that it can all go away. If it does, we have a couple back-up plans. (Laughs) We are definitely enjoying life to its fullest right now.
Q: You’re in 10 projects you’re active with, and each one is a different vibe or genre. Do you feel a connection to any one type of music over another?
A: There’s bluegrass projects and Gospel projects and all kinds of thrown-together bands, like the one tomorrow night (Sept. 23) I’m really excited about. It’s like 12:30 a.m. in a tent with Kyle Hollingsworth on keyboard from String Cheese (The String Cheese Incident) and Garrett Sayers on bass and Dave Watts on drums, both from The Motet. Just an incredible, incredible band. We’ve got a set list planned out, just no rehearsals. That type of stuff really feeds me. It’s all about the trust of the musicians I’m playing with.
Q: In 2017, you released two albums. You tour year-round. How do you juggle the challenges of being a professional musician and a parent?
A: Simply by being home three and a half days and being gone three and a half days. Really focusing on the prime nights of the week to play. Also, the wife is the boss. She knows where I am six months from now. So, there’s no guilt there as far as leaving because the wife’s lining it up. (Laughs) On those occasions where I’m home on the weekends my kids are like, “What are you doing here?”