Even though it felt a little awkward I stood exceptionally close for this show. Pretty much front and center. I had questioned this decision, which was obviously made before anyone showed up, because it just felt kind of strange standing there by myself with people piling up behind me. I’m glad that I made the decision though because it led to some of the best pictures my phone is likely to get at a concert and because the place ended up being packed. Seriously, just absolutely loaded with people. I had no idea how popular William Elliott Whitmore was in Denver until this show. I saw him at Swallow Hill a little over a year ago and there wasn’t nearly this kind of crowd there, though part of that may be because of the type of venue that Swallow Hill is. As good as that Swallow Hill show was this one was better because his music feels more at home in a rowdy bar than in a quiet music hall.
My decision to stand up front didn’t come without repercussions though. A drunk woman elbowed me out of place, tried to haul me on stage to sing a song before the show because because apparently it was ‘lame’, and then she spilled beer on me and fell directly on her ass. It would have been entertaining if it wasn’t so sad. She also brought in tow with her a friend who kept insisting that her good friend was the opening act. I don’t have any direct evidence to prove that this isn’t true but, well, we were right in front of him and he never acknowledged her once. So she seemed a little stalkery. She also talked through a large portion of his set which means that if they are friends she’s kind of a shitty one. Anyway onto the music.
Randall Conrad Olinger was supposed to be the first act of three at this show. Unfortunately Samantha Crain had the radiator go out on her car and she wasn’t able to make it to the show. This put Olinger into an interesting position, he was now the sole opener, instead of going on at 8, he was going on at 9. Because of this he was playing for several hundred more people than he would otherwise have been playing for. It was a hell of an opportunity for a fairly unknown local musician and he absolutely killed it. Seriously, he just grabbed the ball and ran with it. If he was nervous, which he probably was, it didn’t show. He sang with passion and conviction and his set was great.
Now, I will readily admit that my estimation of great might be biased because I love, love, love slide guitar and he plays a mean slide. It just had the beautiful slide sound that cuts right through you and reverberates in your soul. It was the blues as the blues should be, on a steel guitar with a metal slide. I loved it. It spoke to me. However to call it just ‘the blues’ is an over simplification, the lyrical structure was more complex than standard blues and he wandered a bit into rock and folk and even bluegrass when he picked up his banjo.
His songs were well written, well played and delivered with conviction. I’d happily see him again, and as he is local, I’m sure I’ll get many chances to. Sadly he has no videos online so I can’t show you a live performance. However he does have a whole album over on Soundcloud. Go here and check it out.
William Elliott Whitmore is not without his charms. (Which is an inside joke that people who were at the show will get. For everyone else, just laugh and pretend like you know what’s going on.) He’s also an incredible musician who you have to experience live to fully appreciate. His albums are good but they pale in comparison to the performances he gives because he puts so much of himself into them. He’s humble, personable, and just downright entertaining to watch.
About two or three songs into his performance he looked out into the crowd and said “If it will help ease the congestion out there I’m okay with some people coming up and sitting on stage.” For reasons that are obvious if you’ve ever spoken to a woman about a musician about 95% of the people who took him up on this offer were female. I considered it because it would have been an interesting perspective for the blog but I was already front and center so I figured it would be better to let some of the people further back have a chance to get closer. In the end there were maybe 20-30 people seated around him on stage. That’s the kind of thing that you just don’t usually see and it had an interesting affect on the atmosphere of the show. He went from being in front of the crowd to being within the crowd and it just felt different. Whitmore himself said that it felt more like he was playing on a porch or in someone’s living room that way and it definitely gave the show that kind of super small venue feeling. He certainly seemed at home in that setting and I get the feeling that he’s played a lot of living rooms in his day and that that is where he truly feels at home.
He’s extremely personable, grateful, and humble too. He shakes hands with the crowd between songs, he drinks with them after the show. He’s a one of a kind artist who truly seems to enjoy his fans as much as they enjoy him.
Whitmore simply doesn’t disappoint and, as he doesn’t seem to tour that widely that often, if you see that he’s going to be playing near you take the opportunity to go see him it’s one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
I could easily post every damn video this guy has but I’m going to stop at three.
This second song he told us is titled from a line in a Public Enemy song. He then told us about how much he loves Public Enemy and about the time he met Chuck D at an airport in Australia. I love that kind of cross genre inspiration.
And this one is just really damn good: