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He Came, He Saw, He Conquered

by on October 13th, 2008

Friday night brought a fantastic line-up of music to Downtown Wausau. I had the pleasure of being at The Fillmor for the all but the first of a three-band marquee, missing the first only because I was on a roady road trip with some guitar guys until 7:30.

Aaron Williams stood on the stage, oozing subdued sexual energy. Maybe it was his broody black hat tipped forward across his lean angular face and the effortless cool of his clothes. His forearm muscles were sinews, strong cords pulling at the guitar, drawing the music out in a frenzy of the beat, the guitar a machine strapped across his body. It was funk, it was rock, it was blues. He pursed his lips like he was sucking the fumes steaming off his guitar. He seemed lost in the music, mesmerized and manic at the same time.

ZT Auner on the bass guitar was a sight to see. Rail thin body, blue bandana across his forehead, he stood with his feet planted in place, twisting out once in a while when the riff traveled down his body and escaped out his toes. Moving mostly from the hips, he leaned and tilted his upper body to move with the chords and the flow. His face gave the distinct impression that he was on the climax of physical ecstasy, and he was just doing his part to keep the magic going on just another minute longer.

Their music was less melody and more art installation at times. Aaron tweaked and manipulated a lick and put it forth as modern art.

When Scott Holt came on stage, the mood changed. He summoned the ghosts on stage with Dalai Lama-blessed incense burning on side stage. Audience members were easily entranced by the performance. He began effortlessly spinning out the licks, a spider wrapping a web around a grateful prey. The masterful riffs felt like an afterthought in his worshipful meditation at the feet of all the other rock and blues gods who have gone before him.

From such subtle fingering against the strings, this sweet blues aria sang out. His voice went from a playful shout to an exasperated sigh to a low sexual growl that purred into the microphone. He was first rock god and then delicately sensitive lover. Watching him onstage with a song was like a delicious foreplay with a man who has all the time in the world to make you feel every last sigh and shudder.

Without an ego, he stepped back several times to let his bass guitarist Richard Sanders take the spotlight and do his thing. Sanders playfully tickled out songs on the bass like he was sharing a great joke with a friend who had seen it all, too. Marshall Weaver on drums, with a smile on his face, looked happy to chase after them both with frenetic and skillful beats. At times, Holt was the conductor on stage, orchestrating the best of the blues, leading his players through tight tempos and structured, but impromptu, melodies. Sanders and Weaver followed him intently, rising to the occasion, playing their roles in the blues man’s show.

Yeah. You could say that Scott Holt can play the guitar. You could also say that Beethoven could compose, that Renoir could paint, that Frank Lloyd Wright could design a building. For me, his level of mastery was very apparent. He was so confident with his instrument that he could start ignoring all the rules of guitar playing and could create new sounds and new beats that were totally outside the box. That’s a comfort level not often seen. As a man who says that the blues should not be sad, he romped on stage, having his playtime, soaring through creative covers and originals.

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