From Zepparella (the all female Led Zeppelin cover band) to Pink Talking Fish (that’s right, a band that melds the music of Pink Floyd, the Talking Heads and Phish), the Sweetwater Music Hall is no stranger to bands that mash up styles and genres.
The latest band to hit the Sweetwater stage with an innovative concept is The Hillbenders, a Springfield, Missouri-based bluegrass band that has transformed The Who’s iconic album Tommy into a fully realized, full-length bluegrass tribute. They perform the aptly named Whograss at the Sweetwater on April 7.
Forty-five years after Tommy’s original release, the band say they hope their Bluegrass Opry brings a new perspective to Tommy while paying total respect to its creators. “We wanted to pair bluegrass with the other music we grew up with – rock and roll!” says HillBender Nolan Lawrence.
Originally composed by guitarist Pete Townshend, Tommy is a rock opera that tells the story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, including his experiences with life and the relationship with his family. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.” In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Tommy number 96 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Louis Jay Meyers, the co-founder of the South By Southwest music festival and a longtime musician/producer, conceived the concept and has been searching for the right band to pull off this high wire bluegrass approach for several decades. With a right mix of virtuoso musicianship and rock star vocals, The HillBenders say they bring Pete Townshend’s original vision to life in a new and exciting way, mixing banjo, dobro, mandolin, bass, and guitar with the same energy and vision as The Who did to Tommy more than four decades ago with a full rock band and orchestra.
The 411: The Hillbenders, a Springfield, Missouri-based bluegrass band that has transformed The Who’s iconic album Tommy into a fully realized, full-length bluegrass tribute, performs at the Sweetwater Music Hall on April 7. MORE INFO & TIX.
Here’s the Hillbenders’ take on “Pinball Wizard”: