The HillBenders Live In Virginia

by Kevin Wierzbicki

The HillBenders Play WhoGrass - Oct. 22, 2022 - The Lincoln Theatre, Marion VA

Springfield, Missouri's progressive bluegrass band the HillBenders are big fans of the legendary British classic rock group The Who; they've previously released a bluegrass version of The Who's rock opera Tommy, an impressive interpretation called Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry. The admiration is a mutual thing; The Who's lead guitarist and founding member Pete Townshend is a fan of the HillBenders and he even gave them an opening slot when The Who played St. Louis, right in the HillBenders' back yard. Currently the HillBenders are on tour with their WhoGrass show where they play bluegrass versions of famed songs by The Who, mostly drawn from the group's early days. That show came to The Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia on Oct. 22, 2022.

The WhoGrass show opened with two big hits, versions of "The Kids Are Alright" and "My Generation" before moving into a cut originally from The Who's 1967 album The Who Sell Out, "I Can See for Miles." The cut was a showcase for Dobro player Chad Graves who added a few psychedelic effects to the song as he moved to center stage to play a jaw dropping solo. Graves' performance was riveting throughout the set as he rocked his Dobro like Townshend does his electric guitar, stopping just short of mimicking one of Townshend's famed "windmill" moves.

Most of the band, including bass player Gary Rea, guitarist Jimmy Rea, banjo player Mark Cassidy and mandolin player Nolan Lawrence also took plenty of solos, with Cassidy shining on his spotlight during the Tommy classic "Pinball Wizard." The band also dipped into Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry for a take on "Tommy Can You Hear Me," complete with an audience clap-along, and the work's closing number, "We're Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me." The HillBenders really melded bluegrass and rock nicely on "Behind Blue Eyes" where the cut ultimately evolved into a jam that recalled something the Grateful Dead might have done. The audience sang along to "Join Together" and to the "teenage wasteland" chorus of "Baba O'Riley." The WhoGrass portion of the show ended with "Love, Reign o'er Me" and the double-entendre laden "Squeeze Box." The HillBenders played a selection of their own music after the WhoGrass show, including "Don't Look at Me." Both parts of the show demonstrated just how talented and inventive the group is.

For upcoming HillBenders tour dates go here.

Upcoming shows at the Lincoln Theatre include:
Nov. 5, 2022 - "Song of the Mountains" with Seldom Scene, Olivia Jo and Appalachian Express
Nov. 13, 2022 - "Majesty" A Tribute to Queen
Nov. 18, 2022 - Crystal Gayle
Dec. 3, 2022 - "Song of the Mountains" with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Presley Barker
Dec. 4, 2022 - Christmas with the Church Sisters
Dec. 10, 2022 - Rhonda Vincent "A Bluegrass Christmas Celebration"
Jan. 21, 2023 - Larry Gatlin
A complete list of upcoming Lincoln Theatre shows is here.

Marion, Virginia and surrounding area is rich in musical history and you can find ideas on other music-related things to do here.

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