“Petty Grass is bluegrass versions of Tom Petty hits. Sing-alongs that some people didn’t even know they knew. Tom Petty songs are like that and Petty Grass celebrates this.” ~ Keller Williams
Keller Williams and the Hillbenders performed Keller’s latest project, Petty Grass, at a new venue in Jersey City, NJ, White Eagle Hall. The recently renovated and restored historic theater has been “outfitted with the latest sound technology” and has two hand-crafted stained glass skylights.
Williams began the concept in 2015, for a local S.P.C.A benefit. After Petty’s recent death, Williams decided to take the concept on the road and add a band. The Hillbender’s couldn’t be a more perfect choice to fill this role.
The Hillbenders, a talented bluegrass band from Springfield, MO, are experienced with translating rock and roll into bluegrass and are the perfect compliment to Williams. They released a bluegrass version of The Who’s Tommy called Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry in 2015.
The show was indeed a big audience sing-a-long, with the crowd participation increasing during each song. Tom Petty had many fun loving hits. William’s sing-a-long version, combined with the Hillbender’s picking intensity, successfully showcases this. The band often came together as a group on stage, demonstrating their exemplary skills as a bluegrass band.
Notable songs included “Refugee,” the extended jam combined elements of William’s Grateful Dead roots with the Hillbender’s penchant for picking. “Even the Losers” had a great texture from the mandolin by Nolan Lawrence. “Last Dance With Mary Jane” was meant to be a bluegrass sing-a-long. “Running Down a Dream” has a harmonious melody from Gary Rea on guitar and Chad Graves on dobro.