Best Pete Townshend Moment: The HillBenders
One of the most bizarre-yet-satisfying showcases of AmericanaFest was the HillBenders' string-band opus Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry, a remix of the iconic rock opera. Onstage this week, the Missouri-based quintet unleashed their grassy revisions of the Who's songs on a late-night crowd, pulling off the ambitious experiment with impressive precision. Full of windmilling arms, intricate harmonies and creatively composed layering, the production was theatric, odd and intriguing in a most excellent way. The band took turns narrating the tragic life story of the deaf, dumb and blind boy, hitting a high-water mark for excitement with the furious banjo roll of "Pinball Wizard." It was a surreal moment for lots of reasons, including watching English folk hero Richard Thompson pumping his fists and howling at the foot of the stage like he was still 20 years old. C.P.