Saturday free concert features Keller Williams’ Petty-grass, Hillbenders and local band Buffalo Commons |

Saturday free concert features Keller Williams’ Petty-grass, Hillbenders and local band Buffalo Commons

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Local musician Tyree Woods remembers the first time he heard a Keller Williams song.

“His energy — not only is he super friendly with this no-one-is-excluded mentality, his music satiates any type of music,” said Woods, front man of local band Buffalo Commons.

“The note of a song that turns your heart a bit and makes you think of something that happened so long ago — when I go to shows, that’s what I want, to have that interaction with music on a personal level. That’s what you strive for as a musician,” Woods said.

If you go

What: Keller Williams & The Hillbenders Petty-grass with Buffalo Commons

When: Gates open at 5:30 p.m., opener at 6 p.m., main act at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 7

Where: Howelsen Hill amphitheater, 845 Howelsen Parkway

Best-known for his virtuosic solo performances using guitars and loop pedals to craft intricate orchestrations, Williams was the first acoustic artist Woods witnessed performing with a guitar loop pedal. It inspired Woods to use the technique, which involves a recording of short passages played on an instrument, then playing those back in a repeating loop.

Now, about 15 years since he first discovered Williams, Woods will share the stage with one of his musical idols along with Steamboat’s original funk and soul group Buffalo Commons.

Williams’ Petty-grass, featuring the Hillbenders, will make its way to Steamboat for the first time Saturday. The show starts at 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill amphitheater with Buffalo Commons kicking off the music, and Williams and the Hillbenders taking the stage at 7 p.m.

Although Williams is no stranger to Steamboat, his Tom Petty-inspired project finds him performing select covers in a rollicking bluegrass style alongside Missouri-natives and eclectic bluegrass quintet The Hillbenders.

The project started in 2015 as a way to pay homage to a musical icon and bring new perspective to Petty’s classic songs for an annual benefit in Williams’ hometown. After Petty’s death earlier this year, Williams and longtime collaborator Jeff Covert enhanced the recordings and posted them as a tribute to the legend’s legacy and inspiration.

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Williams has toured with bands such as The String Cheese Incident, Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Rhythm Devils and Umphrey’s McGee as well as worked on various side projects.

“It’s unbelievable,” Woods said. “If someone had told me this five years ago when I was just coming home from being in the Army, that I would be one of the musicians opening for Keller Williams, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

But it’s all happening thanks to the momentum Buffalo Commons has built within the past year.

The group headlined the WinterWonderGrass festival this winter, performs regularly around town at Music on the Green, Sunset Happy Hour and Old Town Pub, and will headline YarmonyGrass at Rancho Del Rio in the fall.

The band’s sound has undergone an evolution with new members joining the group, including Fritz Boniface on dobro and vocals, Colby Smith on mandolin and vocals, and longtime local musician Randy Kelley on the fiddle. Those members will perform alongside Woods and Denton Turner on bass.

“Changes are tough to stomach, but sometimes change means just going in a new direction,” Woods said. “As long as I still have a voice, we will keep going, and it’s thanks to the community backing us, coming together in good times and bad. It makes me feel a part of where I live as opposed to just living somewhere.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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