The performance also tacitly spoke to the rich history of Southern California rock and country music through the L.A. native's own songs and the inclusion of the likes of "Together Again," the classic by West Coast country pioneer Buck Owens, whom Hillman called "our old pal [and] mentor, an unbelievably innovative musician without whom there wouldn't have been the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers, the Dillards or so many others."
It was out of the Byrds that Hillman and the late Gram Parsons -- the influential but under-sung musician -- started the Flying Burrito Brothers.
From there, Hillman moved on to the Souther-Hillman-Furay band with fellow singer-songwriters J.D. Souther and Richie Furay; then McGuinn, Clark & Hillman, a short-lived ensemble with his two other former Byrds bandmates Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark ("Sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?" Hillman quipped recently.)
He touched on the music of several of them on Saturday, offering his inventive bluegrass adaptation of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" from a recent album with Pedersen, as well as one of the signature Burrito Brothers numbers he wrote in 1969 with Parsons, "Wheels."
The latter expresses a yearning for freedom with youthful bravado in a refrain that boasts, "We're not afraid to ride / We're not afraid to die."
Parsons carried that statement to its conclusion in his live-fast, die-young life. He was just 26 when he died, but not before helping create a template for a hybrid of country and rock music still in use today by countless alt-country and Americana musicians.
As another key architect of that genre, Chris Hillman has carved out a career path that serves as a coda to the "not afraid to die / born to run" manifesto of youth, a potential blueprint for musicians who are not afraid to live.