NOTE FROM ROCK THE RUINS MANAGEMENT: While audio recordings (no board feed) will be allowed, there is absolutely no photo or video allowed — whether cellphone or handheld camera — at this show.
The only photography or videography allowed in the venue must have already been approved by both The Vogue/Rock the Ruins management AND the artist management teams. Security will be monitoring usage of mobile or handheld cameras to capture the performance and will kindly asks guests to put their cameras away or be escorted out of the park. Thank you!
By mid-March 2020 Bruce Hornsby, in that now historical year, had completed a brief tour of five concerts. “Then all of a sudden, wham!” Hornsby remembers, “Everything shut down.” With “Non-Secure Connection” to release in summer, Hornsby began promoting the album. “So that was fine,” he says, following with an innocent refrain that would become spooky that pre-spring among active musicians globally: “But our tours got postponed or cancelled.”
“’Flicted,” the album Hornsby then began to create, marks the conclusion of what Hornsby calls a trilogy, inaugurated with the lauded “Absolute Zero” (2019,) in which the native and longtime resident of Williamsburg, Virginia intermingles his diverse musical passions, recording not exactly a self-invented genre but a world of vibrant sound and text all Hornsby’s own.
The twelve songs that comprise “’Flicted’ take their starting points from soundtrack scoring, the visuals-linked area of music composition with a distinguished history. Inexorably at home, Hornsby investigated again the “cues” he had written for the director Spike Lee, with whom Hornsby has worked since 1990. These abbreviated instrumental score passages had sparked song creation on his two previous albums.
“I was stuck in my house,” Hornsby says, “so I gathered up some cues I hadn’t used on ‘Absolute Zero’ and ‘Non-Secure Connection.” Additionally, he considered closely a riff he had asked a collaborator from ‘Absolute Zero’ – Blake Mills, a Los Angeles songwriter-producer and, as Hornsby describes him, “sprung-from-Zeus guitarist” – to record. “Blake gave me,” Hornsby says, “about a minute-and-a-half of this little thing.” For the final installment of his trilogy, Bruce Hornsby was off to the races.
And yet, the 2020 routes of the “’Flicted” songs were less determined by European and American 20th -century modern classical composition than by the fleet ear-bud zings and danceable grooves of 21st-century high-speed rail: This is a Bruce Hornsby album informed by the lucid atonal challenges and serialist dissonant flows of its two predecessors but significantly more pop. Produced by Tony Berg, who adds his sense of 1960s Los Angeles studio rock to the mix, and Hornsby, the broad impression “’Flicted” builds is not divorced from the formally advanced “electric pop” of, say, a heavily streamed Taylor Swift-Zayn Malik duet. This is bold.
The contributions on these songs, moreover, made by yMusic, the Brooklyn chamber sextet co-founded by violinist Rob Moose, heightens the command of
energy, substance, and rhythm this Hornsby music wields. Rhythm especially: “James Brown,” Hornsby says, citing the instrumental and professional rigor famously, mercilessly enforced in bands led by one of the surest geniuses of any music anywhere, “would not fire yMusic.” This is modern sound not as voiced by Silicon Valley’s lushest tech but rather the blood and flesh and heart of top-flight in studio playing immemorial.
Hornsby casts “’Flicted,” as he did the new album’s two predecessors, with the incisiveness Quincy Jones exercised on his own solo albums, always recorded with various singers, musicians, and other creative and technical collaborators. Throughout his long career – begun with his international hit “The Way It Is,” whose romantic Steinway ecstasies the late rapper Tupac Shakur sampled on his track “Changes,” anticipating the current era of The Song v. The Album in recorded pop – Hornsby’s engaging tenor has proceeded consistently. Without employing the idiosyncrasies of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, it travels its own singer-songwriter way, elevating ruminations on Appalachian cultures or addressing urban literary and scientific research with an everyday unruffled ease.
Other singers on “’Flicted’ include Ezra Koenig, of New York’s Vampire Weekend; Danielle Haim, lead singer of LA pop-rockers Haim; Ethan Gruska, the Hollywood artist, composer, producer, and member of several West coast indie bands; and Z. Berg, formerly of the LA band The Like.
Recently Hornsby and Chip deMatteo, Williamsburg natives, friends and co writers since kindergarten, spoke about the songs on “’Flicted’.” DeMatteo, a lyricist, writes with the concentrated dramatic force of the canniest theater writers when providing texts for Hornsby’s musical compositions. “Days Ahead,” the third release from the new album, focuses on the complex interlocking observations and anxieties of anticipating periods of some real duration closed away from others, separate and apart from routine daily conduct.
“The narrator,” deMatteo says, “dreads the accumulation of the coming weeks, the uncertainty of knowing just how their potentially suffocating natures may unfold, what will happen.” Following that lay the immediate futures of those time periods: “And then the knowing,” deMatteo says, “that going outside as before only mirrors the same concerns.” The text offers a terrifically concise, devastating portrait of the often-warring emotions in the pandemic.
Hornsby began his own comments with “Sidelines,” which opens “’Flicted,” continuing in sequence.
This is the first song I wrote, from the minute-and-a-half bit Blake recorded. It’s a song about hysteria in various forms, starting with the Salem witch trials of the 1600s, moving into a dystopian scene inspired by Don Delillo’s great novel “Underworld,” where someone is driving and passing road signs, and having the
signs become reality in his or her mind as he or she moves along. That’s the first two verses. The third references the pandemic era. The song features angular melodic content, which comes from the classical world, and a pointillistic instrumental section. Ezra Koenig sings seamlessly with me.
This song also has a bit of lyrical inspiration from the same Delillo novel. It has Bruce H. McGuinn playing twelve-string Rickenbacker. It’s a song about a serious narcissist who is humbled by circumstances he can’t control – in this case, again, the pandemic. It is not stated, however. I refer to it as “Pestilence Takes Its Turn.” As to the subject matter here, I’m obeying Nina Simone’s edict that the artist must reflect their times.
This has a string quartet where I told them just to play all effects – you know, violin effects like pizzicatos and glissandos that color the whole song. The songwriting content definitely is coming from the minimalism of the Julia Wolfe, Bang On A Can crowd. It features Ethan Gruska on celeste.
Too Much Monkey Business
This is the first time I have put a cover on a studio record, but it’s turned inside out – it happened years ago – by Leon Russell. He and Elton John were my boyhood piano heroes.
Maybe Now, Bucket List
These two songs form the EDM corner of the album’s sequence. I love Frederic Rzewski. He wrote a piece called “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” basically using the piano to sound like an industrial plant. I always wanted to do something with that feeling. I wrote a cue “Factory Dance” which dealt with my version of what I call “industrial machine piano.” That’s all through “Maybe Now.” It is noisy on the lower end of the piano a few times. It’s my homage to Rzewski. With “Bucket List” I play my scratchy-ass fiddle stylings. It sounds like some old Roscoe Holcomb type records to me.
After the three jamming songs before it, I offer this as a palate cleanser; the sequence here needs a breath. The intro, like the string part afterward, that’s minimalist, Philip Glass-ian. I love Danielle’s vocal part and Rob’s in the intro as well – it keeps coming back here, as well as throughout the song. When Tony heard the song, he instantly heard it as Brian Wilson-esque. Tony was an apprentice for producer Jack Nitzsche in the 1960s. He had fun ideas for this, and I love all the production flourishes, the Sixties Wrecking Crew pop aesthetic.
This is a science song: it’s about light depiction and ranging, where archeologists are, for instance, allowed to see through dense forests, dense wooded areas, into
things buried. I used it as an analogy in this love-gone-wrong relationship song, uncovering hidden clues, showing what the couple in the song didn’t do right, locking in the lidar, scanning in 3-D. Dulcimer folk meets modern pop, seems to me, here. Tony’s love of vintage instruments added flavor.
Is This It
This is my version of what Dylan called his “wild mercury sound” of the mid-Sixties, an era that Dylanophiles lionize and deify. It uses dulcimer and electric sitar, with yMusic showing up two-thirds of the way in glorious fashion, just to change the feeling.
This song protests inaction and indifference in the face of wrongdoing. Musically it’s yMusic and some modern, minimalist classical influences.
Simple Prayer II
The first “Simple Prayer” was on the “Levitate” album from 2009 . This sequel features two great singers: Z. Berg and Ethan Gruska.
Originally this was written for “Absolute Zero.” It features Jack DeJohnette playing with a string orchestra. This song felt like the fitting final piece to close the trilogy, bookending with its spiritual and textural cousin, the first song on the first record.
It’s a rumination on string theory, theology, ornithology and the invisible forces that rule our existence.
Bonny Light Horseman
The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and eons, linking us not only to the past but to each other as well. It was under the banner of those eternal connections that the trio of Bonny Light Horseman came together. From Wisconsin festival fields and a German art hub to a snowy upstate studio and everywhere in between, the astral folk outfit—comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman—is mixing the ancient, mystical medium of transatlantic traditional folk music with a contemporary, collective brush. The resulting album, Bonny Light Horseman, is an elusive kind of sonic event: a bottled blend of lightning and synergy that will excite fans of multiple genres, eras, and ages.
Mitchell, the esteemed singer-songwriter whose Broadway smash Hadestown recently won “Best Musical” plus seven other trophies at the 2019 Tony Awards, met the indie rock stalwart Johnson a few years back through that thoroughly modern platform, Twitter. Best known for the Fruit Bats project he has helmed for two decades as well as for stints in The Shins and Califone, Johnson had been friends with producer and instrumentalist Kaufman (Craig Finn, Josh Ritter, The National, Bob Weir) for 10 years. Kaufman and Mitchell were already acquainted; together, the three made an unmistakable artistic connection, and had just begun experimenting when an invitation to perform at the 2018 Eaux Claires festival came from the fest’s co-founders, Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner. Encouraged by the natural ease and intuitive bond they felt while sketching musical ideas in early sessions, the Eaux Claires play provided a target of sorts and they seized upon the opportunity to form the band in an official capacity.
“The conversation about starting the group and figuring out the type of music we’d play happened very quickly,” Kaufman says. “It’s like a love story: a really big fire, and the shared ideas of what we wanted the music to feel like. We wanted an openness and for it to feel emotional and personal.”
Each musician brought their own musical ideas to the rehearsals and the direction toward traditional songs from the British Isles emerged quickly. “I think it’s fair to say we are all inspired by traditional music in different ways,” Mitchell says. “We wanted to rework old songs but not in a ‘research project’ way. The emotions, the feeling of momentousness, the openness—even the chords being in open tuning—we wanted everything to be wide open. It was very healing to delve into these old stories and images that have existed for so long that you can rest in them.”
Following the success of the Wisconsin show, they were invited by Vernon and Dessner’s 37d03d (fka PEOPLE) collective to participate in a week-long artist residency in Berlin. Working at a venue called The Funkhaus, the trio recorded what would become the foundation of the full-length album, featuring fellow artists-in-residence Michael Lewis (bass, saxophone) and JT Bates (drums, percussion) as well as Vernon, Dessner, Kate Stables (of This Is The Kit), Lisa Hannigan, The Staves, Christian Lee Hutson, and more. Leaving Germany with roughly 60-percent of a record, the band reconvened at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, NY, in January 2019 to finish, bringing Lewis and Bates as well as engineer Bella Blasko and mixer D. James Goodwin along with them.
“We kept saying how intuitive and natural this was, some kind of alchemy that worked,” Johnson says. “I trust these guys. We can make stuff and I’m not trying to control anything but my end. It’s very collaborative and we all have complementary skill sets, different ways of working that somehow totally click. We all know this material from slightly different pathways but we meet in the weird middle with most of it.”
From the first chords of the eponymous song “Bonny Light Horseman,” the band’s desire to create emotional intensity in open spaces is clear. Mitchell’s voice rises with a fevered energy over a mournful strum, and the song comes off as a lament that’s at once sad-eyed and hopeful. “Deep in Love” began as a Fruit Bats sketch, but after Kaufman recognized its uncanny (and unplanned) similarity to a certain traditional tune, the song took on new life at the hands of the band. Other numbers like “The Roving” and “Black Waterside” feature newly-written choruses sung in harmony—a fresh take on the typically chorus-less ancient ballad form. “Jane Jane” chimes along with a Johnson/Mitchell call-and-response refrain like some forgotten nursery rhyme; “Lowlands” sees Mitchell’s silvery verses cutting through the instrumental’s understated dynamics; and the record-closing duet “10,000 Miles” balances the sadness of leaving with the warmth of requited love.
Nowhere on Bonny Light Horseman does the music feel staid, or burdened from the too-tight fit of a stuffy Renaissance collar. This is colorful, textured work: a lush and loving ode to the past with one eye fixed on the present. Not once did the band feel burdened by the errand of a too-faithful homage, instead reveling in a sense of freedom to take leaps and liberties as they saw fit.
“The folk singer Martin Carthy once said, ‘You can’t break these songs that are hundreds if not thousands of years old; you’re not gonna hurt them by messing with them,’” Mitchell says. “The songs feel like ours, but they’re not ours. We worked on them and they feel like an authentic expression of us, but we’re also reenacting ritual.”
“This record is about timeless humanity,” Johnson says. “These 500-year-old lyrics are so deeply applicable. ‘The Roving’ could be the plot of an ’80s teen movie: ‘I had a wild summer with this awesome girl then she broke my heart!’ How incredible is it that as humans we still just want to love and have sex and feel sad and fight? It’s ancient music that feels, emotionally, right now. It’s thoroughly modern.”
Health Check Notice:
In the best interest of fans and staff, the Event Organizer will continue to monitor local COVID-19 trends and meet or exceed protocols mandated by local governments. By purchasing tickets to this event, unless prohibited by law, you agree to abide by the health and safety measures in effect at the time of the event, which may include, but not be limited to, wearing masks, providing proof of vaccination status and/or providing proof of negative COVID-19 test. Check back often for updates to your event venue website as guidelines are subject to change.
All tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable. This event is Rain or Shine.
Rock the Ruins is a summer concert series hosted by The Vogue at Holliday Park, an enchanting 95-year old park nestled in a gently wooded neighborhood just six miles north of downtown Indianapolis. Perfect for experiencing live music, catching up with neighbors and friends, and connecting with nature, a Rock the Ruins concert is the ideal spot to spend a summer evening. We encourage our all-ages guests to bring chairs/blankets for all Rock the Ruins shows as seating will not be provided for general admission guests. No outside coolers or alcoholic beverages will be permitted in the park as guests will be encouraged to take advantage of a variety of local and artisan vendors selling food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Guests must present a valid ID (and be 21+) to purchase alcoholic beverages while on-site for any Rock the Ruins event at Holliday Park.