Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers – Charlottesville VA – Aug 2011

20Sep11

Last month I was lucky enough to be visiting friends in Charlottesville the same weekend that Bruce Hornsby came to town and played a co-Headlining show kicked off by Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. Bruce was great, but… Remember the episode of South Park where the self-righteous hipster douches bought hybrid cars (and chastised those who didn’t), moved to San Francisco, and enjoyed the smell of their own farts? Those people were EVERYWHERE during the Flecktones set! One lady in heel-strap leather sandals brought sandwiches, danced by herself with nobody watching her kids, then took a nap across 4 folding chairs in front of me.

I’m a music fan, so there was plenty of technical instrumentation within the Flecktones to admire on stage…no doubt. But the songs they played generally followed the structure of what you would hear at a jazz lounge: flex your musical muscles for a bit, then pass off to the artist on your left. You never know when the song is peaking or ending, there are no catchy moments/hooks, and unless you played an instrument you will have a hard time appreciating the quality being displayed. I suppose that I’m being harsh here, and certainly won’t make any friends in Bela’s fanbase with those words. But my motivation is to steer my friends and readers in the direction of cool music, as honestly as I can. Unless you are a devoted Flecky, stay away from this act because they will lose you. While there is no shortage of talent, their songwriting appears to be on-the-fly and would leave any passerby music fan wondering what exactly is going on in front of them. Again…not a diss to Bela and crew, but they have a very unique flavor of music that’s not for the masses.

The second part of the night featured the latest collection of musicians (the Noise Makers) lucky enough to tour with Bruce Hornsby, a breath of fresh air to cap off the evening! We all know Bruce from his popular classics ‘End of the Innocence’ and ‘The Way It Is’, and of course he played them. But the set started off with ‘Resting Place’, an anthemic jam from Spirit Trail, my favorite Hornsby album. I was also impatiently waiting for ‘Swan Song’ and ‘Fortunate Son’ from this record, but was not rewarded unfortunately. *sad face* He brought back an old classic that I had forgotten about with ‘Big Stick’, a golf themed song from the Tin Cup soundtrack. He played a great slow jam called ‘Continents Drift’ that I had never heard before (where was I on that that one??), and then was joined by Bela for a few songs. Bela’s banjo added a cool twist to popular Bruce tracks ‘The Red Plains’, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, and they closed the night with an awesome bluegrass version of ‘Mandolin Rain’! It was a perfect end to a great night of music, despite the best efforts of the chorus of attention-grabbing dickwads who felt the need to yell during quiet moments…because what would ‘Mandolin Rain’ be without crowd participation? I’ll never get why people yell during concerts, or even talk for that matter, but I suppose that’s another topic for another day.

The nTelos Wireless Pavilion was a really nice setting…small enough to keep an intimate feel (and we were in the back) but large enough to host a big act, and tucked right into a good hangout area of the city. A local vineyard sold wine inside, which was cool. All in all…it was a really solid show made even better by spending quality time with friends. Don’t miss Bruce while he’s still on tour!

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