Making Noise with Bruce Hornsby

sky1Clouds gathered, lightning flashed, and a cool drizzle settled over the crowd as Teri Orr, exclaimed, “We live in the mountains! What’s a little rain?” Orr, who is the executive director of the Park City Arts Foundation has overseen a few damp concerts in her many years at the helm of the non-profit organization that rallies sponsors to bring headliners to Park City for the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series. On this mid-July Monday, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers would perform—rain or shine.

As far as Jeff and I were concerned, the evening was perfect—first, we had a babysitter for the kids. Second, since we’d seen Bruce Hornsby and his band a decade ago, we knew we were in for a treat—if the previous experience was any indication, there may or may not be a set list, and there would be tons of improvisation, riffing and otherwise killer jamming onstage. And, third, the droplets of rain were a refreshing change from the heat of the previous few weeks.

bruce on stageWe planned the evening so that we’d be there with enough time to enjoy the views, soak up the atmosphere, and dine alfresco, so by the time the show started we were well-fed, relaxed and ready to enjoy the music. Upon arrival at Deer Valley, we’d found our seats in the ninth row of the reserved section, and then collected our delicious Deer Valley Gourmet Picnic Basket. We took a leisurely approach to our concert dining—starting with the antipasto, then meandering our way to the main course (perfectly-cooked beef tenderloin), nibbling on other delicacies in the basket, followed by some lemon pound cake and then the cheese course (brie, baguettes, grapes). We sipped wine, we chatted with the couple in the seats next to ours and we visited with friends seated nearby. It felt, not surprisingly, like a vacation.

We weren’t familiar with Railroad Earth, the evening’s opening act, but plenty of concertgoers seemed to have come with the express purpose of hearing them play—and they may or may not have realized that they’d get to hear the band’s musicians throughout the headlining set. Bruce Hornsby invited them to join in on song after song. As if his band, the Noisemakers weren’t already stacked to the rafters with skilled musicians, the guys from Railroad Earth wowed the crowd with their own brand of excellence. Over the course of the evening, as Hornsby introduced various members of his band, he’d mention their tenure playing together. One had been in Hornsby’s band for 22 years, another for 18. I marveled at how much time they must spend together—probably more hours than most married couples spend together—and what a bond they must have.

bari nan and husbandThroughout the evening, I marveled at the unique experience of sitting in (surprisingly comfortable) lawn chairs on a ski run, watching a summer storm pass through, (and yes, there was a heavier rain during the opening act, but umbrellas came out, jackets were donned, and the evening marched on, unhampered), chatting with old friends and new alike, dining on a gourmet picnic all in the framework of seeing world class entertainment. It’s tempting to take it for granted, but I try not to do that. Interestingly, my Facebook friends keep me honest in that regard. As soon as I posted this photo of Jeff and myself in pre-concert mode, my far-flung pals began commenting on the setting, the exciting location, and the thrill of seeing Hornsby. (There were also a few comments about how relaxed we looked, which only added to the vacation-feel. And, for some reason, a couple of pals found it necessary to call us out for wearing hats. Um, hello? Sun protection anyone? It stays sunny until nearly 9 p.m. in July!)

By intermission, my smart, thoughtful husband had the good sense to pop over to the concession stand and surprise me with a hot pretzel, accompanied by fig mustard. (You should eat this. It’s very, very good.) I was chatting with some friends when he came back, holding his-and-her pretzels. Our friends began to tease us about not sharing—one couple, midlife newlyweds, explained how they’d had to sort out their food sharing policy early in their courtship—and I felt compelled to explain our modus operandi regarding Deer Valley concert snacks.

“When I am here with my kids, I can’t so much as look at a cookie without the boys laying claim on it,” I said. “So when we are here without them, Jeff knows that I—who possess otherwise stellar sharing skills—Will. Not. Share. So, if any of you would like some of my pretzel, I will happily buy you one of your own.”

Laughing, we returned to our seats for the second half of the show. Bruce and the guys spent time sharing new songs and old favorites, including “Mandolin Rain,” which he says most people tell them is their “make-out song.” All in all, the show had the feel of being asked to sit in on an all-night jam session. Even the old favorites had new arrangements.

bruceAs the show drew to a close the audience was begging for an encore. Bruce Hornsby came to the front of the stage and explained, almost plaintively, “We have a hard curfew at this venue, and we played right up to the last minute of it. Thank you for coming out to hear us.”

Who knew that Bruce Hornsby is an imparter of parental wisdom—I vowed to use that very same tone when discussing bedtime with my children the following night. After all, if it could placate a huge crowd at a concert, surely it could achieve a similar effect with a couple of grade-schoolers.

Thanks, Bruce.

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