Celebrate the beginning of summer and the end of a stunning season of the Virginia Arts Festival next weekend at the 2018 Funhouse Fest presented by the VAF and Bruce Hornsby on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
There will be two stages set up on the lawn on Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23. Bruce Hornsby will perform both days along other great artists, all friends of Hornsby.
This is the third year for the popular Funhouse Fest, named after Hornsby’s 1998 song, “Funhouse”. I sat down with Rob Cross, Executive Director of the Virginia Arts Festival. He seems to know a lot of people in the music business from classical to rock and is not afraid to ask them to come to our corner of the world.
Luckily, Bruce Hornsby is from our corner of the world. Rob Cross met Bruce Hornsby over 25 years ago when Hornsby did a benefit concert with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Hornsby was born and raised in Williamsburg. He has traveled the world, touring with his band and other bands, like the Grateful Dead, but his home base is Williamsburg. He and his wife Kathy live there and believe in giving back to their community.
Cross asked Hornsby three years ago if he would be interested in performing for the VAF’s 20th season. Hornsby was not only happy to perform. He proposed a two-day music festival in Williamsburg that he would curate.
Hornsby also knows a lot of people in the music business. Hornsby’s career began in 1974 when he joined his brother Bobby’s band, Bobby Hi-Test and the Octane Kids. His multi-platinum hit, The Way It Is, topped the charts in 1986. In his 40+ years as a musician, Hornsby has worked with Sheena Easton, Huey Lewis, Leon Russell, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Kraus and countless other performers. Hornsby tapped into his connections and curated his first multi-day festival in his hometown for the VAF in 2016.
Bruce Hornsby will be performing both days at the Funhouse Fest. On Friday, he will be performing on the Main Stage with his band, The Noisemakers. On Saturday, he will close out the Funhouse Fest at 9:00 pm on the Main Stage when he performs with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Rob Cross is thrilled to be playing percussion in the VSO (his other job) with Hornsby that evening.
Cross is amazed at how Hornsby has grown as a musician throughout the years. “He is a world-class pianist. His level of musicianship is remarkable. There is a depth and width to Bruce Hornsby. He continues to challenge himself and embrace new types of music, like jazz, bluegrass, folk and blues.” Some critics call it “the Virginia Sound.”
Hornsby is bringing his friend, Alison Krauss to the VAF for the first time this year. She will be performing on the Main Stage Friday night. Cross says, “Alison Krauss has a pure soprano voice and she is a great fiddle player.” She has won 27 Grammy Awards out of 42 nominations, making Krauss the most awarded singer and the most awarded female artist in Grammy history. She’s been compared to Dolly Parton, who she considers a great friend and mentor.
The Virginia Symphony Orchestra String Quartet will be performing Friday night on the Second Stage. They have recorded tracks for Bruce Hornsby and perform both locally and nationally as the New Commonwealth Quartet.
On Saturday, June 23, the gates open at 3:30. Deva Mahal will start things off on the Main Stage at 4:00. Deva Mahal was born into the blues. Her father is the great blues musician, Taj Mahal. Cross says, “Get there early. She is a hidden gem.” Her singing style is a cross between “soul, funk, R&B and blues.”
The Wood Brothers will follow Mahal on the Main Stage. The Wood Brothers perform a mix of blues, folk and rock. They are Nashville-based and a local favorite.
Amos Lee will also perform on Saturday. He has toured with Norah Jones and opened for Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and the Dave Matthews Band. This singer-songwriter has a “laid-back soulful” sound. This is his debut at the Virginia Arts Festival.
The performers on the Second Stage Saturday night with alternate with the Main Stage acts. A tip from Rob Cross, if you sit on the lawn in between, you won’t have to move your chair.
The Second Stage acts on Saturday start off with Angela on the Arts at 5:00 pm. Hornsby’s trumpet player, John D’Earth, formed this trio. He is joined by Michelle Oliva on bass clarinet and Bonnie Gordon on viola. Their jazz/chamber music is influenced by Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, medieval music and rock & roll. D’Earth teaches jazz at University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville. http://music.virginia.edu/faculty/jdearth
Also on the Second Stage Saturday night will be guitarist Gibb Droll, who has performed and collaborated with Bruce Hornsby, Brandi Carlile, Keller Williams and Larry Keel.
Rounding out the Second Stage on Saturday is Chris Forsyth, guitarist, singer, and composer. Pitchfork calls his music “a near-perfect balance between 70s rock and present day experimentation.” Cross says, “He’s straight-ahead rock and roll.”
Rob Cross admires Bruce Hornsby’s curating powers. “He picks people who will bring different audiences. Then those different audiences get to hear different music.”
Cross says the Funhouse Fest site is “audience friendly.” The lawn is large. It will be easy to move around. Parking is free. For more information about parking, go to https://www.funhousefest.com/parking-1
There will be some great food trucks and local breweries on hand.
The Billsburg Brewery of Williamsburg is brewing up a limited edition “dry and light bodied session IPA” just for the Funhouse Fest called “Walk On.”
It’s going to be a fun weekend in Williamsburg.
For info on buying tickets for the Funhouse Fest this weekend, go to https://www.funhousefest.com
Keep up to date on the Funhouse Fest at https://www.facebook.com/funhousefest/