Popular Outdoor Summer Concert Series Returns
Writer / Steven Rutherford
Photographer / Michael Durr
This month we’re celebrating Rock the Ruins, north Indy’s newest outdoor concert series that takes place in Holliday Park. This summer’s lineup includes Bruce Hornsby, Old Crow Medicine Show, Masego, Counting Crows, Dashboard Confessional and many more. Many of these performers headline arena shows across the world, so it’s truly amazing to have such legendary acts play right here in Holliday Park. I caught up with Eric Tobias to learn about how Rock the Ruins came to be, his passion for live music, and his mission to make Indy a world-class city. Rock the Ruins blossomed as an extension of The Vogue, so we started there.
How did you get involved with The Vogue?
One of my partners in the business, Scott Kraege, and I have been friends for a very long time. We were at a show together and said to each other, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to own a venue like this?” Fast-forward a couple of years, and we got wind that the longtime owner of The Vogue, Steve Ross, was looking to retire. It all just came together. We’ve had a lifelong passion of live music and always wanted to help further the scene here in Indy.
What does The Vogue mean to you?
When we first bought it, it meant the ability to have a voice in the music, art and cultural scene of the city. That was really important to me. Now we’ve been there for three years, and surviving the pandemic allowed us to learn even more about what the venue means to the community.
The Vogue is one of a handful of places in our city that touches almost everyone. Everyone has a story from The Vogue. It is just amazing how many people will come up to us in the community when they find out we own The Vogue, and tell us their Vogue story. “Oh my gosh, I met my girlfriend there!” or “I saw my favorite band there for the first time!” It just means so much to so many people. It has really become an even bigger mission. This is our chance to be the temporary steward of this thing that is one of the key experiences of Indianapolis.
That’s a beautiful sentiment. It’s funny because my best friend and I got to see one of our favorite bands, BoomBox, for the first time at The Vogue. I also got to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic there, which was one of my all-time favorite shows.
What went on to inspire Rock the Ruins?
Coming out of 2020 and the early parts of 2021, we missed live music and all of our supporters. It was very unknown whether musicians would ever want to play indoors again. We always wanted to have an outdoor venue and that was probably three to five years away, but we said, “Let’s figure out how to do this.” We knew some folks at Holliday Park, we knew they had a beautiful space, and it was close to The Vogue. It ended up being 10 shows and nine of them sold out.
We got amazing feedback. The bands loved it. We got great acts out there and this year we wanted to just keep growing. We were able to return to full capacity, so now we have the ability to host 2,500 fans. We have 15 shows and amazing bands like Counting Crows who have played 50,000-seat stadiums. (Note: Tobias has seen them more than 100 times.)
Were you involved in music before The Vogue?
No – far, far from it. I’ve been in technology my whole career building tech companies and software companies. At my day job I’m one of the founders at High Alpha where we help start software companies and invest in those companies.
Is there any overlap across your projects or are they completely separate parts of your life?
It’s a different setup, different partners and a different business model, but in many ways it’s the same mission. I see connections between things and I try to utilize my talents to facilitate those connections. While it feels very different to be involved in tech during the day and music during the night, those things are actually very aligned. The mission is the same: How do we create an amazing city? How do you create things that really move the needle and make a really big impact? Those are the things I’ve been drawn to.
When I moved to Indianapolis, Broad Ripple was my reference point for everything. Before I knew my way around the city, I knew Broad Ripple and The Vogue. As a musician myself, I always felt like that marquee sign gave local artists something to strive toward. It is incredible to see how an iconic Indianapolis institution has been able to adapt and innovate into something like Rock the Ruins. Be sure to catch them at Holliday Park this summer.
For more info, visit rocktheruins.com.