Performances by Neil Young, Cardi B, Willie Nelson and the Jonas Brothers highlight the music roster for September.
David Lindquist, [email protected]

Lukas Nelson named his band more than a decade ago as a tribute to a Neil Young lyric, and that band now accompanies Young during the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s concerts.

Up next is a Thursday performance at the Murat Theatre in Old National Centre, where Nelson’s Promise of the Real will back Young during a warm-up date for Saturday’s Farm Aid fundraiser in Wisconsin.

Considering Nelson’s family background, crossing paths with Young wasn’t an astronomical long shot. Nelson’s father, Willie, founded Farm Aid with Young and Indiana rock star John Mellencamp in 1985.

Lukas Nelson said he made a conscious decision to align his work with a sentiment heard in Young’s “Walk On,” the opening track on 1974 album “On the Beach.”

Lukas Nelson will perform with Neil Young Sept. 19 at Old National Centre. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I can’t tell them how to feel,” Young sings, “some get stoned, some get strange. But sooner or later it all gets real.”

“The band’s name is a mission statement,” Nelson said during a phone interview. “Promise of the Real is basically, ‘OK, let’s get to the bottom of it. Let’s get to the realness of the situation, for better or for worse.’ “

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real issued their fifth studio album, “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden),” in June. Nelson helped Bradley Cooper create the character Jackson Maine for 2018 film “A Star is Born,” and Nelson has writing or production credits on eight songs that appear on the movie’s soundtrack.

Cooper contacted Nelson after seeing Promise of the Real share a stage with Young at 2016’s Desert Trip festival in Indio, California. Young also figures in the origin story of Promise of the Real.

Nelson met drummer Anthony LoGerfo when they attended a 2008 Young concert in Los Angeles. Nelson, who grew up in Hawaii, eventually dropped out of college at Loyola Marymount University to launch Promise of the Real with LoGerfo.

Zeroing in on “Promise of the Real” as a band name, Nelson said, helped the vocalist-guitarist address questions about creating art, making listeners happy and not compromising his identity.

“That concept of realness is sort of a Taoist statement: It’s not bad, it’s not good. It’s real,” he said. “Neil’s song ‘Walk On’ basically made the same statement. So you align with that. ‘Yeah, that’s a cool statement you made with your art.’ “

Big weekend

Indianapolis will serve as a pre-Farm Aid stop for Young as well as Willie Nelson. The Outlaw Country Festival, starring Willie Nelson, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, will visit Ruoff Mortgage Music Center on Friday.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will follow their Thursday show at Old National Centre with a Friday appearance at the Bourbon & Beyond festival in Louisville, Kentucky.

On Saturday, Willie Nelson, Young and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will get together for the 32nd Farm Aid, staged this year at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Willie Nelson, 86, adds guest vocals to the song “Civilized Hell” on “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden).”

“I ain’t leavin’ this road I know,” Willie sings. “I ain’t done fightin’ for the freedom I chose. Can’t put a rope on me, you can’t shoot me down. I listen to my heart, I hear the river sound.”

Lukas said free-spirit icons inspired the lyrics of “Civilized Hell.”

“There’s a rebellion against conformity that happened a long time ago, and it’s still happening,” Lukas Nelson said. “It’s still flourishing. This beauty of self-expression that we’re trying to preserve, the idea that we’re all individuals, we should be celebrated for our individuality, we should think for ourselves, all that stuff. And Dad and Neil and Bob (Dylan) and Hank Williams, everybody sort of made their mark.”

Find the best things to doOn John Mellencamp and Lady Gaga

Farm Aid co-founder Mellencamp ranks as another nonconformist who’s interacted with Nelson, a 30-year-old who’s played every Farm Aid event since 2011.

“I love John Mellencamp,” Nelson said of the Seymour, Indiana, native. “He’s one of the coolest (guys) you’ll ever meet in your life. He’s a tricky dude, but he’s cool. And he’s written some great songs. And who isn’t tricky in life? Everybody has their (stuff). But he’s cool, man. He’s doing what he believes in. He’s standing up for what’s right on the planet.”

Nelson and his Promise of the Real band mates specialize in roots rock, folk and country sounds, but the group experimented with disco textures on “Stars Made of You” — the closing track of “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden).”

“ ‘Stars Made of You’ was a tribute to the pop world,” Nelson said. “At the time I was working a lot with Lady Gaga. We were doing the ‘A Star is Born’ thing. I found myself thinking, ‘OK, this is a really cool thing.There’s a formula here, and it’s a game.’ … I’m really proud of that tune, because it feels like I’m listening to Earth, Wind & Fire or somebody like that. It makes me get up and dance.”

Neil Young & Promise of the Real

>> WHEN: 8 p.m. Sept. 19.

>> WHERE: Murat Theatre in Old National Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St.

>> TICKETS: This event is sold out.

>> INFO: Visit, or call 800-745-3000.

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Call IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at 317-444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.

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