Since its start, the Homegrown Arts & Music Festival has been about building community.
But after the events of the past year and a half, the human connections are taking on a special importance at this weekend’s events in Lisle.
Returning Saturday for its ninth year, Homegrown draws together bands from all over the Chicago area for an annual celebration of local, original music and art.
Started in 2013 by Glen Ellyn native Aaron Williams, the festival’s goal was to give up-and-coming musicians a place to showcase their skills. After years on the music scene fighting for access to showcases and festivals, he vowed to create an outlet for himself and his friends.
“What I’ve learned through Homegrown these nine years is people just like music. People just like a beat, a good melody and above all talent and passion,” Williams said. “So I started Homegrown to nurture that and to give original musicians an opportunity not only to perform but to bring all their fan bases together, their friends, their families. … The point of it all is to make those connections and build upon them.”
With 15 bands and 10 solo acoustic acts playing with staggered set times across the indoor Homegrown Stage and the outdoor Harvest Stage, music fans will have a chance to sample many different genres, including pop, jams, alternative, Americana, indie and some good old-fashioned rock. And while there are a few favorite alums — Black Bolts, Downers Groove, From the Start, The Bank Notes, The Handpan Project, Dan Asio and Uriel Holguin — there are plenty of fest newbies to check out, too.
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One band sort of straddling both is Curious Grace & Black Rabbit, an indie modern Celtic rock band that joined Homegrown last year for the limited-capacity, livestreamed Homegrown Infinity TV broadcast. This year, the band returns to the fest to play live, which will be a completely different experience.
“We’ll get to see faces! We are so excited to see people’s faces lit up by the music we’ve been rehearsing for months,” said Mary Erangey, who shares lead vocalist duties with Heidi O’Toole. “It’s always a privilege to play for audiences, whether virtual or live. But this year, we’re thrilled to be 100% live. … We are going to play and sing our hearts out on Saturday. And I have no doubt it’ll be pure joy and rocking fun for everyone, including us.”
Hanging Cities, a band that first performed at Homegrown after winning the Road to Homegrown Battle of the Bands in 2019, has bought into Williams’ mission wholeheartedly. Aurora’s Jason Jeka, the band’s founder, even judged this year’s battle in May.
“The thing about Homegrown is that people who buy a ticket do so with intention. They weren’t out with friends for a random night out. They are there for local original music,” Jeka said. “That’s what drew me to this thing in 2019. It was the epitome of the kind of show you want to play as a musician. … Homegrown is like the epicenter of that scene. Bands can discover each other, inspire each other and grow together.”
While driving through the winding, tree-lined streets at Four Lakes feels like an escape of sorts, Williams and the BaseCamp Pub crew are still keeping an eye on what’s been happening recently with COVID-19 in an effort to keep fans (and musicians) safe. Guests who are feeling sick should stay home. Masks are encouraged, with disposable masks on hand while supplies last. Noncontact temps will be taken at the door, and hand sanitizer will be available. Also, tables are available both indoors and outdoors for those who want to plant themselves away from the crowds but still see the acts.
Whether you choose to stake out a spot (first-come, first-served) or decide to wander between performances, checking out the collection of art vendors along the way, you’re bound to discover new bands to enjoy.
“That’s the beauty of this whole thing,” said Williams. “That’s how a lot of connections have happened. It’s been a great hub. … Homegrown has surpassed my original idea and entered a beautiful new world of its own, and I love it.”
Homegrown Stage (indoors)
Lost Pyramids — Noon
Jacks & Atoms — 1 p.m.
Demi Clara Band — 2 p.m.
Hanging Cities — 3 p.m.
Curious Grace & Black Rabbit — 4:30 p.m.
Primal Moon — 5:30 p.m.
Mudflower — 6:30 p.m.
Sun-Riser — 7:30 p.m.
Mel Senese — 9 p.m.
Downers Groove — 10 p.m.
Black Bolts — 11 p.m.
The Bank Notes — 12:15 a.m.
Harvest Stage (outdoors)
The Handpan Project — 12:30 p.m.
Juiette Payne — 1:10 p.m.
Amelia Harlovic — 1:50 p.m.
610 — 2:30 p.m.
Bryan Fahey — 3:10 p.m.
Michael Rawls — 3:50 p.m.
Jack the Acquaintance — 4:30 p.m.
Dan Asio — 5:10 p.m.
Rogers & Cooper — 5:50 p.m.
Aaron Williams — 6:30 p.m.
Brad Redlich — 7:10 p.m.
Uriel Holguin — 8 p.m.
From the Start — 9:15 p.m.