Homegrown Infinity TV, Lisle fest devise a safe way to showcase local music during the pandemic
For regular attendees of the annual Homegrown Arts & Music Festival, which celebrates local music at BaseCamp Pub in Lisle this weekend, things are going to look quite a bit different this year: Three stages cut down to two. A separation between the indoor and outdoor areas. Reserved seating. Masks aplenty.
Oh, and some of us will be watching it from home.
But these safety precautions are the main reason Homegrown is even happening at all.
"I really wanted to keep the annual part of Homegrown. That was very important to me," said Aaron Williams, the Glen Ellyn native and musician who founded and runs the event, now in its eighth year.
"I think having an ongoing arts and music festival is very important," he said. "It gives me so much joy to see people smiling, people happy, people able to get opportunities in their original music. It's staggering. It's beautiful. And I don't want this year to destroy it."
In The Before Days, the July festival had showcased large numbers of original acts from throughout the suburban and Chicago music scenes across multiple outdoor and indoor stages, and in the last few years the event drew upward of 1000 guests to see them.
With a vigilant eye on safety, Williams pivoted in his plans this year. Drawing inspiration from musicians turning to livestreaming performances during the lockdowns, he tapped a production crew and worked to craft a new Homegrown experience. This year, Homegrown Infinity TV will stream 10 acts on the indoor stage shows, complete with sets and lighting, for a slick, professional package available to viewers from home.
For $15, music fans around the world can tune in to the stream, which runs from 1 p.m. until after midnight, at homegrownartsandmusicfestival.com, at any point in the day. Williams has selected a lineup that's a mix of rock, pop, indie and funk from both fest newbies and Homegrown favorites, featuring The Bank Notes, Black Bolts, Curious Grace & Black Rabbit, Each Day, Mel Senese, Metrofern, The Million Reasons, Stanley and the Baskets, The Weekend Run Club and headliner Marina City, who is returning after playing Homegrown's second year in 2014.
"I think opportunities like this will just help our mental health. No matter how much we write, get creative, playing live and connecting with people is one of the massive reasons we do this," said Ryan Argast, Marina City's frontman. "Not being able to perform sometimes can get us in our own heads about our future. I know I can speak for everyone when I say we are very proud that we've been busy and creative during this time. ... And now here is the universe giving us a little reward by being able to put on a full band show in some capacity."
Bands on the indoor stage also will be performing in front of a limited, sold-out "studio audience," set back from the musicians and socially distanced for everybody's safety.
The outdoor stage will present more of the "normal" Homegrown experience, with tables set up in front of a daylong lineup of acoustic performances, with one exception: Seating is capped at 150, so reservations are required for tables. More info and reservation requests can be found on the Homegrown Festival Live tab at homegrownartsandmusicfestival.com.
The acoustic lineup features 15 acts, including Leo Fron, Bryan Kuhn, Mirabelle Skipworth, Ryan Burns, The Handpan Project, Lara Bell, The Child of Eve, Matt Keen, Matthew Shukin, Dan Asio, Uriel Holguin and Kurt Oppenheim, as well as sets from event hosts Demi Proutsos, Henry JBC and Williams.
After seeing what BaseCamp did to keep guests safe at '90s Palooza earlier this summer, Williams felt it would be OK to proceed with the in-person event as well as the streaming production. Temperatures will be taken at the door, masks will be required except when guests are eating or drinking, and guests from the outdoor show and the indoor show will be kept separate.
"They set a gold standard for how I was going to approach it, too, because they did a great job," he said. "I'm not going to make anyone feel unsafe."
"I'm proud that I'm able to do it this year," he said. "Like I say every year, it's worth the stress. In the end, it helps people, and that's what I want this year to be remembered for post-pandemic. Homegrown is hope and learning that we don't do everything for just ourselves. We're doing it for us, our communities."
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Homegrown Infinity TV
When: Broadcast starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19
Homegrown Festival Live
When: Noon Saturday, Sept. 19
Where: BaseCamp Pub, 5750 Lakeside Drive, Lisle
Tickets: $25 for a four-top table, $40 for a seven-top; make reservations at homegrownartsandmusicfestival.com