Saturday's Homegrown Arts & Music Festival marks a decade of bringing local artists together

  • The local music community is in the hands of Homegrown Arts & Music Festival founder Aaron Williams, far right, with this weekend's 10th annual edition featuring Kenny Hass, left, Jason Jeka (of Hanging Cities), Josette Kacey, Demi Clara, Dan McDowell and Tony Cruz (of The Vultures) and the tree-climbing Dan Asio, among the 32 acts playing this Saturday.

    The local music community is in the hands of Homegrown Arts & Music Festival founder Aaron Williams, far right, with this weekend's 10th annual edition featuring Kenny Hass, left, Jason Jeka (of Hanging Cities), Josette Kacey, Demi Clara, Dan McDowell and Tony Cruz (of The Vultures) and the tree-climbing Dan Asio, among the 32 acts playing this Saturday. Courtesy of Olivia Kics

  • Aaron Williams, the founder and organizer of the Homegrown Arts & Music Festival in Lisle, is also one of the performers.

    Aaron Williams, the founder and organizer of the Homegrown Arts & Music Festival in Lisle, is also one of the performers. Courtesy of Aaron Williams

  • The Josh Caterer Trio

    The Josh Caterer Trio

  • North of Eight

    North of Eight

  • Hanging Cities

    Hanging Cities

  • Daven Masulis and Dan Orlowski of Jacks & Atoms

    Daven Masulis and Dan Orlowski of Jacks & Atoms Courtesy of Wendy Davis

  • Curious Grace & Black Rabbit return to Homegrown this weekend.

    Curious Grace & Black Rabbit return to Homegrown this weekend. Courtesy of Richard Rankin

  • OK Cool

    OK Cool Courtesy of Tracy Conoboy

  • Dear Dario

    Dear Dario

  • The Kings Rising

    The Kings Rising

  • Ryan Argast

    Ryan Argast

  • Demi Clara

    Demi Clara

  • Matthew Shukin

    Matthew Shukin

  • Brad Redlich

    Brad Redlich

  • Dan Asio

    Dan Asio

  • Juiette Payne

    Juiette Payne

  • The Loose Cannons

    The Loose Cannons

  • Lara Bell

    Lara Bell

  • Ted Munyer and The Handpan Project

    Ted Munyer and The Handpan Project

  • Karla and the Phat Cats

    Karla and the Phat Cats

  • SunnDog

    SunnDog

  • Trickshooter Social Club

    Trickshooter Social Club

  • The Vultures

    The Vultures

  • The Colleen Wild Band

    The Colleen Wild Band

  • Kenny Hass

    Kenny Hass

  • Josette Kacey

    Josette Kacey

 
 
Updated 7/28/2022 3:13 PM

Over the last 10 years, hundreds of local musicians have crossed the Homegrown Arts & Music Festival stages.

Some rocked indoors. Some played outdoors. Some performed in front of an intimate audience and a socially distanced livestreaming platform. But each and every one has contributed to what has made Homegrown grow -- the spirit of community.

 

"We started as a party with friends, but it became so much more," said founder and Glen Ellyn native Aaron Williams. "It evolved into its own entity. It's gotten bigger than I could have ever imagined."

Taking over the sprawling BaseCamp Pub grounds at Four Lakes in Lisle this Saturday, the family-friendly festival celebrates its milestone 10th year by returning to the formula that served it best: three stages showcasing 20 bands and 12 acoustic acts.

The bustling bar at BaseCamp houses an electric energy from the main stage performances. The Harvest Stage in the bar's yard lets performers (and audiences) let loose and dance outdoors. And the chill front patio affords a chance for guests to relax in a quieter atmosphere, with couches and tables surrounding a stage for acoustic performances.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said just shy of 1500 people attended the festival. He's hoping this year's return to form will bring those crowds back.

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"We're talking about strength in numbers, bringing our fans, our friends together for one day to celebrate," he said. "We all put our hearts out there to bring it together for one day. The strength is in the passion, seeing all of our collective passion over one thing has been what's made Homegrown rise."

That's a far cry from the first Homegrown in 2013, a party Williams threw at Players Club in Prospect Heights to help promote his band's newest release. With 12 acts drawing about 200 people, he said he thought it was a one-off event and had no inkling what seed had just been planted.

"I wanted to get a party together where I could get all the people that I met through these showcases I was setting up and just have one big event. So I called it the Homegrown Music Festival just because it was all artists from home," he said. "I made great friendships, great connections. I got better shows out of playing with Homegrown and connecting with those artists."

But it wasn't until after the event, when fellow musicians from DuPage County started asking him when the next one was going to be, that he saw his chance to grow the idea and to better promote local artists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There was just a magnet drawing them all together. I know that Aaron keeps throwing around the fact that it was a party. It was, but it was more than that," said Ashley Williams, Aaron's wife and the founder of Video Girl Productions, who has been documenting the festival for the last decade for the upcoming feature "Homegrown: The Movie." "It was all these new artists, these indie artists, DIY. These guys were the OGs with a magnetism about them that drew it all together based on the passion of just playing music and understanding each other. And thinking, 'I don't care about our differences. Music brings us together.'"

Moving it closer to home -- to the former Mullens' in Lisle for years two and three -- gave him the space to draw in bigger crowds and add fine artists and vendors to the event (and to the festival's name).

The Homegrown Arts and Music Festival thrived with the move to BaseCamp in 2016, with a full-service bar and food menu and three separate spaces, each with its own vibe, for guests to enjoy. And with a home base established, Williams had the freedom to experiment a little. He dabbled with a two-day festival one year. He expanded from a DuPage-centric gathering to a celebration of local artists from across Chicago and the suburbs. He rolled with the pandemic to create the livestreaming Homegrown Infinity TV to weather 2020, when many guests felt safer watching from afar than gathering together. And he presented a reduced version of the fest last year to keep crowd sizes down and make social distancing easier.

But for this milestone year, it's back to fighting form, with a mix of new acts, returning favorites and even one recently reunited band.

Will Homegrown continue beyond year 10? Even Williams doesn't know.

"It's gone beyond me," he said. "People know Homegrown who don't know who I am. And that's awesome. I love that about it. I'm just thrilled to see the smiles, the enjoyment and the bands using it as a platform to get to the next level. I'm blessed, thrilled, thankful about all of the memories."

• • •

Homegrown Arts & Music Festival

When: Noon to 1 a.m. Saturday, July 30

Where: BaseCamp Pub (in Four Lakes), 5750 Lakeside Drive, Lisle

Tickets: $25 at homegrownartsandmusicfestival.com; discounted tickets available from band members

• • •

Main Stage -- starting at 1 p.m.

Kenny Hass Band

Brad Redlich Band

Curious Grace and Black Rabbit

Trickshooter Social Club

OK Cool

Dear Dario

Jacks and Atoms

The Josh Caterer Trio

North of Eight

The Loose Cannons

Harvest Stage -- starting at noon

The Handpan Project (who will also provide set break music all day)

Karla and The Phat Cats

SunnDog

Ryan Argast

The Aaron Williams Band

ARREIS

The Colleen Wild Band

The Vultures

Hanging Cities

The Kings Rising

Acoustic Stage -- starting at 12:30 p.m.

Bryan Kuhn

Nick Scarpinato

Juiette Payne

Josette Kacey

Demi Clara

JD and the Hidden Hands

Miggie Snyder

Zachary Edwards

The Simple Remedy

Dan Asio

Matthew Shukin

Kurt Oppenheim AKA K-Zone

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