HomeGrown Live Music Festival makes its return after two-year hiatus

The HomeGrown Live Music Festival of Kingston is back, after an absence of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival is ready to welcome Kingston artists and audiences back for its annual non-profit charity event.

This year, there are four venues across Kingston and Wolfe Island that are hosting live concerts on Saturday, May 7. Included are Blu Martini, The Mansion, Hotel on Wolfe Island, and Overtime Sports Bar. This year, Homegrown has recruited 23 local artists to perform. 

Chris Morris, the festival coordinator, says he is conscious that the pandemic is far from over, so they have adjusted their venues to be cautious of COVID-19. 

“Typically, HomeGrown attracts around 2000 fans, musicians, and volunteers, and the idea of all those people roaming around and filling up small rooms and hopping from place to place, we just didn’t feel that was the right thing to do,” says Morris. 

The festival serves as a fundraiser for the Joe Chithalen Memorial Musical Instrument Lending Library (Joe’s M.I.L.L), and since 2008, over $110,000 has been raised. 

Artists playing at the festival have expressed their support for Joe’s Mill, some having used instruments from the library themselves. Josiah Ascough, bassist for Hinterwood, says that they “believe pretty strongly about people, especially kids, having access to instruments.”

Jonah Baetz, drummer of Hinterwood, says that playing in his hometown is awesome. “We grew up playing in Kingston. This is where we learned how to play in a band,” Baetz says. 

While the festival brings the community together, it does the same for artists performing at the event. Ricky Brant, also known as KaKaow, has performed at HomeGrown several times, and is looking forward to his set at Blu Martini this year, as well as seeing other local artists perform.

“The local community is very strong,” Kakaow says, referring to Kingston’s musical artists. “There’s a force that binds us together and music is really powerful…I love promoting bands…this is one of the, if not the biggest opportunity in the entire city in the entire year, to be able to dig into Kingston’s artists as well as give to Joe’s M.I.L.L,” Kakaow says. 

Morris anticipates a good turnout for this year’s festival and says that the bands are enthusiastic to be playing live shows again. “Even though we’ve got a very compressed show, comparatively, we’ve got a great show, and the reception we’ve seen so far is very positive.”

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