15th HomeGrown Live Music Festival set to return to downtown Kingston

The annual HomeGrown Live Music festival seeks to raise money for the Joe Chithalen Memorial Music Instrument Lending Library (Joe’s M.I.L.L.). Image via HomeGrown

On Saturday, May 6, 2023, hundreds of local musicians will invade downtown Kingston for a jam-packed day of live performances as the HomeGrown Live Music Festival returns for its 15th year. The festival, which launched in 2008 as a fundraiser for the Joe Chithalen Memorial Music Instrument Lending Library (Joe’s M.I.L.L.), has quickly become one of Kingston’s preeminent annual showcases of local live music. 

This year, organizers have put together a wide-ranging schedule, featuring a variety of musical genres spread out over 13 different venues in the downtown core. “We scaled back for the last couple of years [due to the COVID-19 Pandemic], so we are sort of doing what we used to do now, with as many venues as possible and as many bands as possible,” said Chris Morris, Festival Coordinator. “We haven’t really changed how we do things since the first festival, which was 15 years ago, so that makes the organization part kind of easy, but there’s still lots of work.” 

For over a decade, HomeGrown has provided a consistent showcase of Kingston’s diverse musical talent, while raising money for an organization close to the hearts of many Kingston artists. “A lot of it has to do with Joe’s M.I.L.L. From my experience, people are eager to support that charity. That’s why we started this festival; it wasn’t a festival idea at first and then get to Joe’s M.I.L.L. second, it was the opposite.

“We’ve just always stuck with that. You know, musicians are certainly super keen to support them in terms of donating their time. And then… I think that translates into their enthusiasm to promote the event, which helps us bring people out,” Morris added. 

For this year’s festival, organizers received over 130 artist submissions, as Morris and his team were able to program over 100 separate performances throughout the day. “We had [over] 130 applications… we were able to take almost everybody… I’ve just been watching all the posts that have been coming out on Facebook and Instagram for musicians that are really excited to get out there and play,” noted Morris. 

With over 100 artists set to perform as part of the one-day festival, this year’s HomeGrown is a true reflection of Kingston’s music scene. Not only does the festival feature recognizable local artists, such as Tom Savage, Christopher Jackson, and Chris Brown, but organizers have also made an effort to include up-and-coming acts like Izzy Jodoin, Jade Peter, and Fog Room. 

“If you take a look at the lineup, certainly there are lots of familiar names, [but] there’s [also] lots of names that people won’t have heard before… One of the most exciting things about HomeGrown is that it’s the veterans playing alongside people who might be playing their first show… Over the years, there are bands that have played their first show at HomeGown and they’ve gone on to become a regular part of the music scene here,” Morris remarked. 

Organizers have also worked hard to make sure the festival features a wide range of musical genres, with each venue showcasing a particular style of music, such as alternative and hard rock at The Mansion (Wine Cellar), folk and roots at The Caesar Company, and blues at the R.C.H.A. club. “Our approach is, we’ll put on any show as long as we have a willing venue and a willing venue coordinator… We just try and work with what we’ve got. Kingston’s got a reputation for being kind of rock only, in some respects, but I think during HomeGrown we feel that there’s a lot more, especially the blues scene and the jazz scene,” said Morris.

Of the 13 venues included in HomeGrown 2023, Morris was able to line up a number of familiar locations as well as some new spaces which are being used for the first time this year, including the Broom Factory and downtown’s new country bar The Bucke, which is set to open this May. “The biggest challenge every year is sorting out the venues because they come and go. We’ve always been at the Mansion, the Toucan, and the R.C.H.A. Club. [As for new venues], the Buckle… they’ve got a couple of weeks [to open]. The Broom Factory just opened, so as soon as they came on board we needed to make sure we got in there. Royal Tavern 2.0 is new [as well], as is the Renaissance Supper Club.” 

This year’s HomeGrown Live Music Festival takes place on Saturday, May 6, 2023, with the first performances set to start at 12:00 p.m., while the event wraps up in the early hours of May 7. To attend the festival, audience members must purchase an all-access wristband for $10, which gets them into all 13 venues throughout the day. 

“Every year we discuss [if] we’re going to hang the price. Every year we say ‘no.’ $10 is affordable and easy… Obviously, if we had a higher ticket price, we could maybe give more money to Joe’s M.I.L.L., but that [could] limit the number of people who actually attend the festival,” said Morris.

Festival wristbands can be bought at the door at each venue, with all proceeds going directly to Joe’s M.I.L.L. The full schedule for HomeGrown 2023 can be found on the festival’s website. 

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