Acoustic collective Trail Mix pushed in new directions

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Acoustic collective Trail Mix pushed in new directions

August 30, 2020 - 21:16
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Andrew Robert Palmer, left, sings during a recording session on July 17 at Izaak Walton Nature Preserve. Jeff Maharry manages the recording duties. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Trail Mix is dead. Long live Trail Mix.

The laid back acoustic music event was gearing up for its fifth annual series this summer at Izaak Walton Nature Preserve until the coronavirus pandemic made gathering in large groups inadvisable.

Founder Steve Ploum and his crew sought a new way.

Trail Mix will go on, but rather than a concert in the preserve the event has become a pandemic-safe live recording, a vinyl artifact. 

“I think it will be a fun thing,” he said as recording sessions began in mid-July in the pavilion east of Senior Hall at the preserve. Trail Mix tech guru Jeff Maharry was at the controls as Andrew Robert Palmer played guitar and sang. 

Artists who would have been on the Trail Mix stage this summer were recorded in subsequent weeks, and Ploum foresees a mid-October release of the album, which he anticipates will be in digital and vinyl form. Orders will be accepted starting sometime this month.

Proceeds from sales will support Izaak Walton and the continued growth of the Trail Mix music festival.

Trail Mix is now the flagship event under an umbrella project that was born of the pandemic, South Sub Music Live (SSML), organized not long after the mid-March statewide social and economic lockdown. 

The project started with rolling open mic sessions on Facebook. Musicians livestreamed their performances. At the end of each session, they handed off to the next musician, with audiences following along.

Musicians and audience members noted the experience was not the same as a traditional in-person music event, but the people at the first few sessions found the tradeoffs worthwhile. 

“Attending a virtual concert is both strange and awesome for me,” said Jill Otto. “Strangeness comes in the form of me watching alone instead of alongside friends. The awesome parts include a front row seat (for) every performance and the intimate feel the musicians are playing just for you. Sharing comments and reactions live is a lot of fun and I can feel a sense of community with others watching.”

She said the SSML sessions were also giving her a chance to hear musicians she might not otherwise have found.

Anastasia Robieson, co-founder of SSML, believes the format has its charms.

“I think as a performer, it’s more interactive to perform online in some ways. You can see very specific feedback and see when it was given,” she said. 

Still, Robieson acknowledged the online venue also has its drawbacks. 

“I think though what can be lost online is a personal connection and the after show conversations and feedback which are a big part of why I like live music, both as performer and audience member.”

Kim Nolen, who before the pandemic regularly hosted live music at her restaurant, Redbird Cafe, admitted to missing the in-person connections, but added that the virtual setting “can transform into this beautifully intimate performance in which you can really hear and feel the artist. It has made me so grateful for the talent I am surrounded by and gifted with their sharing.”

Guitarist Kirk Lindstrom, who has been a regular performer at SSML events, said the times contribute to the value of the virtual performances. 

“Maybe it has something to do with what we’re going through, but the emotion is coming through the strings and really resonating in my heart,” he said. “We need this. We need to perform.”

Ploum said the Trail Mix recording and virtual open mic sessions are not the only pandemic adaptions. He is working with his SSML partners to develop a membership program that would include, as a perk, admittance to socially distanced backyard concerts.

Plans are still being worked out, but he said if all goes well the events might start this fall.

More information:
South Sub Music Live
Trail Mix Music Fest