What was formerly known as Trail Mix Music Fest is returning to Izaak Walton Nature Preserve on June 18, the first event in what is now the Trail Mix Acoustic Concert Series.
In years past, Trail Mix took place entirely in one day. This year, instead of a more traditional music festival, it’s been rebranded as a “concert series” with the event split up into three evenings — June 18, Aug. 13 and Oct. 1.
“In the past, it’s been a one-day, all-day, 8-to-10-hour music fest with 10 or 11 acts. And we had food vendors and people displaying art,” said event organizer Steve Ploum.
This year, there will be three concerts with three acts on each day, said Ploum. He said the change to this from an all-day event was made so it could “be a little bit easier to cancel or postpone.”
“The last thing we wanted to do was have another big event — and it takes a lot of work to pull together a full day’s event — and then have to cancel the whole thing,” said Ploum.
There won’t be any art vendors at Trail Mix this year, but Kim Nolen from Red Bird Café will be serving concessions, Ploum said. The Homewood public library will maintain a table and musicians will sell their merchandise as well.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. The music will starts at 6:30 and will go until roughly 9:30 p.m., said Ploum.
From 2016 to 2019, the Trail Mix music festival played annually at Izaak Walton. In 2020, the event was canceled because of the pandemic. Instead, nine Trail Mix-affiliated bands recorded songs for a compilation album called the Trail Mix Pandemic Recordings. The album is sold digitally and on vinyl with liner notes.
“We recorded a song from nine different local artists that either played past Trail Mix or would’ve played the Trail Mix,” said Ploum. “We recorded them out at the Izaak Walton preserve.”
Trail Mix hosted several virtual events in 2020, and in October, Trail Mix hosted a smaller, socially distanced, in-person concert with three bands under the pavilion at Izaak Walton. It was very similar to what each of the three “concert series” events will be in 2021.
Rather than it being a free event, attendees bought tickets. Sales allowed organizers to “maintain some control over how many people showed up,” said Ploum.
“It went really well in October. So that was what drove us to do what we did this year — which was just to do three of those,” said Ploum. “We never really counted [the number of people] in the past. But moving forward, the plan is we’re going to do around 50 people we can fit socially distant underneath the pavilion. And then we’re going to have some lawn seats available too.”
Ploum said concert goers will be able to reserve tables that seat up to six people, and attendees will have the option of bringing their own lawn chairs. Groups of people sitting and enjoying the live music will be six feet apart from other groups, Ploum said.
“Masks will be required underneath the pavilion,” said Ploum. “It’s still outdoors. We’re still going to maintain social distancing. But we do want to go above and beyond. Because people are little cautious (as they should be).”
Ploum said 2021 will be the first year where all musicians are getting paid, including both local acts and traveling musicians. And it’ll be the first year his band, Butterfield Creek, will not be playing.
“We are doing this with support from the village of Homewood, and our sponsors, so far, are the Melody Mart, the Jay Heiferman Family and the aforementioned Homewood Public Library and the Wexler Group,” said Ploum.
According to Ploum, the ambiance of listening to live music at a nature preserve is a huge part of what makes Trail Mix what it is.
“It’s such a nice environment,” said Ploum. “People kind of sit amongst the trees. There’s a little bit of a clearing but there’s trees. And it’s a really cool thing.”
“We have acoustic music, and it can vary to anywhere we want to go with that,” said Ploum. “A portion of our acts are local acts who perform professionally, record and in some instances tour internationally. Others are predominately based out of Chicago.”
The June 18 lineup includes The Teflons which Ploum described as “an old-time string band with vocal harmonies.” It also includes Andrew Robert Palmer who in his Facebook bio describes himself as: “Pretty much just me... rockin' out. I really miss Blink 182.” And finally, it features Barry from the band Barry and the Fountains. In Barry J. Fontenot’s Facebook bio, he describes himself as a “Louisiana-born, Chicago-based soul musician with a love of pushing boundaries and a flair for the dramatic.”
On August 13th, the lineup features Nigel Mack, a Chicago-based acoustic blues and harmonica musician whom the House of Blues describes as an artist who “fuses blues classics with the punch of contemporary original blues.” It also features Kelly Campos, a Homewood soul musician. The third will be announced later.
On October 1st, it will be jazz night with four artists instead of three. Kenya McGuire Johnson is scheduled to play. Ploum describes her as an “R&B, soul musician who's toured Europe and has charted in the US and the UK.” Andy Pratt, the JC Duo and In Time are also scheduled to play that evening.
Ploum said that if you’re interested in listening to these musicians before the events, many of their CDs are available at the Homewood Public Library.