Stay Home County Music & Arts Festival 2020

Stay Home County

Mid July is typically a time when we pack up the car and head north to London, ON for the Home County Music & Arts Festival; one of our annual ‘must-do’ events held on the beautiful grounds of Victoria Park in the heart of the city.  Like every other festival planned for this summer, however, the announcement was made a few months back that this incredibly popular event would have to be postponed until the following year.  But all was not lost, as artistic director Tim Fraser and his amazing team scrambled to put together an online event, streaming music over two consecutive evenings from many of our favorite artists into the comfort of our own homes.  If we’re going to “stay” at home, then why not sit back and enjoy entertainment courtesy of the Stay Home County Music & Arts Festival.

With so many artists performing across several stages during this annual festival, we have never been able to cover everything, and have had to be selective in what we included in our recaps.  And having enjoyed the contributions from all of the artists during this streaming version, there is not enough space here to focus on them all.  If these artists had been playing at staggered times, across several stages, we’d have created our ‘pre-festival’ viewing strategy to maximize catching up with the acts we most wanted to see.  It’s a plan that works for us at Victoria Park, and if tasked with creating a strategy if this had have taken place on those grounds, the following artists are those we’d have circled as our top ‘must-see’ priorities.

Julian Taylor: A perennial favorite of ours here at Team GDW, the realization in knowing that Julian was in invitee to the event this year gave us goosebumps.  I mean, the chance to hear music from his brand new Americana album, “The Ridge,” is like a sugar rush in a candy store.  Julian even recorded his video footage on the very British Columbia farm found on his album cover.  If Julian makes it to Home County in 2021, his name will be not only circled on our calendar, but highlighted with the brightest marker possible too as one NOT TO BE MISSED. Solo-acoustic, or full band, we’ll take it!

Set List: (1) Love Enough  (2) Be With You  (3) The Ridge  (4) Carry Me Home

Megan Bonnell: Another long-time favorite of ours whom we had hoped to catch up with at Home County last year, but with the arrival of her first newborn coinciding around the same time, Megan was unable to bring her music to the folks in London.  “So this is actually my first show back after taking a bit of time to have a little baby girl,” she announced. “I hope everyone’s staying safe and being extra kind to each another these days.”  Megan opened her three track set with an unexpected choice, revisiting her debut 2013 “Hunt and Chase” album to perform “We Are Strangers Now.”  She would follow with two tracks from her most recent 2018 “Separate Rooms” album.

Set List: (1) We Are Strangers Now  (2) Separate Rooms  (3) What’s Good For You

AHI:  Go ahead and ask me to provide a strong reason for why I enjoy attending Home County, and I’m sure that my answer would reference not only the diversity of the music on offer each year, but also the opportunities granted to discover artists previously unknown to us.  It was during our first Home County experience in 2017 that we became familiar with Brampton, ON singer-songwriter AHI, who earned our undivided attention just a few lines in to his song, “Ol’ Sweet Day.” AHI is an incredibly gifted artist, who both writes and performs straight from the heart, and once heard, is not easily forgotten.

Set List: (1) Breakin’ Ground  (2) Made It Home  (3) Ol’ Sweet Day

The Small Glories:  This Winnipeg, MB based duo of Cara Luft and J.D. Edwards write and perform some of the most electrifying folk-roots music on the circuit today, and leave a lasting impression with their high-energy live shows.  Catching them live here in PA over the last couple of years, we knew that they could not fail to earn the full appreciation of the Home County crowds at the festival last summer.  Their performance during both the workshops and their main stage appearance in Victoria Park no doubt earned them an open invitation to return one day.  So a fitting choice for inclusion in the Stay Home event this year, and once again, an outstanding display of musicianship as they shared three tracks from their 2019 “Assiniboine & The Red” album.

Set List: (1) Oh My Love  (2) Secondhand  (3) Sing

The Marrieds:  We were delighted to see the hometown husband and wife duo of Kevin Kennedy and Jane Carmichael given the opportunity to perform this year.  After striking up an online conversation with Jane prior to our first trip to Home County, The Marrieds also happened to be the very first band we caught live at this festival.  Indeed, that very first workshop with The Marrieds saw them share the stage with local duo Westminster Park, whose co-founder Steve Murphy later joined Team GDW as a contributing writer.  Such a small world, it seems – as we have made many connections with artists through our experiences at Home County.

Set List: (1) Reason  (2) Heavy Hearts  (3) Lying Next To Me  (4) Take Me To California

Ken Yates:  Another local artist, this London-born singer-songwriter has toured relentlessly in pursuit of his music career over the last few years.  Ken Yates was the very first artist who agreed to an interview feature in the early days of GDW, and not only are we forever grateful, but if an opportunity to see this talented artist comes our way, we’re snapping it up.  Having enjoyed witnessing Ken perform live twice here in the US, it was nice to catch up with him on his own turf during the 2018 Home County festival.  With the release of his latest (and simply stunning) album, “Quiet Talkers,” back in late May, Ken was more than happy to share a handful of new songs during his Stay Home segment.

Set List:  (1) Surviving Is Easy  (2) Quiet Talkers  (3) Evangeline

Terra Lightfoot:  Wait!  You’re telling me that Hamilton, ON folk-rocker Terra Lightfoot was possibly signed up to be at the Home County Music & Arts Festival this year?  Awesome news!  Terra is an incredibly accomplished performer in her own right, and like Ken Yates, has toured extensively across the continent to share her raw and exhilarating brand of guitar driven, rock and blues infused music.  We had the pleasure of welcoming Terra to our part of Central PA back in 2018 during her tour with The Posies, and if I have to be honest (biased), the opener was worth the price of admission alone.  As an added bonus for the Stay Home audience, Terra shared a brand new song taken from an upcoming album slated for release this Fall.

Set List:  (1) Stars Over Dakota  (2) Hold You  (3) Ruthless  (4) Paper Thin Walls (unreleased)

This online Stay Home County streaming event provided two evenings of fantastic music from these very talented musicians, and we are grateful to have sampled some of what we could have experienced in Victoria Park this summer if a global pandemic had not decided to crash the party.  If this selection of artists alone represent a small taste of what to expect in 2021, we know that our plans to visit Victoria Park once again cannot come around soon enough.  I’ll go ahead and draw this recap to a close by sharing what I personally felt were the three most memorable tracks performed during the Stay Home County online event.

Highlights: 

#3 Julian Taylor, “Carry Me Home”

#2 Terra Lightfoot, “Paper Thin Walls” 

#1 The Small Glories, “Sing” 

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.