Trail Tunes 2023 will feature live competition, beer tent

Festival will take place at Civic Center Park Sept. 9

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published September 3, 2023

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MADISON HEIGHTS — At this year’s Trail Tunes, more than a dozen bands will line the loop at Civic Center Park. Attendees will vote for their favorites, and two finalists will play special sets at the end of the night. Whoever receives the loudest cheers will be crowned champion of the festival’s first-ever Battle of the Bands.

Trail Tunes will be held Saturday, Sept. 9, starting at 3 p.m. and ending sometime after dark. Organized by the Madison Heights Arts Board, the outdoor music festival is one of the most popular events at Civic Center Park, located at 360 W. 13 Mile Road.

“We started Trail Tunes in 2020, during COVID when everything was shut down, and I think it has really surpassed our expectations,” said Steve Dombroski, chairman of the Arts Board. “For the newer bands, especially, we’re providing them a built-in crowd, and for those in attendance, they can see bands they maybe haven’t seen before. It’s a really great service that we provide these artists and the community. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Admission is free, as always, but guests are encouraged to support their favorite musicians by tipping or buying merchandise. Attendees can follow the path and stop at whichever acts catch their ear, pitching a folding chair or laying down a picnic blanket to relax on the grass.

One new feature is a beer tent, set up by the Arts Board and the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, with proceeds benefiting both. In the case of the Arts Board, the money made at the beer tent will help pay for next year’s festival, which includes the rates paid to the artists. In addition, several food trucks will have plenty of grub to go with the drinks.

There will be 13 bands, ranging in genre from acoustic and rock to funk and jazz. The lineup includes returning acts such as ABI, The Aspersions, Charles Caballero, Colin Lazorka (of Colin and the Cougars), Gwenyth Hayes, Leisure Machine, Midnight Proof, Scott Wrona Quartet, Paul Parente Jazz Connection, Peter Gee the Black Daisy, Phoebe Holmes (of the Keynote Sisters), and Zosette & The Groove. The new addition this year is Kayfabe: The Ppls Band.

Each attendee gets to cast a vote for their favorite and can purchase extra votes. There will also be votes cast by judges on a panel comprising Arts Board members, but the public vote will be weighted more heavily.

The votes determine the two bands that will compete in the Battle of the Bands, which will take place near the mural on the Jaycee shelter building at the foot of the sled hill by Fire Station No. 1. After each finalist plays, the crowd will cheer for their favorite, which will determine the champion. First place will receive $1,000, while second place will receive $500.

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, helped conceive Trail Tunes and serves on its steering committee. This year’s event is the fourth to date.

“I’m a big fan of live music. During the pandemic, our co-chair Vita Palazzolo and I were lamenting how terrible (COVID) was, not only for folks like us who wanted to experience live music, but also for the bands who had no place to perform. Many of those musicians live in Madison Heights, so we wanted to put together something that would allow them to play in a safe way,” Bliss said.

“That very first socially distanced music festival we did in 2020 really threaded the needle with every guideline from the state, and people have been coming back ever since, because the heart of the festival is that love and desire to continue live music,” he said. “And that purity, too, is evident by the fact we don’t have giant stages. These performers are playing right off the trail, to people sitting on blankets and folding chairs right across from them. There are no barriers; you can walk from one to another, tip them and directly impact a local musician. And because of how diverse it is, there is something for everyone, from jazz to a Top 40 band to an acoustic singer, and more.”

The mayor pro tem thanked everyone who helps make the event possible each year.

“I’m incredibly grateful for all the local bands, and their interest and willingness to be a part of this festival, and to promote it, and even help us plan it. I’m also very appreciative of our local businesses who jumped in, enabling us to put it on,” Bliss said. “But most importantly, I am grateful to the volunteers on our planning committee, who put in hours working tirelessly to bring this free festival to our residents. As organizers, we’re so proud that the musicians keep coming back. It tells us that we’re doing something right.”