From a small pizza bar in Peoria to touring across the world, The Way Down Wanderers are known for their unique sound — elements of bluegrass with a touch of classic rock and elements of jazz, classical and even hip-hop.
The Way Down Wanderers will perform at 7:15 p.m. Friday during Shoe Fest held at Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See in Manteno. Shoe Fest, Friday through Sunday, features three stages of music with an emphasis on roots music such as folk, folk rock, bluegrass and jamband.
The Way Down Wanderers band members Austin Krause-Thompson, guitar and vocals; Collin Krause, mandolin, violin, guitar and vocals; John Williams, upright bass, guitar and vocals; John Merikoski, drums and percussion; and Travis Kowalsky, banjo and guitar craft their stories inspired by the heartland with a unique blend of influences stemming from their varied musical backgrounds.
Though their sound is built on a foundation of Americana and bluegrass, The Way Down Wanderers inject their signature multi-part harmonies with unexpected elements of pop and reggae.
“Everyone in The Way Down Wanderers has come from a different musical background, so there are definitely a wide variety of musical influences. Some of our favorites include Nickel Creek, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Indigo Girls and The Beatles,” according to band members.
The band has performed in this area and at Shoe Fest in the past, but since that time they have released “Illusions,” its second full-length album.
“People can expect to hear some newer heartfelt, up-beat material, as well as some older Wanderers songs,” Krause-Thompson said.
Krause said that it may be a cliche, but there really is no place like home.
“Although Kankakee is between Peoria and Chicago, we truly feel at home there,” he said. “It’s a place we’ve been playing since we’ve gotten our start, so it definitely holds a special place.”
Produced by Grammy winner David Schiffman, “llusions” features a melting-pot of genres and storytelling from lead singers-songwriters Krause-Thompson and Krause. With songs that reflect on the simplicity of youth, lost time and the excitement of new love, “Illusions” bridges an enthusiasm for life with the sobering reality of how quickly time passes.
The album is the follow up to The Way Down Wanderers’ self-titled 2016 debut.
When the two main songwriters first met six years ago, the classically trained Krause was picking bluegrass mandolin and fiddle in a Dylan-esque folk band, while Krause-Thompson was the drummer in a rock group. Jazz percussionist Merikoski and classical upright bassist Williams soon joined, and banjo player Kowalsky was the final piece to the puzzle.
“Somewhere between the rock beats, spoken word, spoon solos and fiddle tunes, we hope people find something that will leave them walking away with smiles on their faces,” Krause-Thompson said.
Three day passes to enjoy the entire fest are $140. Saturday and Sunday only tickets are $115 and Sunday only tickets are $70. For more information and tickets, visit shoe-fest.com/.