Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories about bands and musicians that will be playing at the 50th Petunia Festival July 2-6 in Dixon.
DIXON – Having Mumford & Sons and The Gentlemen of the Road Tour take the town by storm in August 2012 was a significant moment for Dixon.
For The Apache Relay, a Nashville-based band that shared one of the festival stages with Mumford & Sons on that picturesque summer day, it was a significant moment for the band, as well.
"We we're just talking about how it was our favorite show we have ever played," the band's frontman, Michael Ford Jr., said. "We had an amazing experience, and it was such a big moment for us."
That connection is bringing the group back to Dixon. The band is scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. July 5 on the main stage along the Riverfront during the Petunia Festival.
After GOTR, the band began writing and was in the studio from October 2012 to May 2013, working on material for its self-titled third album, released April 22.
"It was such an amazing process," Ford said.
"The last record was more intentional. We spent days working on guitar parts and vocal parts," Ford said. "We really tried not to overthink things, but still spend time getting things right."
The band's previous releases were "more raw and recorded live," Ford said.
So, what can those unfamiliar with the band expect from The Apache Relay?
"First and foremost, we're a rock 'n' roll band," Ford said. "There are elements of soul and other genres, but we're rock 'n' roll at the core."
Forming in 2008, the six-piece band is still relatively young. The members find inspiration from established bands such as Wilco and My Morning Jacket.
The band has been spending the summer playing festivals and will continue to do so after its stop in Dixon.
"We're really excited to play Festival Palomino. That will be a big moment for us this summer," Ford said.
Festival Palomino, set for Sept. 20 in Shakopee, Minnesota, also will feature Trampled by Turtles and The Head and the Heart.
In the fall, the band will begin a traditional tour "to continue to push the new album and make sure more people hear us," Ford said.
But before any of that, the band has some serious business to take care of in the Sauk Valley.
"We have to go back to Al and Leda's Pizzeria while we're in Dixon," Ford said.
The band connected with the longtime local pizzeria and its owner, Leda Bartolomei, during the Gentlemen of the Road festival.
"They were so nice to us," Ford said. "They brought us out breadsticks and pizza, and the food was amazing."
It's safe to say the town has a special place in the band's collective heart.
"We're very excited to come back to Dixon," Ford said.