Next weekend, music, art, comedy, literature and more will light up the streets of Portland, Maine, when Waking Windows returns to the city for its third year, on Friday September 29 and Saturday September 30.
Founded in 2011, Waking Windows was originally a twelve-day music event, born and matured in the now vibrant town of Winooski, Vermont—who’s economic and cultural resurgence is due in good part to the evolution of this event. Within just a few years, as the festival saw rapid expansion, and with its attendance roughly doubling in size each time, the event was ready to branch out, and now hosts separate yearly events in both Detroit and Portland.
Ali Fogel, a member of the music promotion company behind the event, Waking Windows Presents, gave some insight on the origins of bringing this unique weekend experience outside of Vermont, saying “We have always had a fairly large Portland connect at our Waking Windows Fest or Presents show, and we had some interest from Portland locals Jeff Beam and Peter McLaughlin to curate shows and a mini Waking Windows in Portland.”
McLaughlin, head of programming and lead organizer for the Portland event, elaborated further, adding, “A small crew of Portland dreamers and the tight-knit Winooksi festival team began Waking Windows Portland in 2015. I think the younger sibling to the Vermont festival has quickly grown up in its three-year existence, and is now a vibrant two-day arts festival of growing stature.”
The festival in its time has culled some impressive mainstream acts, starting in its first couple of years with headliners like Future Islands, Yacht, Real Estate and more. Gracing Portland’s lineup this year are the likes of Marissa Nadler, No BS! Brassband, O’Death, Milo, Open Mike Eagle, and others. McLaughlin’s favorite from the top of the list? “Portland (& Burlington!) beloved indie-rock trio, And the Kids, who just keep getting better and better and better.”
But while the big names are exciting, what has always made Waking Windows the uniquely incredible experience that it is has been its lineups of eclectic, genre-and-ground-breaking acts—homegrown bands, artists, and writers that are presenting stuff of a kind and quality you’re not likely to find anywhere else you might look. Suffice to say, Waking Windows goes even beyond presenting a large spread of music types, incorporating into the weekend everything from ted talks, to standup comedy, to documentary screenings, and more.
For example, McLaughlin offered some of his favorites on Portland’s lineup this year, mentioning first the 14-piece Italian pop orchestra Tredici Bacci, “the one-of-a-kind band (that) will be collaborating with two other festival acts, post-punk legend Chandra Oppeheim and hero of New-Weird-American folk music Ed Askew, backing both up for wild arrangements of their own music.” There’s also Sammus, whom McLaughlin tells us is “widely known for her completely original conception of hip-hop, as she is for her writing on technology, gaming, feminism, race, and more. In addition to her set, she’ll be doing a public conversation with Dr. Leroy Rowe, African-American history professor from the University of Southern Maine.”
When you think of music events, the best ones come from a supportive, artistically fertile place, of which contributing back to socially and culturally is a natural mission. There is much less of a border between organizer, artist, and patron, and instead a cohesion of creation, presentation, and experience. Waking Windows is, year after year, an ultimate curation of seriously amazing artistry, musical and otherwise, and no doubt contributing to that is the fact that the creators and crew behind the curtain are themselves musicians and artists, music and art lovers, and loyal patrons and figures of the scenes they serve.
“It may sound grand, but we’re trying to create an ephemeral utopia,” McLaughlin says. “A festival is a limited universe, a collective community, and we’re trying to create the world we want to exist, even if just for a brief moment. That’s the aim and we’ll keep working toward it.”
Head to Waking Windows’ website here to check out more info and to purchase tickets.
Article by Miles Hurley