Luke Awtry/Waking Windows
Coachella recently wrapped up, and per usual, it was a big deal. The world’s most prominent artists stood on a dozen stages to perform for hundreds of thousands of fans over the course of two weekends in Indio, California. It’s the world’s grandest music festival, and that’s a good thing.
Things will be different next weekend in Winooski, Vermont. That’s when the Waking Windows festival will take over, as co-founder Paddy Reagan put it in a recent phone call, “a quarter mile of downtown Winooski.” Compared to Coachella, the physical size, the attendance figures, and the number of marquee artists at Waking Windows are all smaller. And that’s also a good thing.
Waking Windows isn’t built on buzz, but an appreciation of the co-existence between national touring bands and regional acts that contribute to Vermont’s local musical identity. It’s those reasons and others that make for a weekend that’s very different from Coachella, but in a positive way.
“I think the advantage is that we don’t need ten or twenty thousand people to come to the festival to make it feel like an exciting affair,” Reagan said. “It can be intimate and feel comfortable and exciting with the five or six thousand people that come over the course of the weekend. It also still feels big because you’re in a city and we’re shutting down a city street and there’s traffic going by and we’re taking over businesses.”
The festival certainly provides the opportunity to catch performances in unusual locations, places like Winooski Methodist Church and other establishments spread throughout downtown that aren’t typically concert venues. As for the lineup, it’s a mix of local bands and some nationally recognizable acts, which makes for a healthy balance of seeing some artists you’ve heard of before and appreciating some others that are among Vermont’s finest. There are definitely hooks here if you’re looking for name recognition: Some of the most notable artists on this year’s lineup include Tune-Yards, Twin Peaks, and Sunflower Bean.
One month til Waking Windows 2019, and we've got news for yous
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“No one from my immediate family would be able to identify any of the bands on the entire lineup, but people that pay attention to music would know who Tune-Yards and Twin Peaks are,” Reagan said. “Half of the lineup is local bands, basically, and the other half is bands that we’ve met either over the years putting on shows in Burlington or just being aware of the music scene.”
In addition to being one of the cooler festivals in the Northeast, Waking Windows helps foster a sense of community in Winooski, which is part of the Burlington metropolitan area, and gives local artists something to strive for and look forward to.
“I think it’s important for a music community to have a festival like this,” Reagan said. “Bands will tell me, ‘Our goal is to play Waking Windows, that’s something we’re super excited about and want to do someday.’ It’s a cool way to not only showcase the bands we think are really great, but have something that’s exciting for the local community to get engaged with.”
While an event the size of Waking Windows isn’t trying to compete with a monolithic institution like Coachella it fosters the health of the local music scene, which ultimately benefits music as a whole. Its strength is in the fact that it’s not trying to be gigantic.
“There are plenty of festivals out there that are financed and have this bigger model, and I think doing something DIY that has legs to it is really important,” Reagan said. “The idea that our music scene and the bands that exist within it have a thing like this to look forward to adds to the health of our scene, makes it more robust, and gives people a platform that’s different than just another venue show to play.”
It’s a strong concept, and if Reagan had it his way, this is a type of an event that he would like to see take off in rich musical communities around the country.
“I would love to see small festivals like this happening all over the country in small cities. I think it’s a meaningful thing to put your scene on par with these touring acts in that way.”
Waking Windows goes down in Winooski, Vermont from May 3 to 5. Learn more about the festival and how to get tickets here.
Waking Windows is hosting Uproxx for the festival. However, Waking Windows did not review or approve this story. You can learn more about the Uproxx press trip/hosting policy here.