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Previewing Seven Summer Music Festivals

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Otis Mountain Get Down - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Otis Mountain Get Down

Ask any Vermonter why they choose to live in the Green Mountain State, and they will likely mention summer as one of their top three reasons. The glory of late May through September makes sticking it out through a grueling winter and sluggish spring totally worth it.

Good weather and an abundance of green space make Vermont an ideal region for summer outdoor music festivals. And hot damn, do we have a lot of them. The following selection represents only a tiny fraction of what's in store, but the seven here are some of this year's most exciting.

Burlington City Arts Summer Concert Series

Wednesdays and Fridays, June 12 through August 28, 12:30 p.m., Church Street, Burlington
Maddy Walsh & the Blind Spots - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Maddy Walsh & the Blind Spots

For anyone whose lunch break consists of inhaling last night's leftovers without getting up from their desk, while simultaneously checking emails and setting calendar reminders: Take a break from the norm. Instead of six minutes of screen-filled pseudo-relaxation, enjoy an outdoor, midday concert featuring some of the area's best talent, as well as others from farther afield.

The folks at Burlington City Arts and the Vermont State Employees Credit Union present another summer full of Wednesday and Friday afternoon concerts outside Burlington City Hall on lower Church Street. Every hump day throughout the summer, an expertly curated selection of bands and singer-songwriters alleviates midweek monotony.

This year's lineup kicks off with the John Daly Band, a Chittenden County rock group whose leader recently cowrote a historical musical focusing on the life of Vermont patriot Matthew Lyon. Other noteworthy artists include Portland, Ore., country duo the Talbott Brothers (June 19); Ithaca, N.Y., rockers Maddy Walsh & the Blind Spots (July 26); and Florida slide guitarist John Emil (August 14).

Pocock Rocks Music Festival & Street Fair

Saturday, June 15, various locations in Bristol

Fun fact: "Pocock" is the original name of the Addison County town of Bristol. The quaint village, which runs flush up against the Green Mountains, is pretty much the quintessential Vermont town. Its Main Street boasts a cluster of locally owned businesses, and residents frequently gather on the central town green for special events, such as the annual — and completely outrageous — Independence Day outhouse race.

Community spirit is palpable during town gatherings. That might be especially true during Pocock Rocks, a daylong hootenanny focused on bluegrass, folk and American roots music. The primarily local lineup features artists such as singer-songwriter John Smyth, gypsy-jazz ensemble Cookie's Hot Club, and Cajun and Western-swing group Big Night.

After the outdoor celebration winds down, popular watering hole Hatch 31 keeps the music going until the wee hours with the Big Pick All-Stars. The assemblage of local players is regularly seen gigging at the bar's weekly bluegrass session, the Big Pick.

Wanderlust Stratton

Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23, Stratton Mountain Resort
India Arie - COURTESY OF BENEDICT EVANS
  • Courtesy Of Benedict Evans
  • India Arie

The expression "I need a vacation from my vacation" should not apply to Wanderlust Stratton. The four-day event is all about self-care — primarily yoga and meditation. Experts in all things bodywork and spiritual healing help attendees find their bliss.

Aside from workshops, sessions, seminars and talks, Wanderlust offers up plenty of opportunities to get down — particularly at its silent disco. Those unfamiliar with the technologically enhanced dance party will have their minds blown. Instead of pumping out hot beats over a sound system, the silent disco transmits the DJ's mixes into wireless headsets. Ambient noise and idle chitchat get filtered out as dancers make an unbroken connection from source to ears.

Beyond the sweaty catharsis of the silent disco, R&B icon India Arie headlines the musical portion of the multifaceted fest. The "Video" singer-songwriter just released her eighth studio album, Worthy, in February.

Do Good Fest

Saturday, July 13, National Life Group, Montpelier
Michael Franti - COURTESY OF ANTHONY THOEN
  • Courtesy Of Anthony Thoen
  • Michael Franti

Most music festivals are feel-good affairs. (The ill-fated Fyre Festival doesn't count.) But large-scale events that also benefit charitable causes give patrons an extra reason to celebrate. One example: Do Good Fest, held at the National Life Group headquarters in Montpelier. Parking fees for the otherwise free, one-day fest benefit the Branches of Hope Cancer Patient Fund at Central Vermont Medical Center.

Appropriately for such a conscientious happening, politically minded folk-rock-reggae group Michael Franti & Spearhead headline. Acoustic pop singer-songwriter Hailey Knox; Burlington-born, Ojai, Calif.-based artist Syd; and Burlington rock group SoundBrother (aka the DuPont Brothers) round out the bill.

At the heart of Do Good Fest is the nonprofit village, wherein a horde of local charitable organizations set up shop to educate patrons on subjects such as homelessness, food justice and domestic violence.

Lake Champlain Maritime Festival

Thursday, July 25, through Sunday, July 28, Waterfront Park, Burlington

One of the best things about northwestern Vermont is its access to Lake Champlain. The annual Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, which stages activities and concerts from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh to Burlington's Waterfront Park, puts an emphasis on all things nautical.

A huge part of the annual commemoration of local marine culture is a series of some of the biggest concerts of summer. Aside from a handful of free daytime shows (when and where are still TBA), the main events, courtesy of Higher Ground Presents, unfold nightly at the waterfront. On Thursday, July 25, soul-pop sensation Lake Street Dive perform back-to-back with neo-Americana group the Wood Brothers. And closing out the series on Sunday, July 28, are Grateful Dead tribute Joe Russo's Almost Dead.

Sandwiched between these two shows, on Friday and Saturday, is a self-contained music festival called Tumble Down, curated by local jam-rock torchbearers Twiddle. Catering mostly to fans of heady artists such as reggae scion Stephen Marley, the two-day blowout serves up funky artists such as Brooklyn ensemble Turkuaz and local rootsy blues trio Nina's Brew.

Night Doll Fest

Saturday, August 24, Junktiques Collective, Burlington

Brand-new on Vermont's festival scene, the Night Doll Fest is a punk-specific micro-fest located in Burlington's eclectic Old North End neighborhood. The brainchild of impish Queen City punk band Miku Daza, the festival aims to bring together "live bands, performance art, fashion and freaks," according to the initial press release.

A slew of wild and wacky bands descend on Junktiques Collective, a popular bric-a-brac and recycled goods shop. On indoor and outdoor stages, Vermont outfits such as punk-rockers PREECE, garage-rock quartet Yestrogen and surf trio Barbacoa converge to do what they do best: shred. New York art-punk groups Ecce Shnak and Monte get in on the action, as well. Also of note, a brand-new, all-femme Blink-182 cover band, called Pink 802, will make its debut.

Otis Mountain Get Down

Friday, September 6, through Sunday, September 8, Otis Mountain, Elizabethtown, N.Y.

Though technically not based in Vermont — but just a quick ferry ride across Lake Champlain — the Otis Mountain Get Down is one of the coolest three days of music in the Northeast. Staged atop a former ski mountain in Elizabethtown, N.Y., the weekend offers one of the most cutting-edge and inclusive indie-music lineups on the North American festival scene.

Visitors are shuttled from a remote parking area up the mountain into the event ground, a series of large clearings at the edge of a dense forest. On three outdoor stages, up-and-coming acts such as Brooklyn psych-rock band Habibi and Montréal dream-pop five-piece Anemone serenade revelers as they bask in the temperate Adirondack air.

Since former Burlingtonians founded the fest, it maintains strong ties to Vermont's music scene. So far, this year's lineup includes indie rockers J Bengoy and Fever Dolls, as well as master MC Jarv and hip-hop collective 99 Neighbors.

The original print version of this article was headlined "The Hills Are Alive | A brief look at upcoming summer music festivals"

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