The big names you likely know: The Roots, Buddy Guy and Betty LaVette, Tony Bennett, Ween, Steve Earle and Aimee Mann, some chick named Grace. Without question, the Burlington International Waterfront Festival — aka “The Quad” — is seriously top heavy with big-ticket talent. And it should be, given that we’ve been waiting for this thing for, like, four centuries. But as impressive as the marquee lineup undoubtedly is, it almost pales in comparison to the sheer volume and variety of smaller performances — most of which are free, or close to it — happening all around the Queen City over the next two weeks, in celebration of 400 years of lovin’ the lake.
The problem, of course, is knowing what to choose amid this embarrassment of sonic riches — especially if you’re budget conscious. With that in mind, what follows is a primer highlighting your best (relatively) low-cost musical bet for each day of the festival.
The Lost Fingers and The Horse Flies at Battery Park, Friday, July 3, 6:30 p.m. Free. Following their performance at the Flynn the previous night — as part of “Queen City Radio Hour” — slake your thirst for Gypsy-jazz interpretations of 1980s pop-music classics with Québec City’s The Lost Fingers. No, really. Ithaca-based alt-Americana darlings The Horse Flies open this pre-fireworks hootenanny.
Rick & the Ramblers, Susannah Blachly, Myra Flynn, Banjo Dan & the Mid-Nite Plowboys at the Champlain Valley Stage in City Hall Park, Saturday, July 4, 2:30 p.m. Free. If you love freedom — and we know you do! — check out this Independence Day bash featuring a nifty cross-generational mix of local talent.
Gregory Douglass, Mia Adams, Steve Hartmann, Clayton Sabine, Jen Crowell, Tom Murphy at the Champlain Valley Stage in City Hall Park, Sunday, July 5, 11:30 a.m. Free. A slew of the state’s finest tunesmiths — and even a physical comedian! — join Vermont’s pop prince, Gregory Douglass, for a daylong celebration of all things singer-songwriter-y.
Queen City Radio Hour: Teen Edition at FlynnSpace, Monday, July 6, 7 & 9 p.m. $5. If you missed the opening-night version with NPR’s Tom Bodette — or even if you didn’t — check out this take on the old-time radio variety show with a smorgasbord of the region’s finest young musicians, poets and comedians.
Battle of the Bands at the Waterfront Stage, Tuesday, July 7, 7 p.m. $5. Burlington Idol ? Sort of. Young area bands and solo artists compete on the picturesque Waterfront Stage for the right to be crowned, um, “Champ.”
How Much Land Does One Man Need? at FlynnSpace, Wednesday, July 8, 7:30 p.m. $15. Mandolin marvel Jamie Masefield and his Jazz Mandolin Project meet Leo Tolstoy. What more do you need to know? Minds will be blown, multimedia style.
Blues Festival with Seth Yacovone, Blues for Breakfast, Lowell Thompson, Jenni Johnson, Blues & Lasers at the Champlain Valley Stage, City Hall Park, Thursday, July 9, noon & 3:30 p.m. Free. Aside from Yacovone and Johnson, this shindig is a “blues” festival in name only. But with Grateful Dead acolytes Blues for Breakfast, local alt-country heartthrob Lowell Thompson and Nocturnals-offshoot Blues & Lasers rounding out the bill, we’ll gladly ignore the semantics. So will you.
Québec Strolling Performers at Church Street Marketplace, Friday, July 10, noon & 4 p.m. Free. This one’s easy: Just find a spot to hang on Church Street and let the show come to you. Roving performers include “mobile music machine” L’Ensemble Karel, 12-piece marching band Fanfarniente della Strada and guerrilla comedy troupe Toxique Trottoir.
New Vaudeville Spectacular at Church Street Marketplace, Saturday, July 11, 11 a.m. Free. Much like the previous entry, only more so. Take the Québec Strolling Performers and throw in the neo-vaudevillian stylings of Foolz, the Hokum Brothers and noted theatrical hedonists the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus — the last of whom will give a (presumably) PG public performance before their R-rated ticketed show at City Hall Auditorium later that night — and you’ve got a recipe for Marketplace madness.
Tammy Fletcher, Kilimanjaro, Scott Ainslie, Samantha Moffatt and more at the Champlain Valley Stage, City Hall Park, Sunday, July 12, noon. Free. The stars come out early for this showcase, which features some truly legendary local talent, including soul diva Tammy Fletcher and seminal Vermont jazz icons Kilimanjaro.
Aurelia’s Oratorio at Flynn MainStage, Monday, July 13, 7:30 p.m. & Tuesday, July 14, 2 & 7:30 p.m. $15/25. This whimsical amalgam of theater, vaudeville, circus arts and visual illusion is directed by Victoria Chaplin — Charlie’s daughter. Edge Boston calls it “akin to living inside a glass of champagne: for an hour and a half, reality itself is effervescent.” We call it a fitting end to a wondrous celebration.