- COurtesy photo
- Manny Ward
Alright, folks. Waking Windows is upon us. After six years, the monolithic extravaganza likely needs no introduction. But on the off chance the three-day festival somehow hasn't entered your orbit, from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, downtown Winooski becomes a downright indie-music fustercluck. Aside from the numerous outdoor stages, virtually every business on Winooski's rotary gets in on the action as a pop-up rock club. But not every business.
Last week, WW released updated daily lineups and schedules. You may have noticed a notable omission from the usual WW venues: newish 'Noosk bar Mister Sister — formerly Oak45. You may also have noticed that something called Lucky Cloud is now in the mix. And you probably wondered, What the hell is that?
Short answer: a vacant commercial space on East Allen Street at the top of the rotary. Long answer: Well, it's complicated.
Let's back up a bit. As recently as a few weeks ago, Mister Sister was slated to be a WW performance venue. As Oak45, the bar participated in WW for the last several years — and the space itself has been a WW venue even longer.
As you might have heard, the upscale wine bar recently closed and reopened under the same ownership as Mister Sister — "a gay bar for the LGBT community and their allies," according to its Facebook page. The new name sparked a shitstorm of controversy, with many people claiming it was a transphobic slur. After an outcry for the name to be changed, the bar's owner, Craig McGaughan, refused to do so — despite a public rebuking and condemnation from the Pride Center of Vermont.
Meanwhile, the WW organizers were hard at work drafting this year's schedules. (Deciding where and when to place more than 200 performers is not a task I envy.) And — wouldn't you know it? — several bands slated to play MS refused to do so, claiming they didn't feel comfortable or safe performing there due to its name and the surrounding controversy. This put the WW organizers in a pickle. All of their other venues were fully booked.
For a hot minute, it seemed that the former KeyBank building on the corner of Main and West Allen Street might provide a solution. The space currently operates as artists' studios. WW organizers quickly determined that it was not a feasible location. Fire codes are no joke.
Here's where the story gets even more tangled. When McGaughan heard that some of the bands had complained and requested to be moved to a new location, he decided to pull MS out of the festival altogether.
In an email to Seven Days, McGaughan explained his reasoning: "Mister Sister became aware that some bands had decided they wouldn't play our venue, including at least one band that [had] played our space for the last three years, because of the name. After much consideration, we realized Waking Windows is no longer the best fit for us or, more importantly, our customer[s]." He went on to write, "We are grateful to Waking Windows for bringing so many people into downtown Winooski, and wish them much success."
Even though MS is no longer participating in WW, it still plans to offer its own all-day entertainment during the fest. DJs Manny Ward, Chia, Rob Douglas and Lil' Dave keep the house/EDM vibes thumping all weekend long.
Out one entire venue, the WW crew scrambled to find homes for dozens of performers. Through some undoubtedly skillful negotiating, they managed to essentially pull a new space out of thin air — perhaps that's why they named it Lucky Cloud. Way to problem solve, gang.
The biggest takeaway from this convoluted tale: The WW crew is a highly dedicated, resourceful and accommodating group of people willing to bend over backward to make things happen. The fact that they were able to pull this off under mounting pressure and a waning timeline is nothing short of a miracle.
Visit wakingwindows.com for updated schedule and ticket info. (Full disclosure: I am a DJ at this year's WW.)
- COurtesy photo
Did you get a chance to check out this week's music feature? It proposes several thematically linked "paths" through the WW madness. A few of these include artists appearing at some of the weekend's various showcases, which are essentially "paths" themselves.
Unfortunately, each day's showcases conflict with one another. On Friday, hometown crews face off. You'll have to choose between the Metal Monday showcase and the Local Hip-Hop showcase. Hellascope or Jarv? Savage Hen or Fresh Patterns? Good luck with that Sophie's Choice.
Saturday poses even more conflicts. Montreal's Blue Skies Turn Black showcase butts heads with both the Soundtoys/Signals showcase and the Friends + Family showcase. Later on, F + F overlaps with the Dull Tools showcase. All four showcases provide an eclectic mix of styles and sounds and are likely to appeal to a similar subset of attendees. Hoan or Sam Lisbeth? Pill or Gestalt? Cue the "Jeopardy!" theme song.
Finally, Sunday pits the Portland showcase against both the AF Tapes showcase and the NNA Tapes showcase, which run back-to-back. Jeff Beam or Bleach Day? Family Planning or Wren Kitz? As the Grail Knight says at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "You must choose wisely."
If you aren't going to WW, you might consider heading out to Lyndon State College for GreggFest. The two-day musical hubbub honors the late Jake Gregg, an LSC music business and industry student who passed away in 2015 after battling acute myeloid leukemia.
The lineup includes the Mangroves, Harsh Armadillo, Town Meeting, Color & Friends, Binger, Rookie, Spiritual Rez, the Bonnets, Monty's Lobster, Drunk & in the Woods, Dr. No, and Hear. GreggFest runs from Friday to Saturday, May 5 to 6. Check out greggfest.org for more info.
Higher Ground cofounder Kevin Statesir, who last year sold his stake in the company to Magic Hat Brewing cofounder Alan Newman, recently started a new venture, StatesirReal Projects. He's calling it an à la carte management service for local bands and artists, and aims to help them navigate the music industry — from getting better gigs to finding the right producers and engineers. Speaking of good gigs...
Last week, Higher Ground Presents and Grace Potter unveiled the lineup for the 2017 Grand Point North music festival. Want to see your favorite homegrown band added to that list? We've got you covered. Seven Days has once again teamed up with Eyes of the World to present the annual Grand Point North Local Band Contest. The winner of the contest will open the festival in September.
Here's the gist: The nomination period, during which fans can nominate the bands they want to see, has already begun and runs until Sunday, May 7. Any DJ, musician or band is eligible, as long as at least one member resides in Vermont. Voting commences on Monday, May 8, and continues until 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. Find the nomination form here.
If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the Music section.
Smoke City, "Underwater Love"
Primal Scream, "Movin' On Up"
Goldfrapp, "Everything is Never Enough"
Crowhead featuring Niko, "The Bends"
Overcoats, "Kai's Song"