By Mitchell Parrish and Stephanie Roush
Waking Windows is an annual music and art festival in Winooski, VT, a bustling town right next to Burlington. Some call it the “Brooklyn of Burlington” and this weekend I think it showed. With over 150 bands in 11 venues around one rotary, this became the little festival that could. In its 5th year, the festival has matured from a local indie showcase into a full blown festival, much like SXSW in Austin. Music nerds around the state converged in Winooski for three days of music, art and comedy. Stephanie and I were among the nerds. Here’s our conversational recap.
Day 1 – Friday, May 1
Cricket Blue (6:00pm – 6:45pm at Scout & Co.)
Mitchell: Scout & Co. is a quaint Vermont coffee and creemie shop, a perfect setting for a band that should be at every Starbuck’s register, next to the Ingrid Michaelson Greatest Hits record.
Stephanie: Pretty little harmonies and songwriting about love lost and found somewhere amongst the beauty of Vermont. High school me would’ve probably cried at this show.
Mitchell: I actually did start crying. Taylor and Laura are simply delightful to watch on stage. Their chemistry is uncanny. Really glad I was able to get off work early enough to down a few Coronas with the crew before heading down to Winooski.
SHELLS (6:40pm – 7:10pm at The Monkey House)
Mitchell: This is an Alpenglow side project fronted by Elori Kramer (violin, keys, vocals). I was really excited to see this live. I heard someone say it sounded like someone took an Alpenglow snowglobe and shook it up and then placed it back on stage. Spacey, but grounded, ethereal, yet tangible– Elori has a great musical mind.
Stephanie: After seeing Alpenglow many, many times it’s easy to forget what a unique voice Elori Kramer has. Shells felt very fresh to me – you can tell Kramer’s been living in Brooklyn.
Eastern Mountain Time (7:30pm – 8:00pm 4 Quarters Brewery)
Mitchell: This was my first time visiting the this relatively new microbrewery and it was comforting to hear some old school country rock upon arrival. These guys are a lot of fun and a great introduction into the weekend.
Stephanie: 4 Quarters was my favorite venue of the weekend. With an interesting array of out-there beers as well as a perfectly positioned outdoor stage any band playing there was in for a treat. Eastern Mountain Time was the perfect low-key country rock act to play the soundtrack to a beautiful Winooski sunset.
You Know Ono (8:00pm – 8:40pm at Oak 45)
Stephanie: Best band name of Waking Windows. Hands down.
Mitchell: No question about it. Playing gritty, rough rock and roll, these guys definitely know Ono. I even got a mid-set shout out– made me feel pretty cool.
Steady Betty (9:00pm – 9:40pm at Waterworks)
Mitchell: I don’t think Stephanie caught this band, but they rocked. An all female classic rock outfit with punk tendencies destroyed Waterworks, which is essentially a super nice restaurant transformed into a grungy dive bar. Super cool.
Stephanie: I didn’t catch these guys, and am so bummed. Always in support of all-female groups that know how to rock.
Alpenglow (10:00pm – 11:00pm at Oak 45)
Stephanie: What a difference a little time in Brooklyn makes for a band. Alpenglow have fine-tuned their sound and positioned themselves in a less folky, more psychedelic place and they sound amazing. They’re all grown up now.
Mitchell: I almost feel spoiled to have seen them grow up over the years. It’s not something you get to experience with many bands. Their songs have transformed from simple ditties into groovy, post-folk journeys. Graeme’s voice is cosmic, constantly surrounding you in a celestial blanket.
Stephanie: Spoiled is an apt description – Alpenglow is definitely part of the soundtrack of the last five years of my life.
Mitchell: And fitting that both of us had to find ways to sneak in because the place was packed…
Day 2 – Saturday, May 2
Iron Eyes Cody (12:00pm – 12:40pm at The Monkey House)
Stephanie: Definitely one of my highlights: Iron Eyes Cody get better and better with each show they play, honing their stage presence as well as building their music to new heights. Renn Mulloy’s voice could start a war; it’s that good. Not to be missed either is frontman and guitarist Evan Allis who might just be the folk-rock version of Mick Jagger.
Mitchell: They really do. Evan Allis is a rock star, no question about it. But, the band has this amazing energy on stage that compliments Allis’ Jagger/Springsteen vibe. And for me, what makes them so good is the saxophone. Six foot, seven inch Mark Balderston is a king up there, blowing his sax and belting his back up harmonies. Indie folk has never sounded so good.
Stephanie: Now I feel bad I forgot to mention how essential the saxophone is to their sound. Mark Balderston is indeed a king.
The Fatheads (1:00pm – 1:40pm at The Monkey House)
Mitchell: Another band that I was stoked to see. Fatheads are a party blues band that takes traditional blues standards and turns them upside down. They are fast, gritty, forceful and their bellies are full of pie (and usually beer and mead).
Stephanie: The Fatheads turned a Saturday afternoon Monkey House into a real party. With gruff vocals and hard-hitting blues-infused songs Fatheads prove that 3 is a party.
Mitchell: “If you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together.” I felt like that was our mantra of the weekend.
Swale (3:15pm – 4:00pm at Outdoor Stage)
Mitchell: Dinosaur Jr. crossed with a bit of Vermont swag. Their songs structures are very interesting: using only a few chords, many of their songs feature long, drawn out progressions with affected organ sounds layered on top of heavy, textured guitar.
Stephanie: When I grow up I wanna be in a band like Swale.
Sun Parade (3:50pm – 4:20pm at The Monkey House)
Stephanie: I somehow stumbled upon Sun Parade’s bandcamp a couple of years ago and so I insisted we go. I told Mitchell they would be “cute and fun” and they were so much more than that. Their latest album adds some much-needed psych-rock undertones to their sound – definitely one of my favorite shows of the weekend.
Mitchell: Surprise band of the weekend for me. Right after Swale, you said, “We are going Sun Parade. Its going to be amazing.” And you were so right. Really glad to have caught their set. To me, they had a bit of a Dr. Dog vibe to them, which I really liked.
Lowell Thompson (4:15pm – 5:00pm at Outdoor Stage)
Mitchell: Vermont music legend– this guy has been making faithful roots rock music for over a decade now. He’s also a member of Barbacoa. Lowell is an old soul with a penchant for beautiful songwriting. His live show rocks as hard as anyone you’ll see.
Stephanie: Lowell Thompson has the quintessential Burlington dad vibe and sound.
Mitchell: Yeah, I definitely wish Lowell was my dad.
Barbacoa (6:30pm – 7:15pm at 4 Quarters)
Mitchell: Burlington’s premier surf rock outfit. These guys absolutely tore it up at 4 Quarters Brewery. This place was definitely the venue for good ole rock and roll. And they tore up a cover of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” with some interjections of The Munster’s Theme Song and “Secret Agent Man.”
Stephanie: These guys had the stage presence of seasoned musicians with all the silliness of surf rockers. Surf rock and 4 Quarters brews are a match made in heaven.
Mitchell: I couldn’t get my hands off those Funky Monkeys. Who knew banana, Indian Pale Ales, and barbacoa went so well together?
Titus Andronicus (7:30pm – 8:15pm at Outdoor Stage)
Stephanie: Titus Andronicus knows how to rile up a crowd with their pseudo-punk, raucous live act. These guys were the perfect pre-game for King Tuff who played after them. Yet, behind their party rock facade lies some seasoned musicianship.
Mitchell: Psuedo-punk. I like that. I’ve seen these guys before. They are as aggressive as any punk band you’ll see, but their is a high level of musicality involved in their music. The front man also has crazy eyes.
King Tuff (8:45pm – 9:45pm at Outdoor Stage)
Stephanie: Okay, so I’m definitely biased here because I already love King Tuff, but I thought he killed it and his energy came at a perfect time for a Saturday night in Winooski. You can always count on a little grunge for a good time.
Mitchell: Yeah, I’m a big fan as well and their show was kick ass. It took the crowd a minute to warm up and actually start moshing– but once they did, I was proud. Also, Kyle Thomas is a VT native, so people had to get excited about it. They write these grungy tunes with classic rock arrangements. Its pretty killer.
Afraid (9:00pm – 9:45pm at Oak 45)
Mitchell: I’m “afraid” I don’t have much to say about this band. I only caught like 10 minutes of their set, but was impressed by the spacey sounds of this Portland, ME outfit.
Stephanie: Mitchell was too drunk to be Afraid.
Day 3 – Sunday, May 3
Zero Circle (4:30pm – 5:00pm at The Monkey House)
Mitchell: Hard core band featuring a friend and coworker Chris LaPlante on the six string. Although I don’t particularly love hardcore music, I enjoyed Zero Circle because their song structures were unabashedly melodic and even catchy at times.
Madaila (5:00pm – 5:40pm at Outdoor Stage)
Mitchell: Madaila has become part of Burlington music lore. After selling out every night of their Nectar’s residency last October, the band has been on a tear. They released a dope record called The Dance, played an enormous CD release show at Town Hall, and have begun to venture out of Vermont, into NYC, Mass, Maine, and other places around New England. They are also getting a lot of radio play in various markets from Vermont to Colorado. Their show was fantastic. Everyone was dancing and singing along (because by now, the majority of their fans know all their lyrics, myself included).
Stephanie: I had heard tale of Madaila before seeing them live, yet was still struck by how fun their live show was. The soulful vocals paired well with their pulsing party melodies, and they had the whole audience dancing. If they played a set every Saturday night in my apartment I wouldn’t mind.
Mitchell: We’ve actually been working on getting Madaila into Stephanie’s Williamsburg apartment. No word back yet from the band.
Maryse Smith with Michael Chorney (5:45pm – 6:30pm at Bird Folk)
Mitchell: An amazing local singer/songwriter who made a big splash with her recent release, Maryse Smith (pronounced Mar-eese) played to a packed sitting audience at Bird Folk early evening on Sunday. Her stage presence is at once casual and professional. Her voice is both delicate and ferocious. Her lyrics are innocent yet hardened.
Delicate Steve (7:00pm – 7:50pm at Outdoor Stage)
Mitchell: This was the best set of the weekend. Stephanie, terribly sorry that you had to ship back out to Brooklyn at the end of Madaila’s set. D-Steve put on one hell of a show. Having seen them several times before, musically, I knew what to expect. But the combination of a beautiful sunset and an apparently slippery stage launched Steve’s set to the next level. The sound was loud and raucous; the crowd even more so. Everyone danced throughout the set, fueled by their Milagro tequila Palomas and Otter Creek Fresh Slices. Their set concluded with a medley of instrumental classic rock tunes like The Who’s “My Generation.” Delicate Steve is a must see live show.
Stephanie: I may never get over the fact that I missed this show. D-Steve is a true VT homie.
Mitchell: Or the fact that we chilled with him for the remainder of the evening.
The Family Night Band (8:00pm – 10:00pm at Misery Loves Company)
Mitchell: After Delicate Steve, I was compelled to walk across the street to catch the Family Night Band at Misery Loves Co. The Family Night Band is sort of a jam band that plays together every monday at ½ Loung in Burlington. They don’t really practice. They just jam, mostly to jazz/funk tunes like Herbie Handcock’s “Watermelon” and Soulives’ “Rudy’s Way.” Eric Maier of Madaila is a regular in this outfit, constantly showing off his studied jazz keyboard licks
Low Cut Connie (10:00pm – 10:45pm at The Monkey House)
Mitchell: I had been looking forward to this band all weekend. These guys don’t mess around. Well actually, they do a lot of messing around– they specialize in loud, gritty, authentic rockabilly. Frontman Adam Weiner holds it down with his tough-guy attitude and his wild stage antics: pointing at random people in the crowd; dancing on his piano; standing on the piano stool. You know the works. They also do a cool swticheroo thing where Daniel Fennemore, a Birmingham, UK native, takes the mic and plays front man role for his tunes. They were the perfect band to close out the festival.
Well, that’s it from us. Thanks for checking out our review of Waking Windows 5. It was a spectacular weekend of music. We couldn’t have had a better time. Maybe next year, you’ll join us!