The best thing about the Waking Windows Festival in Winooski is its wealth of intriguing underground music. But for casual music fans, that overabundance is also its most challenging aspect. Occupying venues both conventional (the Monkey House) and nontraditional (Stoplight Gallery, the Winooski Welcome Center) around the Onion City’s infamous roundabout, the two-day indie-music fest offers an embarrassment of riches that can be overwhelming. Looking at this year’s slate of 40-plus bands — representing genres from straight-ahead rock and folk to the furthest reaches of experimental music — it’s hard to know where to start.
What follows is a primer on Waking Windows III, which runs from Friday, May 10, through Saturday, May 11. It is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, use this as a starting point on a musical treasure map that will lead you to a bounty of sonic delights.
Oh, one more thing. You can buy an individual ticket for any show at WWIII, usually for about $5. But we recommend buying the weekend pass. At $20, it’s probably the best local-music deal going. And it gets you into every show, space permitting.
Grateful Dead have Deadheads. Jimmy Buffet has Parrotheads. And Happy Jawbone Family Band have — you guessed it — Boneheads. While the fan base for this little-known Brattleboro-based band may be smaller than those heady counterparts, it’s growing in number, especially on the heels of rave reviews for HJFB’s latest record, Tastes the Broom. Something of a career retrospective released by hip Brooklyn label Mexican Summer, the album culls the best tracks from the band’s voluminous canon, presenting a wide assortment of lo-fi experimental-pop gems with cheeky titles such as “Now Everybody Rock Like You Got AIDS,” “At the Hotel Double Tragedy” and “Martian Santa.” The band’s gleefully shabby garage-rock may not suit everybody, but if you’re looking to explore the edges of the local scene, Jawbone are a good place to start.
Recommended If You Like (RIYL): Times New Viking, Half Japanese, Blanche Blanche Blanche
Where to See Them (WTST): Stoplight Gallery, Friday, May 10, 10:30 p.m.
Anders Parker has had a pretty good run of late. Last summer he released a critically lauded tribute to Woody Guthrie, New Multitudes, with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar, Centromatic’s Will Johnson and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Earlier this year, the Burlington-based songwriter submitted Wild Chorus, a duets album with songwriter Kendall Meade of Mascott, which has been well received in Americana circles and likened to classic duos such as June Carter and Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, and Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
RIYL: Varnaline, She & Him, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris
WTST: Winooski Welcome Center, Friday, May 10, 8:30 p.m.
Alpenglow’s riveting late-afternoon set was the surprise hit of last year’s Waking Windows Festival. Virtually unheard of at the time, the band thrilled a small crowd at the Stoplight Gallery with lush, atmospheric indie-folk that merits favorable comparisons to Fleet Foxes and the Low Anthem. In the months since, the Middlebury-based fivesome have become scene darlings. Their forthcoming debut album is hotly anticipated ’round these parts.
RIYL: Fleet Foxes, Delta Spirit, the Low Anthem
WTST: Winooski Methodist Chu-rch, Saturday, May 11, 8:30 p.m.
Named one of the 50 Best New Bands in America” by the Boston Phoenix (RIP) in 2012, Northampton, Mass.’ Speedy Ortiz are set to rock your face off in 2013. The quartet will follow up last year’s deliciously ironic EP, Sports, with a debut full-length, Major Arcana, later this summer. In the meantime, they’ve just released a ridiculously catchy seven-inch single, “Ka-Prow” on Inflated Records that has incited a minor tizzy in the blogosphere. That includes the good folks at Stereogum, who write that the band is “one of the best and most exciting upcoming bands of 2013, period.”
RIYL: Dead Wives, Dogs Without Borders, ovlov
WTST: The Monkey House, Saturday, May 11, 11 p.m.
Burlington’s tooth ache. — aka Alexandria Hall — specializes in what she calls “electronic downer pop.” That’s a fairly accurate description for her hauntingly melancholy, synth-heavy pop suites. Since the release of a seven-inch single, “Skin,” on Father/Daughter Records in 2010 and a follow-up full-length, Flash & Yearn, in 2011, Hall has garnered an increasingly larger and devoted national following, thanks to numerous glowing reviews across the blogosphere.
RIYL: Beach House, St. Vincent, Braids
WTS Her: Winooski Welcome Center, Saturday, May 11, 9 p.m.
If WWIII had a designated headlining act, the Luyas would likely be it. Featuring former members of the Bell Orchestre and Arcade Fire, the Montréal-based quartet trade in contemplative art-pop couched in complex and sophisticated arrangements. Taking advantage of a sprawling variety of instruments, including horns, strings and an electric 12-string zither, the band’s 2012 record, Animator, was widely hailed by critics as a deeply ambitious affair, and a profound departure from their earlier, more pop-centric work.
RIYL: Portishead, the Dodos, Silver Apples
WTST: Winooski Welcome Center, Saturday, May 11, 11 p.m.
Burlington and Portland, Maine, have long shared a musical kinship. That sibling revelry is reflected in this year’s WWIII lineup, which boasts several super-cool Forest City bands, including Brenda. The indie-rock outfit’s debut record, Silver Tower, caught the ear of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who invited the group to play at the original incarnation of his Solid Sound festival in 2010. Brenda’s latest record, Fix Your Eyes, released last month, finds the band further exploring the nexus of early rock and roll and modern indie atmospherics, delivering a sublimely hooky affair that is both sonically adventuresome and accessible.
RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Dr. Dog, Built to Spill
WTST: The Monkey House, Saturday, May 11, midnight.
Waking Windows III, Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, at various locations and times in downtown Winooski. $20 weekend pass. wakingwindows.com
The original print version of this story was headlined "Wake-Up Call"
Mike Santosusso: I've seen SB a few times and I think they are fantastic.
Rachael Townsend: well done! But John Townsend plays the drum kit, not Saraca!
glenbrow: Wow! Great article.. very inspiring. Is there a way to find a schedule of where they are playing?
glenbrow: Wow ... great article. Inspiring! Is there any way to find out the schedule of where they are…
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