Kikagaku Moyo, photo by Amy Farrell
Day One: Friday the 13th.
A morning walk through Burlington shows you why folks endure six months of coarse Vermont winters for this first summer weekend. Seventy and sunny, a tender May breeze rolls from Lake Champlain through the busheling greens which outline the paint chipped Victorian houses.
About a mile and half down the road,just over the Winooski falls, Waking Windows volunteers bustle around the town’s rotary, darting between the fifteen bars and businesses acting as venues for the weekend’s festivities. There’s a lot to prepare for when you’re hosting over 200 performers.
At the first rotary exit over bridge, a quaint mainstage sits patiently for a substantive slough of headliners in Japanese Breakfast, Dinosaur Jr, and the soon-to-be-disbanded Kikagaku Moyo, among others. Two stone throws away, the stage in Rotary Park prepares for a bill of touring artists punctuated by talented Burlington scenesters.
Paddy Reagan, 38, started Waking Windows with four friends back in 2010. A local musician and promoter, Reagan just wanted a place for his band and friends to play. What sprung forth was a twelve-day-long run of shows at a cozy Winooski bar called the Monkey House.
“[Waking Windows] is a sort of that thing where you realize that things happen because people make them happen. We were just inspired by this other small festival and decided to try something similar.” said Reagan.
That first year Future Islands played to a crowd of eighty in the Monkey Bar, they were supposed return in 2020 for the decade anniversary, but COVID scrapped that. Returning in 2022 for its first sold-out festival, the approach to Waking Windows remains the same:
“The goal is, and was to, to get our friends who we live with, and we see every day walking around, on a similar playing field as those other bands who are out there touring and have lots of experience,” explains Reagan, “and just show side by side that, like, there is so much talent in Burlington.”
The festival begins where it always has, the Monkey Bar. The Enemy of the People, a local roots-rock outfit made up of employees from the Winooski News, catches a sparse crowd of five-o-clock drinkers off guard.
Opening with “Sonny Take A Drink”, “Reverend” Diane Sullivan leads the Enemy’s with an infectious charisma. After finishing up a love ballad, Sullivan quips “that one’s about my boss, this next one’s called ‘Sausage and Drugs’”.
While Enemy of the People proved that old-dogs can bite, across the street at Rotary Park one of Burlington’s many blooming post-punk outfits take the stage. The four piece known as Greaseface typifies the “shoe-gazi” undertones of an indie-folk adjacent scene.
Sounding a little out of place in the bright midday stage as opposed to a dingy DIY show, Greaseface’s music is swathed in lurching riffs running in hypnotic circles until the tube-screamers are turned on for idiosyncratic breakdowns (see “Whitewash”).
Back at the Monkey House, the other major camp of local taste is on display. Local jam/post-rock act, Sad Turtle, has the heads shaking their bones with neo-jazz improvisation comparable to the Mattson 2 or Elephant Proof.
Jam and psych artists appear throughout the bill and while many of them are fresh faces, lauded Japanese psychedelic outfit, Kikagaku Moyo, gather on the Waking Window mainstage as a part of their farewell tour.
A huge applause breaks out as the quintet of long-haired Tokyoians pick up their instruments. After a short jam lead by sitarist, Ryu Kurosawa, the band launches into “Cardboard Pile.” The recently released track begins in an ever-ascending drone, speeding upwards before leaping into a pocketed groove with an atmospheric jam to finish.
“Tree Smoke” picks up where the opener left off, rocking back and forth between sonorous chords, Kurosawa’s sitar dances over the band like a string of smoke from kindling. The lilting melodies soon smolder into fuzzed-out coda which gets the crowd headbanging. Not only does the band connect to the festival’s psych-edge but also the grungier obsessions of the scene: a prime example of the festival’s delightful curation.
Tomo Katsurda moves over to the percussion from his guitar for an astral interlude of textures. The band looks to another, huddles, nods as they navigate the inbetween from the coda; captivating is the performance of this passing great. Mid-way through Kikagaku Moyo, night has finally fallen in Winooski and a bright young star is winning over the Rotary crowd.
With dance-forward tracks like “Move Like This” and “Sinner” Chicago MC, “Disco” Ric Wilson, has Waking Windows line-dancing shortly into his set. The Terrace Martin collaborator took control of the intimate setting, constantly bantering and stepping into the crowd throughout the performance. Halfway through the show Wilson announces he has upcoming projects with Stevie Wonder.
Dinosaur Jr. takes the mainstage around ten to a packed crowd. The performance opened with new numbers “Bulbs of Passion” and “I Ain’t” featuring a ripping bass solo from shred-god J Mascis. The band brought the volume with an elongated fifteen song setlist that included seven(!) guitar changes for Mascis, a massive mosh pit during “Mountain Man”, a commercial airliner flyover during “Start Choppin” (which got an audible “woooah” from the crowd), and an extended shred-fest on “Gargoyle” to close the show.
A two-minute walk to the Waterworks Riverhouse restaurant yielded an at-capacity backroom for the ongoing Guy Ferrari show. A local favorite of organizer Paddy Reagan, the outfit did not disappoint the late-night crowd with energetic performances of “Slalom” and “Lights Out”.
The last outstanding performance of day-one goes to Boston’s Guerilla Toss. Thoroughly synthesized and “out-there” with a never-stationary front woman in Kassie Karlson, tracks like “Can I Get The Real Stuff” were perfect for a crowd of tiny-tattooed, septum ringed hipsters.