Day Two: Full Moon

Waking Window’s focus on community extends past their legion of volunteers and down to their morning activities. Saturday afternoon kicks-off with Drag Queen Story Hour, wherein Queens Emoji Nightmare and Katniss Everqueer read books at the festival’s “kid zone”. The show contains wholesome tale telling, bubble blowing, and an ASL crash course for the kiddos.

The opposite side of the rotary from Drag Queen Story Hour, folks filter in and out of the Stoplight Gallery, emerging with trinkets and prints from local businesses and artisans. The way Paddy Regan sees it, Waking Windows is a “mechanism to help bolster our community” and “inject [Winooski] with some culture, but also some financial support.”

While Waking Windows interjects world music acts like the Costa Rican stylings of Mal Maiz or the good-timing reggaeton of A2VT, but there is no denying it’s a rural town surrounded by pastures.

Seemingly drawing inspiration from the local honky-tonk Tuesdays and slogging winters, local Greg Freeman takes the Rotary stage with his band. A seven piece group complete with two saxophones and a lap steel, Freeman’s “Towers” humors Songs: Ohia’s Jason Molina but with a backroad twang and a foot on the gas.

Freeman’s set has all the fuzz and hypnotic melancholy of his Burlington peers but with additional instrumentation which pushed it above and beyond. Whether it was the backing vocals of bassist Lily Seabird, the lifting interplay of the brass, or just the novelty of the lap steel; the dynamic range of the band was broad, hitting on hues from jazz to grunge and emotions from catharsis to longing.

Amongst the sizable crowd for Freeman were the Burlington musicians, attending in support of their friends. It seems everyone plays in at least three bands of exchanging lineups, and it seems all of them made a concerted effort to get to the mainstage for Dry Cleaning.

The first heavy clouds of the weekend roll in as the South London post-punkers open with “Scratchcard Lanyard”. Guitarist Tom Dowse’s flanging riffs cycle around Lewis Maynard’s spiny basslines, both very animated on their respective stage-sides. A static foil to her bandmates, Florence Shaw’s hands-in-pocket aloofness is paired with a suspicious stare into nothingness, always panning as if she sees something the crowd doesn’t. Between songs Shaw quips “No storm yet, but it feels a bit weird- heavy air, yeah?”.

The frantic riffs of “Magic of Meghan” begin, and like an oracle of modern absurdity, Shaw’s fierce monotone speaks tongues over the band’s looping dissonances: “Never has one outfit been designed to send so many messages. Earrings to empower women. Handbag for charity. Cruelty-free coat.”

Japanese Breakfast, photo by Amy Farrell

Dry Cleaning had the crowd spellbound through their chugging oddity, but the set rapped in forty-minutes on account of the “heavy air”. In the meantime, the largest crowd of the weekend swells in preparation for the Grammy-nominated, Japanese Breakfast.

Laser lights dance across the Winooski brick as a full moon hangs overhead, the marching bliss of “Paprika” rolls over the packed crowd. The gusting wind makes the building horn-lines and crashing gong feel like “the center of magic”. Dancing erupts as “Be Sweet” begins, and with no photo barrier Michelle Zeuner reaches into the crowd and sings to her fans directly.

In the break after “Kokomo, IN”, Zeuner announces the news that Japanese Breakfast will be playing the season finale to Saturday Night Live. To grand applause, she also mentions craving a hotdog, which a fan delivers to the stage prior to “Glider”, a track from Zeuner’s video game soundtrack. The intimate evening comes to a close with a couple bites of hot dog and boisterous renditions of “Everybody Wants To Love You” and “Driving Woman”. Needless to say, nothing about the festival’s headliners disappointed.

Two bands from nearby Brattleboro, Vermont highlighted night two. Dari Bay, an outfit led by Guy Ferrari and Lily Seabird drummer Zack James, had twisting and turning compositions befitting a post-punk drummer. On numbers like “Jackhammer Knife” and “Under My Bed” the shoe-gazi sound was hitting on all cylinders, crawling toward you like a feedback monster on all fours. Despite the wonky disposition, most Dari Bay (and Guy Ferrari) songs were nicely balanced by subtle pop-sensibilities.

Back at the Monkey House the crowd is packed to the brim to catch the recently Captured Tracks signed three piece, Thus Love. Driving bass lines underplay the Viet Cong-esque riffing of “Inamorato”. Lead singer Echo Mars strangles and throws her guitar as if it’s an attacking python. Explosive and danceable, the no-wave stylings of Thus Love is definitely something music fans should look out for.

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