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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: September 26, 2017

Go window shopping for shows at Portland arts festival

Written by: Ray Routhier
Rough Francis, a punk band from Burlington, Vermont, is among the artists performing during Waking Windows Portland. Photo by Shayne Lynn

Rough Francis, a punk band from Burlington, Vermont, is among the artists performing during Waking Windows Portland. Photo by Shayne Lynn

If you’re one of those people who says, “I’ve got to get out and see more shows,” then Waking Windows Portland can help you make it happen.

Over the course of two days, Friday and Saturday, you’ll have the chance to see about 100 performances at 17 venues, most within a 10-minute walk of each other in downtown Portland.

The Toughcats

The Toughcats
Photo courtesy of the artist

The shows range from rock, folk and Italian pop bands to theater pieces, rap, comedy and a “lit-crawl” that takes audiences to three venues in a row to hear authors and storytellers.

The event was started three years ago by local arts-minded people who thought Portland deserved, and could support, a large-scale arts and music festival catering to eclectic tastes.

“To me it seemed unfathomable that Portland didn’t have a music and arts festival,” said Peter McLaughlin, one of the organizers. “The mission of this event is to provide a showcase for vibrant performers and artists.”

About half the performers will be from Maine and half from away, while none are household names. In fact, the roster doesn’t even include a lot of the Maine bands that play Portland often, which is by design, McLaughlin said. The idea is to bring in artists and genres people in Portland don’t get much of a chance to see.

One example is Tredici Bacci, a 14-piece orchestra from New York City playing Italian pop tunes. Another is California-based performance artist Chani Bockwinkel, who will perform a piece called “Justin Bieber Ted Talk.” She’ll at times be in character as the pop singing sensation.

Here’s a clip from Tredici Bacci:

There’ll be rap performances by Maine-based rapper Milo, as well as Chicago-based rapper and comedian Open Mike Eagle.

Musical performances will include Toughcats, a folk-rock and bluegrass band from North Haven; Lina Tullgren, an indie-rock songwriter originally from South Berwick; the No BS Brass Band from Virginia; O’Death, an alt-country band from Brooklyn, New York; and Rough Francis, a punk band from Burlington, Vermont.

Authors and storytellers will perform as well. The free Page Burner Reading Series will take place Saturday afternoon. It’s a “lit-crawl” that lets the audience hear from five or more authors or storytellers at each of three venues: Tandem Coffee, One Longfellow Square and Local Sprouts.

There will also be a free synthesizer “petting zoo” at the Portland Museum of Art Saturday afternoon, where people can fool around with vintage synthesizers. And Maine Ballroom Dance on Congress Street will be the site of a record fair on Saturday.

Xenia Rubinos Photo courtesy of the artist

Xenia Rubinos
Photo courtesy of the artist

McLaughlin and others got the idea for the event after hearing about a festival in Winooski, Vermont, near Burlington, that’s also called Waking Windows. A group of Portland arts enthusiasts worked with the Winooski organizers to create Waking Windows Portland. The first Portland event had eight venues and about 30 performers, while last year’s had 10 venues and more than 60 performers.

McLaughlin, who is the music programmer at Space Gallery, said the event is run by volunteers with help from some sponsors.

He says the name, Waking Windows, is appropriate because the festival has a window-shopping aspect to it.

Tullgren, who played Waking Windows Portland last year, as well, said that’s one of the things she likes best about it. People can browse rock, rap, theater and comedy up and down Congress Street the way they might browse vintage clothes or records.

“I like that there are so many styles and genres all together,” said Tulgren. “You can see a band, then just walk down the block and see another.”

Waking Windows Portland

WHEN: Friday and Saturday, hours vary at each venue
WHERE: At 17 venues in downtown Portland, including Space Gallery, Empire, State Theatre, One Longfellow Square, Blue, Tandem Coffee and Bakery, Local Sprouts, Flea for All and others
HOW MUCH: $5 to $15 for individual venues, or $15 to $35 for passes that allow access for one or two days of the event
INFO: wakingwindowsportland.com
WHAT ELSE: More than 85 performers, from Maine and away, including musicians, performance artists, rappers, comedians and more.
HIGHLIGHTS: Tredici Bacci, a 14-piece orchestra playing Italian pop tunes, 10:30 p.m. Saturday, One Longfellow Square, 181 State St.; theater piece titled “Justin Beiber Ted Talk” by Chani Bockwinkel, 9:35 p.m. Friday, Apohadian Theater, 107 Hanover St.; Open Mike Eagle, art-rapper and comedian, 11:50 p.m. Saturday, Empire, 575 Congress St.; Toughcats, folk-rock and bluegrass band from North Haven, 11:10 p.m. Saturday, lobby of State Theatre, 609 Congress St.; Page Burner Reading Series, a “lit-crawl” that lets the audience hear from five or more authors or storytellers at each of three venues, starts 1 p.m. Saturday, Tandem Coffee, 742 Congress St.

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