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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: September 17, 2018

Waking Windows Portland is back and more eclectic than before

Written by: Bob Keyes

It takes a few years for a festival to find its footing. The first year is an experiment. The second year brings refinements. The third year, things find their groove.

The fourth year, anything is possible. That is where we find Waking Windows Portland, which in its fourth year has become one of Portland’s high-profile and anticipated events, showcasing music, art, comedy, literature and big ideas with a mix of local, regional, national and international bands, DJs, writers, comedians and performers.

Waking Windows Portland is a two-day festival, beginning Friday, at 17 venues in Bayside and the Arts District.

“We really have a bigger and more exciting and brighter event in every way possible, and one that is diverse and inclusive and a showcase of a wide swatch of things happening in Portland and Maine and New England and beyond, as well,” said one of the festival’s organizers, Peter McLaughlin, the music programmer at Space Gallery. “The mission of the festival is to fill a void and offer something different than any other event in Portland or the state of Maine. It’s got a focus on showcasing emerging and under-appreciated artists of all types.”

The festival has a frenetic pace, with lots of activities happening simultaneously across the neighborhood. At its best, the festival will feel utopian, as it transforms small spaces and large neighborhoods. Friday night, the focus is on Bayside with events at the Apohadion Theater, Bayside Bowl, the feminist art collective New Fruit and the first public event in a new gathering space, The Public Works, the former public works facility on Alder Street. On Saturday, the activities are across the Arts District – at Space, Empire, Geno’s, Blue, Tandem Coffee, Local Spouts, the Portland Museum of Art, Congress Square and elsewhere.

In all, there are 17 venues, most of them inside. The festival will go on regardless of the weather.

There’s lots of music, readings, a record fair and a non-traditional fashion show. “It’s a community celebration, in that the focus should be on the community,” McLaughlin said. “We try to think about audiences and how to keep people excited and involved and immersed and comfortable, as much as we are thinking about curating all the performers and the festival programming itself.”

The festival’s ethos is to introduce new artistic voices to Portland, from within and beyond the community. If a band is headlining at State Theatre or Port City Music Hall, it’s probably not going to perform at Waking Windows. The idea is to introduce people to new artists and ideas, McLaughlin said. About 70 percent of the events are music-oriented. “The exciting reaction for us is to hear after the festival about people who said they came for one band or one event and ended up discovering all these new ones. That’s really what it should be about.”

Among the highlights:

McLaughlin recommended the Friday early-evening festival kick-off on the University of Southern Maine Payson-Smith lawn with performances by Philly rapper-singer-Ivy league graduate Ivy Sole, pan-Latino party band M.A.K.U Soundsystem and Guinean afro-funk seven-piece band Sabouyouma;

Here’s “Por Encima” by M.A.K.U. Soundsystem

– The multi-venue roving Page Burner Reading Series on Saturday with journalists and writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including Kifah Abdullah, Mira Ptacin and Pious Ali, among others;

– A Friday night DJ party at Bayside Bowl.

– A “No Chill” comedy showcase on Saturday at Empire;

– The first public performance by Maine folk singer Jacob Augustine in three years, Saturday night at Blue;

– And a site-specific fashion show, featuring lingerie, in the new The Public Works, on Friday night.

“Part of the ethos of this festival is to blur the lines between the audience and performer,” McLaughlin said. “We’re always chasing the blurring of those lines.”

WAKING WINDOWS PORTLAND

WHEN: Friday night and all day Saturday
WHERE: Across Portland, mostly in Bayside and the Arts District
SCHEDULE & DETAILS: wakingwindowsportland.com
TICKETS: $30 for a two-day pass, $15 Friday only, $25 Saturday only; tickets are available online, at all Bull Moose locations and at the Waking Windows box office in the Space Gallery lobby during the festival.

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