Taking an idea or place laying quietly dormant and giving it new life is a process  often witnessed in the city of Detroit. Waking Windows co-founder Nick Mavodones III has mirrored this concept in developing the Waking Windows Festival seven years ago in Vermont- and it’s now hitting Southwest Detroit’s El Club on July 21-23th 2017.  The festival has come a long way since its origin in Winooski, Vermont; it is now traveling to Portland, Maine with a pit stop in the Motor City.

Photo credit, Britt Shorter

In the summer of 2010 Nick Mavodones and friend Paddy Reagan (Paper Castles) were offered a chance to curate music for Burlington’s Other Music Festival, a local jazz, rock, folk and acoustic festival put on by Pete Negroponte. After the initial year of the Other Music Festival its former ringleader receded, giving Mavodones and Reagan a chance evolve the showcase for the following year. The two moved the event to a sparse, yet redeveloping downtown in Winooski, VT.  In a sea of vacancy, the duo saw treasure. They sought to utilize all of the city’s empty storefronts and closed windows to nest their infant music festival. Mavodones recalls:

Along the rotary there were new spaces that were completely empty. We were sitting at The Monkey House [venue] one morning listening to some tracks from artists that were coming through the space and a song title was called ‘Walking Man’ or something along those lines. We had been talking about all the empty store fronts and the windows that were always closed and Paddy thought ‘Waking Windows’ could be fun since it would mean that all these empty spots would be opening for just a few days to showcase all this rad music and art. The first year we hosted it back in 2011 it lasted roughly two weeks and each night we had a different local musician, DJ or record label curate a night. Our headliner that year was Future Islands.

Learning from ups and downs, Mavodones and Reagan enlisted associates Ali Fogel (Monkey House), Matt Rogers (World Café Live) and Brian Nagle (Disco Phantom) to complete the five member Waking Windows crew. To date, the group has put on seven Waking Windows festivals in Vermont and two in Portland, Maine with the help of their local point person Peter Mclaughlin. Founder Mavodones moved to Detroit, Michigan last November to begin employment as General Manager at Southwest’s El Club, and his production crew is tagging right behind him, bringing the festival to the venue July 21-23.

The veteran event-planners are keeping the signature rock, folk and indie sounds of Waking Windows with their Detroit appearance, while adding in some local flavor. Founder Mavodones explains:

Each night of the festival has a little something different:

Friday and Sunday are more on the indie rock end. The headliners for Friday  are Whitney / Priests / Mary Lattimore / Margaret Glaspy / Julie Byrne / Low Cut Connie / Rough Francis ( VT based buds and the sons of Detroit’s DEATH) – along with locals Craig Brown Band / Moonwalks / YOU. / Empty Houses.

Saturday is a Hip Hop/ R&B/ Funk dance party – Headliners include Dam Funk (+ full band) – Moodymann – Bevlove – Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors years ago) – Jay Arner and a crew of locals as well as WW co-organizer out of VT – Disco Phantom. Each night will have DJs playing all different sorts of tunes on the patio as well as in between all sets etc. Hopefully folks will attend more than one night and see one act they know then fall in love with a lesser known act or one of the out of state acts that are making their Detroit debut.

As a recent resident in the city of Detroit, Mavodones is enthused that his new position at at El Club, which has enabled him to engage with local acts, and find a home for them on the lineup. “We learned in Portland, ME that to get the folks out, no matter how big of a headliner you have its usually great and beneficial all around to get the stand out local acts that the local scene is excited to see.”

When asked to describe the festival in a word, Mavodones chose the word “community- so far in the last seven years and nine festivals, I have to say that the one word that comes up a lot and really allows us to build and get better each year would be community.”

From community assistance with making the festival possible, to sponsors like Two James Distillery and Shinola Detroit to bringing out community members in the audience and putting some on stage, Waking Windows is excited to engage with Detroit by bringing visiting artists to Detroit while showing off  the city’s local gems.  Mavodones states that he and his crew are “certainly shooting to keep it [the festival’s Detroit presence] going. ”  After the first year’s appearance in Detroit the team plans to “see what works and what doesn’t then potentially brainstorm and work with the community to build out from the first year.” Mavodones continues, “We would love to keep it up and establish more local relationships within the music community.”

Don’t miss your chance to experience the first year of Waking Windows in Detroit.

Day 1 Pass available here


Day 2 pass available here


Day 3 pass available here

Weekend pass available here


[Featured photo credit: Brian Jenkins]