The Waking Windows Festival in Portland Features Local Comedians, Musicians, Writers

This weekend kicked off the second annual Waking Windows Festival in Portland, Maine. The festival featured musicians, comedians, and writers at local establishments in the Arts District of downtown Portland. Originally started in 2011 in Winooski, VT by Paddy Reagan and Nick Mavodones, Waking Windows has attracted thousands of people to northwest Vermont and spread to Portland in 2015. While the Vermont Waking Windows takes place in May, the Portland Waking Windows took place last weekend.The festival seemed very organic and personal, with participants chatting easily together. There was no rigid formalities, security, or insistent schedule. People wandered in and out of venues, perusing lineups and walking up and down Congress Street.

For $25 a ticket, festival-goers saw acts like No Chill Comedy at Empire, a venue on Congress Street, hosted by Annie Russell and featuring comedians Gary Petersen and Will Green. Russell put No Chill Comedy together from friends’ suggestions, leading her to Green and Petersen.

A Michigan native, Green moved to the Portland area where he became a regular at the Portand Comedy Connection group. From discussing (in detail) an amazing scalp massage in his act to bemoaning the consistent reminders of monster moose along Maine highways, Green seems to have adjusted to life in Maine with gusto and hilarity.

Petersen, a staple in the Boston comedy scene, vividly described in his set everything from his current living situation with his father to spending his life’s savings on a Wendy’s sandwich. Offstage, Petersen is much quieter than his onstage persona might suggest, but says he can’t get enough of performing. He described his process in an interview with The Echo as trying to be in the moment as much as possible but following general patterns that he’s worked on beforehand. Performing as an opener for Louis C.K. was one of the highlights of his career, as Louis C.K. is one of his inspirations.

Petersen’s advice to young comedians is that “[comedy] is like going into a pool. Don’t dip your toe in: you have to just jump in.” In order to celebrate and promote his upcoming comedy album, Petersen will be road tripping around the country, camping in national parks and touring in big cities.

Down the street, eclectic band Bad Mariachi played at Tandem Coffee, a local coffee hotspot that has been a venue for Waking Windows since the festival’s inception. Based on the suggestions of friends, the owners of Tandem Coffee decided to host a literary Page Burner series in 2015 and continued the tradition this year, with the addition of musicians.

Bad Mariachi came together in the weeks before Waking Windows and were even taking suggestions for their setlist in the minutes before their show began. This spontaneity seems characteristic for the Waking Windows festival; many of the shows venues and performers seem to have come together through communication between friends and peers in the Portland art scene. The atmosphere was local and community centered; performers cited recommendations from friends for their involvement, and there were personal connections to many of the shows.

The Echo thanks WMHB for their involvement in acquiring press passes.