There are certain rituals of a Burlington summer that simply must be performed. Watching the ketchup chase the mustard around the bases at a Lake Monsters game, certainly; tiptoeing around the zebra mussels while wading out at Oakledge, yes. But perhaps the most satisfying of these rites is the gathering of friends, neighbors, and visitors to watch musicians enjoy what must be the finest view from any stage along their respective tours.

Concerts at Waterfront Park just hit different. There's a particular energy the open sky provides. From 2011 until 2019, the Grand Point North Festival was among the most anticipated of these annual gatherings. Presented by Grace Potter and Higher Ground, GPN began as a homecoming of sorts for its namesake rock diva, who over the years has programmed musical pals including Jackson Browne, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Trey Anastasio, and many others, with each year's lineup bolstered by a concerted focus on local acts.


Grand Point North Concert on the Burlington Waterfront

Photo by Rick Levinson courtesy of Higher Ground


As Covid was want to do, it messed things up for GPN. The festival was mothballed, its future uncertain as the live music industry worked desperately to regain its footing. But now, with the requisite stars aligned, Grand Point North has reinvigorating itself as a four-day concert series, doubling down on its two-day iteration.

The pandemic disrupted a lot of things in the world of performing arts, but the one that hit home hard was Grand Point North,” says Higher Ground co-founder Alex Crothers. “It took some clever thinking but we’ve evolved the beloved festival into an exciting concert series with plenty of the same interesting aspects that fans came to love at GPN.”


Grand Point North - Grace Potter Waterfront Concert

Photo by Rick Levinson courtesy of Higher Ground


Grammy-nominated Grace Potter is one of Vermont's most enduring musical exports. Throughout a career that's toured through its share of physical and spiritual locales, the artist has always remained rooted in her native state. Recently, Potter announced the Grand Point Foundation, a benefit for the tightknit creative community of Vermonters that helped inspire, launch, and sustain her career.

"I witnessed how we showed up for each other as neighbors time and time again, throughout the pandemic and last year with the catastrophic flooding," Potter says. "I want to create that same activation and response for our artists.”

The foundation will support existing organizations focused on arts education and cultural programming, awarding a yearly stipend to Vermont artists with a very Vermonty goal: to keep Vermont weird.

Grand Point North honors that commitment at the Waterfront this year by including as a headliner one of the most celebrated weirdo bands of all time, The Flaming Lips. While locals may remember catching the Lips at GPN in 2015, the upcoming sold-out Friday-slotted show is notably stoke-worthy, with Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma City psych-pop rockers touring through with a 20th anniversary celebration of their 2004 masterpiece, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.


Grand Point North Waterfront Concert Burlington VT

Photo by Rick Levinson courtesy of Higher Ground

"To know that you’re gonna play a song that is going to really affect people, that’s an amazing feeling," Coyne told Consequence of Sound regarding the band revisiting Yoshimi song-for-song.

Along with the Lips, the Head and the Heart add key appendages to Potter's musical behemoth. The Seattle-based indie rockers open the concert series on Thursday, with singer-songwriter Phosphorescent in tow.

A serious helping of local flavor fills out the Saturday and Sunday portions of the series ahead of Potter's closing sets. From the surrealistic sound pillows of Acqua Mossa and the self-describing All Night Boogie Band to the flip-side tenderness of Henry Jamison and Marcie Hernandez, the series is wired in a well-curated sequence of summer playlist bangers. Artists-on-the-rise such as Michael Marcagi, Anderson East, and Ali McGuirk are the rainbow sprinkles on the programmatic creemee.

Though once-regular Waterfront festivities such as the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival and Twiddle's Tumbledown appear to have sunsetted into the shimmering deep, Grand Point North will graciously return. And in the comforting callback of familiar fare, Potter will shred her Flying V, seagulls will scout for untended crepes, and in a full-throated elder-Millennial sing-along, the Lips will again help us realize the beautifully fleeting nature of our time together under the stars and floating in space.


Secure your tickets today for Grand Point North!