WILLIAMSTOWN -- Billstock -- Williamstown’s small, local music festival -- is becoming a bigger deal.
Now in its fourth year, Billstock is expanding into its largest venue to date, the Williamstown Community Preschool on Main Street, for performances by 12 bands on Friday and Saturday.
Bands will perform in the sanctuary of what is the former Methodist Episcopal Church, which can accommodate larger audiences than the festival’s previous venues, such as Hops and Vines and the New Hope Methodist Church.
"I just love the idea of our community having such a beautiful spot for events," said Michael Williams, who organizes the festivals. "It seems like a win-win situation. It will help out the Community Preschool, and it also is a great setting for a live event."
Hops and Vines hosted Billstock III in its barroom last year, but with mixed reactions from guests in the adjoining dining room.
Manager Michelle Forth believes a separate venue will offer a smoother ride all-around.
"It wasn’t that we were necessarily unhappy with it last year, but it wasn’t really a great fit," Forth said. "We were limited in the amount of people we could have in, and [the sanctuary] is just going to offer so much more space."
Though it’s not hosting the music, Hops and Vines remains involved in Billstock. The restaurant is setting up a bar at the festival and will deliver food from its restaurant across the street.
Billstock IV represents a blend of new and established musicians.
"We’re expanding, broadening the geographic reach a little bit, but still remaining true to our commitment to local music." Williams said.
To be eligible to play Billstock, a band must have at least one member with direct ties to Williamstown.
Brice Green, a junior at Williams whose post-punk band The Gentleman Art Thieves will perform Friday, said his luck in finding local gigs has improved since his first Billstock performance last year. The band now performs every week, and it hopes to play at least once more at Hops and Vines this year.
Benefit concerts, informal gatherings, and institutional programming all help to foster the local music scene, said Karl Mullen, a local musician and visual artist.
"There is a bit of a buzz about what’s going on in Williamstown and different people playing together, so it’s an exciting time," Mullen said. "I think in general there is an awareness that there is an audience. I think where there is an audience, you find the businesses and the bars are interested in that."
Mullen’s new band, Oxenofthesun (the name comes from James Joyce’s "Ulysses"), will debut at Billstock on Friday.
Coinciding with Billstock III last year, Mullen produced "Exile on Spring Street," a compilation of songs by Williamstown-based bands, including several that have played at Billstock. The CD will be for sale this weekend, along with new Billstock T-shirts, and CDs by local favorites The Mommyheads and Jane Hudson.
Billstock IV is Friday and Saturday, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., at Williamstown Community Preschool on Main Street.
Tickets are $10 for both nights, $7 for one night, and $5 for students. For tickets and info, visit billstock.wordpress.com.