Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gig: Wavelength FIFTEEN - Night 3

Wavelength FIFTEEN – Night 3 (feat. Bart / Tenderness / New Fries / Fresh Snow / Mozart's Sister / Look Vibrant / Cellphone)

The Garrison, Sunday, February 15, 2015.

The three nights of this year's Wavelength festival were each loosely themed around the notions of "past", "present" and "future" and it was the third and final night of those that brought the most satisfaction. Focused squarely on emerging bands that are doing great work right now, this is the sort of show that could send people home with a new favourite band they'd be eager to see again. With an extended 4 a.m. last call, it was also a long night with bands on stage from 8:30 'til nearly three in the morning.

Getting things started, Bart packed a lot of music into less than a half-hour on stage. Led by Chris Shannon (ex-Elwins) and Nathan Vanderwielen (ex-Ruby Coast), the pair switched quickly from parallel dual vocal leads and doubled guitar lines to dartingly-interlocking bursts on both. They were backed by Hooded Fang's Lane Halley on guitar as well as Biblical's rhythm section (Andrew Scott and Jay Anderson). With the high vocals, shifting time signatures and fiddly guitar parts, there was definitely a prog rock thing at play here — but (as of yet, anyway) don't expect any side-long suites detailing Middle-earth battles. So far, their album cover style would probably be more pop-art than Roger Dean, reflecting their quick pop-structured songbursts — maybe let's call 'em "jukebox prog" for now. It's that spirit that sees four songs crammed into the twelve minutes of their début Bart by Bart 7". Heady stuff.

Listen to a track from this set here.

With only Steve Reaume's pixelated geometric abstractions lighting the stage, Chrissy Reichert (who performs as Tenderness) played a set focused on the new material that will be making up the project's sophomore album. There's a lot of variation within the cluttered bricolage of her dancefloor-friendly aesthetic, ranging from touches of hip-hop to galloping dabke beats to a gorgeous slo-jam that sounds like the last dance on the last night at church camp. I am admittedly a little partisan when it comes to the Reichert's work, so take it with a grain of salt, perhaps, when I say that this was the night's headliner-quality set.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Up on the big stage, New Fries played a more focused set than when I last saw 'em on New Year's Eve, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily more straightahead, as there were still a series of gestures that seemed designed to destabilize the standard rock-show dynamic. Once again there was a bit of bait-and-switch at the outset, with Ryan Carley's weird fugue-y keyboard lead-in providing accompaniment for some jibbering crooning from bassist Tim Fagan.

Once Anni Spadafora (guit/vox) and Jenny Gitman (drums) kicked in, it lurched back into rock'n'roll mode as the band reeled off the tunes from their Fresh Face Forward (plus a new one!) in a fairly brisk manner. During closer "Plexiglass" (which received a freeze-frame two-chord breakdown that was longer than the song part of the song) a mysterious pale figure in a white gown emerged on stage and assumed a Jesus-y pose before slumping forward. It's art when deliberate gestures are offered without obvious answers, and punk as hell when a band is presenting music with their own coded massages on their own terms.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

Notwithstanding a special night of some live film accompaniment and suchlike, Fresh Snow have been keeping a lower profile since last summer's WL Island show. A split single (with Reel Cod labelmates Mimico) added a cover of "Mony Mony" to their repertoire, and word is that a new EP is in the can and being readied for release. The results of that time away from the stage were apparent in a set that featured almost entirely new material — perhaps considered enough of a novelty that the band presented it in a pretty frills-free manner, sans masks or any of the other dramatic devices they're known for. (Well, there was a fair amount of dry ice.) That left the focus on the music, and it sounds like there's a lot to look forward to as we wait on the band's next release.

Listen to a track from this set here.

I will confess that I initially approached Caila Thompson-Hannant's solo project Mozart's Sister with some probably-unwarranted baggage after having read that she had been a member of Shapes and Sizes — a band that I remember being utterly turned off by at a gig back in '07. That said, the first time I saw this project I was — if not overwhelmingly convinced — able to see that she's on to something in this incarnation. Dance-pop doesn't tend to do much for me, but seeing a second performance managed to push me towards begrudging acknowledgement of what Thompson-Hannant is up to.

It was also a chance to situate her on a spectrum of broadly-similar acts at the festival: next to the previous night's Lowell set, this looked like the work of a musical genus; next to the evening's earlier Tenderness performance, it felt a little tame. Thompson-Hannant's stage manner (complete with dance moves) is engaging and about half the material registered with me, so I'd say the performance netted out somewhere above the meh zone, even if this isn't something I'd go out of my way to see a third time.

Listen to a track from this set here.

That was the programmatic peak of the night, and not unreasonably a lot of the crowd headed home, leaving a lot more elbow room for Montréal's Look Vibrant, a young quartet radiating bouncy energy on stage. The band looked maniacally happy to be performing, and they got the crowd (about half of which seemed to be friends who came along up the 401) jittering along. Their hypercaffeinated tunes came across a bit like listening to a Todd Rundgren tape while mashing down the fast forward button, and while I suppose it was fun, it didn't register as my kind of fun. I wager I'll be more into the next wave of bands that some of these lads will end up in a couple years down the road.

Sending the night off with a roar, Cellphone took the stage at about twenty past two to an even more thinned out crowd. That didn't phase the band, who turned in a solid performance that was one of the best-sounding sets I've heard from them in a while. In the DIY spaces I've mostly seen 'em in, minimal PA scenarios tend to hide the vox and synth behind a wall of guit/bass/drums, but here there was a bit more balance that really showed off their unique thrash/new wave fusion. They seemed to be in the mood to play, and after announcing their last song a couple times they ended up playing on. Hopefully I will run into them in such circumstances again. Well, maybe not quite at three in the morning.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 The set's other moment of punk rock instability came when a noted local musician (with a bit of a confrontational bent) made his way up to the front to tell the horde of photographers (who'd been swarming the front of the stage for the duration of the set) to get their damn cameras out of the way and let people watch the show. Clearly not recognized as someone who had probably played more Wavelengths than some of photographers had attended, he was treated with derisive scorn, and there was a brief moment of weird tension.

No comments:

Post a Comment