Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Currente calamo: Wavelength FOURTEEN Festival (Night 2)

FOURTEEN: The Wavelength 14th Anniversary Festival

While it's all fresh in my mind, a few notes from this year's WL Fest. Longer, more comprehensive reviews will follow down the road a piece in some far, theoretical future.

Wavelength's annual February festival was a window to the change and continuity from the evolving institution, whose adolescent years are seeing it shift from volunteer collective to professional non-profit organization. The months following last summer's final ALL CAPS! festival saw some long-time organizers stepping back from the group while co-founder Jonny Dovercourt (thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation) remains to steer the ship in a full-time capacity.

The extra resources mean that the festival was a smooth-running affair, though at a few points I mised the rough-around-the edges scrappy spirit of the series' DIY days. (Where have you gone, Doc Pickles? Wavelength nation turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh-woo-woo.) But this was still an essential weekend of presenting some of the city's best emerging talent to a larger audience.

Night 2 — Friday, February 14, 2014

Adelaide Hall — feat. DIANA / Odonis Odonis / Weaves / Most People / MATROX

The Venue & the vibe: With The Great Hall still in a bit of a holding pattern, Wavelength followed the exodus of shows down to the club district to the new-ish Adelaide Hall. I'd been here once before and didn't love the space, but was trying to reserve judgment. But, all things told, it's just not for me. While the sound was good, there was something about the space that just made me feel uncomfortable. Set on two levels, a balcony overlooks the stage, giving a choice of viewing areas. But if you don't get a spot on the railing, the upper level is mostly wasted space. The lower level feels a bit claustrophobic and while there's good views from in front of the stage, it's less ideal to the sides — leading to a big crush of bodies in the central area.

I also got the sense that this space was out to serve someone else's culture. I suspected I was going to get gouged at the bar, but I figured I'd splurge on a glass of wine. When the bartender handed me a plastic cup filled about a third of the way and asked for nine bucks, I was a bit agog:

Me: Wow! That's quite expensive!

Bartender: [bragging rather than regretful] It's a concert venue! Everything's expensive!

Also putting a bit of a damper on the night was the fact that headliner Marnie Stern was caught in a storm and couldn't fly into town. But with Most People quickly added to the bill and the other bands bumped up, it was still a solid show — Wavelength shall prevail over adversity.

The show:

After some technical difficulties, visiting robots MATROX got the night started. There's something about Robo-Gamma (or is that Robo-Beta?)'s bulging froglike eyes that always brings a smile to my face, and as they continue to try and establish communication with Earth's populace (through the media both of saxophone solos and TTC announcements) I sometimes think that maybe it was all for the best that the conquering killbots of the Destructica Overlord Committee sent them to refuge amongst us.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Electro/bedroom pop duo Most People have a sunny vibe that's perfect under summer skies, but even if they were pressed into service at the last moment, they still had some tricks up their sleeve to make them appropriate for winter listening. The clincher in that department was one of the new songs that they closed their set with, its chilly sound reportedly inspired by the opening theme to The Terminator. It may be the best thing that the band has yet done. Sterling work on short notice.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Returning to the night's scheduled programming, the word that Weaves would be performing without drummer Spencer Cole gave some cause for concern, but armed with a drum machine, the band made the most of it, turning in a wholly unique set. Several of the songs were slowed down quite considerably — "Hulahoop" was a lurching zombie skank, for example — but that gave vocalist Jasmyn Burke more space to stretch out her voice. With the quirks and masks she's been employing lately, Burke has made giant steps forward in her stage deportment since her RatTail days, but here she didn't need any props to totally captivate the crowd. The more confined rhythmic structures kept guitarist Morgan Waters a bit more reined-in than he's been lately, but these re-versions were still quite intriguing.

Listen to a track from this set here.

The crowd was now feeling rather packed-in, giving me a slightly claustrophobic, paranoid feeling that wasn't entirely inappropriate to go along with Odonis Odonis. Though we've been hearing some of the songs for quite awhile, the release of the long-awaited Hard Boiled,Soft Boiled is finally upon us, and the trio ripped into the songs in a cold frenzy even though drummer Jarod Gibson explained that every song was going to be a love song (well, there are many kinds of love, I guess). The first thing I had thought upon arriving at Adelaide Hall was that it looks like it's served some time as an underground pit-fighting club, and as the crowd started roiling to OO's tunes, I looked up at the balcony to see if grim dystopian overlords were placing bets on who would be the last audience member standing after some sort of death-disco/deathmatch mêlée. But so far as I know, there were no casualties.

Listen to a song from this set here.

After that, it was as if a switch had flipped somewhere, and suddenly the room was filled with a swaying love-in for DIANA. And, rather than priming the crowd for a new album as Odonis' set had done, this felt much more like a victory lap for the huge success the band had found with last year's Born Again. Like old friends coming back from a trip abroad, the band was sorta just hanging out and sorta showing off a bit — but that just made some little slips (like, oh, a missed bridge that brought a song to a momentary halt) feel like casual laughs. Vocalist Carmen Elle tested the crowd's tolerance for Valentine's Day vibes, and despite a lot of jokingly jeering sentiment against it, she still made the set feel like a big ol' Valentine to Wavelength.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment