Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Currente calamo: Wavelength FOURTEEN Festival (Night 4)

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 4 — Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Garrison — feat. Cousins / Greys / The Wet Secrets / Lido Pimienta / Elaquent

The Venue & the vibe: Home sweet home! The Garrison — the last stopping point for Wavelength while it was a weekly series — still feels like the proper place for the festival to wind up. Like the other nights of the festival, this got started on time and moved with such quick efficiency, there was hardly any time to wade to the back of the room, grab a drink and say hello to whoever you ran into before the next band was ready to go. If there was anything to criticize about this show, it might be that instead of giving a full-on clash of musical styles, it felt a bit more like the "other stuff" got shoved to the start to be gotten out of the way before the part with rock bands started. But some of the best moments came early on, natch.

The show:

Guelph-based hip-hop instrumentalist Elaquent got the night started and probably deserved a bigger crowd for his chilled-out Dilla-esque grooves. Not too demonstrative on stage, Elaquent was largely content to close his eyes and nod to the beats, but there was a lotta inneresting stuff going on here. Quick beatscapes segued into one another showing of a range of textures, though it was mostly on the mellow side. A prolific producer with a stacked bandcamp page, this wasn't he most dynamic set of the night, presentation-wise, but certainly contained some of the deepest grooves.

Listen to a segment of this set here.

There's generally no complaints about a lack of energy when Lido Pimienta takes the stage, and this set would prove to be a memorable addition to her penchant for creating a bit of spectacle. Taking a shot at over-the-top Olympic rah-rah patriotism, Pimienta (alongside art-crew Tough Guy Mountain) covered the stage in Maple Leaf paraphernalia (because nothing shows devotion to your country like a trip to the dollar store) before starting the set with an "O K-K-K Canada" rendition of the national anthem. Trying to get across the messages in her Spanish-language songs, her outspoken and in-your-face outbursts on stage never feel didactic — and in the end, it's her talents as a musician that make her one to watch. (And for those who didn't seem to comprehend the critique in play here, Pimienta expanded in a tumblr post.)

Listen to a song from this set here.

the fact that the festival brought in artists from Alberta and Nova Scotia shows the ambitious reach of Wavelength nation. Edmonton's The Wet Secrets represented the west, taking the stage in matching marching band uniforms and looking like they would have been right at home as the band in a 60's frat party in a direct-to-video Animal House knockoff. Not taking themselves too seriously, they proceeded to create a frothy party atmosphere, filled with tales of the nightlife and knife fights in the City of Champions. With a pair of horn-playing backing vocalists enhancing the guitar-less bass/drums/keybs lineup, the focus was on the garage-y groove here. It's hard to argue with an easy visual hook like this and the band were certainly got the crowd worked up, implying there may well be some substance behind the gimmick.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Returning to a local stage after a few months' layoff, grungecore noise-rockers Greys were quickly bouncing around like the last popcorn kernels in the pot frustrated at their inability to explode. They also got a respectable moshpit going in the crowd as they previewed a few new songs from their forthcoming album. Loud, bracing stuff.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Closing out the festival was Halifax guit/drums duo Cousins, and it was interesting to observe how their non-stop road regimen has built them quite a devoted following. On the surface, Aaron Mangle (guitar) and Leigh Dotey (drums) aren't doing anything fancy or inventive — yet they present their minimalist take on classic rock with such convention that it manages to transcend itself in some sneaky way. Well, that's the spark that constantly reanimates rock'n'roll right there. When you see it, you don't doubt it — you just try and pull it into you.

Listen to a song from this set here.

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

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