Most music festivals aren’t known for their lineup; they’re known for their acts, the people or bands that the organizers convinced to perform. And there is often little thought put into order or grouping of bands in the lineup, other than having the biggest act close the night.
Flipping that philosophy on its head is the Wavelength Music Festival, known for its excellent and eclectic acts and specifically curated lineups designed to produce and catalyze specific moods. Wavelength ’16 is no different. Taking place over three days with eighteen acts, the Wavelength experience is one that you won’t want to miss.
Beginning on Friday 12 February and taking place at The Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West) is the electro-synth pop night. Simply put, it is a lineup that sounds like one of the greatest science fiction soundtracks ever. Friday begins with Organ Mood, with their mix of driving and very electric synth-pop, they sound like M83 going through a punk phase. They give you something more than songs; they give compositions. Their song ‘Nouvelles Pistes’ is one that I’m very excited for. Not to be outdone, the next act is Programm, and you’ll excuse the hyperbole, but they sound like monks chanting in the world of Blade Runner. Next, demonstrating the depth of Wavelength’s musical knowledge is Keita Juma, an emcee whose narrative hip hop overtop of what sounds like a science fiction soundtrack will make you believe that he is the emcee astronaut. Friday’s penultimate act is a man who definitely wears his sunglasses at night in Calvin Love, the maestro of Eurythmics soul-funk-pop. Finally, hailing from Montreal and reminiscent of The Knife, Foxtrott features stomp-your-feet rhythms with minimalist accompaniment. I am desperately looking forward to seeing their song ‘Driven’ performed live. All in all, Friday promises a set list designed to be both intriguing and mesmerizing.
Wavelength picks up again on Saturday afternoon at the Markham House City Building Lab (610 Markham Street) with a more acoustic and relaxed set list. With Steve Lambke, Merganzer and Foxes in Fiction these acts prove how different each Wavelength concert can be. The set list begins with Steve Lambke, lead singer of The Constantines, showcasing his acoustic singer-songwriter chops. With his nearly whispered vocals, this is an act to place you firmly on Earth before the atmospheric grandeur of the next two acts. Merganzer can only be described as an act with an intriguing mix of chamber strings, rolling drums and synthesizers. It is, in a word, beautiful. The final act, Foxes in Fiction, is obviously a big fan of ‘Music for Airports’-era Brian Eno and M83, which is to say it performs swirling, delicate ambient music that will make you feel as though you are outside. The Saturday afternoon concert, which is open to all ages, is going to be the most relaxed that you will be in a while.
With a complete change of heart Wavelength then presents is very loud and very distorted Saturday night lineup at The Garrison. With all of the volume and overdriven guitars that Saturday night will bring, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the previous concert was put on by another organizer. Leading off is the band to which I am most looking forward to is Versa, with their extremely catchy and anthemic tunes and who is described as ‘post-rock meets live painting.’ For obvious reasons, this is a band to see. Next comes the punk rock and Canadian answer to Courtney Barnett in Partners, whose smart lyrics will have you thinking and smiling. Following Partners is the beautiful swirling feedback of the shoegaze band Belief and the old-school punks Soupcans. And each band has something to contribute in terms of volume and intelligent music. Headlining is Montreal’s Duchess Says, whose catchy rhythms and distorted guitars show you the meaning, and existence of, dance-punk.
Remember when I said that Wavelength is eclectic? Sunday begins at The Garrison with the traditional Filipino-inspired music (with modern touches and accents) of Pantayo. Followed by the hip hop of Clairmont the Second, the groove pop of Prince Innocence, ‘60s psych-rock of She-Devils and finally the soulful, chiming guitars and wailing vocals of Montreal’s Thus Owls, Wavelength’s Sunday setlist is something that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Sunday is more than the relaxing comedown from Saturday night’s electric riot; it’s a nest of earworms that will make you thankful you spent your Sunday here rather than at a home.
Designed for music lovers, celebrate this Valentine’s Day weekend with Wavelength ’16.
Advance tickets are $12, $16 at the door. All-access passes are $39. For more information check out their website here.