February 14, 2014
Ah Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air; couples are proving their undying affection to each other through the wanton purchasing of holiday-appropriate gifts; and getting a dinner reservation is something that needs to be planned well in advance. Unless, of course, it’s just another Friday for you.
For those of us falling in the second category, day two of Wavelength 2014’s four-night festival was an excellent alternative to sitting at home and feeding your cat(s). Celebrating 14 years as one of this city’s best opportunities to discover and support local music, Wavelength continues to prove that there’s a lot to love about Toronto.
I arrived at Adelaide Hall just as the first band of the evening was wrapping up their set. The brief glimpse I got of MATROK from the venue’s wrap-around balcony was enough to make me wish I had gotten there promptly: on stage was a trio of people-dressed-like-robots, playing robotic, Kraftwerk-like music, and acting very robot-like. There was a saxophone, there was liberal use of warped vocals, and it all seemed pretty entertaining. Alright, gimmicky is maybe the word to use – but there are times when this works. And it seemed they had the musical ability to back it up (not to mention there are times when all you need to do is entertain.) So, next time, MATROX. Next time.
They were followed on stage by Most People – a late addition to the bill. The Toronto duo was taking the stage in place of the night’s headliner, Marnie Stern. Earlier in the day, Wavelength had announced the unfortunate cancellation of her show due to weather-related problems at New York’s airport. Her flight had been taken off the board, so the festival found an ample replacement in one of their incubator bands.
The duo have made a name for themselves with their well-crafted electronic rock and opened with a song about losing total control. Ironic, given how in control they had to be of all their layered elements for the show to work.
Live, Most People reminded me a bit of Evening Hymns – another Wavelength alum. The comparison comes less in terms of their music (Evening Hymns is far more folk rock when compared to their electronics,) but more on the basis of their vocal deliveries. They’re also both bands that work very much toward the climaxes. For Most People, it mostly works – but they did have some slight trouble with final payoffs. That said, figuring out clean delivery on them isn’t too far off and the more live shows they play the better it will get.
“You Said,” off of Most People’s 2012 self-titled debut, saw them navigating their percussion parts very well. While there’s a healthy dose of pre-recorded vocals and instrumentals to their music, they managed to keep things energetic on stage. This is likely because both Brandon Gibson-DeGroote and Paul McEachern looked super busy, juggling their responsibilities and instrumental parts.
Their last, new song was also impressive, much more dark and industrial than their earlier offerings and explained by the band as their attempt at the Terminator theme song. It’ll be interesting to see where they take this sound as it holds a lot of promise. The live show isn’t quite perfectly polished just yet (and their stage banter is also a problem – coming off more awkward than endearing and stilting the momentum of their live show,) but it’ll get there.
Next on stage was Weaves, a band that’s less about melody and more about disparate elements of music working with and against itself.
Vocalist Jasmyn Burke has an easy flair for the dramatics, posing at the front of the stage and delivering exceptionally strange, jazz-influenced vocals. The absence of drummer Spencer Cole meant they were a bit out of their element, but pre-recorded percussion helped keep things lively. Performing on Friday as a trio, they sound a lot like a less-poppy Sleigh Bells – guitarist Morgan Waters playing off-kilter scales and bassist Zach Bines giving the band that extra heft.
You were also left with the overwhelming sense that this is music that shouldn’t make sense. There were certainly times when it didn’t, to be fair, but Weaves doesn’t seem remotely concerned about this fact. They were there to play what they wanted to play and delivered it how they wanted to deliver it (see: Waters yelling into his instrument as Burke sung from the top of a speaker for “Hulahoop.”) Take it or leave it – but you have to admit that it’s interesting and unlike a lot of other things out there.
They were followed by the night’s first actual drum set, on stage for Toronto trio Odonis Odonis. I’ve written and come across their band name so many times it seems criminal that this was actually my first time seeing them. It also won’t be my last, the quote-unquote “industrial surf-gaze” band sounding intense, impressive, and very put-together despite their apparent youth.
“Every one of these songs is a love song,” drummer Jarod Gibson explained with a dry wink. Truthfully, it’s hard to make out what the songs are about since their lyrics tend to get swallowed whole in their wall of sound. The delivery from the trio is punishing.
“Are We Friends,” a 2013 single, had a big delivery and the bass from Denholm Whale on “Better,” from their 2013 Better EP was dark and ominous, all three members shouting the song’s title. With second album Hard Boiled Soft Boiled (the follow-up to 2011’s Hollandaze) due in April, expect to hear a lot more from Odonis Odonis. Enjoy it, too – they know what they’re doing and they do it well.
Switching from the heavier shoegaze to the more sickly sweet came courtesy of DIANA, a Toronto quartet that packed the Adelaide Hall stage with equipment. They’re a band that’s seen their stock continuously rise – 2013’s Perpetual Surrender finding a lot of love from the local community and from radio stations like Indie 88.1 (who were also presenting the night’s show.)
The album’s title track sounded every bit the 80s with its bass line and use of a saxophone. Lead vocalist Carmen Elle also comes off as increasingly more self-assured with every show. She asked the crowd for a last call type of atmosphere, beckoning the audience to get “desperately drunk on music.”
For the most part, the set was smooth and well received. An electronic sampling problem on “That Feeling” was the sole hitch and halted them in their tracks. They tried again to pick it up and faced the same problem, but the third time proved to be the charm and they were eventually able to complete the song. To DIANA’s credit they played the problem well, showing an ability to roll with the punches – an obvious must for any live band.
They also interacted well with the crowd, forgoing Valentine’s Day talk for a Game of Thrones mention, Elle giving a half-hearted attempt at the theme on her guitar.
They ended their set with “Born Again,” a song on which Elle gave a rare glimpse into her vocal capacity, forgoing the general preference for a softer, understated deliver in favour of a more soaring approach on its chorus. Again, the saxophone from Joseph Shabason came out – much to the delight of the audience who were singing along to every word.
“It’s nice to be a Toronto band,” Elle remarked at one point before talking about international recognition and the fact that bloggers from other places ask: “What’s in the water over there?” As Wavelength continues to prove, there’s a lot of talent in this city and a desire to support it. And not in the way we support the Leafs (by which I mean a losing cause.)
Toronto has found something it’s remarkably good at and, if you believe city council, is trying to improve upon. Wavelength is the right direction for this. Here’s to another 14 years.