When people ask me how Camp Wavelength was, the immediate response that comes to mind is: relaxed. Where other festivals have you running from stage to stage through throngs of never-ending intoxicated people in a stressful (but more often than not fruitless) attempt to see all the bands on offer, this Toronto project is much more on the “chill” end of the spectrum. After a long summer of its opposite, this was a welcome atmosphere – the tropical resort of the festival vacations, if you will.
Wavelength has steadily built up a fantastic reputation amongst fans of Toronto music and the artists behind it. Run by artists themselves, it supports the homegrown talent and – during its traditional February club show festival – hosts well-curated lineups of some of the city’s biggest names and up-and-comers to keep an eye on. Needless to say: there’s a lot of support of the music community that comes out for it and a lot of heart that goes into it.
This year, its creators expanded their offerings with the inaugural Camp Wavelength (Aug 28-30), located on the Toronto Islands at Artscape Gibraltar Point – about a 20-minute walk from the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock for those keeping track at home. It’d prove to be a weekend well worth braving the infamous island fire ants for and was a welcome celebration of some of the best in music from both the city and beyond.
Whether it was the glitter-laced heavy-drifting guitar riffs from Kurt Marble; the measured-meets-carnal energy of Dirty Frigs; or the live-in-the-moment quirks brought on by Moon King, it was clear the bands were having a good time and playing shows to people that were actually there to pay attention to the music – something increasingly rare in the domain of music festivals, truth be told.
Indicative of the community vibes going around the festival: The Wooden Sky closed out the second night after leading an island jog earlier that morning. The true highlight of Saturday was the sole American band on the lineup though, with Prince Rama creating a full-on dance party – engaging, quirky “now age” music that’s a perfect fit for their corporate overlords at Monster Energy.
Sunday’s offerings were much more of a quieter affair in comparison, though Polaris Prize long-lister Pierre Kwenders gave the dance floor a run for its money. He was followed by the ambient sounds of Vancouver’s Loscil; a short field trip to the woods found Absolutely Free playing a trance-y, quick set to an attentive crowd; The Weather Station gently swayed into everyone’s ears – a nice comedown after a long weekend (and also a chance to see Bahamas on drums); and Do Make Say Think closed the evening with their much beloved, climactic post-rock.
While Camp Wavelength was a reminder of how fantastic Toronto’s Islands are (really – go, they’re beautiful and standing on the beach is the easiest way to get serenity so close to downtown), its true strength was seeing the community it both supports and comes from. Looking around, you could see the bands on the lineup were there to see other bands and to see friends within the city’s music scene. For all the talk of how competitive this industry is, Wavelength is a reminder that today’s big bands come from somewhere – and keeping those grassroots, inclusive support systems open for the small bands to develop, grow, and learn from remains an all-important endeavour.