Photographs by Neil Van.
Forget Valentine’s Day (Saturday, February 14). Wavelength 15 had people ditching their dates for music (and free Skittles!) at Toronto’s Polish Combatants’ Hall. Yes, for all intents and purposes, dates were allowed, but the highlight of the Wavelength festival sandwich was definitely the artists over the romance.
Opening the night was Toronto up-and-comers Ginla. The band has only played a couple of live shows so far, but they come with an ambitious sound that’s easily translatable to an open field and a bigger setting. Lazy vocals were paired to more dominant instrumentals and the visual projections so inherently tied to the Wavelength music series fit the band’s music perfectly. Keep an eye on these guys.
They were followed by another band putting the emphasis on the instrumentals – Timber Timbre offshoots Last Ex. The band makes instrumental space spaghetti western and drifting into their set, it’s easy to hear where the creepiness of Timber Timbre comes from. It was pretty haunting, but would probably sound even better in a church.
Del Bel shifted gears by picking up a microphone, the six-piece making soulful pop that brought you to the 60’s – or at least to your Amy Winehouse records. Use of a trumpet certainly helped to elevate their sound, and there are some Weaves and Portishead references to be made with them. The set was slightly stunted due to tech problems, but a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” played extremely well.
Del Bel was followed by Ottawa four-piece The Acorn, who similarly set the mood – though they did so by throwing condoms into the crowd. While their set started with gentler folk rock, it didn’t take long for them to dive into more Broken Bells-sounding new material. Compared to their older songs, expect new Acorn to make you dance, or at least want to get ever so funky.
Headlining the night was rising Arts & Crafts pop star Lowell. Her set seemed unfortunately sedate – the late night and cold weather casting off much of the crowd. Lowell herself appeared rather sleepy, though she navigated a brief power cut like a pro, even rapping into a megaphone to pass some time.
While glow sticks, balloons, and Chinatown dollar bills helped reenergize the crowd ever so slightly, Lowell’s set (and one she performed with just her guitarist – a bass player and drummer so thoroughly missing) unfortunately showed signs of weariness. She’s usually a much better performer than she was at Wavelength: something the crowd got a glimpse of as she returned for an encore of “Palm Trees”. It can’t all be roses on Valentine’s Day.