The right Wavelength

Indie institution shakes up the formula

WAVELENGTH 500: 10TH ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL at various venues, Wednesday (February 10) to February 14. Pwyc-$20, festival pass $50.

It’s the end of an era. After 500 gigs in 10 years, Wavelength’s weekly Sunday series is over.


“By now, pretty much everyone has played the Sunday night anyway,” co-founder Duncan MacDonnell (aka Doc Pickles) says, chuckling.

He’s not even joking. More than 1,100 acts have showcased at Wavelength since its inception. Hell, I’ve played four times myself. For left-field weirdo rock bands, it’s been a vital entry point into the larger Toronto music scene.

But volunteer organizers MacDonnell, Jonathan Bunce (aka Jonny Dovercourt), Ryan McLaren and Kevin Parnell explain that the change is more about new beginnings than endings.

“We started kicking around the idea of ending the weekly in the fall of 08,” recalls Parnell, as he and the others prepare the Garrison for their 498th edition. “At that point, we’d already started doing Wavelength special events, which were doing quite well. Last year we had amazing success with them, on top of the weekly events.”

“Wavelength has been established for so long,” adds Bunce, “and the Sundays were starting to feel repetitive. It needed to grow into something new. We also didn’t want it to slowly die out and have people saying, ‘Is that thing still going on?'”

The Wavelength organization has no plans to slow down. Instead, it’s ramping up to focus on larger events along the lines of their all-ages outdoor ALL CAPS! shows and the memorable Getatchew Mekuria & the Ex gigs at the Polish Combatants Hall. Besides, Toronto’s music scene is in a different place than it was 10 years ago the problems that initially inspired the series are no longer as pressing.

“Back then, people didn’t seem excited about local acts,” Bunce says, “and there was a sense that Toronto bands weren’t being taken seriously. There were a bunch of cliques centred around a few bands, and we wanted to help establish connections between all of them. Ten years ago, it was a lot harder to find out about the local music scene.”

“You had to go to Wavelength just to find out what else was going on in the city,” Parnell interjects.

These days, social networking sites, message boards and blogs have replaced the old-school, difficult-to-distribute gig flyers and photocopied zines that used to cover the tables at Wavelength.

Plus, Toronto’s indie scene now enjoys worldwide recognition, and an actual community has developed, thanks in part to the social space Wavelength provided. Because of this, Wavelength’s team of volunteers don’t feel too guilty about staying home Sunday nights for a change.

“I’ve missed the past 10 years of The Simpsons. I’m so happy that it’s still on TV – I’m sure it’s just as funny as I remember,” MacDonnell says with a hint of sarcasm, and the table cracks up.

After all, some things shouldn’t last forever.


Wednesday, February 10

Bruce Peninsula, Evening Hymns, Pony Da Look, Deep Dark United, Canaille at the Music Gallery (197 John), 7 pm. $12 or festival pass.

Thursday, February 11

Holy Fuck, Russian Futurists, Diamond Rings, Fembots, Professor Fingers at Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner), 8 pm. $18 or festival pass.

Friday, February 12

From Fiction, the Bicycles, Laura Barrett, Magic Cheezies, Young Mother at Sneaky Dee’s (431 College), 9 pm. $12 or festival pass.

Saturday, February 13

Constantines, Rockets Red Glare, Donne Roberts, Picastro, Danger Bay at the Polish Combatants Hall (206 Beverley), 8 pm. $20 or festival pass.

Sunday, February 14

Kids On TV, the Barcelona Pavilion, Mean Red Spiders, Neck, Boars at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), 9 pm. Pwyc or festival pass.

$50 festival passes available at Soundscapes, Rotate This and

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