Doldrums (aka Airick Woodhead)
WAVELENGTH MUSIC FESTIVAL THIRTEEN with DOLDRUMS, LEGATO VIPERS, DO MAKE SAY THINK, COOKIE DUSTER, CADENCE WEAPON, HENRI FABERGE & THE ADORABLES, DOOM SQUAD and others. Thursday to Sunday (February 14 to 17), various venues. $10-$18, $39 festival pass. RT, SS, TF. wavelengthtoronto.com.
Wavelength is reaching its teen years, but it isn't ready to grow up just yet.
Since retiring its weekly concert series three years ago, the artist-run non-profit has applied its community-bridging outside-the-box philosophy to special events, co-presentations and two annual festivals: the summer Toronto Island gathering ALL CAPS! and the Wavelength anniversary celebration, whose 2013 edition starts tonight.
It'd be easy for Wavelength to rest on its laurels as a key player in the early development of acts like Broken Social Scene and Owen Pallett. Instead, it's found new ways to surprise show-goers and throw unique events. Much of the credit for that belongs to junior programmers Dorice Tepley, Adham Ghanam and Adam Bradley.
All three have worked with Wavelength in various stage management and social media capacities over the last few years and, in late 2011, co-programmed their first show together, a celebration of Toronto's music underground at DIY punk space Soybomb. Since then, they've become important cogs in the Wavelength machine.
"We found that those guys were turning us on to a lot of stuff," says Jonathan Bunce (aka Jonny Dovercourt), who co-founded Wavelength in 2000. "Because they're younger, they go out to more shows, and they had ideas about bands they wanted to book and shows they wanted to try out. So we just said, ‘Let's let them.'"
That openness has led to some innovative one-offs, like a recent show at Play - under Queen West swingers club Wicked - that featured a lineup of dark electro-pop pitch-perfect for the space. The event was the brainchild of 26-year-old Newfoundland transplant Bradley, who says his goal is "transforming space to create immersive experiences."
"That's one of the great things about Wavelength," he says. "It gives us each the freedom to take risks and interpret the mandate in our own way."
But as Toronto music scene elders, Wavelength's founders also recognize the need to foster emerging music, which is the idea behind their Artist Incubator project. Working closely with three local bands - Del Bel, Most People and Fresh Snow (who play this week's THIRTEEN festival) - Wavelength offers mentorship on recording, management and promotion, features the acts on an upcoming "Wavelength Roadshow" tour and looks into the possibility of releasing their music.
"Wavelength's team are cultural activists willing to take a chance on lesser-known acts and push and provide opportunities otherwise not available," says Del Bel's Tyler Belluz. "In my opinion, working so closely with Wavelength is preferable to receiving a blind sum of money from a grant organization."
At the festival, Belluz's new surf-rock act, Legato Vipers, will collaborate with burlesque troupe the Harlettes. The four-day fest also includes a number of "legacy" bands like Do Make Say Think, Lullabye Arkestra and Henri Fabergé & the Adorables, who are reuniting just for the event.
Many acts exploded shortly after their Wavelength fest appearances: Grimes in 2011 and METZ in 2012. This year, experimental electro-psych rockers Doldrums (aka Airick Woodhead) seems poised to do the same. Woodhead's Friday night show is the official release party for his long-awaited debut album, Lesser Evil (Arbutus).
"Wavelength has created my understanding of Toronto's community since I was a teenager," says Woodhead, who recently relocated from Toronto to Montreal, where he's found himself part of the community that birthed Grimes and Braids. "I played my first Wavelength when I was a teenager with Spiral Beach, and it influenced the way I've played music ever since."