by Elena Gritzan
After the past two nights of loud, energetic rock and electronic music, the third night of Wavelength’s 12th Anniversary festival was a relaxing breath of fresh air. Taking place in the Great Hall on Queen Street West, the show began with soft-spoken folk songs from The Weather Station. Songwriter Tamara Lindeman described the feeling of playing quiet music in a spacious hall as, “like gathering around a small flame or a candle”. She was joined on stage by Bruce Peninsula members Matt Cully and Misha Bower, who added haunting harmonies to Tamara’s honey-like voice and sparse instrumentation. Tamara compared her music to the bread and butter before a subsequent feast of exotic courses, which was a pretty accurate assessment of how she fit into the night. Yes, her music was the most traditional thing played all night, but it also had a classic quality, something that people like to go back to again and again.
The second band of the night was Wavelength veterans Off the International Radar. First playing for Wavelength in 2002 at Sneaky Dee’s, they are the longest-standing band still performing at the festival. They launched into a set full of otherworldly electronic music (fitting that there was an image of a moon projected onto the screen behind them). Each song is built sequentially with layers of synthesizer, percussion, bass and guitar.
The next act to take the stage was Dirty Projectors bassist Nat Baldwin. While not actually a Canadian band (Baldwin himself is from Maine), the Dirty Projectors played Wavelength in 2006, debuting some of their material before they would garner acclaim for 2009’s Bitte Orca. He also told us that Toronto is one of his favourite cities in the world. Baldwin’s solo music is sparse, charming chamber pop. Just him, a double bass and his voice. In a word, his performance was gorgeous.
The night continued with eclectic Toronto favourite Sandro Perri. He opened his set by challenging the audience to recognize the species of bird that called out during his first song (“Impossible Spaces”, the title track from his phenomenal 2011 release). Most of the set drew from his most recent album, and since he tends to write long songs (“Wolfman” runs for more than 10 minutes, though that is not a second too long), he did not really have time to delve into his older material. It was interesting to see how the new songs translated live (for me, “Changes” rose to a whole new level, but I prefer the recorded version of “Love & Light”). Perri and his band use a wide range of instruments: flute, triangle, roto tom and distorted keyboards mix with his own voice and guitar. It felt transcendent.
My only wish for Wavelength might be earlier start times (yes, I again chose the last subway over the headliner, this time No Joy). Otherwise, it is a well-run weekend full of a diverse collection of sounds. The final night of the festival happens tonight at the Garrison.