by Michael Thomas
Though it’s only a 15-minute ferry ride from Toronto, the Toronto Island feels like a completely different world. Wavelength Music took full advantage of the island’s charm with ALL CAPS!, a yearly music festival, and the only festival in the Toronto area where you’re allowed to camp overnight.
Despite the grim forecast for the weekend, it didn’t rain at all during the first day of ALL CAPS! Not that it mattered if it would have; the Gibraltar Point centre had a stage indoors where all of the performances took place that day.
First up in the lineup, starting at 4:20 in the afternoon, was Triple Gangers, the wonderful electro-pop Toronto trio. Had there been a little more people who trekked out earlier, the three would have definitely gotten a dance party going. Bursting with energy (and all sporting tiaras), Triple Gangers went through a high energy set that finally saw them performing “Flowerbed” (I still smile every time I hear the line “Shout out to my crocuses!”). During two songs backup vocalists Aurora Cowie and Ida Maidstone did their usual synchronized dance moves as Ghislain Aucoin laid down some vocals, but this time the two actually went out close to the audience for added effect.
Wavelength always makes a huge effort to span genres during their shows, so following the electronic act was Esther Grey, a duo from Guelph, Ontario. Their set featured in equal numbers long songs and short songs, and their sound is fairly difficult to pin down. They could lay down some Timber Timbre-esque folk but they could also play really loud, 30-second songs about Toronto (which they actually did). Singer Steph Yates and drummer Tyson Brinacombe also made for some really great stage banter- it’s obvious the two have a lot of chemistry.
Things got heavy with Wet Hair, a band from Iowa city. Their set was characterized by a flurry of keys, guitars and bass over proud vocals. The guys didn’t talk too much between songs, but it made sense considering the intensity with which they played their tunes. They were followed by Detroit band Tyvek, who blew the crowd away with their straightforward punk attack. It’s always fun to see a band just rocking out with two guitars, a bass and drums, and that’s exactly what they did. The spirit of 70s punk bands live on with these guys.
I had no idea what to expect from the next act Choir! Choir! Choir! After having taken a break outside for a few minutes, I came back into the room to see that the “stage” area had been taken over by a massive crowd of people. They take the Choir! part seriously, it seemed. With just an acoustic guitar player and conductor, the gigantic choir began heartily belting out some awesome covers from mostly the 80s and 90s like Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” and Heart’s “Alone.” Near the end of their set they covered TLC’s “Waterfall” and had Maylee Todd singing along with them. Little did we know that Todd would actually begin rapping at the end of the song, and it was the most adorable thing I saw all night.
The next set stole the show, and it was by none other than Maylee Todd herself. Having just heard a few songs by Todd on Radio 3, I could have never guessed how involved her live performance was. Touting a huge backup band and two dancers, Todd involved the entire room in her performance. For the first song she walked from the stage to the back of the room while singing. She brought out her dancers after a song or two and even did some synchronized dance moves with them in one song. It was sheer madness when she invited Choir! Choir! Choir! out for a song with her. At that point the barrier between the audience and the singers was impossible to find. By the end of her set (and one cartwheel later) she had engaged the audience in a huge dance party and filled the room with positive vibes.
As a stark contrast to Todd’s happy, energetic vibes, the headliner for the night was “Noh-wave” collective Yamantaka//Sonic Titan. Decked out in black clothes and white painted faces, the five performing members were a sight to behold before they even started playing. Their sheer loudness even temporarily knocked out the sound system’s power, but eventually everything got going.
Hearing their recording is one thing, but seeing them live is a whole other thing. At times, their music sounded like part of an ancient ritual. At other times, their loudness would appeal to the audience’s metalheads. And with no banter in between songs, the band kept up the intense, dark atmosphere that their music created. It was certainly a heavy sound to end the night, but it was also intensely satisfying.
Wavelength Music should be commended for their ability to curate show after show of genre-spanning and more importantly excellent music without fail. ALL CAPS! is one of the banner Wavelength shows of the year, and day one kept fans of all genres happily occupied.