photos and review by Michael Thomas
Wavelength, as has probably been said a million times here before, is a crucial component of Toronto’s music scene. The long-running music series has been constantly pushing the envelope in terms of how many genres can fit onto one bill, the types of shows allowed to be put on in the city and the number of venues music can be hosted in.
ALL CAPS! has been a Toronto Island tradition for five years now, and this year marked the very last festival. But as founder Ryan McLaren has said in interviews and also right at the end of the festival, there’s a reason ALL CAPS! ends with an exclamation mark. The final festival was not a funeral; it was a wake.
Day one of the festival, as one might expect, saw a slew of acts covering all ranges of genres. Starting off early was Unfinished Business, one of the bands performing as part of the Girls Rock Camp co-presentation. The three girls, aged either 13 or 14, absolutely tore it up on stage with their hard and fast punk tunes. They definitely brought on the smiles as people marveled at their intensity and their song subject matter, dealing with haunted houses and various situations in which you should try not to laugh at people (like falling down stairs or tripping on one’s shoelaces). The set ended unexpectedly with a confetti cannon.
Following them was a band that is no stranger to this blog, Most People. As per usual, Brandon Gibson-DeGroote and Paul McEachern played their ultra-multitasking, layered, sometimes tropical tunes to an enchanted audience. Being one of the first bands on, their set wasn’t as long as usual, but they still managed to get in the summer vibes of “While the River Waits” and the intensity of “Young and Wild.”
The uncategorizable ev ree wuhn took the stage next, and at first their very introspective set must have taken the crowd off guard. They are a band that revels in layers, high vocals, and a mixture of electronics and organic instruments that blurs the boundary between the two. When they got to their song “Turquoise,” which features Devin Wilson of Bravestation on vocals, they actually brought Wilson on stage to sing for that song. Once the trio got to the Oriental-inspired “Paper Tokyo,” the crowd was on their wavelength (no pun intended) and grooved to the end of their set, which concluded with “Colours.”
The always-quirky and always-awesome schizophrenic rock trio Beekeeper probably inspired more laughter in between sets than any other bands thanks to guitarist Devon Lougheed’s irreverent banter (best one: “Come talk to us at least, because 85 percent of you seem like such nice people. And for the other 15 percent, maybe we can talk about how you can turn it around). Their set featured four out of the five songs from their Shout At People EP, and seeing drummer Luke Cyca break out the kazoo for “Oh Hi!” was always great. Beekeeper pulled out their Alanis Morissette cover, and during a guitar solo Lougheed played guitar from the audience while bass player Brandi Sidoryk absolutely owned the vocals. Lougheed did their last song, “I Don’t Need Hope, I Need Whiskey” partly while standing on top of a stack of amps.
Shotgun Jimmie probably had the most devoted following during his set, and that devoted following was three guys wearing matching Jimmie t-shirts and singing the words to every word of every song he played. That’s not to say he didn’t charm the rest of the audience; his songs, verging on topics from California to Skype dates to adolescent relationships, all struck a chord with the crowd. Jimmie Kilpatrick looked very pleased after each bout of applause (and of course the three dudes’ encyclopedic Jimmie knowledge) and his band (which he jokingly referred to as “the Jazz Police”) were equally enthused.
Bizzarh totally switched the vibe thanks to their blend of R&B, soul and hip-hop. The duo, introduced as Charlie and Paris, breezed through a set that had the audience subtly grooving. There was a big response to their third song, “Trans Phat” (which Charlie made sure to say was spelled with a P-H) and the audience’s enthusiasm was matched or even beaten by their “hard-body DJ” Caitlyn.
Before anyone knew it, there were only two bands left; the first was Hooded Fang, who made it almost immediately clear why they are a headlining band. Being not personally familiar with their music beforehand, their set proved to be a good introduction. They played loud and fast, and though no one could really understand the lyrics, the energy of the crowd more than made up for it. Almost instant mosh pits ensued and the dancing was frenzied. Their drummer was a particular treat to listen to, who spoke and dressed like a refined gentleman before absolutely tearing it up on the drum kit. Their bass player inserted some out-of-place banter as she lamented draconian Texas abortion laws and Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws, but it was satisfying to hear the whole crowd repeat her suggestion of “Can I get a ‘fuck misogyny?'” Hooded Fangs’ last song was apparently 30 seconds long.
To cap off the night was the weirdest, but also most thrilling, set of the night. The Blow, a Portland-based electronic pop act, featured Khaela Maricich on stage, with Melissa Dyne playing the beats from near the sound booth. Maricich started her set with a monologue, played to a steady beat, about her love affair with Toronto and her intention to “have a baby” with Toronto, in performing a set of almost entirely new material (she said all this while dancing around as though she had jitters). Once she got into her set, the crowd was enraptured, and indeed her first song was pretty incredible, with an island-like flavour to it. As she moved between songs, she would ask Dyne to either speed up or slow down a beat on occasion or “fuck it up” as she asked for the very last song. Maricich performed one song while crowd-surfing, made very liberal use of a smoke machine, and at one point asked “Can I take my pants off for this set?” (She didn’t right away but eventually delivered on that promise). The more antics she pulled off, the closer and more raucous the audience got. It was a fitting end for the first day.