by Michael Thomas
While the end of the year in music is always a time to look back, the beginning of the year is a time to look forward. The “ones to watch” lists are plenty, and are essentially a crap shoot. A band could be riding a wave of momentum at the end of 2013, but will it carry over into 2014?
This being said, there are a few institutions out there that know what they’re talking about, and that is Wavelength. They got in on the Class of 2014 action at the Silver Dollar and, as always, the lineup was insane.
The evening was all about building up energy. It started off mellow, with the surprisingly complex minimalism of Anamai, backed up by members of Doomsquad and of course HSY. Over waves of guitars, Anna Mayberry’s voice rang out softly. The music feels like the soundtrack to a wistful look into the past and wishing things could have turned out a little differently.
The set’s highlight was certainly “Altar Coals,” which transcends the moodiness and feels more like an expression of pain. Mayberry’s voice is louder and clearer than ever, and the added vocals from Allie Blumas made it even better.
The energy just about tripled with a rare appearance by Del Bel, one of Wavelength’s own Incubator Bands. “We haven’t played for a long time…in front of people,” singer Lisa Conway said at the beginning of the set. However long it had been, there were no signs of rust. If anything, to continue the mechanical metaphor, the band is well-oiled.
What really astounds about Del Bel is how integral each instrument is to the overall sound. Several songs were punctuated with loud blasts of trumpet, wickedly quick bass or some frightening electronics (usually all three). This is all aside from Conway herself, who is an understated powerhouse. She’s an enigma, somehow unassuming and poignant at the same time.
“This one has a lot of words in it, so I’m going to cheat,” Conway said later in the set, pulling out a pad of paper with song lyrics. If most other musicians were to do this, people would be crying bullshit, but with Conway it seemed natural. And even if she did glance at the lyrics from time to time, her delivery was so powerful as to not seem like a reading at all. There’s a unique energy to Del Bel that no other band has, and it will really be unfair if they don’t rise a little higher this year with their sophomore album coming out later on.
The energy somehow increased even more with the arrival of MASS. Self-described as “some dudes playing in a band” they are actually a tight punk-leaning quartet. It didn’t take them long to electrify the audience, who almost immediately began to move. The band’s lead singer worked up a sweat by the second track but they would only get more energetic. Near the end of their set, the most civil mosh pit ever broke out, and they ended off with perhaps their most crazily-quick song for lasting impact.
Time constraints would unfortunately prevent me from catching the mysterious krautrock of the rising Fresh Snow, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they brought the night to a thunderous conclusion.
Toronto’s got a good thing going. Don’t you forget it.