At most multi-day festivals, the big acts tend to be concentrated around the middle, and there’s a notable drop in quality by the end. If you’ve been following these reviews, you should be able to guess that Wavelength puts on a festival like few others, so Sunday’s show wasn’t a quiet fadeout. It was a finale that, had it been held outdoors, would have ended with fireworks.
The night began on a quieter note, however, with Guelph beatmaker Elaquent. Not saying a single word throughout, he focused on the knobs and dials of his electronics, producing sometimes twinkling – other times aggressive – beats. By the end of the set, he had got many of the early attendees’ heads bobbing. The table on which he played from had an upside-down Canadian flag, but it turns out he wasn’t the one who put it there.
As it quickly became apparent, the flag was part of the next set by Lido Pimienta. The whole stage was covered in Canadian crap, with two people from Tough Guy Mountain waving flags, and Pimienta began by singing a highly subversive version of the national anthem, beginning with “O KKK Canada, our home on native land…”
With that out of the way, the rest of the set was classic Lido Pimienta. A heavy emphasis on beats backing Pimienta’s expressive vocals, and a few rants. Pimienta isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and her entire set, much like Zoo Owl’s Thursday performance, was a challenge. Her rants (which spoke to double standards between men and women, among other things) force you to think about issues that you don’t often think about when seeing live music. The set ended with Pimienta jumping on the table filled with electronics and knocking several of them off, in what was probably the most rock and roll moment by a non-rock-and-roll act.
The middle act of the night came all the way from Edmonton and were dressed to the nines — it was time for the Wet Secrets. They sound fine on record, but their live show is something else entirely. With a drummer, keyboardist, bass player and two-piece horn section, they already stood out (not to mention the elaborate marching-band costumes).
But then they started to play, and a world opened up. The singers/horn players Kim Rackel and Emma Frazier were always synchronized in their movements while Lyle Bell sang, making for a visual spectacle. The first few songs quickly seemed to establish that the band was energetic, but they tore the roof of the place with a longer song called “Night Life,” which featured a bridge that had all five band members singing, adding their voices one by one. By the time they reached their song “Get Your Shit Together” they had won the hearts of everybody, and we rewarded with wild, seemingly never-ending applause when they finished.
Anyone who thought Biblical would be the loudest band of this festival would be wrong, with the advent of Toronto noise-rock outfit Greys. They amped up the volume and the intensity, essentially blowing the roof of the place with their punk-leaning set. By song two there was a mosh pit, and though they played a short set, they packed plenty of songs into it.
The noise assault would give way to the night’s headliners, described as one of the best bands in Canada by Jonny Dovercourt. It was Cousins, the rambunctious duo from Halifax. The drum and guitar duo has been done a million times before, but somehow Aaron Mangle and Leigh Dotey make it seem fresh. There’s no air of pretension, no gimmicks, no frills, just straight, earnest rock and roll. There’s a slight psychedelic vibe to the music thanks to the slight reverb on Mangle’s vocals, but otherwise it’s just a great infusion of rock.
Before long, the crowd was jumping up and down, and when Mangle announced it would the band’s last song, the crowd was having none of it and yelled for an encore as soon as the band left the stage. Cousins re-emerged and played The Palm at the End of the Mind track “Thunder,” which many in the audience could be seen mouthing the words to.
Four nights of Wavelength is exhausting, but ultimately so, so worth it. This organization works tirelessly to get the word out there, and it’s nice to see them a) gather huge crowds every night and b) also somehow gather the most respectful and supportive crowds the bands could ask for.
Here’s to another 14 years of Wavelength.