by Michael Thomas
Leave it to Wavelength to literally save the best for last. While nights one and two had their strengths, Sunday night turned out to be completely solid, from start to finish. The theme of this year’s festival has been past, present and future, with each night presenting one aspect of that theme. So it’s safe to say, after Sunday night, that the future looks very, very bright indeed.
Those who made it out early were lucky enough to see Bart, a band made of members of the Elwins, Hooded Fang and other projects. They easily could have been a headlining act at the calibre they were playing at. To put a finger on what makes their particular brand of prog-pop so enticing is difficult, but goddamn do they do it well. Their set was airtight, and more instrumental jams were rounded out with one or two vocalists for an added layer of pleasure. Bart easily made a horde of new fans.
Keeping things going was Tenderness, finally back in Toronto after living in Calgary for a few years. Chrissy Reichert was the only Wavelength act this festival to have her own visuals, which shifted throughout each song. With a cavalcade of electronics at her disposal, she plowed through around eight songs with no real pauses. She separates herself from the electronic pack by the way she seems to slice and dice sounds and samples, making for jarring—and compelling—music.
It seemed like all you needed to do was blink and you’d have missed the quick but punchy set from New Fries, who are becoming more and more people’s favourite band with every show they play, What they do isn’t really categorizable—screeching vocals, blazing fast numbers and a whole ton of weirdness. It was histrionic, it was staccato, it was too many things to name—and it left a hell of an impression.
All three Wavelength Incubator Bands ended up playing the festival this year, and Fresh Snow were the last of the three to make an appearance. The mysterious and menacing four-piece once again took the stage to ambient sounds and dry ice, slowly building up a tuneless hum into a flurry of loud, rocking instrumentals. Not for more than a few seconds did Fresh Snow let that momentum slip, continuing to bring the noise and slay the audience for 40 minutes. This set was apparently a bit of a preview of new material, so we can all expect to be fully blown away by them again soon.
Finally, a little past midnight, headliner Mozart’s Sister bounced her way across the stage. It was in fact Caila Thompson-Hannant’s birthday, but the treat was more for the audience. Just playing with backing tracks allowed Thompson-Hannant to express herself as she moved around to each song, which fluttered with her soaring vocals and the simple but effective beats. She also endeared herself to the audience by saying things like “123 BPM. That’s the speed of the next song, in case you’re wondering.” Particularly poignant was “Mozart’s Sister” (the song), which elicited even more cheering from the excited crowd.
But the night didn’t end there! With a 4 a.m. last call at the Garrison, Wavelength added two more bands. I was too tired to stick around for Cellphone at 2 a.m., but I did manage to be charmed by Montreal’s Look Vibrant. The few that stuck around to see this four-piece were treated to easily the most energetic band of the night. Each song was infused with a manic rock energy and anywhere from one to three band members could be singing at one time. The pyrotechnics got people dancing, and the band showed that Montreal can also be a place for music of sheer enthusiasm and not just detached cool.
Wavelength is a triumph every year because it offers what no other festival an offer—a Canada-focused lineup of bands you won’t see at every summer festival, and an audience full of open-minded and supportive people. It’s a testament to the quality of music in this country that the Wavelength Festival is such a success each and every year.