Wavelength music series started out as a weekly concert series held on Sundays at Toronto music venue Ted’s Wrecking Yard (RIP) in February 2000. Back then, underground music was shared not by likes but by mixtapes and almost everything coming out of Toronto was underground whether it wanted to be or not.
If their past-performers are any indication, Wavelength is your chance to see the next indie breakthrough. The list of WL alumni reads like a Canadian indie encyclopedia with the likes of: Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, the Constantines, Owen Pallett, Feist, Fucked Up, Holy Fuck, The Hidden Cameras, Crystal Castles, Manitoba a.k.a. Caribou, Tokyo Police Club, Austra, METZ and Grimes.
Musical discovery is at the core of what Wavelength is all about, providing a space for independent bands to play. It was Wavelength stages that many of Canada’s biggest bands played on first. Here’s a sample of some of Jonny Dovercourt, Wavelength’s founding director, favourite “firsts”.
Broken Social Scene (BSS) , 2000
The very first BSS show wasn’t a BSS that most would recognize. It was Kevin Drew, solo on the keyboard playing as John Tesh Jr. & The Broken Social Scene. The band name was a joke, as Kevin and Brendan Canning had already recordedtheir first album, Feel Good Lost as Broken Memory. After the show, Brendan suggested they change their band name. Dovercourt was at the show and remembers looking around at the 75 people who were there, thinking, “this is such a magical moment, I hope these people all know how lucky they are.”
Hidden Cameras, 2001
Hidden Cameras played Wavelength at Ted’s Wrecking Yard where there was a room backstage that Wavelength organizers used as a shared intimate space. The night Hidden Cameras played they took over and transformed the enclave into their dressing room. “I arrived backstage to find a bunch of ghosts in various states of undress” recalled Dovercourt with a chuckle. Onstage, the band played a strong set, helped out by the crowd. “They were representatives of the spirit of participation that was happening in the Toronto scene at that time,” said Dovercourt. “They would let anyone be a part of the band, even if they weren’t musicians, they would be given an instrument.”
Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) , 2004
Owen Pallett was on the Toronto music scene before he became the violin-looping protégé that is Final Fantasy. In 2003, he lived at 19 Major, which was a shared ownership house between Owen and a rotating group of musicians. Every Sunday before Wavelength the crew at 19 Major hosted a vegetarian potluck. One night in 2003 Owen played Jonny a sample of the looping violin he was working on. The following year he played one of his first shows as Final Fantasy on a Wavelength stage at Sneaky Dee’s.
Fucked Up, 2004
Fucked Up won the entire crowd over wearing Jack-O-Latern pumpkins on their heads when they played Wavelength on Halloween 2004. According to Dovercourt it was a crazy night. By the end of it, the pumpkins were smashed and a bass case was set on fire.
Wavelength Music Festival Fourteen is starting on February 13 at venues around the city. Check it out this year and you’re sure to discover something new.