Wavelength 2015: Saturday

By Leanna Luckhardt, Photos by Emily Scherzinger

Wavelength 15 is the fifteenth instalment of an annual music festival featuring artists in venues across Toronto, running from February 13 until February 15.

Free Skittles in hand, I stood by the merch table, waiting for the show to begin. Bass heavy music spilled out of the large speaker at the front. Pretty soon, the sound of people talking drowned out the music. Judging by the amount of noise from the crowd, many people returned for the second night of Wavelength 15.

Ginla

Ginla walked out onto the stage without fanfare. They were composed of three men wearing button down shirts that matched the dress code of the audience: layers, boots and black. The guitarist and singer stood leftmost onstage, with the synth in the middle, making it clear that the synth was the main player here.

Instead of singing, the guitarist whispered into the mic in a soft, gravelly falsetto. The guitarist had a more rhythmic part, playing only the higher, thinner strings in a quick, staccato pattern. It may have been the psychedelic pattern projected on the stage, but I was reminded of a drug-fuelled space ship drifting lazily through the universe. The band stopped and said a few words to the audience I couldn’t make out, but the people who had seemed so unresponsive cheered enthusiastically. Their understated stage presence clashed with their onstage mysteriousness in a way that struck me as being very Canadian.

Ginla at Polish Combatants' Hall for Wavelength 15.

Ginla at Polish Combatants’ Hall for Wavelength 15.

Last Ex

I was excited for the next band, and was apprehensive when Last Ex walked on stage, as they bore an eery resemblance to Ginla — once again, three guys who played the same types of instruments. They even started in a similar fashion as the previous band, with the guitar chord playing over top of the keyboardist’s tunes. Then, the drums kicked into a military-style pattern. They played with their sounds, and the song became meterless for a minute, with only the synth and guitar playing. The drums re-entered and they produced a sound reminiscent of a country-ish wasteland, lead by the guitar on simple, warble-y chords. Images of an apocalyptic desert wasteland raced in my head throughout their performance. 

Last Ex did not communicate much with the audience either, but it wasn’t necessary with the lonely music being produced onstage. The drummer was the most impressive part of their performance — at one point, he switched to playing a repeating pattern on a small keyboard style trigger. The guitarist took over the melody as the drummer continued the pattern with his left hand on a small keyboard trigger and drummed with his right. It was an impressive feat that I think went largely unnoticed, but that didn’t matter to them — they grooved in a way that was almost ignorant of the audience’s presence. The guitarist slid between notes, making it sing and whine in a very human, heartfelt way.

Last Ex at Polish Combatants' Hall for Wavelength 15.

Last Ex at Polish Combatants’ Hall for Wavelength 15.

Del Bel

Del Bel, a six piece band, began with the guitarist starting on a two note groove, after which the entire band joined in with a jazzy groove. This was also the first band to have a prominent vocalist, who happened to be the first female performer of the night. She had a dark tone and a raspy voice. The band’s trumpeter responded to her melodies, stealing the show from her early on during the bridge of the first song.

The second song had more of an R&B influence to it. One of the members played an electrified slide guitar and produced smooth harmonies that shone throughout. The third song was easily my favourite, as it held a darker tone than the others. It began with an intimidating bass guitar riff with the band’s lead guitar playing chords and bending them to the beat with the whammy bar. The trumpeter put down his trumpet and adopted the roll of shaker and triangle player, getting the short end of the stick in a really cool song. The entire song felt like descending into hell or dropping down a deep, dark rabbit hole, keeping me transfixed throughout. I really liked their sound, but got very bored of the sad songs reasonably quickly. Since the first two acts had such a similar tone, what should have been emotional turned out to be slow and slightly boring.

Del Bel at Polish Combatants' Hall for Wavelength 15.

Del Bel at Polish Combatants’ Hall for Wavelength 15.

The Acorn

The lead singer of this band, Rolf Klausener, stood in the middle of the stage and was, thankfully, the first band to really talk to the audience. He introduced the first song, calling it “a sexy song for the sexy humans.” Twinkling keys played over tribal beats, inducing a calm feeling over the audience. From my point of view in the crowd, it took me about halfway through the song to realize that the singer still wore his winter coat, which distracted me from the music. How was he performing under all those lights? He finished the song and pronounced (still in his coat) that it was a lot warmer here in Toronto than in Ottawa. (Um, what?)

As the show continued, Klausener continued his upbeat banter with the audience, jokingly lecturing about the importance of condoms in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. He pronounced that most of their songs were new, off their latest album. Klausener insisted on making eye contact with the audience while singing, which was more than the first three bands. The drummer went nuts on his kit. The band was visibly communicating with each other and it paid off, as their tight set was a wonderful performance to watch. They were also the first band to really intersperse their sad and happy songs well, keeping the audience’s mood in mind. Of the bands so far, it was clear that The Acorn was the most practiced and professional.

The Acorn at Polish Combatants' Hall for Wavelength 15.

The Acorn at Polish Combatants’ Hall for Wavelength 15.

Lowell

Of all the performers, Lowell was my favourite. She was the most outrageously dressed, sporting a white cloak lit from the inside with Christmas lights, and a sparkly blue V on her forehead, revealed by her slicked-back blonde hair. With only one other person as support on bass and keys, Lowell ran through the crowd like a fairy, as he set triggers and played guitar. She removed the mic and sang what I can only describe as whale noises, looping them into a siren-like call. Somehow, she managed to seamlessly transition from that into an upbeat song, throughout which she jumped around the stage, more energetic than the audience. Everyone’s attention was fixed on one thing: her. She moved into her song “Palm Trees,” and had the crowd’s energy building when the music cut out.

What could have easily been disaster and derailed lesser artists proved to be a minor hiccup for Lowell. “Oh no!” she said as loudly as she could, smiling. The sound guy called from the back. “Two minutes? Okay, everyone go take a shot,” she laughed with ease. The audience chuckled along with her, but no one was willing to leave. Instead, she grabbed her megaphone and started rapping along with the bass player. She polled the audience, asking them what they would like she do: get off the stage and come back, or “do ballad-y things into the megaphone.” The crowd cheered for the latter. “Really?” She asked. “But then you can’t write about it being bad.”

Thankfully, it didn’t ever come to that. The sound returned and she thanked the sound guys at the back, continuing seamlessly into her original set. She used various props throughout the show, including balloons, glow sticks, paper money, and her megaphone. She solidified herself as the act of the night with her energetic performance, her positive attitude in the face of technical difficulties, and her involvement with the audience. When the audience yelled for an encore, she came back onstage and finished the beautiful song that she didn’t get to sing earlier, “Palm Trees.”

Lowell at Polish Combatants' Hall for Wavelength 15.

Lowell at Polish Combatants’ Hall for Wavelength 15.

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