Wavelength 2015: Sunday

By Leanna Luckhardt & Emily Scherzinger, Photos by Elysse Cloma & 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.

For the last night of Wavelength 15, Demo ventured to the Garrison, a familiar haunt that housed the last night of the Wavelength Festival last year. Prepared for a long night of music (clocking at six hours in total, from 8 PM until 2 AM) and a 4 AM last call, we braved the throngs of people who ventured out into the cold for the final night of an incredible festival.

Bart

The first band to start off the last night of Wavelength 15 was Bart, a band whose tone and personality resembled that of the teenage garage band who never grew up. Dressed in hoodies and with grown-out hair, they had the charm and experience of a group that had been mastering their craft for some years in their parents’ garage. Still, they did not seem dated. The band’s sound was always clean, with an irresistible rhythm section, thanks to the work of Andrew Scott and Jay Anderson.

Throughout their set, the band shone instrumentally, so much so that I began wondering if they even needed vocals. The two vocalists and guitarists, Christopher Shannon and Nathan Vanderwielen, sang most lines together in a psych-rock imitation of Simon and Garfunkel, leading to the most exciting part of their show: when the band simultaneously would adopt the same rhythm.

Bart performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Bart performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Tenderness

Chrissy Reichert, the brainchild of Tenderness, is never what anyone expects. In the press information for the show, she was defined as “lo-fi R&B bedroom-pop wonderment.” That may be a complicated musical definition, but it is definitely accurate — although Reichert stood alone behind a table set up with her small batch of triggers and boxes, when she started singing, she was a boss, owning the stage in a wide stomp. The music was heavy on samples used in varying inventive ways. During one song, she asked, “Do you hear the lions?” and was answered by a growl. On another, the bass was so slow and deep she painted the picture of her singing between the footsteps of giants. Reichert truly is an artist — she paints with her music, creating an image that is bold, beautiful, and dangerous.

Epileptics beware! Reichert also ran her own light show, which used heavy strobe lights and projections of pixelated rainbows and tribal patterns. She was a one woman show that surely should not be missed if you have a chance. She had me entranced and running over to the merch table hoping to find a CD.

Tenderness performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Tenderness performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

New Fries

Although it could have been difficult to follow Tenderness’ performance, New Fries put up a valiant effort. Anni Spadafora, the lead singer of the band, hijacked the show from her own group after an amazing instrumental opening. From the moment she stepped up to the mic and promptly began yelling, her hair flying like a banshee, all eyes were on her. She recited nonsense syllables, including coughing noises and occasional yips. She was totally beyond the moment, screaming of something that no one could understand.  Like everyone else, I had no idea what was going on, but I could not take my eyes of Spadafora as she attacked the guitar rather than playing it.

Aside from her ferociousness, the second most surprising thing about her was how quickly she switched when addressing the audience. She smiled and had the soft tone and presence of a sweetheart. Then the next song would begin and it was back to screaming.

New Fries is not a band to try and understand. Audiences must listen to feel, and not to find the deeper meaning. The appearance of a man dressed in a white cloak emerging slowly from backstage with his eyes closed during the final song had the entire crowd on edge. Did it mean something? Maybe. Does it even matter? Probably not. All in all, the most you could do is chalk New Fries up to providing the audience with a meaty performance.

New Fries at the Garrison for Wavelength 15; photo by Elysse Cloma.

New Fries at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Fresh Snow

Fresh Snow’s performance was more a religious experience than a musical show. They played with the intensity of a minister conveying scripture. The band took the stage with three keyboards, and a guitar slung across each members’ back. Without so much as an acknowledgement of the audience, the band emerged from backstage one by one to the soundtrack of a dreamy synth noise with a child’s voice repeating. Then, the dream turned nightmarish, as they shredded their guitars and became lost in their own rock, facing the sides of the stage and turning their back to the audience.

Their sound onstage was tight enough to have been recorded for a movie or video game soundtrack. Each guitar part had a lyrical melody that complemented all the others, and the band did not shy away from the high notes, creating a sound that was masterfully balanced. It was clear that the band had an unspoken confidence about them — they did not care what the audience thought, because they were in a transcendental moment, worshipping their private God.

Fresh Snow performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Fresh Snow performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Mozart’s Sister

The one woman band that is Mozart’s Sister (whose real name is Calia Thompson-Hannant) had a similar set up to Tenderness earlier. This could have led to sets that were easily indistinguishable from each other, but each was individual in style and identity. Mozart’s Sister put on her own soulful performance, that had unique dancing and vocal abilities entirely separate from anyone else who played that night. She was pitch perfect, playing vocal gymnastics throughout the set and hitting high notes naturally. Unlike Tenderness, who stayed behind her console, Mozart’s Sister would step out from behind and dance with her eyes closed, clearly getting lost in her own sound and movements, occasionally staring up at the ceiling as if she had just found God before tearing her eyes away to adjust another dial on her mixing board. The skill required to multitask amidst such a high quality vocal performance, her movements, and the technical requirements of the show is incredibly intense.

The only hiccup in the performance was when her microphone cut out, but she merely put down the mic and started singing at the audience without it, continuing the song until the problem was fixed a few seconds later. After deftly diverting this problem, it became clear that Mozart’s Sister’s sound and presence can rival that of any famous performer of the day.

Mozart's Sister performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Mozart’s Sister performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Look Vibrant

Yet again, the next act had a tough performance to follow up, but they did so with the biggest smiles on their faces — no one in the audience could have enjoyed Look Vibrant’s performance as much as they did themselves. The band consisted of four guys who played straight-forward rock music, and absolutely loved what they were doing. Their playing was highly physical, with the drummer surprisingly being the most still of them. The other band members rocked back and forth, leading me to assume that the keyboard player would eventually bang his head on his keyboard. Although the vocals were not always right on and tended to go flat on the high notes, the group maintained their enthusiasm throughout the entire performance, only matched by a core group of the audience, no doubt aided by alcohol.

Look Vibrant performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Look Vibrant performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Cellphone

Cellphone was the last band of the night amidst a sea of amazing music. Although they were given the difficult task of tying up the night, they did so with a driving set. Admittedly, the crowd had thinned out by the beginning of their 2 AM set, but many fans stuck around and screamed along with the lead singer as he launched into a demonic yelp, song after song.

The band was markedly different from anyone else on the bill. While New Fries was the only band that Cellphone could possibly be compared to, due to both of their punk sounds, but each had their own distinct music. This ultimately gave Cellphone the freedom within their own set to play as outrageously as they wanted in order to tie up the last night of Wavelength, as there would be no other bands to compare the group to, either positively or negatively. However, this did not happen — the band put on a show that, while fast-paced due to the nature of their songs, seemed exhausted and strained, which is fair when considering the early hour of the morning.

Overall, Cellphone did not put on a bad show by any means — the minimal crowd enjoyed the music, and the band members were all smiling at each other, despite their stagnant positions onstage. I’ve seen Cellphone perform before, and have always enjoyed their performances, no matter what the tone is. That being said, I know they could’ve done better than their lacklustre performance, and they definitely got lost in the sea of last night’s incredible music.

Cellphone performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

Cellphone performing at the Garrison for Wavelength 15.

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