Wavelength Winter Festival – 20 Years 20 Bands

This weekend saw Wavelength celebrate the 20th anniversary of their music series with twenty bands performing over four days. With Toronto’s chill in full force, I attended the opening on Thursday night at the wonderful Sneaky Dee’s on College Street.

SlowPitchSound started proceedings with an eclectic performance combining electronic music, dance and a splash of theatre.

SlowPitchSound at Sneaky Dee's
SlowPitchSound at Sneaky Dee’s

SlowPitchSound’s music writhes and waves, with the artist combining beats with tweaking/scratching and soundscapes. Lybido, the dancer accompanying SlowPitchSound, span onto the stage early on with the finesse of an otherworldly being. Together they have a distinct chemistry; the dancing and music are each mesmeric at points.

Following that, a quick change of pace as Sandro Perri came on. I’ve heard a lot of good things, but never caught the band live before – they ooze class.

Sandro Perri at Sneaky Dee’s

Although not pictured above (for which I’m sorry… drummers are notoriously hard to shoot, hiding at the back, especially for my amateur photography skills), I really loved the minimal and textural use of percussion in the compositions. At points, groovy bass lines held it together with Sandro’s voice effortlessly soaring over the top as the percussion sat minimally and unexpectedly, yet still creating drive.

Sandro Perri at Sneaky Dees for Wavelength Winter Festival
Sandro Perri at Sneaky Dee’s for Wavelength Winter Festival

On Sandro’s voice, he almost has a Bryan Ferry type tone; it is somehow both seductive and soothing. I’ll be honest, I’m one of those that listens more to the sonic nature of music rather than lyrics, so he could have been singing about pretty much anything and it would have still sounded a little bit sexy to me. Like, perhaps he was singing about doing the laundry or going out on a crazy day trip to the zoo.

Les Mouches at Wavelength Winter Festival 2020
Les Mouches at Wavelength Winter Festival 2020

The night finished with two nostalgia sets from Les Mouches and LAL, which was definitely fitting for a 20-year celebration. They rocked to a bumper crowd at Sneaky Dee’s… a venue which in my experience is normally only half full. Wavelength clearly got the opening night right.

The festival followed up with two evenings at the Longboat Hall. You might be expecting me to say a few things about these shows, with the likes of The Hidden Cameras and Haviah Mighty playing, but alas, I wasn’t there. Lame, I know.

However, I did manage to get myself down to Sonic Boom for the Wavelength in-store.

Mimico at Sonic Boom Record Store
Mimico at Sonic Boom Record Store

Mimico released an LP on Hand Drawn Dracula last year, which is well worth checking out, and their set to another decent size crowd ebbed and flowed between deep synth and more post-punky sections.

Sonic Boom is a decent little spot for an in-store, the only issue being the sound is a little less good than a big venue (just the nature of the space and having a smaller sound system I guess). What’s nice about it is it feels very personal and authentic.

New Fries at Sonic Boom Record Store
New Fries at Sonic Boom Record Store

Ending the Sonic Boom in-store was New Fries, who I normally say is my favourite Toronto band when asked, depending on which way the wind is blowing. I hadn’t seen them play in a while though, and was intrigued when someone mentioned in passing that they are switching things up these days. For this set at least, they were a three-piece (bass/vocals, guitar and drums) when previously they have had synth and/or brass.

Put simply, the set reaffirmed for me why they are my favourite Toronto band. It’s edgy, danceable, punky and captivating. They tend to funk off down a path alongside a stream, then over a few mountains before disappearing into the distance, leaving only a trail of smoke behind. I look forward to hearing this new material in a venue with a bigger, more permanent sound system.

New Fries Sonic Boom In-store for Wavelength Festival

The final night of the festival culminated with Notifi at The Garrison.

Based on what I saw, the Wavelength music series continues to push genre-defying acts and blend interesting music styles under one banner. The shows were well attended, and not only that the crowd was respectful and warm. It’s all just a lot of good, old fashioned fun. Brings me right back to when Wavelength used to hold their summer festival on the Toronto Islands with camping – if anyone’s aware of a petition where I can sign to make that a thing again, let me know? Cheers.

Find out more about Wavelength and their upcoming events.


About Bill Cutbill 38 Articles
Music Writer for Toronto Guardian. Founder of Toronto label and music collective, Safe Sounds.