Frank YangSo yes I’m a bad Torontopian. I know it’d been a while since I’d been to Wavelength, but a little archive digging revealed that it’d been almost four years since I last darkened Sneaky Dee’s doorway on a Sunday night. That’s a long time. And so with the local institution not only celebrating its ninth anniversary but its upcoming final year this past weekend, I got off my butt and headed out.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always loved and supported the idea and mission of Wavelength, but I’m a pop guy and in recent years their programming has gotten more eclectic and less personally interesting to me. And late Sunday nights are hard. So anyways, of the four nights of anniversary shows I opted for the one the Saturday night soiree at the Polish Combatants Hall (a community centre now hosting shows), which featured a few bands I wanted to see and was (therefore) the most “conventional” lineup of all the Wavelength parties.
Or so I’d thought – any notions that this was going to be an evening of just guitar rock were dispelled with the very first act, The Element Choir. An improvisational choir featuring a couple dozen members, they gathered in the centre of the hall’s floor and proceeded to create a downright mesmerizing sound sculpture constructed of just their voices. The troupe utilized yelps, hums, moans, animal noises and random chatter to create an ever-morphing soundscape that was hypnotic to listen to and also fascinating to watch, as they took direction from conductor Christine Duncan. Certainly not something I’d ever seen before.
Next up were The Luyas, who despite having been around for a while sounded like a work in progress – not incomplete but more in the process of deconstructing what they were and seeking to become something new. There were vestiges of the pop leanings from Jessie Stein’s last band, the SS Cardiacs and from what I’d heard from the Luyas before, but it seemed like they were trying to become something more oblique or inscrutable. Not the most enthralling performance, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and check back in if/when they get where they’re going.
Faring much better were pop collective Hooded Fang. I had figured that since I saw them just a month ago that they’d deliver much the same set, but in fact they were much more assured and polished yet managed to not sacrifice any of the playful whimsy they’d demonstrated before. Considering how much better they’d gotten in just a month and factoring in the fact that they’ve only been in existence for a year, it seems like a mathematical certainty that they’ll be the best band on the planet in another two years. Okay, probably not, but if being the next Los Campesinos! is something that anyone would aspire to, it could well be in their grasp.
Though you could accurately describe Guelph’s Brides as atonal, skronky, and not at all pop – generally things I don’t look for in music – they more than surprised by turning out to be the highlight of the night. I’m at a bit of a loss to articulate exactly what it was about their performance that I found so engrossing. Perhaps it was the way that they managed to be all the things mentioned above without being deliberately difficult and sacrificing some structure or even melody for the sake of exploration, and deliver it all with intensity. I don’t really know what it was, but I liked it.
The last act of the night was $100, and after the stylistic smorgasborg of the night leading up to their finale, their decidedly traditional country songs seemed almost out of place. But straightforward isn’t a slight when you’re talking about hurtin’ songs and the directness of their approach, in particular the raw, honest rasp and twang of singer Simone Schmidt, conveyed that emotion quite effectively. I’ve gotten so used having country used in a hybrid sense with other styles that hearing it in such a pure, undiluted form was pretty eye- and ear-opening. There’s good reason that people are talking about $100.
Though the Polish Combatants Hall is certainly not Sneaky Dee’s – there’s no way I’d have sat on the floor at Sneaks – the evening was a terrific reminder of what makes Wavelength great. You may not like everything you see, but it’ll almost never be uninteresting. Happy birthday to a great Toronto institution and hopefully it won’t be a year before I see you again. But no promises.
BlogTO also has a review of $100′s set if not the rest of the evening.
Photos: $100, Brides, Hooded Fang, The Luyas, The Element Choir @ The Polish Combatants Hall – February 14, 2009
MP3: $100 – “No Great Leap”
MP3: $100 – “Forest Of Tears”
MP3: $100 – “Nothing’s Alright”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Land Of Giants”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “The Pageant”
MP3: The Luyas – “Cats In A Bag”
MP3: The Luyas – “Tantamount”
MySpace: The Luyas
And speaking of the Polish Combatants Hall (a nice and large community centre-type building by the University, if you were wondering), if you didn’t have tickets for Bruce Peninsula’s record release show there next Sunday (still some left but not many) or just couldn’t make it, take heart because they’ve already announced another show for March 28 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $8. And I don’t recommend sitting on the floor there. The National Post has a video performance and interview with the band.
Making it a three-peat, the “Rolling Tundra Revue” featuring Constantines and Weakerthans has added a third and final show at the Phoenix for April 2. Tickets $25. If you manage to miss out on this one as well as the two previously announced ones for March 31 and April 1, then congratulations – you are the absolute worst procrastinator in the world.
Tricky, who was here for a show at the Phoenix last September, returns for a much more intimate performance at the Mod Club on April 2. Tickets $29.50.
It’ll be all about the UK dance-rock at the Kool Haus on April 10 when The Whip and Late Of The Pier roll into town. Both are touring behind their debut albums – X Marks The Spot (out March 3) and Fantasy Black Channel respectively. Please don’t ask me what the mash-up below is, I really don’t know. It’s just there.
MP3: The Whip – “Trash”
MP3: The Whip Vs. Britney Spears – “Trash Circus” (Ruben X Trashmash)
The polar opposite of the previous bill – Damien Jurado and Laura Gibson – will folk things up at the Drake Underground on April 14. Jurado released Caught In The Trees last year and Gibson’s Beasts Of Seasons is out next week, though you can stream it right now at NPR. The song below is an older one. The Daily Vanguard has an interview. Full dates at BrooklynVegan.
MP3: Damien Jurado – “Gillian Was A Horse”
MP3: Laura Gibson – “Hands In Pockets”
Stream: Laura Gibson / Beasts Of Season
The Dears have scheduled at date at the Mod Club for April 30, tickets $20. The Montreal Mirror talks to Murray Lightburn.
Students.ch and The News interviews White Lies, whose debut To Lose My Life is out Stateside March 17 and they play Lee’s Palace on March 31 with Friendly Fires and The Soft Pack.
MP3: White Lies – “Death”
Video: White Lies – “Farewell To The Fairground”
Paste declares Alela Diane their artists of the week. Her new record To Be Still came out yesterday and is streaming at Spinner. She plays an in-store at Soundscapes this Saturday at 6:30PM and at the Horseshoe that night with Blitzen Trapper. That’s sold out, if you were wondering. Billboard has an interview with Blitzen Trapper.
Stream: Alela Diane / To Be Still
Also new this week and streaming – M Ward’s Hold Time. He also gave a solo performance and interview you can stream at NPR.
Stream: M. Ward / Hold Time
And to wrap up this week’s other new release streams of interest – Asobi Seksu’s Hush – they’re at the ElMo on March 3 – and Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3′s Goodnight Oslo. They play the Mod Club on April 16.
Stream: Asobi Seksu / Hush
Stream: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 / Goodnight Oslo