Outside of Toronto city limits, they’re hardly given the credit they’re due. But within the Big Smoke, Wavelength—a community focused collective who throw mixed-media showcases, festivals and more—is synonymous with all things emerging and local. And why not? They’re expert curators who’ve introduced the city, and eventually the world, to acts as diverse as Broken Social Scene to the Rural Alberta Advantage to Slim Twig. And that’s only the beginning.
See, exposing emerging artists—the type who aren’t yet known, but will be soon—is built right into Wavelength’s code. It’s why they’ve recently announced a series of all-ages record store concerts around Toronto. Or why they’ve developed the Artist Incubator, a program that shares the collective’s resources with local bands. They’re even planning Wavelength Road Show, which, says the collective’s co-founder, Jonny Dovercourt, “will take our visuals and chaos and our immersive art experience to Hamilton, Montreal, and maybe even as far as Sackville.”
Before that, though, Wavelength hosts its impressively diverse festival, now in its 13th year, with performances from Doldrums (above), Sarah Neufeld, Lullabye Arkestra, and many, many more. We asked Dovercourt to help us identify the next generation of Toronto movers and shakers.
A word of caution, though: “I would love to see these bands become household names,” says Dovercourt. “But I’m always reticent to name the next big thing. I mean, it’s like when the Junos announce their new artist of the year: It can be the kiss of death. We just champion bands who are at the emerging level.”
Best known for a split single with METZ, Fresh Snow are an instrumental, kraut-indebted act which is formed from past and present employees of Sonic Boom, Toronto’s largest independent record store. “We had an idea to work with them on a pop-up venue, like an open-concept gallery space,” says Dovercourt. “They wanted to work in a pod and with projections. It was a collaboration on a wacky idea, something really different than a typical on-stage performance.”
This is Toronto vintage: orchestral pop that veers between sophisticated, rickety and spooky. They’ve collaborated with Ohbijou, Entire Cities, the Constantines’ Bry Webb, and more, so they certainly keep good company. “I love them, but they also love Wavelength,” laughs Dovercourt. “We worked with them to set up a show with Bry Webb at 918 Bathurst, which was incredible.”
Tenderness are reputedly planning an LP with hype-making Toronto label Pleasence Records—the home of Sexy Merlin and Army Girls—and it’s not hard to see why: This is future rave, and Tenderness is one of the few acts that can pair chopped-up bangers alongside cat-meow samples. “It’s really, really brilliant,” adds Dovercourt. “It’s so hard to pin down comparison points, but we love stuff like this—it has a really singular voice.”
There are plenty of bands that currently fly the kraut flag, but the immediately memorable, if challenging, grooves of Absolutely Free—who are essentially DD/MM/YYYY, minus Tomas Del Balso, who continues on with his art career—are among the best. “Membership aside, it’s hard to compare Absolutely Free with their previous work,” adds Dovercourt. “I’ll say this: I think I like Absolutely Free more than DD/MM/YYYY.”
Wavelength 13 runs Thursday, February 14th through Sunday, February 17th.