Wavelength Summer Music and Arts Festival 201929 August 2019 / by Madeline Cornacchia (author)
This year’s Wavelength Summer Music and Arts Festival spotlighted the immense diversity of Canadian talent across musical genres. From the neon glam-rock of Art d’Ecco to FET.NAT’s jazz punk madness, the festival truly had something for everyone. The small, hip crowd may have been drawn to Wavelength for one artist or another, but it was definitely worth their while to stay and discover more gems among the lineup.
The weekend of Aug. 17 and 18 saw the Belgian Moon Brewery at stackt Market transform into a kaleidoscopic dreamscape. Painted tapestries draped the walls and ceilings, and pink, silver and gold streamers glittered to create a backdrop for the comedians performing throughout the festival. Hand-painted projections dance across the stage, emulating colourful algae under a microscope.
Wavelength has stayed true to this DIY aesthetic for years, through its winter festivals each February and previously at Camp Wavelength, their summer festival on Toronto Island. The look has become a defining feature of Wavelength, as General Chaos Visuals has provided much of the festival’s imagery throughout the years.
Along with the live tunes, there were interactive installations by local visual artists featured around the venue, entertaining festival-goers between sets. An optical illusion ladder and a communal paint-by-number mural were displayed outside for anyone to admire. Inside the venue was a psychedelic printmaker combining water, ink and vibrations from a keyboard that guests could play around with, then take their original masterpieces home.
While each performance brought something special to the fest, Saturday night’s headliners Milk & Bone stole the show. Drawing the biggest crowd of the weekend, the Montreal duo, consisting of Laurence Lafond-Baulne and Camille Poliquin, carried an energy that was both magnetic and relatable. The pair was stationed behind a booth decorated with cryptic hieroglyphics, where they DJ’d and played synth drums, taking turns stepping forward to sing closer to the crowd.
Mirroring the duo in the audience were young women like themselves, singing their words back to them. The beauty of Milk & Bone is that their music is for young women, by young women. Their dark electro-pop empathizes with themes of friendship, love and heartache.
“This song is for those who are wondering if it’s OK or possible to love two people at the same time,” they said, before diving into their 2018 album’s titular track, “Deception Bay.”
Decked out in black and white athleisure, the two possess a familiarity that could resonate with many 20-somethings — they dress and act like your own friends. After performing “Blue Dream,” Lafond-Baulne noted that she sings, “I wanna dive in my ocean,” while her counterpart sings “I wanna die in my ocean,” highlighting their respective zodiac signs (Scorpio and Gemini).
The two perform effortlessly, like best friends jamming out, and they are a pretty big deal in Canadian music. Their sophomore record, Deception Bay, won the 2019 Juno award for Best Electronic Album, and they have been nominated for various awards in the past. If Lorde and Billie Eilish were to create a music baby, it might look and sound something like Milk & Bone. Soft, fairylike vocal harmonies contrast with hard-hitting synths, making you want to cry about your ex and dance your heart out at the same time.
Their set ended on a high note with dance tracks “Peaches” and “Daydream,” the latter receiving requests from the crowd. The moment felt like it held more significance than just a dance party in a darkened room.
Earlier on Saturday, Art d’Ecco started a glam-goth dance party. “Time to dance a little bit,” he said, transitioning between the spookier strings-led track “Mary,” into the groovy and upbeat “Nobody’s Home,” off his latest record, Trespasser. His dark yet glittery indie-rock style defies era and gender, emulating a Ziggy Stardust-like persona onstage. Exuding a glamorous and laissez-faire energy, he worked the stage rocking sparkly eyelids, red lips, a tight black bob haircut, and killer red heeled boots. His otherworldly voice droned steadily over danceable melodies and the crowd was into it. He closed the set with an unreleased new song set to come out in the fall (he reckons) — another haunting dance anthem — and left the stage to pleas for an encore.
Sunday saw even fewer people at the already small festival, perhaps because of short bouts of rain throughout the day. Though damp outside, those who did show up were treated to the sunny dream pop of Tallies, followed by shocking noise from FET.NAT, a special performance by Yonatan Gat and an Afrobeat dance party with Afrotronix.
Those unfamiliar with FET.NAT were in for a surprise as the Francophone front-man held up signs that read “Jazz” and “Trust Cops,” and ran through the crowd with a megaphone while the rest of the band (including a saxophonist) played intricate melodies.
Yonatan Gat put on a powerful performance featuring Chief Red Medicine and Strong Bear of the Eastern Medicine Singers, who accompanied his guitar with drumming and singing. Headlining the night and closing the festival were Afrotronix, playing their first-ever show in Toronto. A mixture of DJ'd Afrobeats and live guitar and drums, their lively set deserved a more energetic crowd.
The wide range of artists curated for the festival wonderfully showcased the diversity of Canadian music, but it also may have affected audience turnout. Without an obvious target demographic, the lineup could appeal to both everyone and no one in particular.
That said, 2019’s Wavelength Summer Music and Arts Festival brought together a community of music appreciators, who hopefully walked away with some new Canadian favourites.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Wavelength’s 20th anniversary festival next February, 2020.