Concert promoter Wavelength celebrates its 12th anniversary with a festival that founding director Jonny Dovercourt hopes will expose the group to new audiences.
There is a misconception about Wavelength, according to the concert promotion-cum-arts organization’s founding director, Jonny Dovercourt.
Contrary to popular belief, the group did not cease operations when they ended their weekly concert series—which acted as a launching pad for scores of high-profile Toronto bands, from Broken Social Scene and The Hidden Cameras, to Fucked Up and Holy Fuck—two years ago. In fact, Dovercourt says, in some ways, Wavelength is more active than ever.
“People will be like ‘Oh, didn’t you guys stop?’” he said. “No, we didn’t stop, we just stopped doing this one thing that we were really identified with, and made our activities a lot wider and broader.”
Dovercourt says that by the end of the weekly series’ decade-long run, he and his colleagues were a little burned out, and were having far more fun putting on standalone events. As a result, they decided to focus their energies entirely on creating what he calls “an alternative experience in show-going.” Instead of organizing a weekly club show, they’re putting on monthly gigs in unconventional spaces, coordinating unique art events—they had Fucked Up provide a live sound score to a silent film at an event last year—and running their two annual festivals. One of those festivals, the Anniversary Festival, takes place this weekend, starting tonight, at different venues across the city.
According to Dovercourt, the Anniversary Festival is different from the other multi-day, multi-venue music events in Toronto, in part because of the way both the bands and the venues are selected.
“It’s a curated festival… We invite bands to play, and we curate the line-up, and you have to be there the whole night and experience the whole flow of the evening,” he says. “We put a lot of thought into the order of bands and who’s headlining, the character of the venue.”
The relationship between music and performance space is a topic that comes up a lot with Dovercourt. Since the end of the weekly series, Wavelength has put on shows in places ranging from lofts to the parking lot of a cross-fit gym, to inside cinema/bicycle repair shop Cinecycle. They even had a mobile outdoor show called “Band on the Run,” which Dovercourt called a “public space intervention.”
For this year’s Anniversary Festival, the Wavelength team put a lot of thought into matching bands with the right spaces. The event will take place at four different venues (Parts & Labour, The Steam Whistle brewery, The Great Hall and The Garrison) and will feature artists ranging from noise-rockers Metz to dancehall-influenced electro act Bonjay, to a side project by Dirty Projectors bassist Nat Baldwin.
“We started with a list of headliners and short list of venues,” Dovercourt said. “We really wanted to do a Fucked Up show at Steam Whistle for a long time. It’s our favourite ‘rock’ venue of that size.” That Fucked Up show is happening on Friday.
If there’s a theme to the 12th Anniversary Festival, it’s bringing the Wavelength experience to new audiences.
“We kind of wanted to make it a bit less about us, and make a bigger impact with the festival,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential for this festival to reach people who aren’t hardcore music scene people… people who are casual fans who go to North by Northeast or CMW, but may not know about Wavelength because we don’t have that big advertising budget.”
He also says that it’s time for people to stop talking about the things that Wavelength has done, and pay more attention to the things that they are doing now.
“It’s not that we don’t want to celebrate our history anymore. We just don’t want the attention to be focused on the ‘glory days,’ and what we did 12 years ago,” he says. “We want to be recognized for what we’re doing now. How great the programming is and unique it is and how it’s not like anything else in the city.”
The Wavelength 12th Anniversary Festival takes place at various venues across the city until from tonight until Sunday. For line-up and venue details, go to WavelengthToronto.com. To buy tickets, go to GalleryAC.com.