Wavelength Turns the Knob up to ELEVEN
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Wavelength Turns the Knob up to ELEVEN

The Wavelength 250 poster, for its fifth-anniversary show in 2005, is one of many that will be on display in the “Wavelength For Posterity” exhibit, which opens Thursday at the Music Gallery. Image by The Complaint Department.

When we meet with the programmers of the Wavelength ELEVEN Festival, they’re putting the final touches on the festival’s poster exhibit at the Music Gallery. Our first question is a banal one: now that the weekly series has been over for a year, segueing into a monthly and special-event format, what’s their Sunday-night routine now?
They all laugh. Ryan McLaren admits he goes to bed at a reasonable hour and arrives at work on Monday on time—”That wasn’t usually the case when Wavelength was weekly”—and Jonny Dovercourt relishes having dinners and an extra glass of wine with family in Scarborough, without having to rush to Sneaky Dee’s. “I went to my first Oscar party in ten years last March, after Wavelength 500 wrapped, and was like, ‘so this is what regular people do!”
Duncan MacDonell, who hosts Wavelength shows as Doc Pickles, at first bemoans the Sunday night off. “I go to bed miserable, thinking, ‘Fuck, why are there no music shows going on? Not even a good karaoke night!'” But the truth emerges that he’s actually spent most Sundays lately practising with his band the Jim Storie Juniors, who open for Anagram and others at the festival launch tonight at the Boat.

The benefit of not having to produce weekly shows is that they can take the time to organize something as elaborate and creative as this week’s festival, which, for the first time, boasts a poster exhibit, new studio session, and speaker series, and even a gig-listing service. It also brings cutting-edge bands from all over Canada, like Vancouver’s East Van Strings and Montreal’s Pat Jordache, to play at five different venues for five nights. “I kinda miss the regular social interactions of every Sunday night, but I don’t miss the grind,” says McLaren. “Now that we’re not constantly worried about finding new bands weekly that are dynamic and interesting and fit well together on a bill, we can put so much more thought into these specialty series, and put together bigger and crazier shows.”
Dan Werb of Woodhands, whose band plays Friday night at the Steam Whistle Brewery show and guests on Saturday’s Wavelength Studio Sessions premiere at the Tranzac Club, has fond memories of his Wavelength experiences and is eager to participate in both the concert series and workshop. “My first Wavelength show was at the Music Gallery, playing with Roselle Healy, my girlfriend at the time, and shortly after, Woodhands played Sneaky Dee’s on my birthday—a birthday I share with Jonny Dovercourt, actually, who kept bringing me whiskey shots during the set.” [Plenty of music fans in Toronto, us included, remember that sweaty, madcap show in 2007.] He laughs: “Wavelength was the first thing I heard about when I moved here from Vancouver, when I was trying to figure out how to get into the music scene here, and when I heard I was on a Wavelength bill, I really thought I’d made it—not even, ‘Now things will start happening!’ but ‘Now we’re a big deal!’—even before we played!”
When the Wavelength organizers invited him and bandmate Paul Banwatt to be on the Studio Sessions debut, he jumped at the chance. “We’re making it more about our process than a class on gear, or how to play, like, ‘this is a synth, this is how to play it.’ They have a great piano in the Tranzac, so we’re thinking we might show how we start a song, how to terminate it, how it ends up sounding. We’re writing right now for our next record, actually, so this is a good time for us to reflect on the process.” He doesn’t discount the idea that the workshop could result in a new Woodhands song.
The poster exhibit, culled mainly from Dovercourt’s personal collection, will run for six weeks at the Music Gallery. It serves as a visual reminder of the many great shows and events that took place over Wavelength’s blockbuster run of more than ten years. “When Wavelength began, Mel Lastman had just been re-elected,” muses McLaren. He remarks that it’s fascinating how the poster design changed through the Lastman years, the Torontopian Miller era, and now into our current uneasy political climate.
Punk and political agendas are on the menu for Sunday’s Wavelength Speaker Series at the Garrison, when Liz Worth will talk about the ’70s punk scene she wrote about for her book Treat Me Like Dirt, and Stuart Berman (whose band The Two Koreas played Wavelength many times) will lecture on the ’90s indie rock scene. “Both of these talks will give people who maybe only moved to Toronto in the past ten years a sense of what it used to be like to make music in this city,” says McLaren. “We haven’t always been great about documenting the history of music in Toronto.”
Both Dovercourt and MacDonell are particularly excited for the punk lecture and the inclusion of old-school Hamilton punk outfit Simply Saucer on the bill for that night’s festival-closing show. “I can’t believe we finally got them to play!” enthuses MacDonell, who notes they feature prominently in Worth’s book. Says Dovercourt, “I feel like anyone who loves Broken Social Scene and Holy Fuck should know about bands like Simply Saucer, or the Viletones, or The Diodes.”
The final big new thing the Wavelength folks are launching with the ELEVEN festival is a simple but vital addition to Toronto’s music scene; they’ve added a concert listings page to their revamped website. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the website, and the concert listings is intended to pick up from where Stillepost left off,” says MacDonell, though he notes the simple listings page is no replacement for the vital community the deceased board engendered. “It seems simple, compiling concert and show listings, but it’s a really big job,” adds Dovercourt. McDonell says it took them a while to warm up to the listings idea. “We held back and waited after Stillepost ended, to see if the next big thing would begin to fill that vaccum, but when it didn’t happen on it’s own…” McLaren notes that, while show listings have in part migrated to Facebook, it’s a closed community, unlike the publicly accessible Wavelength site.
Getting into the spirit of all this added value, Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt have some special programming of their own for their show at the Roundhouse on Friday night. “Paul’s been busy working on an alcohol-themed laser show which will be…tragic, I think,” says Werb, laughing. “I’m hoping it won’t be, like, frothy beer-mug cartoons, but knowing him, it probably will be.”

CORRECTION: February 16, 11:28 PM We originally referred to the Dime Store Juniors; actually, it is the Jim Storie Juniors. Our apologies to the band.