Camp Wavelength was everything you could want out of an indie summer music festival: the organizers were helpful, the performers were phenomenal and the overall vibe was laid-back.
Taking place August 18 to 20, the festival marked the end of summer, giving attendees an opportunity to party one last time before things get hectic at work and students return to school.
The last minute location change left a lot of uncertainty for festival-goers who had come to expect a relaxing staycation on Toronto Island in the previous years. Although this was my first time attending Camp Wavelength, it seemed that returning attendees were pleased with the set up for this year. The festival was split into Day Camp (free daytime shows at Sherbourne Common) and Night Camp (ticketed 19+ night shows at various venues in Toronto).
The organizers of Camp Wavelength made an extra effort to accommodate festival-goers by providing a school bus (referred to as the “Bold Bus”) from Trinity Bellwoods to Sherbourne Common then from Sherbourne Common to the Longboat Hall for the night shows on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday Night Camp
The weekend festivities started on Friday night at The Garrison. Toronto’s Loji kicked off the night and got the crowd dancing to their upbeat electronic music. Os Tropies were next to perform, captivating the audience with their unique blend of Brazilian Tropicália music and psychedelic rock.
One of my favourite acts of the night was Toronto electronic-soul duo DATU. Consisting of producers Alexander Junior and Romeo Candido, DATU blends hip-hop, electronica and R&B into meaningful, heartfelt songs that are informed in part by their Filipino heritage. Their set was very interactive – they talked about civil war in the Philippines and explained what traditional instruments they were using. DATU performed songs off their new EP High Blood. The duo brought out a guest Filipino singer, Victoria Marie, who performed a remix of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” DATU also brought out a Filipino dancer by the name of Fly Lady Di, who captivated the audience with her beautiful choreography.
Headliner Jessy Lanza lived up to the hype of her performance. Wearing a windbreaker, black sweat pants and Adidas running shoes, Lanza carried herself with both confidence and grace. Attendees sang along as Lanza performed songs off her 2016 album Oh No. Interesting images and videos flashed on a screen behind Lanza as she built beats on the spot and danced along to her music. I was a fan of Lanza before seeing her live, but my admiration for her has grown so much after watching her perform. When her set ended, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: the crowd chanted her name until she came back on and did an encore.
Although Lanza was a tough act to follow, Indigenous DJ and producer, DJ Shub, brought high energy and infectious beats that people couldn’t help but dance along to. It’s easy to tell that DJ Shub used to be in A Tribe Called Red: he mixes traditional Indigenous music and vocal chanting with EDM. His chill demeanour and bass/drum-heavy music made him an interesting act to watch live.
Saturday Day Camp
Saturday marked the first full day of Camp Wavelength. The day started off in Sherbourne Common with performances by Tomi Swick and Exit Someone.
Attendees sat on colourful blankets on the grass while listening to the live music. Performance artists wearing wolf-like masks crawled on the ground and interacted with audience members. Various booths were set up around the back area, offering typical festival food (french fries and hot dogs), interesting knick knacks and costume accessories. There was even a “Camp Weavelength” booth. A few metres from the stage there was a beer garden with oversized games such as Connect 4 and Jenga. Chairs and picnic tables were set up throughout the garden, allowing people to relax and sip a beer while watching the live performances.
Sherbourne Common was the perfect location for Day Camp as it is right by the water and provided a similar experience to being on Toronto Island.
In between sets, there was great transition music that kept the vibe light and fun.
Later in the day, Toronto new wave rock band Germaphobes performed. Singer Neil Rankin came out wearing a blonde wig and had glitter all over his face. They had great stage presence and made jokes about condo living. During their set they performed songs off their album Fiji Whizz.
Following Germaphobes was Toronto neo-soul singer-songwriter Witch Prophet, who captivated the audience with her stunning vocals and sick beats.
This year there was a new addition to Camp Wavelength called Campfire Comedy. It happened once at 4:45 p.m. and then again at 5:45 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Attendees gathered around the fake campfire in the beer garden while a local comedian gave a 15 minute comedy set. It was a nice way to keep festival-goers entertained and highlighted a different part of the Toronto arts and culture scene.
Brampton-based rapper and singer, Haviah Mighty was my favourite act of the day. She interacted with the crowd and with the photographers, making it a very immersive experience. She frequently got off the stage and made her way across the grass, approaching people who were close by and rapping directly to them. Mighty, who was in her element on stage, gave a shoutout to her hometown, explaining that her new album Flower City is based on it.
Un Blonde closed off day one of Day Camp with his unique mix of R&B, indie, funk and soul music. He performed songs off his critically acclaimed album Good Will Come To You.
Saturday Night Camp
Saturday was the first show at the Longboat Hall at The Great Hall. The venue was really cozy and nicely decorated, giving it a “camp” vibe.
The first act to hit the stage was Toronto post-punk duo Ice Cream. Comprised of Amanda Crist and Carlyn Bezic, the pair explored many different sounds during their performance, from ambient synths to raw distorted guitar.
Next up was Montreal punk band Duchess Says. Putting on an interactive performance, front woman Annie-Claude Deschênes jumped into the audience, poured beer on people, threw coloured powder on herself and crawled under the stage. The audience got super into the performance and went along with A-Claude’s entertaining shenanigans. The combination of synth and distorted guitar, gave A-Claude a great backdrop to sing and scream over. Overall, Duchess Says delivered a large, loud and theatrical live show, setting the bar high for the acts to follow.
Day two headliner Dilly Dally was an act not to be missed. The Toronto punk rock band gave a performance that was both loud and raw. They played songs off their LP Sore and their album fkkt. They talked very little in between songs, allowing them to play lots of music. To no one’s surprise, the audience was captivated by Dilly Dally’s live show.
One of the final (and most hype) acts of the night was Halifax indie rock singer-songwriter, Rich Aucoin. His set opened with a projection of the 20th Century Fox opening sequence, then the names of all the bands that performed on Saturday night appeared on the screen in the form of opening movie credits. Aucoin’s performance felt like one big dance party: he would jump into the crowd and dance with festival-goers. The party vibe was amplified by the use of confetti canons and by the large balloons on the upper level of the venue that would light up and flash during certain songs. Near the end of the set, Aucoin brought out a giant parachute and the entire crowd got underneath it and danced alongside Aucoin.
Sunday Day Camp
After a wild Saturday night, many attendees were still able to make it out to Day Camp on Sunday. L CON, Best Fern and Dan Goldman were the first few artists to perform.
Toronto’s Slowpitchsound were mesmerizing. Not only was the music extremely dance-worthy, but the dancer’s graceful and intricate movements were interesting to watch. It was as if the crowd was under a spell, making them unable to look away or fight the urge to dance along. Their outfits were also on point: the pair wore white from head to toe along with nicely decorated paper crowns.
Another local band that played was Zuze. The 10-piece folk/jazz ensemble played popular folk melodies of Iran and Azerbaijan set to afrobeat rhythms.
Wrapping up Day Camp was Montreal surf pop duo She-Devils. They brought their moody teenage vibe to Camp Wavelength and performed songs off their self-titled album, which was released back in May.
Sunday Night Camp
As the Sunday night show came around, it was bittersweet as it meant the end of Camp Wavelength was quickly approaching.
Montreal’s Emilie & Ogden opened the show and performed songs off their album 10 000 (solo). Dressed in an elegant white jumpsuit, Emilie Khan’s soft, angelic vocals resonated in perfect harmony with her instrument: the harp. On stage, Khan’s pure indie folk sound was enhanced by drums and bass. The beautiful detail and layers in their music made me feel so many different emotions at once – I felt empowered, sad, joyful and fearful.
Another Montreal act to hit the stage was The Luyas. Lead singer, Jessie Stein, kept smiling throughout the performance and told the audience that it was her long-time dream to perform at Wavelength. The indie rock band performed songs off their latest album Human Voicing.
Deerhoof was the perfect band to end off the festival. The San Francisco-based four piece dazzled the crowd with their sugary melodies and signature experimental noise pop sound. Watching Deerhoof live, it was clear that each member really felt the music to their core. Bassist and singer Satomi Matsuzaki captured the crowd with her stellar vocals and cute dance moves. Ed Rodríguez whipped his long brown hair around while skillfully playing the guitar. The other guitarist – John Dieterich – made interesting facial expressions while jamming out. In between songs, drummer Greg Saunier, humoured the crowd and commented on how old the band is. Deerhoof was clearly a crowd favourite: festival-goers sang along and danced to their music.
Whether or not Camp Wavelength returns to Toronto Island next year, it’s evident that they are able to pull off a killer festival with memorable acts and all around good vibes.
To see photos from the event, take a look at the gallery to the right and watch our recap video below:
CJRU Camp Wavelength 2017 recap from CJRU1280 on Vimeo.