Never the same Wavelength twice
This is one of the most exciting weekends of the year for regulars at the weekly concert series Wavelength. Why? It's the fifth anniversary!! And like every other anniversary Wavelength organizers are marking the passing of another year of great (or at least enthusiastic) music by taking the show out of Sneaky Dee's and into larger venues such as Cinecycle, Lee's Palace and The Music Gallery.
Tonight at Lee's Palace The Constantines' cover Neil Young as "Horsey Craze", Masia One Aggro-raps while Kids on TV homo-rap and dance like mad, S.S. Cardiacs do what they do and The Creeping Nobodies blow everyone out of the water with their screaming, thumping, wailing and rocking. It should be a hell of a show, but I'm not there because I've got a headache and I only like two of the bands on the bill.
Tomorrow night, however, is an entirely different story.
At The Music Gallery Shawn Hewitt and Holy Fuck will warm up a crowd of giddy little scenesters for a night of chilling virtuousity. Owen Pallet's Final Fantasy solo violin symphony returns to this city after touring across the United States with The Arcade Fire (and appearing on Conan O'Brien with them) and Jon-Rae Fletcher navigates an extra-deep version of his band The River with a choir of more than twenty back-up singers!
It's going to be incredible! and it's only $5 - $10 Starts at 8
I've never been a "regular" patron of the Wavelength concert series, that is I've never gone to Sneaky Dee's on a sunday night just because it's wavelength. I've only ever gone because I was interested in one of the bands playing that week. So in a way I refuse to acknowledge Wavelength. But then again, there have been nights when I've picked up my copy of the Wavelength zine, flipped through to that night's band's interview and then headed over to College and Bathurst for a pint and some rock and roll.
I've had a few discussions with fellow music fans about the legitimacy of Wavelength. We ask each other questions like, "are these people really here for the music or are they just socializing?", and "sundays at Sneaky Dee's would just be sundays at Sneaky Dee's if they didn't put a name on it." and "what does Michael Snow have to do with any of this anyway?"
It seems to me that the only people who approach the stage at a Wavelength show are the superkeen live music geeks and the friends of the band. Everyone else just hangs out at the back talking and drinking. I'm as guilty of that as anyone, but I don't go in the first place unless I'm interested in the music.
Which is why I didn't go to the Wavelength Anniversary show last night, won't go tonight, but will go tomorrow and won't stop smiling until two hours after it's done!
The first time I saw Jon-Rae & The River was at a semi-secret surprise show in the basement studio of Punchclock Screenprinting on a snowy day last March. The Arcade Fire had a gig at The Phoenix that night for Canadian Music Week, but knowing that it'd be full of losers, they got some friends to put something more interesting together.
We were all instructed to bring flashlights and to wear black. Apparently the grandfather of the Arcade Fire's Win Butler had died recently and we were all to be in mourning.
The opening band was Jon-Rae Fletcher & The River. Beers were two bucks from the cooler under the bum of the girl by the door. The door was at the end of a series of twisting corridors coursing down into the basement of a commercial building south of Queen St.
The River, as I remember it, were in fine form. They played loud and enthusiastically and Jon-Rae sang songs about sin like he meant it. He's got the alley-cat howl of a well churched southern bluesman and I was beginning to wonder if this concert was legal or not. Then he began to sing about Jesus and I had visions of newspaper headlines, "Secret Gospel Service Busted for Illegal Beer Sales".
Now, Jon-Rae's Jesus singing isn't something to flinch at. He sings with soul, but those songs are all old traditional tunes and you don't have to worry about getting preached to. He just likes the sound of them, the repetition and the harmonies, and the power of the soul deep within the words.
As I understand it the show at The Music Gallery tomorrow night will feature a good mixture of traditional gospel songs and original Jon-Rae compositions. Depending on the set of orignals they play it may be a shocking contrast for the pious proprieters of the venue, but regardless we're all sure to have a moving experience.
See you there.