Colin Stetson / U.S. Girls / Biblical / Petra Glynt Polish Combatants Hall, Toronto ON, February 15
Published Feb 16, 2014Wavelength Festival's third night offered some of the most stylistically divergent acts. Consequently, it was perhaps the least all-around crowd-pleaser yet. But crowd-pleasing has never been part of Wavelength's DNA and in that way, night three was easily the most apropos collection of artists organizers could muster.
Toronto's Petra Glynt delivered a short set of tribal pop that had many in the packed crowd dancing. Her global grooves were replaced by heavy slabs of guitar rock as Biblical took the stage.
Made up of TO scene vets and fronted by former the Illuminati singer-bassist Nick Sewell, the four piece had many heading for the door. "We've got a couple more songs," joked Sewell towards the end of their set. "Don't worry, they're both 25-minutes long." Undeterred by the clash of musical worlds, the band delivered a steady stream of doomy stoner rock that had its own groove-based centre. By the end of their set, concertgoers that abandoned the band for the bar were replaced by new, far more enthusiastic ones.
Biblical's drummer was held over to play percussion for U.S. Girls, the post-punk blues crew assembled around singer-conceptualist Meghan Remy. Driven by pounding drums and throbbing bass, the group's first few songs were a bit of a head scratcher; Remy should be the focus of the performance — her voice is certainly strong enough — but she failed to command the crowd, many of whom were clearly already converts to the band's dark sounds. She revealed that the entire set was made up of cover songs, built around the "theme of love," but even Remy sounded disinterested. Five songs in, just as the band seemed to be perking up with a take on "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five," their set abruptly ended.
This cleared a path for Colin Stetson, the night's headliner and clearly the glue holding the crowd's eclectic tastes together. The chatter that had persisted immediately stopped as the Montrealer took the sparse stage, flanked by a pair of saxophones. For anyone unfamiliar with Stetson's music, just imagine an elephant talking to a blue whale; the churning waves of sound he emits through his instrument sound inhuman. Yet Stetson's fashioned that noise into three volumes of his brilliant New History Warfare album series.
Those recordings can't prepare you for the physicality of his live show, though. His circular breathing technique is well documented, but watching it in action, as Stetson's eyes roll into the back of his head, is performance art on its own. And yet he still manages to simultaneously convey dynamics in his music. Stetson's singular performance proved to be the current highlight of a weekend filled with singular performances.
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