Camp Wavelength takes over Toronto Island

Prince Rama, the reunited Holy Fuck, and Do Make Say Think highlight the inaugural island event.

August 27, 2015

Photo: Prince Rama

The ambition of Wavelength knows no bounds. Since the year 2000, the Toronto arts initiative has programmed countless live music events and multi-day shindigs, with Camp Wavelength becoming the latest pin on their festival jean jacket.

This weekend (August 28-30), Wavelength puts down stakes at Toronto Island’s Artscape Gibraltar Point with a line-up of artists including the reunited Holy Fuck, Baltimore glitterball weirdos Prince Rama, Do Make Say Think, Blonde Elvis, The Weather Station, JOYFULTALK, Loscil, and many more. Interactive events like giant Jenga, capture the flag, and an early morning jog with the members of The Wooden Sky should keep campers busy during daylight hours, while DJ sets from Doomsquad and ARP-2600 will keep the fires blazing.

Watch an animated trailer for the event below and read on for a Q&A with Camp Wavelength warden Jonny Dovercourt.

AUX: You previously ran the ALL CAPS! festival on Toronto Island. What are you doing differently with Camp Wavelength?

Jonny Dovercourt: Camp Wavelength continues in the spirit of the ALL CAPS! Island Festival (2009-13), but is simply bigger and bolder. We’ve expanded to three days from two, brought in some bigger name headliners and some special guests from the U.S. (Prince Rama) and the Canadian scene is represented from coast to coast. One big difference is that we put out an open call for submissions, and got an incredible response – over 350 submissions! – from which we discovered some amazing stuff across the board. We also brought the visual/performance art curation in house, bringing Aaron Dawson (Dirty Inputs, Off the International Radar, Nite Comfort) on board to help select and coordinate the action happening outside the main stage. In addition to installations, performances and projections, there’s also some really fun games and activities we’ve helped organize, to really establish a sense of community around the festival.

You’ve said the preparation for this event “feels less like running a music festival and more like, well, organizing a camping trip.” What sorts of things does that entail, and are you supplying s’mores for all of the bands?

Well, there’s a LOT of packing involved. We’re moving everything over to the Island first thing in the morning, and I just finished backing my own personal bags, after spending the whole day cramming a Uhaul full of speakers, mixers, lights, libations, projectors, program guides, signage, sharpies, sparklers, and random and beautiful pieces of art. On the Island, you’re a boat ride away from any stores or anything you’ve forgotten, so you have to make a lot of lists and plan for contingencies.

Sadly there wasn’t room in our hospitality budget this year for s’mores, but if any potential marshmallow sponsors are reading this, please get in touch about next year.

What are the biggest pros and cons of doing shows on the island vs. the city, in your opinion?

Well the big con is obvious – the logistical challenge of getting everything on and off the Island in a timely fashion – but all the numerous pros far outweigh it: A magical location, that’s unlike any other venue or festival location in Toronto if not the world, and the sense of transportation that the audience feels when they are here, the sense of occasion this imparts and the way it elevates all the performances. The Island is such a special and unique place and community that you feel lucky just to be there and immerse yourself in it, even if it’s just for one weekend. Artscape Gibraltar Point is one of my favourite places in the world too. I feel a sense of relaxation and ease wash over me whenever I arrive there.

Your musical line-up is fairly all over the place. Outside of teaming up with co-presenters like Pop Montreal and Uma Nota Culture, what is the typical Wavelength process for programming an event of this size?

It’s never typical! But having done ALL CAPS! there over five years straight, as well as our one-off Wavelength Island Show last summer, we have a sense of what works and what doesn’t on the Island. We try to think about what will work at what time of day, since the ferry schedules dictate that a good chunk of the schedule happens during daylight hours. If by “all over the place” you mean diverse, then, yes, that’s always been a part of the Wavelength ethos, but we aim to curate the main stage line-up in a way that flows and makes sense, and doesn’t make shifts in genre seem too abrupt or random.

Friday night is pretty high energy – from garage-rock to full-on retro-rave – to drop people into things and shake things up. Then Saturday builds from sunny afternoon indie-pop to freakier psych-dance as the sun goes down and the Full Moon comes out (for real, keep watching the skies) and then who knows what will happen? And then Sunday is the more pensive, meditative comedown – more of the ambient-meets-folk side of things – but hopefully the crowd will have enough energy left to get up and dance to Pierre Kwenders and Avec le soleil sortant dans sa bouche, two Montreal acts I’m really excited to see. And then reaching the epic finale with Do Make Say Think is going to be transcendent, naturally.

Giant Jenga and a morning jog with The Wooden Sky sound like fun activities, but I’m curious to learn more about the interactive elements this year like the Aeolian Current, Zine Fort, Costume Puzzles, and Orbz. Can you clue me in?

These were all projects that came our way through the open call, and we’re thrilled that these folks identified enough with the idea of Camp Wavelength to come our way. Aeolian Current is a wind-powered harp that audience members may discover and interact with, and thus change its sonic output. Fort Zine is a collaborative zine organized by the fine folks at Static Zine, that festivalgoers can contribute to, to memorialize the first-ever Camp Wavelength. Costume Puzzles is another interactive activity by Montreal artist Ian Langohr, in which participants can build, create and wear costumes of mythical creatures. Finally, Orbz is a communitarian spin on the classic camp game of Capture the Flag, which you’ll have to either camp over or get there early enough to take part in on Sunday, as it starts at noon, before JOYFULTALK (amazing invented-instrument trio from Nova Scotia) perform.

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