Camp Wavelength’s lawn signs are its secret weapon

The self-described "smallest big festival" in the city is staking its claim and standing its ground.

August 12, 2016

This time next weekend, the Toronto island — specifically, Artscape Gibraltar Point — will be crawling with the Big Smoke’s musical underground.

On Friday, August 19th, the second annual Camp Wavelength sets sail across the lake, and early indications are that it’s going to be one hell of a weekend. That’s no accident — the passion project of Artistic Director Jonny Dovercourt, the festival represents all of Wavelength’s initiatives: Support for emerging, left-of-centre live music, a safe space for fans, a uniquely Toronto experience, and, most importantly, a good time.

A key reason why this year’s Camp Wavelength is poised to be bigger than last’s can be seen perched across Toronto lawns. Near Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods park, you can’t walk half a block without seeing one.

Yes, this year’s festival has fully embraced Wavelength’s gonzo spirit, with unmistakeable, pink lawn signs — get yours here. Speaking to the ongoing David vs Goliath realities of running a DIY music festival against the current of corporately backed behemoths, the sign’s allusions are no accident. This summer, Wavelength is counting on your vote.

While partly inspired by Trinity Bellwoods’ Farmers Market signs, Dovercourt says that Wavelength’s lawn signs were, at least in part, about getting political.

“It was a cheeky way of us saying, ‘hey, tell everyone that Camp Wavelength is the festival that you want to go to,’” explains Dovercourt.

More than that, it points to Wavelength’s ubiquity in Toronto. Those who know what it is, know what is. The rest, after seeing it on neighbouring lawns, will hopefully be curious enough to look into it. Consider it watercooler talk for a community lacking in 9-to-5ers.

“Someone who might live in this area, who isn’t connected to our community, might see it a bunch of times and be like, ‘Oh, Camp Wavelength, I’ve heard of that. What is that?’” he remarks. “You have to seed something ten times to make it register.”

And if a quick walk in Toronto’s west end is any indication, Camp Wavelength has definitely been seeded. On my walk to meet Dovercourt, I pass three, then four, then five lawn signs. The walk takes roughly two minutes.

“Every year, we’re increasingly competing with larger and larger, better funded, more corporately sponsored events, more corporately produced events, more multinationally backed events, which suck up a lot of people’s income and time,” says Dovercourt. “It makes it increasingly harder for community events who don’t have the marketing might or the budgetary muscle to compete.”

[pullquote]It was important for us to make a statement, a David vs. Goliath statement, to remind people that there are events coming from their community, that support their community.[/pullquote]

So what does Camp Wavelength hope to accomplish? The same things Wavelength has always aimed for. The festival is the culmination of hard work from a community of volunteers and curators attempting to be the bridge between the underground and the wider, media-mainstream. Dovercourt describes Wavelength’s mission statement as the desire to be “the voice that speaks for DIY culture, which is sometimes kind of diffused, or transitory, or transient,” and that, he hopes, will show during its three days on the Toronto islands.

“We’re never going to book a festival where it’s a bunch of recognizable names, with one token local at 1PM,” he assures me. “But every year, in terms of our programming, we’re trying to reach a little wider, to bring in bands that will bring in new audiences.”

This year, they’re hoping acts like Cloud Nothings, Young Galaxy and Operators can close the gap for music fans, and attendees sound like they’re in for a treat, literally and figuratively. While Dovercourt immediately mentions how excited he is for the food at this year’s Camp Wavelength, its culinary affectations are only one of what feels like dozens of draws. Aside from the music itself, which promises to be fantastic, Camp Wavelength will feature art installations, fortune tellers, and treasure hunts. They’ll light up the beach at night, barter with Bunz Trading Zone throughout the day, and, if we’re lucky, come back even bigger next year.

An evolution of the Wavelength presented All Caps! island festival, Camp Wavelength is the natural progression for a scene that grows bigger by the minute. Their lawn signs, while small in stature, are part of a larger movement. They’re the head-nod of acknowledgement for the music fan who passes its neighbour mowing the lawn, cornering around the sign’s metal spikes. They’re the next step in nearly 20 years of hard work, and, more specifically, the result of careful due diligence.

“We combed through the bylaws,” says Dovercourt, who with his dedicated team made sure the is were dotted and ts were crossed. And when it’s all done, “we’ll let people know that they can keep them if they want, and if they don’t we’ll come remove them.”

Now old enough to drive, Wavelength Music has spent the past 16 years ingraining itself into Toronto’s music scene. At this point, some would argue that they’re one in the same.

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up