Toronto in the DIY ’90s

1 A Tuesday Weld – Classic Studios 1993 photo c_o Jonny Dovercourt
2 Parts Unknown – El Mocambo photo by Jonny Dovercourt
3 It’s Patrick photo c/o Michelle Bresslin
4 No Labels 1995 poster Mondo Lulu
5 Secret Agent 1996 poster James Sullivan
6 Jim Bravo – KIMFest El Mo photo by Andrew McAllister 3
7 My Pet Genius – KIMFest El Mo photo by Andrew McAllister 1
8 KIMFest 1996 poster Paul Boddum
9 Harmony Picnic 1999 poster Duncan MacDonell
10 Decoy – Harmony Picnic 1999 photo Jonny Dovercourt
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In the mid-’90s, a loose collective of Toronto-area musicians from various lo-fi, noisy yet melodic indie bands — including It’s Patrick!, Kat Rocket, MAdE, Mason Hornet, Mean Red Spiders, Neck, Parts Unknown, Secret Agent, and A Tuesday Weld — become friends through playing shows together at Toronto bars and clubs including El Mocambo, Sneaky Dee’s, the Rivoli, and Lee’s Palace. In spite of the success of Nirvana and Sloan, and Toronto’s status as the capital of the Canadian music industry, these bands face an uphill battle reaching a wider audience.

With major labels out to lunch and homegrown independent labels lacking global reach, Toronto artists across different genres are forced to go the DIY route. But it’s not all bleak: the ’90s in Toronto is a time of plentiful music venues, affordable living/rehearsal space, and supportive media including CKLN, CIUT, CHRY, Exclaim!, Eye Weekly, and NOW Magazine. The local music scene grows in strength over the course of the decade. Precursors to Wavelength include the Leisure Terrorists CD compilation, the No Labels festival, KIMFest, and the “Harmony Picnic” held at Cherry Beach.

On September 11, 1999 at Annex café the Green Room, the first meeting is held of the grassroots artists’ collective that would soon become known as Wavelength. The organizers decide that the local Toronto music scene is deserving of more widespread acclaim, and with a new millennium on the horizon, a new platform is required. They decide to start a weekly Sunday-night concert series, a monthly print ‘zine that profiles the artists performing, and (Information Superhighway alert!) a website. The name is partially borrowed from the title of Michael Snow’s seminal film, but it’s really meant to be about a movement that will last (not just the latest “next wave” of bands), and about community and like-minded strangers finding each other: “we’re on the same _______.”