WAYHOME festival returned for only its second year, featuring artist like LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and The Killers at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds. This year’s eclectic group of artists came ready to bedazzle audiences in Ontario’s biggest camping weekend for rock, indie and EDM fans alike. Let’s get down and dirty to discuss the festival and how the bands sounded.
Let’s start by explaining that WAYHOME 2016 had a good variety of music so if you attended the festival yourself, I’m probably going to miss out some of your personal highlights. Indeed part of the charm of WAYHOME was the amount of music catering to so many different tastes. Every time you spoke to someone new, they raved about how great something was that you didn’t even know had happened!
Bombino provided an early highlight on the main stage despite the blistering heat in the midday sun. Their Indian inspired rock has a very original and satisfying feel to it. Aside from the music, they also looked like a really cool bunch, wearing long brightly coloured robes. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even after I retreated to sit in the blissful shadow of a flag fluttering frantically in the breeze.
Foals brought a bit of English style rock music to the WayBold stage with a back catalogue that most bands would envy. The highlight of their set saw them conducting a cyclone of freestyle grooves that span in circles getting everybody way too excited (it’s hard to explain but if you’ve seen them before, you’ll probably understand what I mean!)
Giants LCD Soundsystem lowered a huge disco ball at the start of their headline set, sending shards of light flickering across the audience and creating a veritable visual feast. I feel like their style – dancey electronic music with great percussion – doesn’t always get its dues in Canada, so it felt even more special when they ripped through tracks like ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ and ‘Yeah’ which led to everyone shouting, “Yeah Yeah, Ye, Ye, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” and so on! James Murphy’s band definitely know a catchy hook and it is way more captivating live than on the record in my opinion.
I’ll admit I then snuck off early to catch the start of Canadian treasure, Mac Demarco’s set. Their mixture of music, theatre and comedy is just plain fun and it was hard not to feel elated as Mac flew over the audience to the sound guy, giving him a kiss before crowd surfing back like a true hero. Theatre aside, there was also a lot of light and shade in the music which created some beautiful contrast and sing along moments… just how live music should be.
Down the sun set and up it rose for a second day of music. My Saturday highlight was BADBADNOTGOOD whose musical excellence and improvisation combined with perfectly punchy jazz-rock to create a crowd-pleasing set. That was topped off with headliners Arcade Fire who blasted through the hits, bringing the roof off with probably the longest fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Of the new tracks, ‘Reflector’ stood out, just like it did on the album. It was hard not to get carried away when ‘Wake Up’ came on to finish and boy did it get the crowd going. A fantastic performance from one of the best rock bands of our generation, and that’s why we forked out the cash to attend.
FKA Twigs played a late night set bringing some edgy pop queen vibes that the great Bjork would have been proud of.
The final day arrived with All Them Witches the surprise package, offering a set of a groovy rock with a light progressive touch. Glass Animals also packed an indie punch, which led up to Brandon Flowers’ headline act. The Killers, still riding a decade long wave since their debut album ‘Hot Fuss’, still have what it takes to entertain a crowd. Even if it doesn’t quite live up to LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire in terms of class, you’re never going to be disappointed when singing along to their catchy pop tunes. It was a decent end to a decent weekend of music.
The Festival Experience
As a WAYHOME virgin, I could definitely tell that the festival was new and arguably still finding its feet. With the lure of some of the world’s biggest bands in town, the tickets didn’t come cheap, plus you were then expected to pay more for a separate camping pass (a new addition for this year I’ve heard). Did you expect to be able to shower for your $130 camping pass? Guess again, a weekend shower pass was another $30 payable upon arrival for those determined to stay clean. That aside, the camping situation was awesome and you were able to drive your car right up to where you pitched the tents – a first for me, having previously only attended festivals in England and Spain where you’re left to walk everything miles to the campsite.
It was a hell of a lot of fun chilling around a car as you could bring way more stuff for a better camping experience. Our 7 seat Honda Pilot was spacious enough to fit six people and all of our gear, meaning that we were able to fill up our WAYHOME camping spot travelling in a single vehicle.
When you got into the festival site itself, it was clear that the beer companies had spent a huge amount of money on fanny packs, sunglasses and other promotional tat. Perhaps it would be better if a can of beer got you change from a tenner instead? The lowest point of the festival for me was when a few of the bars ran out of beer. Yes, they ran out of beer at a music festival – it’s almost like they didn’t know how thirsty the audience would be!
Apart from the beer, shade was a problem. WAYHOME 2016 started with two days of blistering heat with most punters forced to retreat to the forest stage, which was pretty much the only shade. Those who had upgraded to VIP had shade, which did leave you wondering if shade really should be reserved for those who can afford it? Perhaps they weren’t expecting the heat, but here’s hoping that they learn for next year. Another potentially better alternative would be to program the music to start later and finish later. Again that’s something that they tend to get right at the big Spanish festivals, meaning you’re not forced to watch bands in the midday heat.
For all of the highs and lows of WAYHOME, it’s fair to say that it’s just good to finally have a music festival in Ontario that is capable of enticing some of the world’s greatest acts. I feel like that must be a huge sigh of relief for Torontonians, even if WAYHOME has a way to go before it becomes a truly exceptional festival.
Find out more on their website and remember to save the dates for next year, July 28th-30th 2017.