When 40,000 music fans flock to camp in one place, like they did to Burl’s Creek for the second annual WayHome, an abundance of activities is kind of a necessity. After all, a busy day keeps your mind off aching joints. A jammed schedule makes you forget about increasing fatigue. And non-stop music allows you to quit worrying about the sweat flowing out of every pore, and start embracing that putrid grime as you dance the weekend away and have the time of your life.
WayHome grabbed our attention from the second we arrived, and didn’t let go.
We couldn’t witness everything WayHome had to offer, but we damn sure tried. Here are the best things we saw at WayHome 2016:
The lights went out, the disco ball lowered, and without saying a word, LCD Soundsystem stormed the stage and launched into the biggest dance party the small town of Oro-Medonte will ever see.
The set was a sensory assault in the best way possible.
The drop in “Dance Yrself Clean” was so massive that it was (likely solely) responsible for the lowered volume on the main stages for the rest of the weekend.
It was that huge.
You wanted a hit? How about a set full of ’em?! LCD never took their foot off the gas, leaving the crowd with, if nothing else, a damn fantastic calf workout.
Perhaps the most anticipated set of the weekend, Arcade Fire came out swingin’ and didn’t stop. Opening the show with the “Ready to Start”, “The Suburbs” and “Sprawl II”, the ensemble took Win Butler’s years-old advice to heart: “Shut up and play the hits”.
The band’s performance was professional and proficient, but left plenty of room for humor. A tongue-in-cheek snippet of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” led into “Keep The Car Running”, and the band’s infamous bobble-heads encouraged everyone, who wasn’t already, to dance ridiculously.
The set closer, “Wake Up” came all too soon, with a gigantic display of fireworks shot off in the distance as the song concluded. After a round of rapturous applause, Win thanked the crowd and tossed a live microphone into the crowd, which was miraculously caught by a teary-eyed fan. She professed her love for the band, after having been proposed to only moments earlier.
The feels continued, with half the crowd hypnotized by the pyrotechnics, and the other half still voraciously calling for an encore. The band, still on-stage, looked spellbound.
“Don’t look at us,” Win said. “Those fireworks are amazing.”
So are you guys, Win.
With infectious hits, a fiery stage show and unlimited energy, The Killers’ festival-capping performance made last year’s closer, Sam Smith, seem like an on-stage lullaby.
Performing in front of one of the biggest main-stage crowds of the weekend, the Killers continued the weekend’s headliner tradition of pleasing the crowd by any means necessary. Whether that meant opening with one of their most famous songs, “Mr. Brightside”, or tossing in a beautiful cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, the band’s only goal was to play for the people.
Brandon Flowers was in such fine voice that his pipes tore through the crowd in a way that made even the most inebriated crowd singalongs sound in key.
The band concluded their encore with the epic “When You Were Young”, appropriately capturing the ethos of WayHome, and also allowing everyone to reflect on a weekend of happiness, rather than dwelling on the sadness that WayHome was over.
THAT’S how you close a festival!
Despite a last-minute schedule flip that saw Savages take the stage two hours earlier than anticipated, the leather-clad ladies from London played their pulsing noise rock to a captivated late-night crowd. The schedule-makers deserve top marks for booking Savages where they did, as the band used the intimate, forested WayAway stage to maximum effect.
The band frequently plays an excellent cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”, but after the recent passing of Suicide founder Alan Vega, singer Jehnny Beth confessed she would use the Wayhome performance as a cathartic tribute to her idol. Beth brilliantly controlled the song’s ebbs and flows, signalling the band every time she needed sharp blasts of guitar as a release.
With perfect sound, a minimalist stage design, and commanding charisma, the audience ravenously grabbed for Savages like they were a free slice of festival pizza.
By the time Savages closed with their anthemic track “Fuckers”, Beth was in the crowd for the third time, belting the song’s hook: “don’t let the fuckers get you down”.
As the crowd parted, they chanted the same thing.
Bahamas (aka Akie Jurvanen) plays grooves so bouncy, you just HAVE to move.
The crowd was smilin’, dancin’ and even, hoopin’, as Afie tackled “I Got You Babe”, “All The Time” and “Stronger Than That”.
Bahamas also showed he can laugh while introducing an unfinished new song, ironically about the difficulties of songwriting.
But the set’s true highlight was a supremely funky, surprise cover of D’Angelo’s “One Mo Gin”. The interpretation proved that Bahamas isn’t just here to provide pleasant grooves — they are a band armed with stellar musicianship, an unflappable confidence and impeccable taste.
Last year, WayHome was pretty.
But this year, entering the WayHome grounds felt like the reveal on Extreme Makeover: Festival Edition.
With the addition of luminescent dragonflies, LED-balloon chains, dozens of art installations, and even MORE sky-high flags, you could easily have as great a time looking around as you could watching the music.
The Arkells are well on their way to becoming CanCon royalty. And the massive crowd for their set at the WayBright stage were practically attending the coronation ceremony. Tearing through hits like “Private School” and “Leather Jacket”, Arkells also delivered a medley of Motown classics, and paid tribute to the Tragically Hip with a cover of “My Music At Work”. O Canada indeed. Grab your crown, boys.
Nothing will wake you up quicker than an early-afternoon set by Toronto rockers Dilly Dally. Who needs coffee when you’ve got Katie Monks charmingly screaming in your face?! Dilly Dally charged through debut album highlights “Desire” and “Purple Rage” to an impressively-sized crowd for a Sunday morning.
It’s no wonder, when guitarist Liz Ball ripped licks so sharp they could slice right through your tent.
And really, any band that can play a smokin’, straight-faced cover of Drake’s “Know Yourself” is one worth watching.
Fans of Ray’s uber-chill side looked a little surprised when Lamontagne walked on stage flanked by My Morning Jacket. The band tore into Ray’s psychedelic new album Ouroboros, playing it all the way through — at a festival gig.
Ray was the rare WayHome act not here to pander — he was here to invite the audience upon his journey. During “Wouldn’t It Make A Lovely Photograph”, Ray admitted as much, singing “you’re never gonna hear this song on the radio”. The set was rockin’ enough to get half the crowd movin’, but chill enough to put the other half in a blissed-out trance.
Trippy on-stage visuals added a Dark Side of the Moon vibe — appropriate, when from afar, you could have sworn you were hearing Pink Floyd.
Keyboardist Bo Koster supplied lush soundscapes and spot-on harmonies to “She’s The One” and “Drive-In Movies”, but the real showstopper was “Hey No Pressure”. The track turned into an epic 10-minute guitar battle between Ray and lead guitarist Carl Broemel, which not only proved how strong of a band MMRay is, but how perfectly they capture Ray’s new sound.
What WayHome lacked in freaks, props and general craziness last year, it made up for BIG TIME in year two. Everywhere you looked, there was a funny totem, people in costume or someone willing to yuk it up with you while waiting for a band.
With new festivals popping up like weeds all over the summer music landscape, a great crowd and welcoming environment is key for any festival’s success. The second year of WayHome proved that festival-goers are ready to embrace this major Ontario camping festival, and the trend is poised to continue next year when WayHome returns July 28-30, 2017.
We can’t wait.