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The Mischievous Minds Behind WayHome’s Maddening Mysteries

For festival-goers, lineup season is an anxious time. The lingering joy from last year’s festivals has slowly faded, replaced by a fiery anticipation that leads to many sleepless nights. This stress is amplified when festivals seem to enjoy taunting impatient festival-goers. And when it comes to tormenting their fans with teasers, WayHome Music & Arts Festival ranks damn near the top.

Since its inception, WayHome has always done things a little differently. In August 2014, when organizers had to settle on a name for the festival, there were no corporate focus groups. The Republic Live team simply packed their cars with tents and beer, and headed to the festival grounds, seeking inspiration while camping.

Six months later, when those same organizers were due to announce the festival, they eschewed all traditional forms of pre-festival hype. No social media. Nothing online, period. WayHome instead plastered cryptic posters all over Toronto, teasing a mysterious launch event that instructed people NOT to attend. Those who showed up were rewarded with envelopes marked DO NOT OPEN. If you opened your envelope, you were given a free ticket to the inaugural WayHome. If you followed instructions and left it sealed, congratulations, you got a lifetime pass.

The launch -- Photo courtesy of Jeff Bierk

The launch — Photo courtesy of Jeff Bierk

So when it came time to announce the 2016 WayHome lineup, no one should have been shocked when WayHome continued to innovate, releasing the first-ever series of 360° interactive lineup teaser videos. The videos immersed viewers in a world containing almost forty clues — both visual and aural — and challenged fans to guess who was playing the festival.

If you were sucked into WayHome’s tantalizing trail of teasers, you have Spencer Cathcart and Rashad Maharaj at Puncture Design to thank — or curse. They were amongst the Republic Live crew sitting in the forest, poppin’ brews until “WayHome” stuck. They were the ones who proposed to take the initial announcement of the festival completely offline. And this year, they were the mischievous minds behind the festival season’s most twisted lineup reveal.

By December 2015, the WayHome booking team had locked down most of the lineup. Rashad and Spencer were handed a list, and upon it: Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, The Killers — pretty much every WayHome act that would remain a heavily guarded secret until three months later. Their task was to tease the lineup — and create some CRAZY hype in the process.

“We saw this 360° video technology last year, and thought — wow,” says Rashad from Puncture’s downtown Toronto studio. “I knew this was how we had to handle the lineup rollout… somehow.”

“It really wasn’t until we saw the work of Alex McLeod that our vision started to come to life,” adds Spencer.

McLeod is a Toronto artist who has been creating hyper-realistic 3D environments for everyone from Conde Nast to Saatchi & Saatchi. His work has been displayed everywhere from to New York to San Jose. “Alex’s insanely awesome work was what made us believe we could pull this off,” Spencer gushes. “And the powers-that-be at Republic Live completely bought in.”

Early look at the 360-degree forest -- Photo courtesy of Alex McLeod

The inspiration behind the 360-degree forest — Photo courtesy of Alex McLeod

Rashad says Puncture has been “extremely lucky to work for the Republic Live team who completely trusts us,” but also admits “the clues we created for the artist additions last year may have been a little too cryptic. This year, we wanted to get people working towards solutions, while reinforcing the WayHome brand and making them explore a little.”

Long before the Puncture crew could start creating clues and placing them within this alternate 3D universe, they had to research. For weeks, everyone at Puncture studied as if they were musical academics, their research downright scholarly. WayHome artists had their song lyrics, album covers and music videos scoured for every detail, no matter how small. For Puncture, any obscure fact they uncovered was gold — anything to build a clue around.

Early sketch of the "White Room" -- courtesy of Puncture

Early sketch of clue layout — courtesy of Puncture Design

The next task was to create a layout for this wonderland of musical mysteries. Using McLeod’s 3D dreamworld’s as a base, Puncture began laying out where to put which clues. Should the more obvious clues be bigger? When would the audio clues play? Should we tease all the headliners?

“Ultimately, we decided against any clues for headliners,” admits Spencer. “We were brainstorming with Jacob Matthews [Director of Marketing for Republic Live] and we all agreed we didn’t want to take away the rush that comes with being knocked out by a huge top line when the lineup was released. We created the headliner clues with the intention of using them, but we nixed ’em, which is a shame, because there were some good ones. Especially for LCD Soundsystem. I loved the idea of putting the tiny security camera from the cover of Sound of Silver in a corner of one of the rooms. We even had the broken disco-ball from the cover of their first album in one of our early drafts.”

Early draft of the "White Room" with LCD Soundsystem clues -- courtesy of Puncture

Early concept of the “White Room” with LCD Soundsystem clues — courtesy of Puncture Design

When it was time to drop the videos on February 5th, Puncture watched in real-time as the ever-ravenous WayHome Reddit community attempted to solve clues. Most of the more conservative guesses were bang-on. Granted, a giant laser pointer referring to Major Lazer wasn’t exactly a stretch, nor was Mac DeMarco’s trademark gap-tooth grin placed upon a head of lettuce. But the WayHome community looked so hard for hints, some of the intricate design was misinterpreted entirely. (Sorry, those weren’t fake plastic trees — it was virtual mahogany.)

“We were so impressed at how in-depth people got with solving these clues,” says Rashad. “The fan reaction has been beyond expectation…Someone pulled the code from the original video that we repurposed to tease Kurt Vile, and found it was from an auto-shop selling the very same car as the one in the ‘Pretty Pimpin’ video.”

Mac DeMarco clue -- courtesy of Puncture

Mac DeMarco clue — courtesy of Puncture Design

The vexing video strategy paid off, with the two teasers racking up almost 100,000 combined YouTube views in just a few days. To get people everywhere talking about WayHome’s biggest marketing asset — the lineup release — before the lineup had even dropped, meant a mission accomplished for Puncture.

As for what they have in store next, Puncture and WayHome would prefer, of course, to leave it a mystery.

“From the on-set, WayHome has been clever, thought-provoking, mysterious, and a little weird,” Rashad says. “Mystery is a beautiful thing. It represents possibility and potential… a really powerful tool in the festival world. Since our fans have been receptive to it, we’ve been allowed to design some pretty crazy campaigns… And we want fans to continue to expect that.”

What a tease.

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Tickets for WayHome go on sale February 16th at noon.

Check out the full lineup announcement video below.

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