It was a sweltering weekend in Oro-Medonte and the weather wasn’t the only thing that was hot. With an attendance upwards of 40,000 people (a 5,000 person increase from last years inaugural event) WayHome was the place to be.
Just over an hour north of Toronto, people from all around gathered at Burl’s Creek to let loose to the music of headliners LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and The Killers as well as countless other musical talents. Four stages scattered across the 92-acre property hosted an array of artists with enough variety of genres that everyone was happy and no performance was left unattended. The Canadian Coachella/Bonnaroo hybrid may only be in it’s second year but there is no doubt in my mind that it has the potential to grow to the level of it’s mentors. WayHomies were treated not only to 3 days of non-stop, next level entertainment, but to enchanting aesthetics that mirrored a favourite childhood fairy-tale. Light shows with a backdrop of beautiful cedar trees, floral banners welcoming patrons ‘home’ and sculptures illuminating the way aided festival goers with finding their way all over the venue grounds.
With so many incredible bands to choose from, all you had to do was follow your ears in any direction and you were bound to be greeted by unyielding talent. We were taken to church on Friday morning with performances by the always cool Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats and a man who defines soul, Gary Clark Jr.
Missouri native Rateliff and the guys tickled eardrums at the WayBright stage with some of their singles like I Need Never Get Old, Look It Here and of course, S.O.B. Stakes were raised with the sultry, soulful addition of a saxophone, which seemed to be a crowd favourite throughout the weekend. Opening his set at the WayHome stage with his single Bright Lights, Austin native Gary Clark Jr. lived up to his reputation. Making it look unnaturally easy, Clark kept us in church with his soul/gospel groove and hooked us all with his effortless guitar stylings. These two were a hell of a way to kick the weekend off.
Over on the WayBright stage post Rateliff, Montreal band Wolf Parade played both new songs and old, like The Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, which pleased many longtime fans in the audience considering the band has just returned after a five year hiatus. Shortly after, the energetic Scottish synth-pop band Chvches who write, record, mix and master their music in a basement in Glasgow, jumped onto the WayBright stage and put on quite a show. (Clip seen here.)
Not too long after, it seemed like all 40,000 people migrated to the WayHome stage to be energized by electrifying headliner LCD Soundsystem. The grammy-nominated group, started by frontman James Murphy in 2002, took a break in 2011 until December of 2015. So their performance at WayHome was not only enjoyed by newbies, but deeply felt and celebrated by longtime fans. (Short clip here.)
Following their Brooklyn-centric, disco-ball lit performance, the crowd headed to WayBright to be pumped up by hip-hop brothers Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi” Brown who most people would know as, Rae Sremmurd. The duo performed some of their popular trap-hop tunes and really got the crowd jumping.. Literally. (Check it out for yourself!)
Over on the smaller, but never disappointing stage WayAway, a Philadelphia group caught our attention. The group called, Marian Hill consists of vocalist Samantha Gongol, production artist and beat genius Jeremy Lloyd and with another crowd pleasing appearance of saxophone, Steve Davit. We were drawn in by one tune in particular called Down, and couldn’t tear ourselves away. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Marian Hill on a much bigger stage next time.
After a few hours of sleep, day two commenced with an incredible performance on the WayHome stage by performance artist/violinist/dancer/singer/composer Lindsey Stirling.
With a new album entitled Brave Enough coming out on August 19th, Stirling high-kicked her way through both new songs and old with the help of some equally energetic backup dancers. Though she pointed out that she has recently returned from a 9 month break from touring, you would be hard pressed to find any cobwebs on her performance.
With a jam-packed Saturday schedule, picking and choosing who to see was nearly impossible. Catching performances from bands like Phosphorescent, Half Moon Run, Banners, Kurt Vile and the Violators, X-ambassadors and A Tribe Called Red kept us running all over Burl’s Creek for the majority of the day, but to a badass soundtrack.
Seattle based indie singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen, and his band that day dubbed The Feelings, performed on the WayAway stage and captured everyones attention. Gundersen, who is signed to Canadian label Dine Alone Records, simultaneously sped up heart rates and soothed any lingering hangovers from the previous night.
Hamilton natives The Arkells drew a gargantuan crowd to the WayBright stage in the afternoon. Sticking with their pattern of putting on incredible shows, The Arkells always tap into a new energy level and radiate gratitude and excitement with every performance. (Check it out!)
Third Eye Blind hit up the WayHome stage for a rockin’, nostalgic nineties set. Fresh off of their politically charged performance in Cleveland during the RNC of the American election season. These guys have become household names again and really gave a hell of a show.
The night continued on with headliners Arcade Fire at the main WayHome stage and Major Lazer at WayBold, and though they put on an absolutely astounding performance (here is the insanity), there were two acts of the later evening artists who captured our attention.
A highlight of the weekend alongside Faker was British entertainer FKA Twigs on WayBold. Unapologetically authentic in her eerie and entrancing way, the artist put on a strange and inarguably beautiful performance. In a time when young women are told to conform to be beautiful, FKA Twigs represents an anti-society movement that you can’t deny.
The third and final day packed the same amount of punch as the previous. Toronto based Alt-Rock band Dilly Dally caused a morning mosh-pit over at the WayBright stage first thing Sunday. They woke people up with their fantastically unique, grungy material, and a viral worthy heavy cover of Drake’s Runnin’ Through The Six.
Heading over to the WayBold stage, we find another powerhouse female was rocking out. L.A. based British singer Bishop Briggs entertained a large gathering of WayHomies with many songs including her hit single River.
Moving over to the WayAway stage, we were pacified by Australian band The Paper Kites. A favourite of mine for many years, it is always exciting when the band comes to Canada. The WayAway stage was packed with people chilling out to the super vibey tunes, reminiscent of snuggles on a rainy afternoon.
Toronto’s own pride, Stars took over the WayHome stage with a passionate performance and a lead singer sporting a “Doin’ it for Downie” t-shirt. Showing his support for fellow Canadian rocker Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. A few raindrops fell briefly but no one would scatter anywhere away from Stars.
WayHome, though in its infancy in festival standards, has proven to be a true home away from home for music lovers. There was an air of love and kindness floating though the festival, which could be surprising given the number in attendance. Everyone who attends WayHome is there to love life, fun and music. Congratulations to WayHome and a wonderful second year, and here’s to many more years of finding our Way Home.
Written By: Bianca Bernardi
Photos: Mike Highfield