Having attended Wayhome Music Festival last year, I was a seasoned veteran that was way too excited to see what Wayhome’s sophomore year could bring to the table. Wayhome Music Festival, produced by Republic Live and Bonnaroo co-producer AC Entertainment, promised to feature headliners The Killers, LCD Soundsystem, and Arcade Fire, along with notable artists M83, Major Lazer, HAIM, Metric, Foals, Keys N Krates, Chet Faker and an additional 60+ artists this year. The festival offered multiple stages, a variety of late-night spectacles and experiences, original art installations, an on-site farmers market and more.
Proclaiming itself as a visual arts festival, attendees were able to see art installations and attractions throughout the festival grounds. This included pieces by Angus Watt, who created the festival’s signature flags, Aaron Li-Hill, Whitford, Trevor Wheatley, and featured installations from OCAD University, formerly known as the Ontario College of Art and Design. Guests who arrived before 8:00pm on Thursday this year were invited to participate in Wayhome Music Festival’s Artwalk, where they were encouraged to meet some of the artists.
The Wayhome and Wayhome stages left a lot of room to frolic in the sunshine, while Wayaway and Waybold stages gave Wayhomies some much needed shade with a tent large enough to fit over 10,000 and an intimately lit forest section decorated with Christmas lights, hammocks and bean bag chairs.
All of the staff seemed excited to welcome their 40,000 guests, extending big smiles, complimentary garbage bags and free swag all the way into the earlier hours of the morning. It was easy enough to set up camp, and with the help of our Belgian and Australian neighbors, our convoy amassed what we deemed the mecca of canopy tents and hippie tapestries, adorning our glorified blanket fort with two beer pong tables, Bluetooth speakers, bug spray and flags from around the world. “Welcome Home,” read a sign above the main gates, reminding all those who entered to treat each fellow Wayhomie like family.
Putting their best foot forward, the first day began with Tennyson at 1:00pm, starting the day off right with a decidedly eclectic and groovier electronic style.
By the second day, I could see fellow veteran festivalgoers beginning to try to draw their comparisons. “There was so much more to do in the festival last year”was a big one, and while the beloved ball pits by the Wayaway stage and outdoor mirror funhouse at the foot of the Wayhome stage were sorely missed, I had to disagree. Set up by Reebok, this year featured smack in the middle of Wayhome’s festival grounds was a gigantic Ferris Wheel that you received a free pair of shoes for riding. Somersby built an actual treehouse and Perrier turned a greenhouse into the hottest nightclub Oro-Medonte has ever seen – complete with an indoor seesaw. And while at first, I thought I might have accidentally ruined one of Wayhome’s more abstract art pieces, two walls lined with kitchen utensils, more painting supplies than an artist could possibly ever need, long metallic rods that jingled, and a massive drum-like surface to play it all on acted as a makeshift musical camping ground, where Wayhomies, friends and strangers, could be seen banging pots and pans together to put on their own personalized concert, whilst painting murals on the walls.
I too had noticed that Wayhome was a little more different this year. While last year, (Neil Young not withstanding) legendary artists Girl Talk, Bassnectar and Kendrick Lamar drew the biggest crowds, this year the music had taken on a funkier, more psychedelic vibe. Half Moon Run, The Arkells, and The Last Shadow Puppets acted as beacons for musical enjoyment, and I have to admit it was a nice change from the onslaught of hardstyle and electronic wobbles that have predominated the music festival scene over the past five years. Oddly reminiscent of photos I’ve only ever seen of my dad and his friends or of Woodstock, a large percentage of this festival’s attendees were dressed head to toe in 60’s and 90’s fashion, sporting choker necklaces, bold, bright colors, ruffles, androgynous hairstyles and psychedelic Tye-dye.
While I was a little concerned with the overwhelming amount of police presence at Wayhome this year, I found myself pleasantly surprised to see police officers giggling with groups of young adults, taking selfies, introducing themselves, shuffling and dancing along to the music. One police officer I met adorned a bright yellow sunflower in his hair and baby pink Polaroid camera, calmly explaining the benefits of harm reduction as opposed to zero tolerance policies.
To top it all off, there was a fireworks display after Major Lazer’s performance, and while the performance may have been less than stellar (i.e., Diplo awkwardly dancing with his back up dancers while his music played too quietly for the back rows to hear in the background), the fireworks were positively radiant.
In the film industry, a sequel is almost always a flop. The second time is almost never as good as the first, and when expectations are at an all time high, it’s easy to be disappointed. This was not the case for Wayhome Music Festival. In a press release on July 25th, Republic Live declared a second successful year for WayHome Music and Arts Festival with almost 40,000 fans in attendance. The festival attracted fans from every Canadian province, territory, 32 states in the USA and eight foreign countries and featured headliners Third Eye Blind, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem and The Killers along with 65 more artists. The music and arts festival presented multiple stages with a variety of late night displays, art installations, unique partner activations with Vitamin Water and Topshop, as well as fine international and local cuisine. I mean, you could get a sturdy pair of free shoes just for going on a Ferris Wheel.
According to the Wayhome press release, the event saw 35,000 fans camping on-site; others took to hotel shuttle packages, which sold out in early May, and 2,000 fans commuted daily. Despite 2016 being a difficult year for ticket sales for many music festivals in North America, WayHome was fortunate to see an increase in sales across all product offerings from year one to year two. Not even including the amount of free vitamin water being handed out by Vitamin Water, with the additions of six new water stations to the festival grounds on the second day, free water ensured that fans stayed hydrated. Over 2 million litres of water were utilized and 40,000 bags of ice were supplied to festivalgoers over the weekend.
There were a bevvy of bangers, groovy tunes and rock and roll this year and I could not have asked for a better way to spend a weekend. If the third time really is the charm, I would start saving the date for Wayhome Music Festival 2017, which will be taking place on July 28th – 30th 2017 at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds.
Photo taken by Benjamin Mitchell