WAYHOME MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL 2017
@ Burl’s Creek, Oro-Medonte
July 28 – July 30, 2017
Oro-Medonte was bustling the weekend of July 28-30 with everything in place for WayHome’s third year in the running. The third installment of WayHome 2017 took place at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, just an hour north of Toronto. This three day music festival encompassed huge fields for camping, or glamping for those who preferred a VIP treatment. Some added elements to the festival included local cuisine, a farmer’s market, art installations, craft vendors, yoga, volleyball and more. Corporate sponsorship was strongly felt on the festival grounds, but hey, who can complain when MEC sets up a web of hammocks in the shade for some extra relaxation?
This year, there were three stages set up for performers over the weekend: WayHome, WayBright, and WayAway. Some of the headlining acts included The Shins, Flume, Justice, Solange, Imagine Dragons, Marshmello, Tegan and Sara, and Frank Ocean. Although the attendance was not as high as expected this year, festival attendees appreciated the extra space to dance and get up close to the stage. Marissa commented, “WayHome was wicked. Definitely my favourite shows were Allan Rayman, Justice, Daniel Caesar, and Frank Ocean. It’s funny because as much as I loved the music, the camping with friends was an equal highlight. Was a great weekend all around!”
FRIDAY JULY 28 – DAY 1
The Shins began playing their psychedelic soundscapes on the WayBright stage at 9:30 pm. In front of a fluorescent melting skull backdrop, the 6 band members mostly showcased older songs, particularly from their album Oh, Inverted World as well as Wincing the Night Away. As an intermezzo at 10pm, The Shins also played some newer dancier songs, which singer James Mercer labelled as the dark section of the set. There was an overall progressive vibe with sweet transitions and psychedelic synth breaks, surrounded by reverb-based guitar solos. The audience sang along to all of the old school tunes – not missing any of the lyrics.
Besides the main singer, all band members sang along at some point, harmonizing with and accompanying James Mercer. The setup consisted of 3 guitars, synthesizer and violin, drums, and bass. Oh, and each instrument was decorated with pink and white flowers as an added touch.
The crowd’s vibe was smooth and chilled. They finished off the set with “Sleeping Lessons”, which was juxtaposed with Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. The song drifted back and forth and really got people dancing and jumping to the surfy vibe. All in all, they are still keeping the indie Rock classic Shins vibe.
Flume, aka Harley Streten, performed his future bass-electronica-trip hop on the WayHome stage at 10:15pm. With his track “Say It” (feat. Tove Lo), the crowds went wild. Amplified on the big screens, he sang along to every word as the bass shook the festival grounds. The backdrop took the audience through outer space on Flume’s musical jet. Through the mic, he did a great job at pumping up the audience to clap and dance along to the tracks.
As one of the headliners, he fulfilled his DJ duty. The set was entertaining, giving crowds the roller coaster ride they asked for. However, it was interesting seeing that he had so many midi keyboards and drum machines around him that were barely touched during his set. Who knows what these popular headlining DJs are doing, other than cheering the crowds, yelling into the microphone, and waving their hands. Are we already at a time where machines have taken the musical lead?
As a huge headliner of WayHome, Justice did not disappoint. The French electronic duo played from 11:30pm – 12:45 am on the WayBright stage, in a jungle of lights synched up to their intergalactic sounds. Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay mixed old and new songs – wowing the audience during the intro with a rendition of “D.A.N.C.E.” intermingled with “Safe and Sound”.
They played a live set with analogue synths and used vocal samples with synth-driven electro lines. Justice are truly masterful at song mixing and playing live melodies, surprising the crowd with every knob they turned. Each track they played was accompanied by a new set of light setups and colours, synching with each sound to build the perfect hard electro disco infused atmosphere.
SATURDAY JULY 30 – DAY 2
Charlotte Cardin, a 22-year old pop electro jazz singer from Montreal awed the crowds at stage WayBright. She played keys and sang, Ben was on the drums, and Mac on the synth and bass. Not surprisingly, as the trend continues in the world of today’s soulful music, the ghost of Amy Winehouse crept in through the sound. Charlotte showcased her new song that she wrote two weeks prior called “California” (because there aren’t enough Cali songs). Next up was “Main Girl”, which really showed off her smooth and suave vocal skills. When “Dirty Dirty” came as the last song, audiences sang along and swayed to all the feels.
Houndmouth, from Albany, played an intimate alternative rock set at the WayAway stage from 6:30 to 7pm. This band was an appropriate successor to Honne’s set, who played on stage WayBright until 4:45pm. After the sound technicians fixed some technical difficulties, the band began their set. The singer really kicked it off with more excitement during song number two. The two tenor saxophonists supported the vocalist, and added an extra punch to the epic parts of each song, many of which were new from the upcoming album. Given its shady location, crowds came over to this stage and enjoyed some bluesy rockin tunes during the pre-sunset.
Solange’s retro futurist vibes graced the festival on the WayBright stage, although she shone way brighter than the stage. There was a total of nine musicians — two brass instruments (trombone and trumpet), keys, drums with a pad for claps and other percussive sounds, bass, guitar, two backup vocalists, and of course the one and only.
After a mind-blowing introduction and a beautifully constructed spherical 3D sunset coloured backdrop, Solange brought in “Weary” from her recent album A Seat at the Table. Her entire band had perfectly coordinated dance moves, all while playing their respective instruments. This visually aesthetic experience gave WayHome the creative dance appeal that was very much needed. Not many other musicians had such a high level of artistry and precision with their onstage presence.
Next up was “Cranes In The Sky”, and the crowd went wild. There were comments from all around the audience, “oh my god, she’s so f-king cool,” “that fro though,” “she is queen.” Yes, these were all very accurate. Solange didn’t hold back from her interactions with the audience; she certainly got everybody in the mood to dance, besides walking around the crowd during one of her songs. “Solange was magnificent – incredibly touching,” said Justin. Mark continued, “legendary performance.”
Although most of her tunes were from her latest album, Solange gave the crowd a throwback: “T.O.N.Y.” She told the audience that they were having drum difficulties with the sound, and that she was opting for unplugged versions; “this is by far our most challenging show. But then you come out here and feel all your energy. Tonight, I leave you with Don’t Touch My Hair.” All throughout, there were very complex unison build ups with odd time signatures like 5/4. The set ended the same way it began – super smooth and flawless, leaving everyone with their jaws dropped.
On the WayHome stage, Imagine Dragons opened up their kingdom from 9:30pm to 11pm. This American rock band consists of Dan Reynolds on lead vocals, Wayne Sermon on lead guitar, bassist and keyboardist Ben McKee, and Daniel Platzman on drums.
Night Visions was well represented with tunes like “Demons” and “On Top Of The World”. Reynolds was making some awkward conversation with the audience, stating that he was sad to have recently turned 30, and that his youthfulness felt officially over. Somehow, this was his segue into an a capella version of “Forever Young”. Yes, he asked the audience to sing along to his sadness. After that rendition was over, Reynolds preached, saying that we all need to take it day by day because we may die at any moment. Definitely a good way to pump up the audience.
That preach wasn’t enough, because he then continued by asking the audience if anyone has any regrets, if they’ve lied, or if they wonder about the future. Again, this odd small talk transitioned the band into playing “Yesterday” while Reynolds showed off his beat boxing skills. For a Saturday night headliner, this performance was a bit of a downer.
Marshmello was the closing headliner on the WayBright stage from midnight till 1 am. This seemed to be the wildest set of the weekend. There were constant drops, fast song mixing and a super intense video installation, driving spectators wild. The majority of festival attendees were present at this set which turned WayBright into a frenzied dance floor.
Marshmello knew how to keep the crowd interested and excited by blending his trap breaks with ‘classic’ hits from Blink 182, Oasis, Nirvana, Papa Roach, Adele, and songs from the top 40 charts. The crowd kept jumping with excitement to each of these drops which lasted very little until the following build up, all accompanied by some daemonic visuals, that only made the experience much more thrilling. This was definitely an experience of sensation, a roller coaster ride for those who love to be driven to the edge.
SUNDAY JULY 31 – DAY 3
Caesar’s performance on the WayAway stage at 7 pm blew the audience away – his suave R&B style and soulful voice lifted everyone off the ground. Playing a variety of tunes from “Violet” to “Get You”, the 22-year-old wowed the crowds. His set was flawless, and his melodies and lyrics had everyone in a trance. “This show was one that I couldn’t miss,” said Nick. “Daniel Caesar’s performance was effortless and really blew everyone away.” Pilgrim’s Paradise was largely showcased, revealing some deep and emotive writing that is extremely raw and authentic. Fans were most definitely in paradise after this magical set.
“If you like a little humanity from your concert experiences, a Frank Ocean set more than delivers,” stated Elliot. “Performances by stars headlining massive festival stages tend to be choreographed and polished affairs, but the L.A. experimental R&B singer/songwriter was in his own creative zone on the closing night of WayHome. He restarted songs for reasons known only to him, didn’t interact much with the crowd or his three-piece band (which included Alex G), changed the set list on a whim, opened with a handful of new songs few of us had heard before, and reinterpreted ones from his two-album catalogue in sometimes disorienting ways. Overall, a very grand display of vulnerability and uniqueness, nothing short of what we’d expect from Frank.”
The question of the night is whether Frank Ocean’s performance was staged, or whether it really went down the way it did. Ocean began at 9:45 pm on the WayHome stage; surprisingly, the closing headliner stage forgot some song lyrics, and continued apologizing to the crowds. During the song Solo, when he realized he came in a beat too late, Ocean insisted on starting over so that it could be done in the perfect way that he had imagined. This made the festival closure seem like he was playing a low key, under rehearsed show. For some audience members, this might have been a bummer, but for most attendees, the imperfection of the set brought fans closer to Frank Ocean; creating a cozier environment that fostered deeper self expression.
Myles thoughtfully articulated, “He was amazing. The show was set up kind of like a rehearsal. His musicians had their backs to the audience and made like a half circle. His voice was on point the whole time and his song selections were perfect. I think the coolest part of the set was the visual aspect. The shots on the screens were genius. At times, I’d be watch the stage and Frank would turn his back to the crowd which would make me feel weird but then you look at the screen and it’s a shot of him singing with the entire crowd behind him it all makes sense. That’s one of MANY different examples of things he’d do. The filming honestly looked like it was straight out of a movie”.
Wearing big headphones to be able to hear his own vocals, he emotionally and introspectively performed “Ivy” and “Self Control”. The audience happily sang along and supported Ocean’s performance. Overall, Frank Ocean performed as though he was at home, it felt like it was a rehearsal – but who knows whether this tone was purposeful or not. Visual projections also felt very DIY, almost like a VHS or a home camera, confirming the low key elements to the intimate set. Debate is open.
SOME GENERAL FESTIVAL REMARKS
The art installations were great – at the rear part of the big stages there were huge flags which provided an other worldly atmosphere, making one feel as if they were in a sort of whimsical place. Besides all the visuals and the stages’ light shows, there was a neat installation consisting of helium filled balloons making a half oval shape around the rear part of the WayHome stage; at night, these balloons were illuminated with small lights so that the structure could also be visible when it was dark. What was interesting about this structure was that the wind was its co-creator by pushing the stringed balloons to form a unique shape.
Huge infrastructure, too little people. The festival seemed to be planned to have twice as many attendees. As Rachel stated, “It was much quieter this year than last year though. I think they had around 30,000 people last year and maybe only 10,000 this year.” At times, one could be looking at a big artist performing and then turn back to see that there were not many people around. Both stages WayHome and WayBright seemed half full, with the exception of Marshmello headlining on Saturday night at WayBright (which was considerably smaller than WayHome).
The food vending situation was interesting since most people kept looking for healthier options than what was offered. It seemed that barely no one could stomach a full weekend of the classic burgers, chicken fingers, poutine, wheat tortilla tacos, and ice cream. At least there was a volleyball court for those who wanted to stay physically active.
The overall age of the attendees varied, however, the main age group was 20 to 25 years old (yes, lots of weekend selfies). It was interesting to see young parents with their children sitting on a blanket at midnight listening to Imagine Dragons, or during the day playing in the middle of the field.
One thing that was a bit shady was the ‘cashless account’ that each attendee had to create in order to make any transactions within festival grounds. Although it was convenient to ‘top up’ the account as needed and to have the option of an automated (and dangerous) ‘top up,’ it was a bit unfair to have to pay an extra five dollar charge when getting a refund for whatever remained unspent after the event.
As expected from such a renowned festival, sound quality was consistently good and clean. The scheduling was flawless, the organizers were great at starting and ending acts right on time. The visual show was also amazing, especially on WayBright where artists like The Shins, Justice, Solange and Marshmello seemed to have brought their own visual team which included either a unique stage background, an impressive light show, or an intense video projection, all smoothly juxtaposed with the music.
Will there be a WayHome 2018? Or will we all StayHome?
– Giselle Hausman
(Photography by Morgan Harris)