This weekend, thousands of people found their Wayhome at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. The Wayhome Music & Arts Festival, now in its third year, decided to shake things up a bit this year with a multi-genre lineup, rather than focusing on the Indie-rock of previous years. Despite the mixed reviews of the initial lineup, the festival did succeed in expanding the reach of the festival attendees, just as Creative Director Ryan Howes had hoped.
However, numbers were still significantly less than the first two years. The upside being that you were able to get closer to the stage and the performers than ever before. In comparison to larger scale festivals like Osheaga in Montreal, there was far more room to breathe, move, and enjoy the show. The large open fields somehow felt small and intimate during the performances, especially the ones that really sucked you in.
With three stages, there was a lot of bouncing back and forth between acts, and it was not uncommon to cross the threshold from an EDM act on the small WayAway stage to hip-hop on the WayHome stage, as if you were crossing into the magical land of Narnia from the real world. In this case, you were literally crossing musical genres.
The fusing of genres was a bit bizarre at first, but made more sense as the festival found its groove. Even Schoolboy Q acknowledges this in his performance, candidly sharing with the crowd: “I honestly thought it would be whack since I was the only rapper here, but you guys have made it tight. I would definitely come back again if they’re willing to have me!”
The festival also gave EDM a much needed spotlight, featuring Flume as the headliner on night one, and ending the festival with Porter Robinson at the main Wayhome stage. It was refreshing to see these musical acts departing from the small EDM stages and making it onto the larger stages. Marshmello made excellent use of his larger venue, utilizing all of the stage effects at his disposal. His performance was literally “lit.” Although, there is something to be said for the intimate atmosphere created by a DJ set on a smaller stage, and nobody did it better than Louis the Child. DJ’s like Marshmello and Louis the Child certainly took advantage of the spotlight they received at the Wayhome festival, converting many casual listeners into unlikely fans.
Of course, the core Indie-rock faction also had its time in the limelight. Cage the Elephant’s performance was absolutely mind-blowing. The insane and unpredictable stage antics of front man, Matthew Schultz, was the definition of good old fashion rock n’ roll. Stay tuned for a full review of their performance and their newest album, “Unpeeled,” released the day they performed at Wayhome, later on this week!
Saw my faves last night, Cage always kills. This was my little brothers first ever concert/festival experience. Barry was at the front when Matt came down to the crowd, took his hand and directly sang to him. What an amazing experience for a first concert. After Matt did that the first thing my brother said was "he (Matt) is really sweaty" ahahha but he actually likes Cage alot now woohoo
Imagine Dragons, headlining nigh two, was so impeccable that there were no other scheduled performances during their set. The entire festival gathered at the Wayhome stage as the sun set on a clear summer night (it helped that all three days there was nothing but sunshine and sunny skies). Lead vocalist, Dan Reynolds, emerged on stage and immediately worked the crowd. Reynolds’ vocal range was enthralling and the performance overall was exactly what you would expect from a polished, talented, pop rock band like Imagine Dragons.
Reynolds also took this opportunity to share some personal information with the crowd. He mentions that despite the division in the world, “music unites us all,” and he goes on to share the story of his struggle with depression, as well as his anxiety over turning thirty. This led to a beautiful rendition of “Forever Young,” where everyone joined in harmony to celebrate living in the moment.
Imagine dragons at Wayhome Festival july 29, 2017
Photo, umusic pic.twitter.com/5CYzYsJaEM
— Imagine Dragons NL (@IDragons_NL) July 30, 2017
Reynolds also took the time to show off his crazy drumming skills, almost playing musical instruments with the other band members. He ran from one to the next, all the while singing every note perfectly. Reynolds wasn’t the only impressive one. At one point lead guitarist, Wayne Sermon, plays both acoustic and electric with the acoustic resting on top of his electric, alternating between both to suit the song.
After finishing strong with their new hit single “Believer,” they almost had the crowd fooled. They appeared to walk off stage and finish the set without performing their most popular single, “Radioactive.” They left everyone demanding an “encore,” and sure enough, they delivered. Reynolds, accompanied by the large drum, gently places the Canadian flag across it, and begins drumming with all his might, giving everyone the steady beat they craved as they finish their set.
The headliner for the closing night, Frank Ocean, could not have been more different from the previous night’s performance. And, that was the point. It’s not often you have a DJ like Porter Robinson opening for an indie-pop band like Tegan and Sara, who in turn were opening for an R&B performer like Frank Ocean. That’s what the Wayhome experience this year was about.
While the musical performances were stellar, the rest of the festival seemed to struggle to catch up. There were long breaks between sets; sometimes artists were over twenty minutes late, resulting in a shorter set than originally planned. There was definitely less art on display for a music and arts festival. In all honesty, it felt as if there were some serious budget constraints and the festival held back as a result. The lack of attendees had many wondering whether this would be the last year of Wayhome.
According to CTV, the attendance this year took a significant dip. They estimate that roughly 15 000 were on the grounds each day. Many of the vendors expressed their concern of the lack of attendance, whereas in previous years they always looked forward to receiving a lot of business from the festival.
BlogTO significantly pointed out that there was no “save the date” for next year, in fact there has been no communication at all from the Wayhome organizers about the potential for Wayhome 2018. No social media posts, no emails, just silence. The last post on their social media, from Frank Ocean’s closing performance, is captioned: “You’ll have this place to call home, always.” The future of Wayhome remains to be determined.
However, the Wayhome Music & Arts Festival does provide something significant to Canadians- the ability to experience live music and a festival atmosphere in Ontario, just two hours from one of Canada’s largest cities. Never before have these performances and artists felt so accessible to Torontonians.
As far as music festivals go, Wayhome is still an infant, only in its third year. Perhaps a fourth and fifth year will see it grow into the potential that it’s always had. Let’s just hope that it is given that chance to grow and maybe find its Wayhome.