So, this was the second ever WayHome Festival, and also my second time attending Ontario’s version of Bonnaroo.
If last year was the trial run, this year was smooth sailing all the way through. That said, there were very few kinks last year – the only one I really remember being Passion Pit having to cancel last minute only to be replaced with my faves Broken Social Scene. This was easily the highlight of last year for me, aside from seeing Neil Young play an incredible 3 hour set.
Due to work obligations, we arrived at Oro-Medonte this year on Friday evening, making it inside the festival grounds just in time to catch LCD Soundsystem – the band of the weekend.
We were still setting up our tent when we heard the opening notes to “Us V Them” and decided our tent was functional enough that we would survive the night with it as is. On the walk over, they played the one song my friend knew of theirs, “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” I was excited to watch him witness the greatness that is LCD, despite the fact that he honestly had them confused with the horrific band, LMFAO.
Once inside, they played “I Can Change,” and the moment I had been waiting for for six years finally arrived. Finally seeing LCD Soundsystem live was everything I had always expected it would be, and more.
Every time the opening riff for one of my favorite songs came on I looked back at my friend and exclaimed “This is my song!” Eventually, I sounded like a broken record. There is probably something quite annoying about someone explaining songs you’ve never heard before to you while you’re hearing them for the first time, but he was good sport, enduring my unending excitement/soundbites.
Songs 9 through 14 were essentially all my songs. The heartbreaking “Someone Great” was followed by “Losing My Edge,” which I excitedly summarized for him during the opening 10 seconds. It has long been a classic LCD song –and it is easily one of my songs– but to experience it with someone who was so into it at first listen that he demanded we sit and discuss it after the set, was something I’ll always remember.
“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” came on soon after, and I reveled in the feelings it always gives me toward my New York, Toronto. “But you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown,” indeed.
Throughout the entire set, I was waiting for one song, which many would consider the song. When they briefly exited I was terrified for a split second that I wouldn’t get to hear it, but I knew that would be absolutely insane. They returned, and played a stunning version of “Dance Yrself Clean” and then came the moment that validated our rush hour arrival: “All My Friends.”
The opening notes hit the airwaves, and I COULD FINALLY exclaim, “THIS. THIS is my song. For real this time. This is the song.” And I danced, and sang along to every word, and cried, and enjoyed every goddamn second of it. It was glorious.
Day 2 was a little quieter due to hanging out at the tent with new camp friends and getting a little distracted by delicious Smirnoff Electric drinks we happily shared with our neighbours. They have easily become my drink of the summer (try the Electric Berry if you like sweeter drinks, the Electric Citrus if you prefer sour). Smirnoff also had an installation at WayHome, the Smirnoff Sound Collective, where they had live performances from electronic artists throughout the festival.
Once inside, I caught an incredible set by M83. Due to my friend being a huge Arctic Monkeys fan, we left early to catch Alex Turner’s other group – The Last Shadow Puppets. Personally, I was not feeling this set, it was the definition of rock and roll cliche, and beyond their obnoxious stage presence it did nothing for me sonically – but I see how their fans love it. It was certainly high energy.
Arcade Fire’s highly anticipated set was next, and having previously seen them play at Massey Hall and Bonnaroo in their early years, I knew they would be giving one of the most memorable performances of the festival.
A huge highlight was their quick cover of Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” before going into “Keep The Car Running,” a very Bruce-y track from Neon Bible.
Of course they saved all their best work (i.e. Funeral) for the end, with “Haiti” followed by “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels),” “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out),” “Rebellion (Lies),” with a quick change to “Here Comes The Nighttime.” They saved their greatest song of all time, “Wake Up,” for the finale – exploding confetti, fireworks and all. Due to the logistics of having no cell service at WayHome and losing my friend in the crowd, this set was not the highlight of WayHome for me that it might have been otherwise, but that is irrelevant to their spectacular performance. They played flawlessly and it was even more of a spectacle than it was back at Bonnaroo–although little blue lights didn’t drop from the sky this time.
After miraculously reuniting with my lost compadre, we overheard some of Savages set before heading to see Patrick Watson, who had a late start but made up for it by playing until 2am. It was the perfect way to reverse what ended up being a bit of a stressful evening, and it finally made me a full blown fan after hearing only good things for many years. He is incredibly funny, a talented performer, and very much worth seeing live any chance you get. The late night set under the stars was one I will compare many musicians to for years to come.
Day 3 arrived and while we were determined to see Stars, sleeping in after a late night and packing up left us missing their early set.
We did manage to make it inside in time for Black Mountain. I’ve seen Stephen McBean perform before, but always as Pink Moutaintops, so it was exciting to finally see the band in this formation, especially since their recently released IV is one of the most beautiful albums of the year so far. They played the secluded, shady forest stage, which was the perfect environment for this hippy Vancouver band to showcase their space aged concept record.
We followed it with The Arcs, (Dan Auerbach’s non-Black Keys outfit) that thankfully, sounds just as great as the Black Keys. It was a blazingly hot day at the WayBold stage which has absolutely no shade, which I think accounted for the less than energetic crowd.
Next up was Haim, the band I was most excited to see on Sunday. I had yet to see these sisters live so my expectations were high, after having fallen in love with Days Are Gone back in 2013. I must admit I wasn’t quite as blown away by them live as I had expected I would be. But it was still excellent to finally hear so many songs I’ve adored over the past few years live.
While I otherwise would have headed to see Ray Lamontagne next, with the festival winding down, I still hadn’t taken a trip on the Ferris wheel–so we overheard Glass Animals set while waiting in the lineup, and signed our life away for a spectacular view of the festival.
While I would have been fine leaving during the Killers set in order to get home to our real beds, we decided to stay for the finale. Again, Brandon redeemed himself from the terrible performance I have burned in my memory from their Hot Fuss tour. They gave a great show and it was fun to have a band we could both sing along to, all cool points aside.
Overall, it was an incredibly well organized, delightful festival, and they managed to build on what they started last year to create an Ontario festival that will certainly stand the test of time.
I love WayHome, and I miss it already. Until next year.