Canadian Musician Does WayHome – Day 1Friday, July 29th, 2016
Once again, Samantha Everts & photographer Mark Matusoff slid into summer festival mode to bring you a recap of WayHome 2016, which happened July 22-24 in Oro-Medonte, ON.
About 35,000 music fans descended upon Burl’s Creek event grounds braving extreme heat for the second-ever WayHome Music Festival this past weekend in Oro-Medonte (just outside of Barrie, ON). Headliners for the three-day fest included LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and The Killers, with four stages hosting a total of 72 emerging and established acts.
As part of the WayHome experience, most audience members camped just outside the festival grounds, meaning people were up early to get done up in their skimpiest, weather-resistant outfits (and drink all the beer before heading inside as the demographic was mostly ages 19-25).
The pageantry of the festival is not to be overlooked. With commissioned art installations, sculptures, interactive video and light pieces, in addition to gorgeous flags adorning the paths to and from each stage, there was a feeling of celebration in the air. As the evening approached, an arc of balloons filled the sky later to be lit with flickering small coloured lights that lit up over the mainstage. The sponsored ferris wheel’s lights spiraled in multicolours in front of the food trucks, providing a cool vantage point to people-watch and try to make out the different artists sounds coming from various stages.
As for the bands, the first band we caught was Australia’s The Struts whose lead singer came out in a sparkling gold jacket and seemed to channel both Freddie Mercury and Alice Cooper with his fast sound glam-rock driven lyrics that several hundred audience members gleefully shouted back.
While Montreal-based Braids make beautifully contemplative, emotionally-charged experimental indie-pop music, their sound has almost a wintery feel, making it odd to hear such cool and sad tones coming from the smallest stage. What was perfect about this stage, however, was that it was in the shady trees with a canopy over the stage, creating an instantly more intimate space.
One of the most buzzed about acts of the festival was undoubtedly Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats, whose Billboard chart-topping single “S.O.B.” had people across the entire site yelling out “SON OF A BITCH! GET ME A DRINK!” as soon as they recognized the insanely catchy soul-rock chorus. He proved he was not a one hit wonder and fed off of the energy the audience was reciprocating as he played multiple instruments from uke to guitar throughout his hourlong set.
Next up was Vancouver’s White Lung, coming fresh from a Polaris Prize short list nomination from their hardcore punk album, Fantasy. Considering the last time I saw them was the dark basement of the Great Hall in Toronto at about 3 a.m. during NXNE in 2013, I was excited to see them play in the sobering daylight. The stirring angst of frontwoman Mish Way and the band both frightened and drew in the crowd with her aggressive gestures coupled with the band’s intensely heavy and fast guitar riffs. There were only a few heavier bands on the lineup so as a fan, this was a great chance to sit back and rock the fuck out.
Most indie music fans that were in their early 20s in 2003-2006 will remember Wolf Parade fondly. At least for this writer, their music was the soundtrack of college/university, so when they announced 1. A new album, and, 2. A short reunion tour, I immediately bought tickets to the first Lee’s Palace show in six years this past June. Because of the build-up and just phenomenal energy to that live show with 400 of their most dedicated fans, it was hard to live up to the same performance level outdoors in the sunlight in 42-degree heat with fair weather fans who may have only heard of Dan Boeckner through Handsome Furs, Operators, or the Spoon side project. They played the expected “You Are A Runner,” “Shine a Light,” and “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts,” but lost a good chunk of the crowd’s enthusiasm when they played three newer songs in a row. They also didn’t play the amazing jam of “Kissing the Beehive,” which was probably more due to a short set time than a willingness to play a 10-minute rock jam.
Now when British rock band Foals were announced to play WayHome I was convinced I had to go. I hadn’t seen the band since I lived in the UK and would see them open for smaller bands like Metronomy with a tenth of the audience that crowded the covered WayBold stage. With their song “What Went Down” currently on regular rotation on alternative rock radio, it seemed like the rest of Canada had caught up with their catalogue. The favoured songs from their most recent album but also played tracks like “Two Steps, Twice,” and “Red Socks Pugie” that were first introduced to me at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK. Their set list also included the epic “Spanish Sahara” with a huge moody buildup even better experienced in person.
That LCD Soundsystem were playing WayHome solidified why I was skipping Osheaga this year. As a huge LCD fan but never having seen them play live, I was able to secure a private viewing platform (which quickly became a dance floor) in the VIP area for their one-and-a-half-hour set. With their own videographer directing a jumpy video feed of singer James Murphy along with other musicians and fuzzy art images, their video and light show added to the visual theatrics. As someone who never thought she’d see them live, their set list gave me reason to dance, even after being on my feet for well over 12 hours at that point. Songs included “Dance Yrself Clean,” “Get Innocuous,” “Losing My Edge,” “North American Scum,” “All I Want,” “Home,” “You Wanted a Hit,” “Watch the Tapes,” “Daft Punk is Playing At My House,” “Us Vs. Them,” “Sound of Silver,” and “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Watching their live performance, it became that much more apparent how much James Murphy looks up to Talking Heads singer David Byrne. As to be expected, they ended with “All My Friends.” Oddly absent from their list was “Drunk Girls,” but that was kind of acceptable as the audience was already drunk on the power of an LCD Soundsystem dance party.
More to come from Day 2…