Written by Dakota Arsenault & Andreas Babiolakis with Photographs by Sarah Rix & Sean Chin.
Day two of WayHome kept the energy high and we couldn’t help but collect some more highlights of what has made the festival a success so far.
The sun started peaking out a bit more for Kevin Garrett‘s set at WayBright. There was a decent sized crowd that stood up against the railing but most of the crowd was laying on the grass and listening to his easily digestible piano driven, hip hop influenced music. With his boyish charm and witty quips he was a great way to ease into the day.
Over at the WayHome stage people literally ran to the stage when the opening notes of Then Came the Morning started playing, proving that The Lone Bellow belonged on the main stage but probably could have been later in the day with such a sizeable crowd. “It’s basically the morning” frontman Zach Williams cheerfully said during the early afternoon set. The band stuck mostly to their faster and up tempo songs like Fake Roses and Green Eyes a d a Heart of Gold. The crowd was fully on board with the band, clapping along and helping out with the chorus’ of the popular songs. For Heaven Don’t Call Me Home, Williams stood against the railing of the crowd and conducted us to ohhh and ahhh along with the music. The band has a real family vibe and they genuinely enjoy playing together, which makes the crowd enjoy it that much more. A lot of people carved out space to dance and swing their bodies around.
It is always a treat to catch Toronto darlings Alvvays, especially when you see how far they have come with their success. I last saw them at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and I met the band. They were just as surprised about their booming fame then as they were here at WayHome. They needn’t be, though, as they carried one of the best sets of the day. Their guitars were amped up extremely loud, which sent their dreamy-indie sound straight into the borderline shoegaze bin. Their energy was blasted through their playing and Molly Rankin’s occasional yelps and shouts. The crowd wad ballistic, especially when Alvvays performed a new song (for the record, it was bloody terrific and a good sign for what is to come). After running into the band again, I congratulated them on their Polaris nomination and told them the new track was sensational. Rankin replied wide eyed by asking if that’s what I really thought. Of course: They’re Polaris nominees and a WayHome highlight for a reason.
The sound was unmistakable, the oh so familiar words to We Are The Champions blared as the only people with enough confidence to come out to such a song are the hip hop superstars Run the Jewels. If there was an act that sold the most merchandise the clear winner would be RTJ as it seemed you couldn’t not bump into a bunch people wearing the gun and chain insignias. Killer Mike noticed the very pro RTJ crowd and exclaimed that it was like they were at a gang convention and El-P replied that the whole crowd was a gang. It’s hard to imagine Torontonians having not seen the duo by now as they seem to roll through once every few months, not that it matters as it seems improbable to not love them every time. When they introduce each other as being one another’s best friend, you know it’s the truth as you can’t script chemistry like theirs. They banged through all their best songs one after another. From Sea Legs to Blockbuster Night Part 1 to Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck). The duos DJ was a real turntablist scratching and spinning records enforcing the grimy 90’s beats El-P creates. To paraphrase Killer Mike, it isn’t the beat of the year unless El-P made it.
The eccentric rapper Danny Brown came out after ten minutes of trap music, and he was looking good. It looks like he got his signature gap in his teeth fixed and he has let his recently shortened hair grow out a little bit. He was as giddy and odd as he always is, as he stuck his tongue out almost any second he could. When he wasn’t, he was stumbling all over like a spazz. Brown was having a blast, especially when a fan from the side of the stage snuck her way on. As she danced provocatively around him, Brown proceeded to spank her, and this Youtube unfriendly moment had everyone busting their phones out to record. When Brown began the song Drip, he asked where the “molly” was at. This resulted in fans tossing MDMA towards him, as if they had any chance in hell of reaching him. It was weird, wacky and filthy. It was a Danny Brown set, and it was as much of a brain melter as you could hope for.
Passion Pit had to pull out of WayHome due to illness, so Broken Social Scene came in as a quick replacement. There could not have been a better pick for a last minute addition to WayHome than this collaborative celebration of Canadian music.
Even though the WayAway stage has plenty of big-ish and up and coming names the crowds are always pretty small, which is a shame since there are some great performances on the smallest of the four stages. Walking up right as METZ was about to go on, I managed to walk right to the railing up front. Within thirty seconds of the first song a giant circle pit started, with bodies flying around, mixed with hugs and high fives from the very happy head bangers in the crowd. Their usual wall of distorted noise was actually pretty easy to understand. The trio started out with Rats a standout from their first album. Lead singer Alex Edkins seemed to sweat so much, he made up for those who weren’t. The dusk turned to nightfall as the stage lights got brighter and brighter. “We just released a new album called 2, obviously the album title of the year so obviously we are going to play some songs off it”. Since there was so few hard rock, punk choices at the festival those in attendance made sure to enjoy every second of badass show.
The main highlight of the day was the headliner Kendrick Lamar with his showstopping set that could have froze bullets in their tracks. With a live band behind him, every song Lamar played ended up coming alive and dangerous. With mostly hits from earlier moments in his career, Lamar was there to party and have a good time. He constantly promised to have this crowd be the loudest at Wayhome, and he most likely succeeded. It was a special set where even security was rapping every word of his music with the fans (it was weird seeing authoritarive figures rapping that they “hate popo”, though). Absolutely everyone was losing their composure at this show, and it was as razor sharp as it could be. While Lamar led the entire set with complete confidence, he would freeze between songs to admire the sea of fans he has influenced. He’s still young, and while he knoes exactly what to do as a generational staple, he is still astonished by what he has accomplished. He displayed nothing but power, ranging from his shouted raps, shots of the city and rockets taking off behind him and the bass that almost caused an earthquake. Kendrick Lamar is a good example of a recent legendary musician, and you can’t have better example than his Wayhome stint. His set ended off with fireworks, but his entire set went off with a bang.
To chill things down, How to Dress Well crooned the exhausted crowd after a long day of hip hop and rock. His r&b woes were a great complimenting of the urban music that proceeded him. He had a bit of fun during his set, by commenting on how he dyed his bandmates’ hair and with a Taylor Swift cover, but most of How to Dress Well’s set was smooth, soulful and soothing.
The biggest issue I have with the festival so far was scheduling Odezsa and Bassnectar at the same time. There was only a handful of EDM acts at the whole festival so scheduling the two biggest at the same time was quite foolish. Some festivals split up similar acts to disperse the crowds, but there isn’t nearly enough people at this one to justify it. Apparently Odesza was amazing, but choosing Nectar wasn’t a mistake by any means. Lorin Ashton is famous for having one of the fun shows on the electronic circuit and he kept that heart pounding bass beat going all night. His set consisted of hyper active build ups and face melting bass drops. Build up, drop. Build up, drop. Build up, drop. Ashton’s trademark long hair was flying around as he was as into the music as the crowd was. A lot of the tracks from his last two albums, Noise vs Beauty and Into the Sun, were played including Now and the Naked and Famous remix No Way. The crowd wasn’t overly packed, which made for a great atmosphere as everyone had room to dance and lose their minds. The epic lights and bass made for a great way to end the night.