As Canadian Music Week was winding down, it was tough to figure out what shows I would watch to end my week. Last year I went to Wayhome in Oro-Medonte and I am very excited for this year’s fest, as I have already previewed it. Wayhome decided to put on their own showcase at The Mod Club this year. Many different labels, promoters, collective and festivals used their name as a way to present a night of shows at venues across the city. You had the American giant promoter Goldenvoice present Lapsley, record label Dine Alone present The Sheepdogs (and other label bands), radio station 94.9 The Rock present The Julian Taylor Band and Osheaga present Dilly Dally, Wayhome decided to get in on the action by hosting their own showcase but not with any bands that will be playing come July.
Wayhome has excelled at the marketing of their festival, just last winter ahead of the lineup drop of the inaugural year, they held a secretive event at The Great Hall where everyone in attendance received an envelope with a free ticket and those who didn’t open them received a lifetime pass (I’m still bitter about opening my envelope). They continued the cryptic promotional effort this year with two clue-laden filled videos announcing this year’s acts. They decided to continue the theme with their CMW Showcase, promoting that there might be some more free ticket give aways, suddenly making this showcase lacking a recognizable big name playing much more exciting.
Mere hours before the event we learned that there would be only fifteen ticket giveaways, which right away was odd, with some being placed outside of the venue prior to doors opening. By the time people were being let in, they were all completely found. That didn’t stop people from crawling around on the floor and feeling the bottom of the gum covered bar ledges. For a festival that has done so well with its promotions so far in, it was quite disappointing to see the event turn into a wild goose chase that left the people who came out solely for some giveaways to become quite frustrated and disenchanted.
Luckily there was still some great music to be heard. While none of the acts other than the headliner HUMANS (unfortunately I had to leave before they came out), a duo who premiered a music video with us recently, were on my radar, it was an energizing night. The dual female performers of Heartstreet from Montreal were making their Toronto debut. They mixed rap, hip-hop, pop, and RnB ballads all together to make a unique mixture of contemporary urban music. The two ladies took turns trading lines and styles and in their French accents kept referring to the audience as being at Wayhome, instead of Toronto or The Mod Club, which caused a few people around to chuckle.
The venue was busy, but no where near capacity a testament that you still need to book acts that the general populace will know no matter how talented or buzzy the acts playing are. Those that were VIPers for the show were given special Wayhome lanyards that enabled you to gain access to the upstairs bar where free vodka was flowing plentifully, causing people to swap out the lanyards to their friends who didn’t have them, making the crowd quite inebriated. Acoustic RnBer Lucas Dipasquale used looping pedals to make it sound like he had a full band behind him, when in reality all he had was a backing bassist to keep a steady back groove going for him. It was a change of pace as the rest of the performers had more in common with hip-hop and lacked instrumentals other than having DJ’s.
Kiki Rowe had some real powerful vocals going, in what was the loudest set of the night making me put my ear plugs in for the first time. The mood throughout the venue was quite jovial as there was a large contingent of Wayhome fanatics from the festivals subreddit, the free drinks helped ease the awkwardness of saying ‘hi I know you from the internet, but what’s your real name’ when introducing yourself. It was also recognizable that several of the people who were at The Great Hall unveiling last year hoped for more of the same this year. Giving away only fifteen free passes was quite curious as they are hoping to have close to fifty thousand attendees this year, what’s fifty to one hundred free passes to diehard supporters who trekked out to a showcase on name alone?
Last on the night was the rapper Amir Obe, who came out after an extended hype up set by his DJ who played songs like Controlla, the new Drake tune and other pumped up songs. Obe had the energy of a firecracker, even if with his hat pulled low and jacket hood on it was impossible to see his face. As he prowled back and forth across the stage in fast succession the crowd jumped and waved their hands in the air. At one-point Obe asked the crowd to join him in the overused tactic of raising their middle fingers in the air, to rebel against some form of oppression or ‘the man’ or whatever it may have been, but it worked as a large group of people did just that. Obe’s sound seemed to be a mix of two popular Toronto acts with Jazz Cartier’s hard style combined with Drake’s lyricism.
As stated earlier, I unfortunately missed HUMANS, but the showcase, which played out just like all the other sponsored ones, was really fun. Combined with the much nicer weather we have been having, it got people excited for the summer concert season as I not only overheard these conversations, I partook in them myself, asking the people around me who they were excited to see at Wayhome and and what else they were checking out during the dog days.