Photos by Randall Vasquez and Sean Chin / Written by Andreas Babiolakis, Mehek Seyid, and Dakota Arsenault.
We are officially back at Oro Medonte for the second annual Wayhome festival! How do we know we’re back? The festival grounds look so familiar. The stages are all where they were last year, and many of the festival’s features (including certain installation arts) have not been relocated. There are some new features (the ferris wheel we are missing from the lack of a Toronto Riot Fest this year, for instance), but Wayhome is familiar for the most part. When you have a guest on some sort of substance telling you “hey dude, nice plank” and you have no idea what he’s talking about, you smile and nod snd just understand the good time all are having.
As long as everyone is taking care of themselves (there is an extra water refill station this year; good on you, Wayhome), this is bound to be another success. Everyone signed their names or images on a wall to solidify their memorable visit. The hammocks are still there and so are the bean bags. The totems used to find one’s friends have returned, and there have been some great designs (Rick and Morty faces, a hybrid of Trump and Clinton, a fish in a pool skimming net and more). The place is the same but the bands are different. Everyone already feels welcome, and the following acts certainly helped cement the first day as a good one.
As the sun was nearing its apex, the main stage got under way as Bombino, a Nigerian blues guitarist hit the stage as he and his band wore long traditional North African garb. The band understanding just how hot it was for the crowd was appreciative as Bombino’s side guitarist claimed “We know it’s hot, but it’s better than snow”. The bands blend of funky blues with a backbeat that reflects their homeland makes their sound both familiar and exotic for listeners. Bombino, who seemed to only speak French when talking to the crowd, repeatedly saying “Merci” after every song as he grew up in French speaking Algeria after fleeing his homeland as a child. Bombino’s side man and fellow guitarist did most of the talking to the crowd “back in Africa we saw Canada on TV and we thought it was all snow but now we know it’s like Africa” in reference to the blazing sun. During a break between songs a “Bom-bin-o” chant came over the crowd to show the true support he had earned.
On the WayAway stage, Vancouverite punk rockers White Lung commanded the stage with their short bursts of savagery. “Some guy got lyrics of Dead Weight tattooed on him”, said singer Mish Way before concluding that she didn’t think the gentleman who showed his body art to her knew the song was about miscarriages. That was okay, though, because the song erupted into a mosh pit nonetheless. The crowd grew bigger and bigger, perhaps because people wanted to see who got the coveted Polaris Prize nomination. What they got outside of the firey pit was guitarist Kenneth William’s freakout playing, a pounding rhythm section and Mish Way’s femme fatale shouting. Dressed in all black and topped off with heels and killer shades, Way concluded that her outfit wasn’t the smartest choice of clothing for the heatwave, but beauty and viciousness are what White Lung are all about, so she fit the set perfectly.
As the backing band the Night Sweats came out n stage to man their stations a large cheer erupted over the Way Bright stage, waking people up. Over the past year Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have become so huge with their throwback sound of soul, RnB, blues, country and rock that it was impossible to go anywhere without hearing the infectious hit SOB. When the frontman Rateliff came out, the show turned into an old school soul revue with horns a blasting, organs soaring and blistering guitar work. The band started out with Need Not Never Get Old and a sing along was present right fro, the get go. When Rateliff didn’t need a guitar for a song he would literally throw in so high up in the air it travelled from centre stage to his awaiting guitar tech to put it away, making me slack jawed every time he did it perfectly. Rateliff joked about how he was happy the band was under the shade on stage as he knew what we were going through. For some songs he brought the beat down low then jumped back into it just like Shout, the famous Animal House song when it gets a little bit softer now and a little bit louder now. The band has one album that they could have just played through completely and the crowd would have been entertained, they threw in two new songs meant for their forth coming sophomore album that sounded even more soulful. Bands love playing in Canada as we always seem to appreciate good talent, but the Night Sweats took it to another level as they made custom Canadian tour merch, which had a maple leaf and a growling bear on it making us look badass as bassist Pope III wore. The set ended with a roaring version of SOB and transitioned into The Bands The Shape I’m in before gong back into SOB making the last ten minutes pure singing, dancing and bliss for everyone in the crowd.
There are very few bands that can ride the line between dreamy indie-vibes and alt-rock as well as Foals, who performed a set worthy of headbanging and wavy dancing at the Waybold stage Friday evening. With a slot that often becomes pretty critical in tiding attendees over between afternoon buzzes and headliners, the UK-natives provided an experience immersive enough for dedicated fans, but welcoming for those wandering by. Lead singer Yannis Philippakis expressed his appreciation for those Canadian fans amongst cuts of their 2015 album What Went Down, one of their biggest forays into heavier rock sounds. While Philippakis’ impressive handling of airy and deeper vocal crescendos amongst punching guitar rhythms highlighted the band’s fluidity, a return to material from their early days, including closing track “Two Steps, Twice” from their debut Antidote, made you realize that this identity has always been the reason why this band is so fantastic.
Metric are festival mainstays, so it’s only natural that people were having a great time even seconds into their set. Their set consistented mostly of newer material from their albums Synthetica and Pagan in Vegas, but they tossed in the occasional old track as well (Dead Disco? Right before LCD Soundystem? Yes, please!). Emily Haynes has always had a David Byrne way about her, and her jogging in place on stage kept this notion alive. She went through a series of outfit changes as well, as the band stayed on stage and transitioned songs together. As expected, they were oodles of fun, and their surprise inclusion to the lineup did not didappoint.
Then came the awaited return of disco rockers LCD Soundystem; the acclaimed project by producer James Murphy. The stage was mapped out in a square grid fashion that made more sense from a top down perspective; This was provided by the projected screens on the sides of thr stage. Everything from a gargantuan disco ball shining in the night sky to the band looking like silhouettes against a bright red screen (ala the old iPod commercials) happened. It was the kind of set that may have been even better from further away. Up close, you could see Murphy calculating his every move like a modern Brian Wilson, as he paced around the stage and looked for his ammunition. This usually consisted of cowbells and other percussive signatures. If something seemed off technically, Murphy ran to the rescue with a laugh and a smile. The guy is clearly loving his return, and he has been reliving his sole passion this year. All of Burl’s Creek danced to LCD Soundystem’s slow burning dance hits, and with Murphy performing like Robert Smith, the length didn’t feel long at all. What a way to end the day and start the night!
It’s always a curious thing to find acts at more intimate sets that are easily deserving of larger stages. Marian Hill, a Philadelphian producer-singer duo, ended up being a best kept secret during Day 1 at WayHome. Interpolated staccato beat samples with jazz underscores the group’s infectious and signature sound found on their debut album ACT ONE; think AlunaGeorge-like explorations of love and desire, but significantly more cheeky, sultry and sax(aphone)-y in sound. Hidden at the WayAway stage, singer Samantha Gongol delicately skated on “Lips” and came across assured on “Down”, a flirtatious number with punctuated production from Jeremy Lloyd. With the addition of the twinkly lights and the live saxophone from collaborator Steve Davit, life felt a little mischievous for the hour.
The Wayhome vibes deepened as the night overtook the festival grounds, especially once Toronto-hailed trio Keys N Krates made their way to the Waybright stage. An outlier in modern electronic-trap fusion, Keys N Krates are well known for elevating live performances with hard-hitting percussion, synths and remixes; their show during Day 1 held up to their reputation. Between single “Keep It 100” and trap-twisted versions of Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High”) and G.O.O.D. Music’s “Mercy”, the party kept going (and growing) to the encompassing, heavy bass beats under the cover of sky, Keys N Krates style.
The grounds emptied as people drove home or escaped to their campsites, and day one of three was complete. The weekend is just getting started, so stay tuned for the remaining two days!