Photos by Randall Vasquez & Sean Chin / Written by Mehek Seyid, Dakota Arsenault, & Andreas Babiolakis
After two full days, people knew where the stages were, what water lines were the shortest and the best ways to avoid the sun. We were all veterans by now, even if it was your first year at Wayhome. But something miraculous occurred that made Day 3 different than the other two; the sun wasn’t beating down on us with its full angry force, making the weather actually enjoyable. After two nights of going hard until 2:00 AM attendees were able to take solace in knowing that they only had to make it to 11:00 PM as everything shuts down after the headliner plays. One last day to get hit up your favourite food trucks, one last time to get free vitamin water and one last chance to explore every nook and cranny of Burl’s Creek.
Super early at the WayBright stage, Toronto sullen punkers Dilly Dally stepped out to a field shrouded in clouds. That’s good enough for Katie Monks, who claimed that they were one of us (as the majority of us are Torontonians) and that we all form as one beast. We can identify with her on that one; especially with the huge amount of identity Toronto has been given within the last few years. Speaking of which, Dilly Dally proceeded to perform their aggressive rendition of Drake’s self-reflection Know Yourself, with the classic “running through the 6” line being screamed. Dilly Dally’s own material started the afternoon off with emphasis. Liz Ball’s lead guitar playing sounded urgent like sharp sirens piercing through the fuzzy mixture, and her solos resembled alarms. The music pounded enough that the thunderstorm warnings guests feared probably felt like they were actually happening. They were promoting their latest LP Sore, and I think they did well in gaining new fans; they certainly woke everyone up.
UK-duo Oh Wonder opened the final day of the festival’s main stage. The subtle romanticism and delicacy found in songs like Livewire, Technicolour Beat and Body Gold were perfect for an early day show; entrancing enough, but not demanding of the audience members who, as singer Anthony West commented, likely got up earlier than they probably should have. But if there is anything that Oh Wonder’s fans have proven, it’s that they are certainly passionate. It’s their love that drove the duo to a rigorous touring cycle and led them to this first Canadian festival on the main stage just months after their first show in the country, ever. Between affection over a sign that said “You may have lost your luggage, but at least you still have us”, explaining their excitement for the festival and shouting out acts like White Denim and Glass Animals, both Anthony and Josephine Vander Gucht sweetly charmed the crowd, easily convincing them that a dance to Lose It was very much worth their early wake up call.
Glam rocker BØRNS would be the shining sun on the day for the crowd since the real sun was tucked away behind clouds. Unfortunately as soon as he came out and started belting the lyrics to Seeing Stars and nothing came over the speakers. For the first 30 seconds of so it was an instrumental song as BØRNS looking like he was lip-syncing to himself, when his soaring vocals came over the speakers an eruption of cheers occurred. Even though the sun wasn’t out, it was still quite humid so BØRNS ditched his leather jacket by the time he played Dopamine only two songs in. BØRNS was in quite the complimentary mood as he said, “You all have beautiful signs, and it’s a pleasure to be here” and “You are like the coolest festival ever”, which naturally got plenty of cheers. The crowd must have been still high on energy from enthralling Arcade Fire set the night before as he played a cover of Rebellion (Lies) and we all got to relive the glory as we shouted out the “Lies, Lies” chant for a second time. The set finished with his biggest hit Electric Love as it seemed the whole crowd danced in unison.
The grounds felt a marginal amount of water pattering against the grass when All Them Witches took to the stage. The threat of an upcoming storm didn’t stop the curious crowd from wanting to see what was in store for them. “You can leave with your friends”, said Charles Michael Parks Jr., the lead vocalist of the group. He was thankful that people came out, sure, but he also wanted to make sure they were having fun at Wayhome. Fortunately, those who came out got a bit of a treat. All Them Witches buried the WayAway stage into the ground by slamming their instruments as Parks Jr. crooned his way beyond the trees that border the stage. When their first song finished, he took a swig of some sort of elixir from his gigantic glass bottle. It was on to the next song from there, and the onslaught just kept hitting us. There’s something about seeing a band as rough as All Them Witches in a forest with muddy soil and kicked up dust. All of these contents and their music included, just stuck to us. Their material, featuring stuff from their new album Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, kept the momentum of the day going with rolling drumming, blazing guitar tones and thick, thick bass. I can’t imagine many people left to go to something else like Parks Jr. suggested.
[Editor’s note: This is a first person take written by Andreas Babiolakis] I have seen Canadian bedroom dreamers Stars twice before, and to be fair, they put on a good show. However, I felt like what I had seen is what I was always going to get, and I decided to catch their set at Wayhome out of mild curiosity. Well, Stars were livelier than I have seen them before. Could it have been Amy Milan’s second pregnancy that sent Stars’ spirits past their own namesake in the sky? Was it Torquil Campbell’s reflection that Stars have been at it for almost two decades and that they are thankful for all that they have gotten? There was a youthful life here, and it truly connected with the Wayhome crowd. Campbell remarked that Stars have gone through their lives while retaining the band, and it shows in their repertoire. There is wisdom and an experience to how they perform now that is unlike how I have seen them before. There is a bursting glee from being on that stage, a pulsating movement that swirls the band members around and energy that shockwaves through the stage’s build. Maybe I was oblivious the first two times I have seen this band, but they certainly delivered at Wayhome this year. I also await their return (I never thought I’d say that).
The recently turned-bicoastal Lucius brought their evolving indie pop sound to the WayBright stage. Celebrating their recently released sophomore effort, Good Grief, the band kept most of their set focused on sharing the music. While lead singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe harmonized beautifully on songs like Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain and Turn It Around, for a late afternoon performance centering on largely poppy, 80s pop-inspired beats, they would have had a more lasting impact in a smaller setting.
While now most famous for her contribution to 2015’s smash hit Lean On with Major Lazer and DJ Snake, Danish singer MØ has steadily built a body of work that speaks to her immense potential as the next “it” artist; her set at the WayBold stage only strengthened her case. Spending an hour dancing, jumping on percussion sets and rolling out one enticing beat after the other (Kamikaze, Walk This Way, and Final Song) with a consistently infectious enthusiasm and energy. With her sophomore album set to release this fall, MØ also took the opportunity to share new music, including a summer buzzy track that may be called To The Beat of Your Drum, which found its place with the rest of her catalogue. Despite expressed nervousness of sharing new material for the first time, MØ never once faltered in what ended up being a pivotal breakout moment of Wayhome 2016, especially when she concluded with Lean On, crowd surfing her way straight into the love.
With much of the audience rushing from MØ over to the WayHome main stage, the atmosphere was nicely primed for Haim. The sister-band were similarly on their own level of cloud nine, entertainingly sharing anecdotes on everything from their red pantsuits to best friends and reminiscing about old Fergie songs. It’s that kind of humorous individuality that is often missing from large-scale festival performances, but the willingness of the ladies to unlock their personalities made the disco pop swirls that much more intimate in a wide field. Songs from Haim’s debut album Days Are Gone remain as punchy and fun as they did when the album released three years ago with Don’t Save Me and The Wire being particular highlights, but it was a treat to hear new music from their upcoming sophomore effort at WayHome. One song, Gimme Just A Little Of Your Love continues to up the ante on the 80s inspired production with lyrics that are made for love torn sing-alongs, while Nothing’s Wrong may in fact be a career standout for the LA ladies. As they drew to a close with an intensive percussion set, it was easy to see that Haim is multi-dynamic entertaining act that will very shortly please the whole world.
Due to some tough scheduling conflicts up against Haim and White Denim at the beginning and Glass Animals during the second half, Ray LaMontagne was the odd man out as his show was sparsely attended that was very noticeable on the WayBright stage (the second biggest of the four). LaMontagne’s latest album is 2016’s Ouroboros, which was produced mostly by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. So it was only fitting that the remaining four band members of MMJ (sans Jim James) have been playing backup for LaMontagne on this tour making for a very special and unique experience. The group played the entirety of Ouroboros to the captive and intimate crowd, with an easy highlight being Hey, No Pressure the lead single from the album naturally being played second with its blistering guitar work. After the eight tracks from the new album was played LaMontagne played the rest of the set tailored for his backing band having five cuts in a row from 2014’s Supernova, an album that is more blues focused than his earlier folk work. The set ended with All the Wild Horses from his debut album Trouble. While the show was spell binding and the playing immaculate, it was not conducive to a festival set. No singles were played, no fan favourites and nothing to sing along to. While LaMontagne always does things his own way, seeing people walk away in droves to either dance to Glass Animals or get a good spot for The Killers was telling of the audience’s thoughts on the show.
To finish off the second ever Wayhome Festival, the organizers enlisted a man who had been there just last year in Brandon Flowers to lead the charge with his band The Killers for a semi-reunion performance. While the band was never broken up, they were on a bit of a hiatus with no new music since 2012’s Battle Born (although the promise of new music is imminently coming within the next year). In a bold move the band kicked the set off with Mr. Brightside, the band’s biggest hit and the last song that Flowers played at last year’s Wayhome set. Flowers clearly enjoyed his time last year and must have convinced the band to play as he told the crowd “Thank you for a good night last year. We are the Killers brought to you by fabulous Las Vegas”.
The set spanned their entire career with cuts coming from all four albums even if it was a bit too heavy on the later two albums instead of the superior first two. About two thirds of the way through the hit parade set when they got around to Somebody Told Me, things turned to pure madness as the legions of kids who grew up on Hot Fuss were screaming the words to the song so loudly it nearly drowned out the band completely. The band included two covers; the first was Joy Division’s Shadowplay as a nod to their roots, and the second and one of the highlights of the whole night was a beautiful rendition of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love. When All These Things That I’ve Done was played to end their set they purposely played the supremely catchy (and let’s face it, nonsensical too) bridge what seemed like a million times allowing everyone to go hoarse from shouting “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”.
When the band came back out for their encore Flowers wryly said to the still strong crowd “Did you miss us?” as they proceeded to play three more songs for us starting with This is Your Life from Day & Age. Throughout the night the stage was brightly lit in ever changing colours showing the glitz and pomp from their glam influences, while the stage screens were kept monochromatic almost as a nod to the classic Vegas lounge acts that The Killers are so indebted to. As the set was winding down, it became a guessing game of what they would play, as there were numerous fan favourites and singles not played yet. “You didn’t think we would come all this way and not play Jenny Was a Friend of Mine?” Flowers teased us. To cap off the amazing weekend and fantastic performance the band played When You Were Young as sparks shot down over top of the band as energy and adoration ran into each other at full force making every last person in attendance give what was left of their bodies, minds and spirits to the band to end an amazing three days of music and art. There was no possible way for it all to end any better.