Wow what a fun weekend this has been for music fans! On Friday morning we were greeted with secret Polaroid clues from Wayhome, where five photographers took photos of acts on the lineup and mailed them out. Immediately when they appeared online the Internet went into a frenzy guessing the acts. Tegan and Sara! Justice! Royal Blood! PUP! All acts that any festival would love to have. Sure everyone wanted the clues to be chock full of headliners, but the headliners leaked about a week ago. Those paying attention knew that Frank Ocean and Imagine Dragons were all scheduled to play and suggesting the some of the clues were for Deadmau5, Pheonix, Ryan Adams, The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, The Prodigy was a fool’s errand. Luckily, we didn’t have much more time to wait as Death From Above 1979 accidentally leaked the lineup Friday evening, sending everyone in to do their best Hot Takes like they’re ESPN. There was much complaining with only a bit of rejoicing. Many believed that some massive conspiracy was involved or that it was a fake lineup, unable to believe that DFA could do such a thing (Bonnaroo accidentally leaked their own lineup two years in a row on their own damn app). Today we were proved it was correct, for better or for worse. In 2017, every festival receives it share of complaints not enough of one genre, too much of another, stale bookings, cheap undercard, too expensive headliners, offensive acts, no diversity. For the most part it comes down to two main reasons, a bubble in the festival market as Wayhome has had to compete with Field Trip, TURF, NXNE, Bestival, CMW, Veld, Digital Dreams, CBC Music Fest, Camp Wavelength and Riot Fest in recent years causing lineups to be spread thin and bookers having to try to find new ways to be more creative with less and the last two years have been mostly off years for hot acts. Gone are the high water mark years of 2010-2015 when every festival in North America was unique and stacked to the teeth.
The name causing the most stress is the first name Imagine Dragons. In the first two years Wayhome has booked Neil Young, Arcade Fire, The Killers and LCD Soundsystem as their rock headliners making this poppy act stand out in stark contrast. In didn’t help that Ryan Howes from Republic Live claimed in an interview to Festival Snobs that “only Fource could have secured, or would have taken the chance to book.” Causing many feathers to be ruffled and Wayhome being the butt of the joke that only Fource could have booked ID since no one else wanted them. True they don’t have experience headlining festivals in North America, but in Europe this summer they will be at or near the very top of several fests like NOS Alive in Portugal, Rock Wercheter in Belguim and Southside Festival in Germany. Sure they aren’t a rock headliner, but they are a pop headliner and festivals will be getting pop headliners from time to time. In year one Wayhome had Sam Smith, and while The Killers play electric guitars, they are about as pop as rock gets too. While gatekeepers on the Internet will bash this booking, it will probably end up being very popular with attendees.
Frank Ocean is an exciting pick to headline, as he is one of only the select few that each year gets promoted to headliner status. He had an all time classic album in CHANNEL Orange drop forever ago and when he finally released Blonde the world was stunned at just how amazing it was. Sure he made it almost completely unradio friendly but it is his masterpiece, just like how Kendrick Lamar followed up Good Kid MAAD City with To Pimp a Butterfly completely throwing expectations to the wayside. Having previously seen Ocean at Bonnaroo in 2015 I was severely disappointed. He was alone on stage as opposed to having either his own band or BADBADNOTGOOD back him up, he would just press play on an iPod beside him mumble-sing a bit of a song, then let the rowdy crowd sing most of the rest before moving on. That said he is known for having amazing shows, and there is no way he will be messing with the opportunity to join the elite top of the musical pyramid now that he is here.
A surprising name that wasn’t leaked as a headliner is Flume. Last year Major Lazer was the unofficial fourth headliner, appearing first on the second line of the poster and being the marquee late night show a slow Flume is expected to hold as well. The question is, will he be on Way Bright like Major Lazer, or does this top line booking indicate he will play on the main stage and have another headliner act appear earlier in the night.
With Fource being the new booking agent after AC Entertainment was kicked to the curb and Puncture Design the creators of Wayhome’s entire aesthetic being unceremoniously dropped the poster looks very different. Case in point after the headliners there are two more tiers or top acts before the rest of the lineup is listed alphabetically. Gone are the days of how we can presume where someone will play based on the position on the poster. Instead we know the next biggest names will include EDM acts like Justice and Marshmello, RnB singer Solange, Rapper ScHoolboy Q, Pop acts Vance Joy and Tegan and Sara and softer Indie kings The Shins. Obviously the big gets here are Justice and Solange, sure to be the two most buzzed about shows of the weekend with The Shins not far behind in that respect. There is a lot of head scratching going in in regards to booking Marshmello, a gimmick act that is derided as being a cheap knock off of Deadmau5 with worse music and Vance Joy an act who played Wayhome back in 2015 and with no new news on any follow up music to his debut record from 2014.
Looking at the rest of the names there are some great Canadian acts like Death From Above 1979, 2016 Polaris Prize nominees PUP and Andy Shauf, next big thing’s like Daniel Caesar and Jazz Cartier, new artists on the rise like Charlotte Cardin and The Dirty Nil and a throwback act like the Constantines.
Some exciting international acts include bedroom noise maker turned indie head favourite Car Seat Headrest, James Brown-like soul man Charles Bradley, Brit hard rockers Royal Blood, introspective singer/shredder Mitski, synth lovers like The Naked and Famous and Phantogram, your high school throwback act Dashboard Confessional, Chance the Rapper cohort NoName and electronic producer Louis the Child.
All this may well look well and great, which if it is that’s fantastic! But there are only 58 acts listed as opposed to over 70, making the rumours that there will be one less stage this year, all the more apparent. Not to mention that some big potential bookings like Spoon, Tame Impala, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, MGMT, Angel Olsen, DJ Shadow, Nicolar Jaar, Rezz, Charli XCX, Lorde and more were all skipped over. A serious lack of buzzed about Canadian acts to fill out the undercard are also missing as Wayhome had been a launch pad the last two years for acts like River Tiber, Black Mountain, Tennyson, Allie X, For Esme, Dear Rouge, Lowell and more were easy highlights allowing fest goers to see these acts before they blow up.
What does this all mean for the third year festival? Well majority owner Stan Dunford has been complaining lots recently that the fest hasn’t been turned a profit for him as he is sinking in way more money then he is getting back, making it put the future of this amazing little camping festival in jeopardy. Increasing the prices every year and introducing a camping fee (seriously why are all camping festivals doing this? Either don’t offer camping or build the price into the ticket) while booking far less acts forcing an entire stage to be scrapped and alienating more indie rock oriented fans by making The Shins the top billed name is disrespectful to say the least. It is super frustrating that rumoured headliner A Tribe Called Quest isn’t a part of the lineup, which means that they never were 100% signed on for, or they might be a late addition. I am personally excited to go as I’ve never seen Solange, Justice, ScHoolboy, DFA, Car Seat Headrest and more and I can vouch that Imagine Dragons, Flume, Tegan and Sara, The Shins, Vance Joy, Charles Bradley, Danny Brown and more all put on amazing shows. But if the goal is to get over 40,000 people to come for all three days, this isn’t the lineup to do it. Maybe with less acts, they will need less people to come to turn a profit, but how much less is acceptable? With the supposed demise of Bestival, could this be Wayhome’s last hurrah where they go out not with a bang but with a whisper?