Photos by Katrina Lat & Janine Van Oostrom. Written by Mehek Seyid and Shannon Ruzgys.
After the surprisingly good previous day my expectations were much higher for Day 2. With my first two acts being Blossoms and Honne I had high hopes for the day. The British rockers Blossoms were hidden in the back at the Wayaway stage but that didn’t stop the crowd from coming in. The small forest space was filled with fans as they enjoyed Blossoms catchy pop tunes. They knew how to keep the crowd entertained and enjoying the show. After an impressive set by Blossoms I quickly ran over just in time to catch Honne. All I can say is that Honne was easily the best show of the entire weekend. Their catchy smooth pop tunes had the entire crowd dancing and singing along. Their new single “Just Dance” and wildly popular hit “Someone That Loves You” made the entire crowd lose it and launch into a full dance craze. With those two shows under my belt later into the day I walked into Vance Joy with the highest of hopes. Sadly they were slightly let down; Joy is hopelessly charming and a stunning vocalist but his show left something to be desired. The crowd seemed uninterested and most of them seemed to be waiting to hear his wildly popular hit “Riptide”. I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy the show, it just needed something more.
If there is ever a debate as to whether an artist’s on-stage presence can dictate how a show goes, point to Jahkoy – a Toronto artist who, amidst what appeared to be a largely unfamiliar crowd – racked up converted fans over the course of his early set at the Wayhome stage. “Can we build this bond a bit while the show grows?” he asked at the top, setting his intention clearly. Shifting between smooth R&B vocals (think Omarion-esque) and rapping, Jahkoy was incredibly charismatic and fun; at one point, he brought his cousin out on stage to perform a little one-two, something he admitted they only practiced the night before. He drew largely from his 2016 release, Foreign Water, a collection that often speaks to the chill, sunny ways of LA (where Jahkoy records), and the calypso-dancehall heartbeat of Toronto. Under the hot sun, the audience fell into lead single “California Heaven”, “Don’t Stop the Vibe”, and the song Jahkoy said changed his life, “Still in Love”, all executed by an artist who was there to convince minds and have fun. Jahkoy should host more backyard parties like this one.
Los Angeles, California import THEY. wasted no time to hit the gas on their performance; it’s that rapid pace that made it one of the best of the festival. Within a minute of hitting the stage, audiences mimicked members Dante Jones and Drew Love and quickly assembled into a mosh during “What You Want”. That never really ceased over the course of their half hour set at the WayAway stage, a highly energetic performance rooted in THEY.’s debut album, Nü Religion: HYENA. That album, and a defining tenant of THEY., is the blending of musical genres, placing R&B vocals atop production that can range from rock to slick pop ballads. “Dante’s Creek”, which samples the infamous Dawson’s Creek song “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole, and the group’s breakout “Motley Crew” are representative of those blurring sonic lines, both well-received. Towards the end, the duo made their way into the crowd to join the mosh, and you remembered: who likes boxes anyway?
Between Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. tour, SZA’s debut CTRL, and festival appearances by Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad, it’s no doubt that the TDE family is everywhere this summer. It’s a beautiful thing to see this collective grow, and judging by the attendance and reception to Schoolboy Q at the Wayhome stage, it seems that the California rapper is stadium-bound next time around. Shortly after opening with “Gangsta”, Q said “I was a little nervous coming out here cause they told me I was one of the only rappers,” testing the turn up levels of the hundreds upon hundreds. They quickly squashed those concerns as Schoolboy Q presented fan favourites like “Collard Greens” and “Hands on the Wheel”. What makes the TDE rise even more appealing is the genuine love threading the members; earlier this week, Kendrick included “Collard Greens” on his DAMN. setlist, while Q shared covers of “m.A.A.d. city” and “HUMBLE”, bringing in more attendees into the fold. Towards the end of his performance, Schoolboy Q shared “I actually thought this shit was going to be super whack because I was the only rapper, but this shit was pretty tight,” mentioning he’d return if Wayhome would have him. It’s hard to imagine anyone saying no to Schoolboy Q at this point.
Contrary to Schoolboy Q’s belief, rising Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier was also on the bill for Day 2 at Wayhome. Taking over the WayBright stage, Jazz Cartier promised early on that everyone’s day was about to get better, and followed through on it from the top of his set. Making audiences members stay low and rise as he performed “The Valley”, Jazz’s set was true to the interactive and engaging reputation he’s developed for himself. Rolling through track after track from the Juno-award winning Hotel Paranoia, Marauding in Paradise, and even “Tempted” off of Jazz’s forthcoming project, Fleurever, every single minute gave you reason to believe that Jazz Cartier is the next great Canadian export. While many in Toronto have know this, it’s exciting to share that feeling of being on the precipice of a new chapter in Toronto’s music landscape with both fellow fans and newcomers. While the WayBright stage had its limitations for Jazz’s usual scaling and crowd diving, he took his performance out to the audience by hopping on a food truck to close out his performance. A poutine food truck, in case you doubted his loyalties.
Solange’s A Seat at the Table was the best album of 2016. An album that speaks to community, black culture and pride, self-love, loneliness, and more, it’s a body of work that both confronts and heals. Solange has spoken a lot about creating the album, handling everything from the production to the songwriting to the visual art and music videos, and her own emotional ties involved in the storytelling. It is her magnum opus. Similar to the amount of care, time, and attention involved in creating A Seat at the Table, Solange crafted a performance meant to be an experience.
Geometric shapes adorn the stage; the entire band is dressed in red; much of what is shared is choreographed and calculated, but not to simply entertain; it’s so that you become more immersed in the edges and depths. And, at the heart of it all, is Solange’s voice, so delicate yet powerful, enhanced with live trumpets and backup singers who echo her on “Mad”, “Rise”, and “Weary”. For the true fans, she shared “T.O.N.Y.” and “Losing You”, the latter a buzzy dance number contemplating the end of a relationship. But it was standouts from A Seat at the Table that, true to themselves on record, became a part of you. “Cranes in the Sky” was a beautiful encapsulation of sadness and self-confrontation; “F.U.B.U.”, which found Solange stepping off the stage and walking along the barricade to lock eyes with audience members, became a moment in itself. And show-closer “Don’t Touch My Hair”, was a powerful, dizzying, declaration.
At one point, Solange shared dissatisfaction due to technical difficulties with the drums and expressed a desire to return to present the show she worked so hard on in its entirety. It’s unlikely that many caught those flaws, because they were too busy healing. But one never says no to more Solange.
I then went over to day 2 headliners Imagine Dragons and I’d say they performed exactly how I anticipated they would. They has lots of hits to play and the crowd knew enough of the songs to dance and sing along. But they really lacked the excitement you expect from a headliner. Overall the entire day summed up to be enjoyable but not overly fantastic. Friday most defiantly packed the bigger punch.