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WayHome 2016 Recap: Glamping in the Name of Good Music

Photo creds: Jill Engel

Warning: This WayHome Music & Arts Festival 2016 review is coming from the perspective of a virgin Festival Traveler. I have never traveled to a festival or camped at a festival. I haven’t camped in the normal sense since the unfortunate Harrison, BC camping incident of 2007, which ended in a break up and approximately 1000 mosquito bites. Needless to say, if I have to camp, give me a plug-in somewhere so I can straighten my hair, a port-o-potty that gets hosed down regularly, a shower, some decorative throw pillows and call it ‘glamping’. Thank Jebus I had a VIP wristband and media camping for this thing (please don’t roll your eyes too hard).

The WayHome Music and Arts Festival, now in its second year, grew to an attendance of 40,000 people this year. Just over an hour north of Toronto, WayHome is three full days of an incredible line-up of performers, plus art installations, food, drinks and spontaneous fun. The 2016 line-up included headliners LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire and The Killers, plus a ton of other performers throughout the day and into the night, all of which could have filled venues in their own right.

This year, WayHome made an effort to embrace digital. To help you make sure you didn’t miss any artist you really wanted to see, they created a convenient custom schedule builder on their website and app and you could set up notifications for everything from weather alerts to schedule changes to insider secrets. This year the festival also went cashless, which I must admit I was a bit skeptical about at first but it turned out all right. I loaded up my wristband before the event, and even took advantage of their auto top-up option in case my balance dipped below a certain amount. I would never be without booze, food or merchandise thanks to this handy tool, and I didn’t have to carry around any pesky cash. WayHome didn’t have 19+ wristbands this year, opting to ID each person individually, which seemed like a nightmare waiting to happen in terms of lines, but it actually wasn’t too bad.

If you are going to do WayHome next year, I strongly suggest you go the VIP route. The VIP wristband gave me access to special viewing areas at the front/side of each stage, so I was always up close. It also got me into the VIP area, complete with complimentary hair, makeup and nails provided by The Kit and The Estee Edit. I signed up to have my makeup done and received a sweet gift bag with three full-sized Estee Edit products which was a nice treat! You could also sign up for free 10-minute back or neck massages or get original abstract body art done inside the VIP barn. The VIP area had premium food options from The Drake, which seemed quite expensive but actually weren’t that much more expensive than the lacklustre pizza, poutine and pita selections available in the general festival areas. I had a mind-blowing Kung Pao broccoli dish with maple Sriracha sauce and ranch, which cost me $13 but it was worth it. My friend had two small pieces of fried chicken, which, although he said were tasty, cost a pretty penny at $20. Another great thing about VIP is there were virtually no line-ups to get anything.

And now to the music. On both Friday and Saturday, it was so dang hot outside that you literally had to decide which performers were worth the potential heat stroke to see during the day. Thankfully it was overcast on Sunday, which was a nice cool down to the weekend. Acts I saw included Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, Foals, Mac Demarco, Beirut, Glass Animals, Third Eye Blind, Half Moon Run, A Tribe Called Red, Keys N Krates, Oh Wonder, Borns, LCD Soundsystem, Haim, Arcade Fire and The Killers.

While I can’t say a bad thing about any of the performers, a few highlights for me included high-energy performance by Foals and the weirdness of Mac Demarco who is as talented at playing music as he is at saying absurd things just because. Between songs, one of his band mates stopped to tell us about his new business venture – a rollerblade bar on Lakeshore in Toronto – and that he was looking to hire some rollerblading DJs. I’m not totally sure if he was being serious because I would definitely give a business like that my money at least once.

Before the festival and throughout the weekend many of my friends described how A Tribe Called Red’s performance would be life-changing so I made a point of seeing them. And they were right – I was blown away by the DJ/producer group’s hybrid of EDM, hip hop and First Nations music, complete with dancers in neon iterations of traditional First Nations garb. It was a goosebumpy stand-out performance.

To be honest, when I first heard Borns’ angelic falsetto on the radio I was convinced he was a woman, but in fact he is a faerie-nymph of a man with long hair in a yellow baby tee and black skinny jeans with an incredible voice. He treated us to his wonderful original songs like Ten Thousand Emerald Pools and Electric Love, plus a few covers, including Elton John’s Benny and the Jets, to my delight.

Seeing Arcade Fire was a treat. Their talent was undeniable as they literally traded instruments and played a different role with each song. Win Butler, known for his penchant for making political statements, told the crowd he didn’t think bands like his deserved government grants and that they should go toward newer bands who really needed the money. Can’t argue with that. Their performance ended with a fireworks show -- a magical end to the night (yes, I missed Major Lazer after that due to sickness from a mixture of too much sun and Smirnoff in a can).

My absolute favourite performance of the weekend had to be Haim – the group of three very talented sisters, who wailed on their guitars with reckless abandon and banged their heads full of gorgeously long ‘70s locks as the sun was setting over the plains of the WayHome festival grounds. I couldn’t stop staring at the bass player’s glorious bass face (which was just like Paul Rudd doing a parody of bass face). She treated us to her rendition of Prince’s I Would Die For You, which made me fall further in love and want to start my own girl band but I probably won’t because my only experience is karaoke and playing the cello badly.

One interesting phenomenon to note: the festival totem, which consists of a long pole with some sort of decoration at the top, meant to be held up in the crowd to help people find their friends. Totems I saw included cartoon characters, unicorns, umbrellas, ducks, aliens, and celebrities like Oprah, Will Smith, Justin Trudeau, Dr. Evil, Dr. Steve Brule, Donald Trump, George Costanza, and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in their classic Canadian tuxedos.

Other highlights of the weekend: my friend coming back to his tent to discover a security guard had been passed out in it for about five hours; a man dressed in a spandex wrestling outfit and carrying a flute; a guy carrying around a hawk to deter seagulls (good job, hawk, because I didn’t see a single gull); and remembering how long it had been since I washed my hands every time I visited the port-o-potty (gross).

Overall, WayHome 2016 was a fantastic experience and I am starting to count down the days until next year. Save the date for WayHome 2017, happening July 28th to 30th.

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