Shoeclack’s Wrap-up of Wayhome 2017
Wayhome Music & Arts Festival took over Burl’s Creek this weekend, bringing thousands of people to the massive farming grounds in the small town of Oro-Medonte. Headlined by Flume, Frank Ocean, Cage the Elephant, and Imagine Dragons, the festival brought a good mix of rock, pop, indie, R&B, and hip hop music while also boasting one of the best camping atmospheres of any Canadian festival. Here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons of this year’s festival:
Although Wayhome received a fair bit of criticism for lacking true headliners (especially compared to the massive acts of 2015 and 2016 including Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar, and Arcade Fire), the undercard was stacked with amazing acts. On Friday afternoon, Allan Rayman grooved through a high-energy 30 minute full of dancing and his raspy, soulful vocals. Although not an undercard act per se (in fact, they probably deserved a headliner slot), Cage the Elephant put on my favourite set of the weekend at sunset on Friday with their pyro-infused set loaded with high energy hits and sing-along songs, including “Cigarette Daydreams,” the electric “Cold, Cold, Cold,” and their first single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Justice and Flume proved how incredible an EDM late-night can be at Wayhome with some of the weekend’s largest crowds dancing through the night at both sets.
Saturday followed with a great afternoon for rock n’ roll as Death from Above, Royal Blood played back-to-back sets, shredding through heavy bass and big drum beats. Saturday evening, Houndmouth brought a ton of energy to the smaller WayAway stage while the crowd danced in the shade and sang along to “Sedona.”
Finally, Sunday was filled with a few more low-key acts, making it the perfect day for lounging in the sun and nursing a hangover. Banks and her backup dancers brought the energy back up in the evening on the Wayhome stage, while Charles Bradley performed one of the most fun sets of the weekend at WayBright. At all three stages, the sound was amazing, and the acts brought their all in front of smaller crowds.
One of the best things about Wayhome 2017 was the food truck selection. From burgers and tacos to poutine and slushies, all of the festival staples were included. Prices were reasonable – most meals hovered around the $10-12 mark – and the portion sizes were excellent for sharing. As well, the smaller crowds made getting food much easier. I didn’t have to wait in line longer than 5 minutes to order food, and the vendors rarely seemed to be backed-up with orders. The cashless system made the ordering and tipping process simple and convenient.
A few of this highlights: pulled pork and brisket sandwiches from Barques, any kind of tacos from Rancho Relaxo, and the ice cream cones from Uncle Betty’s.
Wayhome’s best attribute is certainly the campgrounds. One bonus of smaller crowds meant that most people were able to camp closer to the festival gates, allowing for quick runs back to camp to have a beer or snack between sets. Campgrounds at a festival are always a party, and Wayhome was no exception. From drinking games to dance parties, the campgrounds were alive late into the night. From the midnight Arcade Fire listening party (that you had to find by following the music) to the Reddit craft beer exchange, the community at Wayhome is still strong, despite lower ticket sales. As well, the facilities in the campgrounds were generally excellent. Camping right next to a row of porta-potties, I noticed they were cleaned more than I’ve ever seen at a festival, and the water reservoirs were always full. Overall, the camping experience is such a crucial aspect for the survival of any rural festival, and Wayhome continues to deliver an exceptional camping experience.
(Lack of) Art
Unfortunately, one of Wayhome’s biggest sacrifices due to low ticket sales appeared to be the focus on local art in the grounds. While the flags, giant “W” structure, and “We are Here” sign remained, the low-key, interactive art pieces from 2015 and 2016 did not return. Although art exhibits likely aren’t going to sell tickets in the same way as big musical acts, the lack of art for a festival advertised as a “music & arts fest” was disappointing.
In what has been speculated by many as another effort to cut costs, the afternoon sets were limited to just 30 minutes, while evening sets were just 45 minutes. Although this made it easy to see lots of acts in one day, the crowds left virtually every set wanting more. I don’t mind the occasional band playing a roaring 30 minute set of hits, especially with so many conflicts already at the festival, but seeing more of Houndmouth, Rag n’ Bone Man, Allan Rayman, and Grace Mitchell would have been great.
The biggest con of Wayhome 2017 was the price. Despite removing a stage, cutting set times, and hosting a top line of acts that was largely regarded as sub-par compared to their lineups in 2015 and 2016, ticket prices increased. It is no secret that ticket sales were low leading up to the festival. In an effort to increase the number of attendees on site, Wayhome welcomed “refugees” from a number of cancelled festivals across Canada and the US, and gave away a huge number of tickets to Barrie, Orillia, and Oro-Medonte residents. While everyone enjoyed the festival, the $290 presale price (plus camping pass) was too much for many to pay, considering the lineup.
Wayhome has so much potential as Southern Ontario’s premier camping festival. From 2015-2017, the crowds have proven to be energetic and enthusiastic, and the festival grounds themselves are exceptional. Whether or not Wayhome returns in some form (full-scale or scaled-back to fewer days or stages) is still to be seen. The Toronto market has been historically maligned for its inability to support a large scale festival, and Wayhome is facing the same predicament. That being said, it always comes back to the music. If the lineup is there, the people will come. Obviously, there’s no shortage of passion and positive energy from Wayhome attendees. With a little luck and continued support from the Wayhome faithful, hopefully Wayhome will return in 2018 so we can gather at Burl’s Creek and camp in one of the most exciting music atmospheres in the province.