35,000 music fans poured into the small Ontario town of Oro-Medonte this past weekend for the inaugural WayHome Music & Arts Festival. For Canadian music fans, particularly those around the GTA, large-scale music festivals have not been the most accessible. The choices were: 6 hours to Montreal’s Osheaga, 8.5 hours to Chicago for Lollapalooza, or even 13 hours to Bonnaroo? That changed this year.
Of course, Ontario is no stranger to festivals, with Toronto as a prime location for niche festivals catering to EDM, rock, and of course nearby Bowmanville’s Boots and Hearts for the country fans. But WayHome, with its massive production, big name artists across all genres and enticing affiliation with Bonnaroo, brings a new level of excitement to Canadian music festival season. Excited festival-goers welcomed the festival with open arms, embracing WayHome with enthusiasm and appreciation.
WayHome attendees were rewarded with spectacular sets by artists on an all-around fantastic lineup, including a fair share of both Canadian and international talent. Home-town highlights include July Talk’s massive set at the WayBright stage, indie poppers Alvvays heartwarming performance, and a surprise appearance by the elusive Broken Social Scene (last-minute fill in for Passion Pit). The cherry on top of the Canadian lineup was, of course, the 3-hour headline set by Neil Young on Friday night who played both his new material as well as the classics. Tens of thousands of happy music fans all belted out “Rockin’ In The Free World” to end the first night of a very memorable weekend.
Other highlights include Hozier’s soulful sunset performance, Alt-J’s busy side stage set, the ridiculously energetic mid-day performance by Run The Jewels and Australia’s Courtney Barnett’s face-melting set, just to name a few. The stand-out headline performance of the weekend came courtesy of Kendrick Lamar, who played a blazing hit-filled and high-energy set that started off with “Money Trees” and closed with ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’s ‘“Alright”. Despite a rumored appearance by Kanye West (which did not happen), Lamar, backed by a full-band, proved himself as a big-time festival headliner and stole the show this weekend.
During their set, July Talk singer Leah Fay exclaimed: “They said Toronto couldn’t support a festival, so let’s make this the festival we support.” Energetic festival attendees did nothing if not oblige, and after rumors, some waiting…and more rumors and more waiting — Canadian music fans were finally able to find their way home.