12 impressions from WayHome Music & Arts 2017

The WayHome festival grounds was impeccable

From the pristine lawns, the stage setup, the food options, the VIP layout, and more - the festival grounds at Burl's Creek for WayHome was almost perfect. The stage sound systems were ideal for the allotted areas with limited sound bleed between stages. There was plenty of room to dance and never once did I feel claustrophobic. The areas behind the main stage were perfect for sitting down with friends and relaxing, while hearing the music without any noticeable degradation. The food options were diverse, there were plenty of water stations, and thanks to Perrier, we even had a stylish air conditioned space to relax in with a full schedule of DJs playing a wide range of music. Overall you couldn't ask for a better layout than what was found at WayHome. 

Porter Robinson

The last EDM act of WayHome came from none other than Porter Robinson, who recently graced the mainstage of Coachella with Madeon. His atmospheric tracks from his now classic album Worlds filled the WayHome stage which was accompanied with vivid anime graphics and abstract computer generated art. Porter's set up is elaborate for a single artist as he had a mic for singing, 2 keyboards, a mixer, and a drum pad. At times he would be busy manipulating two stations at the same time, which was captured on the big screen in all of its glory. The simplicity of his set was magical. Listening to his big tracks like Shelter and Sad Machine was an emotional experience for everyone there, as the crowd did not hesitate to show their appreciation every chance they got. This was an intense Porter performance, and the best set I've personally seen him play out of the 4-5 times prior. His set at WayHome will not be soon forgotten. 

Justice

Justice possibly played the best individual set at WayHome this year. Seeing this French duo live with their full stage setup takes their music and overall atmosphere to a whole new level. The stage lightning would morph multiple times throughout the performance to suit the mood, and even though the lights were awe-inspiring, Justice's famous minimalism came through as the colour schemes did not surpass 1 colour at a time out of 5-6 total. While Gaspard was mostly busy at the controls, rarely looking down at he crowd, it was Xavier that took the time to interact and get the crowd even further into their performance. Both of them have such good chemistry that it was a treat to watch them riff off another during the set. 

Flume

Flume closed out the mainstage on day 1 with a goosebump filled showcase of his tracks. The electricity of the crowd was palpable as they sung loudly to the Australian's many vocal hits including "Never Be Like You". The music was backed up by his impressively crisp graphics and simple yet beautiful cubed DJ booth. As much as Flume's originals soar, listening to his remixes and edits are equally as pleasing as he dropped his remix of Lorde's "Tennis Court", the remix of Hermitude's "Hyperparadise", and his edit of Rustie's "Slasherr" track. A lot of fans got to see what an exceptional artist from the electronic dance music world can offer as Flume put on a master class of a show to end the night on the right footing. 

Illenium

Once the day turned into night on day 1, the crowd was pining for a higher tempo performance in which newcomer Illenium provided in full. By 9:40 pm on day 1, Illenium was the first EDM act to play at WayHome, and put on a show filled with melodic bass music. He previewed a brand new track that fit in right into his emotional wheelhouse with soaring female vocals paired with future bass. His set up was ambitious as he made room for live elements into his setup including drum pads that he used frequently. His set was short, only 50 minutes, but provided the landscape to set up the rest of the evening with Flume and Justice.

Louis The Child

Unlike some future bass producers that will remain unnamed, Louis the Child did not succumb to the idea that they need to play harder stuff to woo the crowd. They stuck to their guns and showcased the sound that got them to WayHome in the first place. I give credit to this Chicago duo as they brought their feel good tracks and remixes, including their remix with SteLouse for "Inside Out" by the Chiefs, or the re-imagining of "Genghis Khan" by Miike Snow. Saving their best for last, Louis The Child wound down their afternoon set with "Love Is Alive", their hit with another upcoming artist Elohim. 

Marshmello

Quick cuts into the meat of the track that got the crowd hyped. Day 2 was a more relaxing day but after a day of acts on the relaxed side, fans were ready to rock the WayBright stage once Marshmello took the stage. The "mystery" DJ brought it heavy with quick cuts filled with bass ("Throwing Elbows" by Excision/Space Laces) and hip hop anthems ("Humble" by Kendrick Lamar). The focus of Marshmello is to make his fans happy and dancing, which he successfully accomplished through his set. 

Jagwar Ma

This Australian band gave the intimate crowd at WayBright a special surprise - a flawless performance showing the full capacity and range of their tunes. Gabriel Winterfield was in top form as his voice lifted despite the sweltering 30 degree Toronto heat as the crowd enjoyed the show despite being baked. The electronic beats may not match the big room rhythm of a Martin Garrix, but Jagwar Ma cleverly incorporates electronic aspects into their live show that complements their sound. At times it turned into a rave as the beats took over in an amazing display of energy by the band. The set was only 30 minutes long but their impact on the festival was felt.

NON-EDM IMPRESSIONS

Schoolboy Q

Credit: Kara Ramos

Credit: Kara Ramos

Schoolboy Q played his show infront of the biggest midday crowd on the mainstage of the entire WayHome experience. The huge crowds underlined the shift among music tastemakers as the ascendancy of hip hop has arrived. The L.A. rapper dressed for winter with his tuque and a windbreaker, despite the near 30 degree heat. To his credit, Schoolboy Q stuck to his style and did not remove his original outfit. With multiple moshpits happening at once, WayHome fans went wild for his unique hip hop sound. 

Jazz Cartier

Out of all of the JUNO winners this year, none have used the platform better than Jazz Cartier, the winner of the best rap album of the year. Where Schoolboy Q left off, Jazz Cartier took it to the next level with his more in your face aggressive hip hop. At one point he invited the crowd to follow him to the food trucks near the stage where he got up on the roof of the poutine truck and rapped. Overall a memorable show.

Tanya Tagaq

Watching Tanya Tagaq is an experience that no one should miss. The vocal range and the multitude of sounds that she can create is out of this world. The more extreme the sound, Tanya's body motion becomes even more intense. Her songs leave plenty of room for experimentation as her band follows her lead. For those that want to hear something more experimental from a talented Canadian artist, then Tanya Tagaq is for you. Once it was over, the intimate crowd gave her an effusive applause which elicited an ear to ear smile by Tanya.

Frank Ocean

Ambitious, intense, and perfect - it's hard to put into words what the crowd had the honour to see on the final day of WayHome but Frank Ocean put on a performance for the ages. Having only played a handful of shows in the last few years, Frank Ocean was stoic yet vulnerable on the big stage and was not afraid to re-start songs that felt short of his lofty expectations. He did not use the mainstage like the other acts from the past 3 days as he created his own stage island out in the crowd filled with movie quality cameras, a full band, and more. The love for Frank Ocean was real as the Toronto crowd happily sang every word to his songs, which he fed off of, even removing his headset at times to feed off the energy.