To be honest, it has taken me a lot longer to start writing this than I had hoped. I wanted to get home on Monday and for words to just start flowing, but it turns out I needed a few days to process all the beautiful things that had happened in the four days we were at WayHome. I told Marcus the other day that it almost felt like if we talked about it, it would lose some of its magic and purity. Like you had to be there to know what WayHome encompassed and what it all felt like, like words typed out on a computer screen couldn’t really do it justice. But alas, I’m writing these blog posts anyway. I’m still not sure if my thoughts are fully coherent, but we’ll give it a go.
WayHome was a whirlwind to say the least. We arrived on Thursday, and by Sunday it didn’t really feel like we had been there for almost four days, but just one long, run-on chunk of time that was only separated by time spent sitting around our campsites with new friends or moving from stage to stage or naps in any chunk of shade we could find. And that wasn’t an issue except for the fact that we were all mentally and physically exhausted but we also just wanted to keep going and going and going. Apparently camping festivals can feel a bit like a marathon.
We spent Thursday getting the lay of the land. Setting our tent up was the biggest ordeal of the day, but it went much smoother than expected and we even managed to hang up a giant, turquoise flag with a peace sign on it. I guess that’s the kind of message we wanted to send. Peace is important, guys. We also got to know our neighbours, who, simply put, were a bunch of Americans and a few people we met on the bus to the event grounds. They were all lovely and nice and we sort of created a WayHome family for the weekend. We shared laughs and stories. They gave us food and shade and pretty much kept us rookies alive for four days. It was all wonderful.
On Thursday night, all the campers were able to enter the main entertainment area to explore and see the art installations and to generally have fun before the real fun started. Katelyn and I roamed around and lied in hammocks and marvelled at the art and spent more money at the Etsy market than we had originally hoped. We watched the sunset and sat in the grass drinking juice boxes and waited for the stars to come out and took everything in. And then we ate pizza and discussed how crazy and insane it was that we were finally at WayHome and it was all actually happening. It was a good first night.
Friday was our first day of music. We started off with Lowell, who put on a really great, upbeat, energetic show. She also proved that Arts & Crafts is a label that signs the best musicians possible. Later on we saw Courtney Barnett, and I am still completely in love with her. I simultaneously want to be her and be best friends with her. She’s really cool and her lyrics are sarcastic and witty and thoughtful, and her set was one of my favourites from the whole weekend. Finally, we saw Alt-J. I discovered them over three years ago when their debut album, An Awesome Wave, made its way onto countless lists of Top 50 Albums of the Year. I’ve waited a long time to see them, and I’ve missed two opportunities to go to one of their shows, so their set was really special for me. It was absolutely incredible and they played all the songs I could’ve wanted them to play.
Saturday was the day that I had been waiting for. Our first set was Alvvays. I’ve seen them three times at this point, and they never disappoint. Despite the fact that their lyrics aren’t the most positive words out there, they always manage to put a gigantic smile on my face. This time wasn’t any different. They put on the best show I’ve seen them play, with a mix of all their popular songs as well as some B-Sides and a new tune.
Passion Pit had cancelled his set for that day. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to seeing him play, but then the rumours started circulating and we managed to find out that Broken Social Scene was his replacement. I think most of us felt like we had hit the jackpot. Their set time came around and they walked on stage and I was on the verge of tears as I realized just how important that moment was for everyone involved. Broken Social Scene is Marcus’ favourite band ever, and being able to see him see them made everything even more incredible. I was in awe as they played their set and as the opening chords to “Anthems for A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” wafted out of the speakers and the entire crowd began singing along, it felt like the moment we had all wanted from WayHome. Nothing could top that.
One thing I loved about WayHome is that nothing stopped until two a.m. At eleven we saw Timber Timbre, and their music feels like a moody, slow burn. I was pleasantly surprised and they were the perfect transition into the next band. The Growlers played in the early hours of the morning, and it was wonderful. Their self-proclaimed “beach goth” sound was on point, and the stage was adorned with fake flowers and pinatas, creating an amazing vibe. All five members of the band form this odd, eclectic gang of boys that doesn’t really make any sense until they’re all at home on stage, but once they got up there, everything was incredible and weird, and that’s how I like things.
Sunday was our last day. By the end of the festival you kind of feel like you want to die or just go back to sleep for the rest of the day, but at the same time you just really want to be back in the thick of things one last time. We started off with July Talk and, as per usual, they put on an entertaining show full of Leah’s antics and Peter’s signature hoarse voice and the entire crowd was enthralled for an hour. Sunday was full of overlaps, so we were only able to catch half of St. Vincent’s set, but it was poetic and captivating nonetheless. We also managed to listen to a bit of Brandon Flowers’ show, and he did not disappoint. Our last set of the festival was Walk the Moon. They opened with “Anna Sun” and moved into “Tightrope,” and the entire crowd was instantly dancing and clapping and singing along. It was a good show to end WayHome with before we piled our stuff into the car and said goodbye to one of the best weekends we had all ever had.
WayHome did so many things so well. They called themselves a music and arts festival and there actually were art installations. The lineup was absolutely insane, especially for the first year of a festival. The stages were well laid out and easy to get to, and the large screens on three out of four stages made it easy to see from any viewpoint. The overall vibe was amazing, with flags hanging high and hammocks in trees and string lights illuminating the night. The addition of an Etsy market was wonderful especially for people like me who are suckers for handmade products and local artists. The abundance of foodtrucks was welcome and it gave everyone endless opportunities for meals. My favourite one was called Made in Brazil – they had the best cheese empanadas, as well as cheese puffs and Brazilian sausage and Portuguese custard tarts. Needless to say I ate there everyday. The farmer’s market was a good option as well, especially when you feel like you’ve been deprived of fresh fruit and veggies. What really made the festival was the people. As I mentioned before, our neighbours were amazing, but there were also people in the festival who commented on my jackets or yelled at us that we’re beautiful and just spread the positive vibes all around.
WayHome was one for the books. It still feels amazing to say that we were part of something so huge, that we were at the first of many WayHome festivals. It was an experience of a lifetime, from start to finish. It was everything we could have asked for and more. It was worth getting less than eight hours of sleep at night and living without running water for four days and the extreme heat in the tent as you woke up with the sun. It was worth all of that because for everything that kinda sucked, there were a bunch of amazing things that made it all worthwhile. It’s still shocking and surreal that I get to go back there every year until I get tired of going to music festivals. I have next year’s dates marked on my calendar and I’ll be waiting patiently for the lineup and for the day when I can get my ticket. WayHome, you were incredible. Thank you for giving us all one of the best weekends of our lives.