A SHORT RECAP OF WAYHOME DAY 1: AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Featuring… Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Foals, LCD Soundsystem, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
By Josh Scott
In hindsight, Friday, Day 1 of Oro-Medonte’s second annual WayHome Music & Arts Festival was not only to this point the best day of live music I’ve ever experienced but (enthusiastic post-festival penchant for hyperbole aside) perhaps also the best I could ever hope to. To put it in perspective, I would’ve left Monday morning perfectly happy after Friday had Brandon Flowers and Win Butler exclusively sang Celine Dion cover songs and played potatoes instead of guitars.
For those of you who missed it as well as those of you that were there, felt similarly and would like to relive it: I offer this here recap as either a) a feeble substitute for actually being there or b) a possible remedy for your post-WayHome blues.
First on the list? Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats in the blazing sun, late Friday afternoon on the aptly named WayBright stage. Despite only knowing “S.O.B.” and “I Need Never Get Old” (being in, I’m sure, the same boat as a good chunk of the crowd) I’d heard great things, rallied my friends and come ready to be won over.
What I later learned was “We’ve Got the Whole Night Left to Lose” came as a nice surprise: as did the saxophone solo in the middle. I was also particularly impressed with the slower “Trying So Hard Not to Know”—which came as some much-needed relief near the end of their set, considering how sweaty we were from the heat and the dancing. After a short pause, they closed with “S.O.B.” worked into a cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” and brought back again, in a goosebump/goofy smile-inducing 6 or 7 minutes.
Coming in, I wasn’t sure how Rateliff’s vocals would hold up; coming out, I kicked myself for even thinking they wouldn’t, because they took the entire performance to another level. The energy was incredible. It somehow made the post-concert grins and high-fives we wound up exchanging with complete strangers (that would’ve been, in any other setting, unbelievably cheesy) more than fitting. To be fair, I feel it’s pretty safe to say any 5-piece band with keys, guitars, a horn and a CCR feel that seems to write nothing but toe-tapping sing-alongs is worth seeing live. If I were you, I wouldn’t miss NR & the NS next time around.
Next up we caught Foals in the evening, another band I’d been told put on an amazing live show. We were able to catch the last 10 or so songs, and luckily enough they included “What Went Down” and “Mountain At My Gates”. If you, like me, found the album cuts of a lot of their songs slightly underwhelming, don’t be fooled: live they play much harder, more uptempo versions. The highlight would have to been “Inhaler”—which just about blew us off our feet. Foals intoxicating mix of forward-hurtling urgency and groovy guitar, the two complementary modes they seemed able to switch between at will, coupled with their crisp execution, left us singing the lyrics to songs we’d only just heard for the remainder of the weekend.
That being said, I can’t remember being part of a better crowd than the one for LCD Soundsystem, the first of WayHome’s three headliners, Friday night on the main stage. Frontman James Murphy even agreed: “Man, you guys are great,” he said, three songs deep. The show was a non-stop dance party, as the crowd not only embraced but mirrored the wonderful absurdity of a clearly talented keyboardist, performing in front of thousands upon thousands of people, hitting the same key repeatedly while jumping and flailing his arms to Murphy’s frantically liberating chant of “over and over again” (from “Us v Them”).
“Dance Yrself Clean” was impossible not to jam out to, while “Someone Great” sent chills down my spine and offered a welcome change of pace. Were I to argue “All My Friends” status as a modern alternative classic, I’d cite their WayHome performance of it and rest my case. If you love dancing but feel you “don’t get” LCD Soundsystem, just give them a shot and see them live—at the very least, you’ll enjoy the “anything goes” atmosphere and the freedom to bust out your strangest manoeuvres.
I felt bittersweet about cutting out a little early to snag a decent spot for Mac DeMarco—while I’d seen him before (at his now infamous Danforth Music Hall show where he crowd-surfed up to the second level and trust-fell back down) my girlfriend hadn’t. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint. His latest stunt: bringing up an audience member to play the solo for “Ode to Viceroy”. I discovered later that the lucky (not to mention talented) soul in question had made a sign just before the show. As fate would have it, his sign caught Mac’s eye. The crowd waited in anticipation as the young man stood to the side of the stage, awkward and guitarless, and when the time came, Andy handed his over. He started sloppily, messing up the first few bars (he blames nervousness/the fact that Andy’s guitar “sat a lot lower” than his own) but eventually found his groove, won the crowd over and joined guitars with Mac as they playfully dueled out the rest of the song.
At various points, Mac treated/trolled us all with a bit of Steely Dan—his distant relation, musically speaking. He shredded an almost hard-rock version of “Reelin’ in the Years” minus the lyrics: in an improvised, thrown together rendition of the opening and the main solo that he repeatedly returned to. We thought it was over when he began “No Other Heart”, my personal favourite from his new album. Upon its completion he returned to some frantic Steely Dan once more; this time, with his guitar over his shoulders. The show’s height of randomness came when Andy and Rory (the new bassist) followed suit, did the same and took turns squatting down to kiss each other’s stomachs while continuing to play (if that makes any sense, it shouldn’t). To close things out, he crowd-surfed to the soundstage and back. While overall, the band’s execution was a tad sloppy, that didn’t prevent us both from having an absolute blast.
If you go to a Mac DeMarco show expecting some standard fare, you’re in for a rude awakening: his half-concert, half-comedy act stretches most conceivable boundaries. I’ve heard a few people refer to his act as his “tiring shtick”; personally, I find Mac’s eccentricity inextricable from his music. To an extent, it’s surely put-on. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to feel its seeming effortlessness arises from the fact that it’s simply an exaggeration of what he’s actually like in real life.
If you’re attracted by the hint of profound melancholy that pervades his songwriting, his live show might not be for you. Or if you’re looking for some serious artistry, Arcade Fire’s a better bet. However, mark my words: if the idea of “four musicians having a good time, playing some music and doing some stupid shit with a pretty tight soundtrack” sounds like your type of thing, see a Mac show and you won’t be disappointed.
Afterwards, just after midnight, we trekked over to the idyllic WayAway stage to find a cozy forested spot and cool off with some Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Supine, we stared at the stars and let UMO’s unique, otherworldly brand of psychedelic lo-fi take us away. I must say, the setting and timing could not have been better. “Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)” was even dreamier live and “Ffunny Ffrends” put the already strangely compelling album version to shame. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” took the title of grooviest (and most danceable) track of the set, and left me no longer doubting its mettle as a single. For such a small and remote stage, the sound quality was fantastic. Even better however, was the unbeatable, home-away-from-home-like atmosphere.
Good vibes, a long list of music to download and some unforgettable memories in hand, we packed it in and got ready for round 2; perfectly content with the realization that it likely won’t get any better but equally excited to see Saturday and Sunday’s lineups give it their best shot.