WORDS: Brett Fillmore
PHOTOGRAPHY: Sourced from the official WayHome site
The dust has settled on the sophomore edition of WayHome, and it was a scorcher on and off the stage. With dozens of bands on several concurrent stages, sometimes festival memories turn blurry and what sticks out is what you were humming as you walked away. Here are five of the best final songs that continued to ring in heads (and hearts) long after the sets were complete.
Metric – “Breathing Underwater”
Indie-rock vets Metric have always worked hard to put on a notable show, and this was a hometown gig. They strayed away from classics like “Combat Baby” and “Poster Of A Girl” in favour of mostly newer cuts, led radiantly by the bewitching Emily Haines, her glittery green cape flowing in the wind with every hip sway. “Breathing Underwater” began with a siren, and when the atmospheric guitar part broke in it felt like a cool blast at the muggy, sticky mainstage. The song stretched over double its usual length when guitarist James Shaw emerged with an acoustic guitar to turn the banger into a soft singalong that continued as the band strode off stage. This is what music festivals are all about.
Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
Arcade Fire drew the biggest crowd of WayHome 2016. At the outset there was a 100% chance they were going to blow the top off of it. Just to confirm it, though, during their opening song lead man Win Butler grabbed the runtime clock and made a performance out of smashing it to bits. The full nine piece band—complete with Haitian hand drummers Diol Edmond and Tiwill Duprate–were running on all gusto cylinders for almost two hours. Highlights included Regine Chassagne’s inspired streamer dance during “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” and a cover of Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” as an intro to “Keep The Car Running”. Throughout the show Win Butler was unusually intense, stalking the stage with a snarl rather than a smirk. His demeanour softened, however, during an impassioned discussion with the crowd regarding the value of continued arts funding in Canada. All the while, everyone knew what was coming. Since the early 2000’s Arcade Fire has closed every set with the dramatic whoa-oh of “Wake Up”, and this night was to be no different. When it finally happened—amid the burst of confetti cannons and an impressive fireworks show—it felt like a cathartic climax.
LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
What’s amazing about LCD Soundsystem is not that they are back together—with a summer tour and forthcoming new album to boot—but that they existed at all. Music created electronically and solo performed analogue with a live band is a feat, and they smashed it in their eighth show since reuniting at Coachella in April. Neither leader James Murphy nor sidekick extraordinaire Nancy Whang did much in the way of crowd interaction, but maybe it’s because they knew they didn’t need to. It was the ultimate dance-ready festival set—loud, long, hypnotic, pounding grooves. People triumphantly lost their shit straight through, starting with “Us v Them” all the way to “Dance Yrself Clean”. By the time they dropped “All My Friends” to close the set, it felt like a manic layer of thick icing on an already bursting alt-dance cake.
Haim – “Falling”
The Los Angeles trio’s 2013 debut Days Are Gone is a sensational recording, but you get the feeling that they are still learning to excel as on-stage performers. Their big-break SNL performance wasn’t great, and Este’s outrageously overblown facial expressions while playing has inspired its own brand of internet mockery: bass face. Haim’s Sunday main stage set at WayHome wasn’t poor, but it also didn’t approach the infectiousness of their recorded music, of which the synthy throwback pop rock is so praiseworthy as to be named one of the best albums of the decade by Pitchfork—that is except for the last song of the set. They came together in a big way for “Falling”, complete with tight, soaring harmonies. Though touted as a three sister outfit (augmented by a drummer and keyboardist onstage), Haim is actually Danielle’s band, and she proved it with a sizzling guitar solo midway through the song. The siblings also displayed their breezy party girl personas most aptly during “Falling” when, as an outro, they brought out a triple set of drums. They took turns smashing solos before all joining in to create a raucous, groove-filled finale. Though they didn’t rock the whole set, they nailed the finale like old pros.
The Killers – “When You Were Young”
Counterintuitively, batting cleanup at a major festival is a tougher gig than any other slot. By the final set of the festival everyone is feeling haggard and many have already packed up their campsites in anticipation of (gasp) rejoining civilization. On top of that, there is only one stage remaining active so if people aren’t excited it looks empty and sad, and that’s no way to close out a weekend. Last year’s WayHome closer, Sam Smith, put on a cheeseball snoozer of a set and the crowd visibly dissipated as he went on. WayHome wasn’t taking any chances in 2016. Unlike almost every other band in the lineup, The Killers were not pulled off a tour. They have no new material and are not on the road, meaning WayHome specifically chose The Killers to fly ‘em out for a one-off show. Their set list was a wham bam compilation of singalong hits spanning their career, and the crowd ate it up. At the core, The Killers are performers. They’re from Vegas; they know a thing or two about spectacle. Remember Brandon Flowers’ glam rock guyliner era? Remember his southern gentleman era? The dude knows how to be a showman. From the beginning notes of opener “Mr. Brightside” the worn out audience was suddenly animated, and the band had everyone wrapped around their finger. The only time the barrage let up was when they broke it down for a touching cover of “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”, and a piano-only version of “Human”. After coming back for an encore of “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine”, The Killers closed out with the visceral and anthemic “When We Were Young”. In terms of batting cleanup at a festival, it was a bat flip walk off.