WayHome Festival was brand new when it debuted at Burl's Creek in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, last year, so we didn't quite know what to expect. We didn't know how to prepare. We made some mistakes. In just its second year, though, it feels like an entrenched summer tradition — already one of the biggest players on the (reducing) Canadian festival market, for better or for worse. You're going to play by its rules before it plays by yours.
This year won't be exactly the same as last — there have been some changes behind the scenes that could be reflected in and around the grounds — but we have a year of experience and a ton of hours logged on WayHome's FAQ website to make some better decisions. Now that we know better, we want you to know better too. Here's our suggestions for what to do and, especially, what not to do.
Have more suggestions? Join the conversation here.
Pack as though you're camping on the surface of the sun. Temperatures are expected to approach the 30s this weekend, and if you think you can escape then, well, think again. Last year there were no cooling stations, no air conditioning, almost zero shade. People were cramming into any tiny shadow they could find, including the flags flying as art installations. Bring a hat, get a shaded tent, slather on sunscreen, fan yourself like a character in a Jane Austen novel. And be prepared to wait to hydrate: this year instead of one water filling station, there's a whole two.
Pack as though you're camping in a biblical flood. There wasn't much rain last year, but the forecast is calling for it this year. Expect wet clothes, wet tents, probably some mudfights. Don't gamble: make sure everything you have is waterproofable. Put your phone in a ziplock bag. Buy a brightly coloured poncho. Wear boots. Don't bring anything you can't get afford to get dirty.
Bring shower stuff. We know how easy it is to forgo hygiene in the interest of partying in a tent and seeing 43 bands, especially when a shower isn't free, but trust us, you're probably going to break down and buy one. Make sure that shower costs you $9.99 and not a whole bunch more at the commissary. Bring soap, bring flip flops, and don't forget to bring a towel.
Bring extra toilet paper, hand sanitizer. Don't trust a festival's soap dispenser to keep you clean. And when you see the sewage truck cleaning out the port-o-potties, be the next person in line. It will never be cleaner.
Get there early if you want a prime campsite. There are various tiers of camping, but within those tiers it's still first-come, first-served and you can't save a campsite for your friends. Your best bet is to arrive as a group Thursday night. If you hate showing up the night before the music starts, check out the ArtWalk, which this year includes one performance: The Darcys. With no competition other than campsite drinking and a very expensive VIP dinner in the woods, the Toronto duo might just have the most coveted slot at WayHome.
Don't bring too much to drink. This isn't any sort of moralistic plea. It's just a warning: the rules have changed. You can have two alcoholic "bulk items" per person, which means:
◦One (1) case (24 cans) of beer or malt-based beverage.
◦One (1) 26 oz. of liquor
◦One (1) 4L Box of wine
These can't be glass, and you can't bring them off your campsite and into the festival grounds. Break these rules and expect to have your booze taken. Then it's nothing but overpriced sponsor beer at the concession stands.
Be safe. There's no official harm reduction policy at WayHome, and there are stories floating around about security hassling people trying to distribute drug testing kits at last year's festival. So if you're going to chemically enhance your experience then be careful and make sure you trust the source.
Don't get stuck eating poutine for every meal. If you're not going to cook your own food at the campsite, expect to pay a lot of RFID wrist swipes for food truck meals. You can get a hot dog or some poutine anywhere. Find the best deal. Last year it was the amazing Indian Tacos, but since those aren't around this year check out the list of vendors on the app and find your best, most value-filled option. Do some research. Don't be afraid to go back to the same place twice.
"Cashless" doesn't mean walletless. Money is so WayHome 2015. This year, you'll pay using an RFID bracelet that you'll register and top up in advance. Seriously, do it in advance. And download the app so you never have to wait in line. But don't count on wifi or data, because there isn't much. You'll still need ID to buy every drink, and you'll still need cash for ice or food from the farmer's market, so don't leave your wallet at home.
Don't count on cell reception or data. When this many people descend upon a field in rural Ontario, the cell towers can't keep up, even if they have added extra for the occasion. The only public wifi is within sponsor activations, so if you want to reach your friends then bring walkie talkies, download FireChat, or determine meeting spots in advance. Keep track of your performance schedule with the app, or print out one the old-fashioned way. Just don't expect to play Pokémon.
Bring a portable phone charger. It will be your best friend.
If you want to catch the first band, get your ass in gear. Little Scream, Dilly Dally and Allie X all have the 1PM slot. That doesn't sound so early now, but it will after a long night partying in GA camping and then waking up, showering, eating breakfast or lunch, and then trying to rally your crew. Those bands deserve a crowd. Make sure you don't underestimate how hard it will be to get there to see them.
You can’t see everything. It might be tempting to split your time between two bands playing at the same time, but, again, it's easier said than done. There are some tough time slots: Mac DeMarco vs. Rae Sremmurd on Friday, M83 vs. BADBADNOTGOOD on Saturday, Major Lazer vs. Savages vs. FKA twigs even later on Saturday. Be firm in your choices. (Ready? Mac, BBNG, twigs.)
Don't camp out at the mainstage. I know you want to get a good spot, but you'll have more fun if you explore and take chances. The WayAway stage looks small, but it will have some of the best performances of the weekend from the likes of Braids, White Lung and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
How much do you really like The Killers? Enough to get stuck in an endless bottleneck of cars trying to exit at the same time after the final show of the festival? Brandon Flowers already played "Mr. Brightside" last year.
Share your festival secrets with us. Your turn.