Best of the Tiny Fonts is a recurring feature in which our staff handpick the must-see smaller acts at all the major festivals.
The WayHome Music & Arts Festival is about to launch its second edition this Friday, and already the three-day festival is being hailed as the “Bonnaroo of Canada.” Makes some sense, seeing as it’s co-produced by Roo stakeholder AC Entertainment. But beyond that, most reports from 2015’s inaugural fest – which drew 35,000 attendees to Burl’s Creek Event Grounds (90% of which reportedly camped) in Oro-Medonte, about 90 minutes north of Toronto, Ontario – indicate its growing reputation has just as much to do with the ultra-positive, all-inclusive vibes and stacked lineups.
This year’s headlining roster provides proof enough of the latter: fest juggernauts LCD Soundsystem finish off Friday, home-country heroes Arcade Fire cap Saturday, and veritable main stage veterans The Killers serve as Sunday’s sonic supper. And just like its Tennessee-based pseudo-predecessor, WayHome boasts badass late-night options (running until 2 a.m.) on the first two nights.
A few of the lineup’s must-see Tiny Font artists – some that might not be on your radar yet – inhabit those nocturnal time slots, but many of the must-see undercards are scattered across various stages and throughout the weekend. If you’re someone seeking discovery – the only way to fest, really – allow us to guide you through a handful of our Tiny Font top picks.
Friday, 1:15 p.m., WayBright
By now, it’s well known that LANY (pronounced lay-nee) is an acronym for “Los Angeles New York,” a moniker chosen by LA-based dream pop artists Paul Klein, Jake Goss, and Les Priest to denote a nation-spanning sound. Their chill, bubbly dream pop certainly seems to hold that widespread appeal; since forming in 2014, they’ve been tapped to open for the likes of Twin Shadow, Ellie Goulding, and Halsey. With the strength of their latest EP, kinda, which includes infectiously catchy and gloriously chill single “WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL MY FRIENDS”, the trio will serve as a perfect kickoff to Friday’s all-night dance party run of Wolf Parade, Metric, Chvrches (or Foals), LCD Soundsystem, and Matt and Kim. Let LANY get you in the mood to groove.
Friday, 3:45 p.m., WayAway
This pick is probably a no-brainer for Canucks attending WayHome – Montreal-based BRAIDS were instant sensations with the release of their 2011 debut, Native Speaker, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize that year. Go figure, they were beat out by rising countrymen Arcade Fire for The Suburbs.
But now, with the release of 2015’s Deep in the Iris (their third disc), the avant-garde rock trio joins those Saturday night headliners – plus a slew of other Canadian darlings over the years like Broken Social Scene, Rufus Wainwright, and the New Pornographers – as winners of the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.
No surprise there: The record splendidly blends a variety of soothing yet danceable styles, including R&B, contemporary pop, jazz, and electronica. It’s a textbook choice for fans of Radiohead, Chairlift, and FKA twigs – think big, exploratory beats with fantastic female lead vocals to buoy you through the mid-afternoon hours.
Friday, 5:30 p.m., WayAway
The punks are few and far between at WayHome, but the sounds of their rage shall not be diminished. Especially in the case of Vancouver trio White Lung, who will play the incontestably loudest and rowdiest set of Friday before FIDLAR follows them on the same stage. Mosh-thirsty peeps: Do yourselves a favor and commit to this one-two-kick in the teeth. That said, a fists-flying approach won’t be completely necessary to enjoy White Lung’s set. Cuts off their latest (fourth) album, Paradise, drive home as much bop-worthy pop sensibilities as gutsy grunge (i.e. you don’t need to be “punk” to enjoy the shit out of it).
Friday, 11 p.m. WayAway
So who is this Marian Hill gal? Well, for starters, it’s a duo comprising a guy (producer Jeremy Lloyd) and gal (vocalist Samantha Gongol) – the band moniker is an amalgamation of the two main characters’ names in The Music Man, Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. But don’t expect Broadway show tunes if you roll up to the Philadelphia-based outfit’s Friday late-night set. Instead, prepare your senses for music with an attitude: Lloyd blends elements of R&B, jazz, and plenty of sax (think rising EDM incorporators GRiZ and Big Gigantic) into badass beats that compliment Gongol’s beautiful, at-times saucy vocal delivery. Save some energy for this set, because if you’re standing stock still at this point, you might as well head to bed.
Saturday, 2:15 p.m., WayAway
Let’s face it: A lot of us have the urge to slip into our emo skin sometimes. And by emo, I’m not referring to the Jimmy Eat World-era that so many of us think of when that word comes up. No, I’m talking raw, confessional lyrics and heavily layered, galvanic soundscapes, the type that Mothers frontwoman and principal songwriter Kristine Leschper pens on the regular. So if you’re looking for a calming, introspective start to your Saturday, take a few moments at the WayAway stage to check out the chill yet euphoric live vibes of the Athens, GA-based quartet’s material off recently released full-length debut, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired. Arrive loose, ready to feel the feels, and let Leschper’s commanding warble – which evokes shades of classic Grace Slick and others of the psychedelic/shoegaze schools – pry open your emotional stronghold. You might as well let them start to trickle out early before Arcade Fire fully opens the floodgates later on.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., WayAway
If you watch all of Mothers’ set, there’s a good chance you may get in the mood to stay on the chill wave and further your exploration of existential self via even more poignant tunes. Fortunately, you won’t need to move an inch – 27-year-old Seattle singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen’s emotionally charged catalog, next up on the WayAway stage, will keep you in that zone. With his latest album, 2015’s Carry the Ghost, Gundersen cited Neil Young’s 1975 album Tonight’s the Night – an album about grief – as the key influence, a vibe that comes through strongly in many piano- or acoustic guitar-driven tunes complemented by his honeyed, often hushed vocals. An artist influenced by one of Canada’s greatest musicians at a stellar Canadian festival? Sounds pretty dang splendid to me.
Saturday, 11 p.m., WayAway
Montreal’s Patrick Watson is one of those artists you might know without even realizing it – a good handful of his songs have been featured in various films and television shows, including Grey’s Anatomy and The Walking Dead. Much of his catalog has a lullaby-esque quality (his flawless falsetto is seriously soothing), but his latest full-band album, Love Songs for Robots, is boisterous folk rock. It won’t be your bag if you’re looking to party hardy during his late-night time slot (try Vince Staples instead). But if you’re the type that likes to wind down mid-weekend before ambling back to crash in your tent, Watson and his troupe will conjure a calming sonic cloud to help float you along.
Sunday, 1 p.m., WayBright
If you’re like me, you’ll need something particularly invigorating to help you rally for the final day of a music fest. At WayHome on Sunday, that’s going to come with the unforgivingly aggressive tunes of Toronto natives Dilly Dally. On debut disc, 2015’s Sore, frontwoman Katie Monk’s vocals – which shift easily from the lackadaisical chill of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand to the cigarette-grit of Babes in Toyland’s Kat Bjelland — forge a path through tunes that tap the best of ’90s post-grunge indie rock. I anticipate the quartet’s Sunday opening set will give me a fuzzed-out, riff-heavy jolt equally (if not more) satisfying than a few shots of espresso.
Sunday, 1:15, WayBold
Whereas Dilly Dally will kick off Sunday with a high-octane injection, LA-based British artist Bishop Briggs (formerly Bishop, stage name for Sarah Grace McLaughlin) will get your blood pumping with the sheer force of her voice. At this point, we only have a handful of singles (“The Way I Do”, “Wild Horses”, and her most famous, “River”) to go off, but from those, I can glean that she occupies a creative space akin to Lorde or Banks (powerful, soulful vocals over epic, semi-industrial beats). Live footage shows her commanding massive sing-alongs, so if enough people have the good sense to turn out early at WayHome, she might possibly pull off one of the breakout sets of the fest, not to mention a rare appearance on a smaller stage before she blows the fuck up.
Sunday, 5:30 p.m., WayAway
With Canada barreling ahead toward the nationwide (regulated) legalization of marijuana, you know there’s bound to be a thick cloud of smoke looming when the psych-rock heads come out of the woodwork for Vancouver’s Black Mountain on Sunday. If they know what’s good for ‘em, those types will already be posted up at the WayAway stage for Nashville’s All Them Witches just before.
Regardless, if Black Mountain busts out a good chunk from their recently released fourth album (aptly titled IV), it should be plenty loud and trippy enough to draw in anyone – not just the stoners – with a deep love for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and pretty much anything by Brian Eno. Any fan of heroically heavy riffs crossed with spacey synth needs to prioritize this set.