Girth Radio Presents…
Back in 2015, WayHome Music and Arts Festival hosted their inaugural event, coaxing music fans to travel an hour and a half outside of Toronto to camp in a heat wave for three days. Festival-goers were sunburnt and sweaty, but that didn’t matter compared to the excitement and music-induced bliss that dominated the weekend.
There was something for everyone, with headliners Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar, and Sam Smith representing only a few of the genres present. In the following two years, WayHome provided diverse lineups, securing acts like Arcade Fire, Solange, Frank Ocean, and Major Lazer, but these musicians were playing for smaller and smaller crowds.
WayHome is not returning this year, begging the question, why aren’t camping festivals popular in Ontario?
There are other camping festivals going on in the region, but WayHome was the first venture into the realm of major festivals like the ones all over Europe.
Across the pond, Glastonbury Festival is also taking the year off but for very different reasons. The festival is so popular that the actual grounds they are hosted upon need a break from the 160,000+ occupants that stomp around for a weekend every year, but unlike Wayhome, the legendary festival has already scheduled its return next year.
In the UK, camping festivals are hugely popular and, for many, are synonymous with summer. Festival-goers collect admission bracelets like badges of honour, and come September their forearms are half filled with frayed symbols of summertime adventures. So why couldn’t one major camping festival survive in Southern Ontario?
In the same space that WayHome used to occupy, Boots and Hearts will go on for its seventh consecutive year, proving that Canadians will camp at festivals. As a country music festival, Boots and Hearts appeals to more of a niche crowd, but there are rumours that groups drive all the way from Texas for the festival, and maybe that’s the reason WayHome couldn’t survive.
Boots and Hearts is a unique enough experience that people will drive far to get their country music fix. In England, it takes no more than seven hours to drive across the country, making it easy for music fans to travel to festivals. So maybe Canada is just too big for a major camping festival, and getting there is the reason WayHome only lasted three years.
Canadians are attending music festivals in urban centres, where buses and trains can conveniently drop them off. The ease of festivals like Osheaga in Montreal is obvious, but the payoff of trekking out to a field somewhere is incomparable. Only at a camping festival do you get to spend a weekend completely immersed in the music and the crowd, forgetting the news and the world outside your bubble.