I Found My Wayhome @ The Great Hall – Toronto

Every time festival season rolls around, I get anxious and excited and stressed out all at the same time. I spend enormous amounts of time mulling over possible lineups and the pros and cons of each festival and how many tickets I’ll be able to afford. It’s kind of a big deal. Festivals are always the best part of the summer.

This year, a new festival was added into the mix. The rumours started in early January, with lineup speculations and possible names being discussed all over social media. Around the end of last month, posters began popping up around downtown Toronto, advertising an event that would be occurring on February 10th at The Great Hall – although attending said event was “strongly discouraged.” There was also a second poster that needed to be decoded in order to figure out the name of this new festival: Wayhome.

As soon as I found out about this mysterious gathering, I knew I had to go. I had this really strong feeling that something huge would happen, that I would remember it for the rest of my life, that it would go down in history. There was no way I was missing it, even if I did sound a little crazy when I told my mom I was going downtown on a school night, but I had no idea what for.

So, on Tuesday night, my best friend Katelyn and I made the hour-long trip downtown so that we could attend the event. We arrived a couple hours before doors and waited in line. The excitement of everyone there was electric. This was a group of 350 hard-core music fans who knew they needed to be a part of this night no matter what. Whispers travelled through the crowd as we all speculated what was going to happen – a performance? Free tickets? A line-up announcement? At this point, anything seemed possible. We were all dying to find out just exactly what we were in for.

The doors were opened at 8. After being stamped and checked by security, we headed upstairs to go into the main room of the venue. As we entered, each attendee was handed a matte black envelope marked “DO NOT OPEN” in holographic letters. The temptation to open them was strong. Some people gave in, insisting that we had already broken the rules just by being there. And the envelopes all held complimentary tickets to Wayhome 2015. Free tickets for every single person who was dedicated and rebellious enough to come to the prohibited event.

Katelyn and I resisted the temptation to open the envelopes. We stood around for the next hour, still talking with people about what could be going on. One of the best things about events like concerts and festivals is all the wonderful people you meet, and it was no different at The Great Hall. It felt like a 350-person community of music-lovers, hungry to be a part of something we all knew nothing about. We were all just there for the love of music and art and the possibility to be a part of history.

Everything got good around 9 o’clock. The lights dimmed, the eerie music stopped playing, and a message was projected onto the screen at the front of the room: You Are Here. Everyone went crazy. It was finally starting – until a countdown for 600 hundred seconds appeared and we all had to wait anxiously for 10 long, painful minutes until we could find out anything more. After the wait was over, the screen went blank and an audio message started playing over the speakers. It explained the idea of living without internet and having so much fun that you forget about your phone and social media and to just be in the moment you’re in. That’s the idea behind the festival. To disconnect and live life for a few days.

At this point, a video started playing. It decoded everything on the posters – most of which we had already figured out. Then came what we were all waiting for: the lineup. Huge names like Alt-J, Kendrick Lamar, St. Vincent, July Talk, and Alvvays. At that point I was wondering whether or not life could get any better. I was going to Wayhome – for free – and I was going to see tons of glorious bands that I had waited a long time for. Everything was perfect.

The video stopped playing. A message appeared inviting everyone to stick around until the bar closed. Then, a couple minutes later, they added something else: if you had obeyed the rules and had yet to open your envelope, you were “banished to Wayhome for life.” A group of five of us who had made a pact not to open ours up all looked at each other with stupid, idiotically happy smiles on our faces. We got in line. We handed in our envelopes and, in exchange, we each got a lifetime pass to Wayhome. Free tickets every summer for the rest of our lives. It was surreal.

To be honest I still haven’t processed everything that happened that night. Life still doesn’t seem real. That’s not the kind of thing that happens to ordinary people; this is the kind of stuff that’s reserved for movies. I can’t really fathom the fact that I’m going to be part of Wayhome every single year for the rest of my life. It’s insanity.

One thing I learned from that night: it’s good to be a little crazy sometimes. It’s good to go with your gut, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. That kind of stuff pays off. This is a story that I’ll be telling until the day I die. I can’t wait for Wayhome to arrive, and I hope to see some of you there – it’s going to be good.

Review by Hannah Champion | @hannahisrad_

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