Exclusive: WayHome Music and Arts Festival to Debut in Ontario This Summer, Aims for 'the Scale of Coachella'
Inaugural event fo feature Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Alt-J, Modest Mouse and Hozier.
Canadian promoter/producer Republic Live will join forces with Bonnaroo co-producer AC Entertainment in launching the inaugural WayHome Music and Arts Festival, a three-day immersive destination fest, set for July 24-26 at Burl's Creek Event Grounds near Barrie, Ont. Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Alt-J, Modest Mouse and Hozier will headline.
Producers feel WayHome fills a niche in the robust entertainment market, where Republic Live has already made its mark in the country music business through the Boots & Hearts festival. "The greater Toronto area has a world-class music scene, and the major hole we see in it is an international destination festival on the scale of a Bonnaroo or a Coachella," Republic Live executive director Shannon McNevan tells Billboard.
"Toronto is a wonderful city, with a very vibrant and creative cultural scene," adds AC Entertainment CEO Ashley Capps, who calls the site for WayHome "one of the best sites that I've ever seen, for any festival. It offers an extraordinary opportunity to create a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience for everyone who attends."
Also on the WayHome bill are Bassnectar, The Decemberists, Passion Pit, St. Vincent, Girl Talk, Vance Joy, Future Islands, The Sheepdogs, Odesza, The Gaslight Anthem, Walk The Moon, Run The Jewels, Kaytranada, Hey Rosetta!, G-Eazy, Sylvan Esso, Danny Brown, Cold War Kids, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Big K.R.I.T, July Talk, Fucked Up, Timber Timbre, Thousand Foot Krutch, METZ, Alvvays, Yukon Blonde, Courtney Barnett, Sloan, Delta Spirit, Broods, How to Dress Well, SZA, Viet Cong, Com Truise, Bear Mountain, Evening Hymns, Lowell, The Highest Order, Dear Rouge, Chris Stapleton, For Esme, and Saxsyndrum, with other announces forthcoming. AC Entertainment played the lead role in booking the talent.
"Our goal is always to create 'time of your life' moments in everything we do, and celebrate the things that inspire us," says McNeavan. "This lineup that AC has curated is a great reflection of what is currently inspiring our team."
Republic Live, based in Peterborough, Ont., with an office in Nashville, has, until now, been more active in the country space, launching the annual Boots & Hearts Music Festival in 2012 at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont. Boots & Hearts quickly became Canada's biggest country music camping festival, selling out in advance the past two years. Due to demand, Boots & Hearts will relocate to Burl's Creek, the WayHome site, for 2015. Republic Live majority shareholder Stan Dunford, CEO of Canadian transportation giant Contrans Group, purchased the Burl's Creek Event Grounds last November, adding the adjacent Barrie Speedway in January.
"With the commitment that has been made to buying and renovating the Burls Creek Event Grounds into the largest festival grounds in Canada," McNevan says, "and, with the team that's been built around [WayHome] we're poised to become Canada's global destination festival right out of the gate, which is amazing."
McNevan calls Capps, "the best big brother we could possibly have on the festival playground. He brings a depth of authentic relationships and credibility that are invaluable, but, more importantly, he and his team are just a blast to work with, humble beyond belief for a guy and a company with their track record."
After experiencing Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., "we realized there was a whole new level of live music experience that we didn't realize we'd been missing, but once we experienced it we can't imagine we ever lived without it," Shannon continues, "and we haven't been able to stop trying to share it with our pals ever since."
In addition to Bonnaroo, which AC co-produces with Superfly Presents, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based firm also produces the Forecastle festival in Louisville, Ky., the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, and numerous other events and one-off concerts across the country.
WayHome and the Republic Live partnership represents a growth opportunity for AC Entertainment, according to Capps. "As always, AC Entertainment is open to new and exciting opportunities, and this clearly fits the bill," he says, adding that partnering on a Canadian festival, "is a discussion we've been having with Shannon and his Republic Live team for over four years. We're very impressed with what they have created with Boots & Hearts, and we know that we share the same values, commitment and focus. They've build a very talented and exceptionally creative team, and it's exciting to collaborate with them, dream, share ideas, and bring this new festival to life."
The festival will host four stages, late-night "spectacles and experiences," original art installations, international and local cuisine, and an on-site farmers market, among other attractions. Among the corporate partners for WayHome are Molson Canadian Live, a brand that has been in the experiential marketing game at music festivals and events across Canada for over 25 years. Fans will also have the opportunity to connect directly with select Etsy artists at an Etsy.com-inspired marketplace, and SiriusXM Canada will be providing an on-site platform for emerging artists.
"At the end of the day, the arts and food components on-site and the amazing community of campers and music lovers adding their own personal touches are going to be the key differentiator for us," says McNevan. "This is an incredibly creative area, and we can't wait to see how our music lovers make this their own."
Among the firms on the WayHome team involved in staging the festival are Jim Tobin Productions, Creighton Manning, M&M Parking, and CID Entertainment. The festival will offer a choice of tent camping or parking, with tickets going on sale Feb. 16. GA tickets start at $209.99 (Canadian -- about $165.50 US), with a one-day only walk-in pre-sale for $189.99 (Canadian) at 12 key retail partners.
Tickets will be sold in allotments, meaning that once the number of tickets allocated at the $209.99 Canadian price point sell out, the following allotment of tickets will be released at the next price point of $229.99 (Canadian). VIP tickets, VIP "glamping," RV and hotel packages are also available exclusively at www.wayhome.com.
Organizers are anticipating a sellout.