My Story: Sara saw the band headline WayHome

Arcade Fire – 2016/07/23 – WayHome, Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, Oro-Medonte, ON, Canada.

Sara Avakian saw Arcade Fire bring it at WayHome. This is her story.

When I first heard that Arcade Fire were going to play a string of shows in 2016, I just knew I had to make it to one of those concerts. I was ready to fly to Portugal if I had to. I was literally one click away from buying a ticket to NOS Alive, but then I heard they were set to announce gigs in North America, so I waited a little. About two weeks later, Arcade Fire were announced as a headliner for WayHome, a young festival in rural Ontario, alongside LCD Soundsystem (!) and the Killers. I mean yeah, Oro-Medonte is a bit less exotic than Lisbon, but my bank account was more than thrilled about the news.

Credit: Sara Avakian

Credit: Sara Avakian

Since it’s kind of in the middle of a field, WayHome is a festival you can camp at. I decided to go for the full festival experience, camping and all, instead of booking an expensive hotel. The things is, I normally don’t camp. The last time I had before WayHome was in high school and it was awful so I was kind of dreading the whole thing. Luckily, my group of friends (or WayHomies as some would call them) included some very experienced campers. They made sure we had all we needed, including bacon and coffee for mornings and several types of cheese for our late-night grilled cheese party. It was awesome.

Credit: Sara Avakian

Credit: Sara Avakian

If there is one word I could use to describe WayHome, it would be hot. From the acts to the temperature, it was one of the hottest festivals I’ve attended so far! After seeing five acts that day, it was finally time for the main course. Sure, WayHome had been a blast up until that time, but Arcade Fire was the main act that drew me there so to say that I was excited would be quite the euphemism.

Credit: Sara Avakian

Credit: Sara Avakian

After many text messages and “Excuse me”s, I finally managed to meet Ashley and her friend Heather who were only a couple feet away from the stage. I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner only once I got there, but there was no way I was going to leave my spot. My hunger was quickly replaced by excitement when a graphic appeared on the big screens beside the main stage. Performing next : Arcade Fire. Up until then, I still couldn’t really grasp the fact that I was actually going to see Arcade Fire. After watching them close out the Reflektor Tour at home in 2014, I was convinced I’d have to wait at least three years before seeing them again. I have never loved to be proven wrong more.

Soon before 9:30 p.m., we could really feel the buzz around the crowd. People were already chanting Wake Up. A trio standing at the barricade whipped out capes made of a thin foil-like material, the last piece of their Reflektor inspired costume. Someone even had a sign that read “MVP! MVP!” with a picture of Win holding his trophy at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game earlier this year. We got a good laugh out of that one.

As soon as the band took the stage and we heard the first notes of Ready To Start, the crowd went wild, singing along so loudly it almost drowned out Win’s voice. The singing turned into cheers when he made his way closer to the crowd and smashed the stage’s runtime clock, breaking it to bits.

As they did for every stop of this small tour, they followed with The Suburbs and Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). As she always does, Régine danced her heart out, ribbons included. It was the perfect setup for the equally dancy Reflektor segment that came next with Reflektor, Afterlife, We Exist and Normal Person.

The third portion of the show was the Neon Bible one. They kicked off Keep The Car Running with a surprising intro-cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little puzzled as to why the band would choose to play this song at their sole Canadian stop on this tour, but I’m not complaining, I love The Boss! The band appealed to Canadians a bit later, when he pleaded the government to be more supportive of the arts. “I just wanna say that when we were first starting as a band in Montreal, almost every band I knew was on a grant”, Win said. “The Canadian government doesn’t just need to give money to bands like us; they need to give it to smaller bands…because this is really fucking hard. So please consider it — it’s worth it.” His plea clearly resonated with the crowd. They continued by playing Intervention, a very welcomed surprise, and My Body is a Cage. That was my biggest I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening moment of the weekend. I had been listening to that song for over 10 years and had never seen the band play it. It gives me chills on any given day, but hearing it live was something else – the most haunting, yet beautiful thing.

The band threw it back to The Suburbs with the intense We Used To Wait before launching into the Funeral portion of the concert. They began with Haiti, during which Régine received a Haitian flag from a fan in the crowd. She was so happy, it was adorable! It was also nice to hear her sing in her native language. WayHome was the first time I saw Arcade Fire outside of Montreal, and I really missed her banter in French between songs.

They followed with Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), probably the most nostalgic song for me because it was the first one I heard from the band. It was also fun that Will made his way to our side of the stage so we could see his hot pink outfit in all its glory from up close.

After Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) and Rebellion (Lies) (during which I had to hold Ashley because she was bawling), the band continued with Here Comes The Night Time. As usual, the bobbleheads came out and the confettis were shot.

And then it was finally time: Wake Up, the singalong, the fireworks. It’s become routine now, but it’s so far from the boring kind. There is something comforting to me about that familiarity I find, like seeing a friend you’ve been apart for far too long or coming home after a long time away. Just because you’ve done it time and time again doesn’t mean it’s not the best feeling. Hearing thousands of voices unite to sing Wake Up together always fills me with emotion, a sense of unity. I feel that’s something we can all use sometimes, now more than ever, even if it’s just for one song.

The next time we see you, we’ll have new music!
— Win Butler
The song ended before the fireworks so we watched, happy hearted with smiles plastered on our faces. “The next time we see you, we’ll have new music!”, Win said while the band was ready to leave the stage. But we were begging for one more song, so he asked someone in the crowd to sing one. He threw his mic to a girl who, instead of singing, thanked the band she’d been listening to since she was twelve. I couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion when I saw that she was crying at the chance she had to confess her love to her favourite band, saying what a lot of us wish we could tell these people who have changed our lives. Thankful and content, the band exited the stage and just like that it was over. We cried, we hugged, and we mustered up the bit of energy we had left to go watch the other acts WayHome had to offer that night.

Brilliant. Thank you, Sara!

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