For the second straight year, Osheaga was held at the alternate festival grounds on the Parc Jean Drapeau island. The people at Osheaga have done a commendable job these last two years of making the festival work (the original grounds are presently under construction) but I cannot wait until next year when the festival returns to its original location! The two main stages facing each other just doesn’t do as good of a job as far as logistics and aestheticism as the side by side set up does. As for the smaller stages, there’s too much walking involved. And I miss that damn sexy hill full of beautiful people at the back of the main stages! That said, the festival was a cathartic gathering of music, art and community, as it is every single year. Through these humble words I will try to recount my experience.
Friday. My maiden voyage was with Birds of Bellwoods, an up and coming indie folk quintet from Toronto, Ontario. Lead singer Stephen Joffe’s comforting cadence was the ideal way to kick off the festival as evidenced on “A Year Ago.” Look for their debut album to drop this fall. Manchester Orchestra played a varied set, which is always understandable in an abbreviated festival set. But given that A Black Mile to the Surface, their latest release, was one of the best albums I heard last year, I would have liked for it to have been showcased a little more! Thankful they at least played “The Moth.” After a few failed attempts I finally got to see Sylvan Esso and they lit up the stage in front of a massive mid day crowd. Lead singer Amelia Meath is an awe-inspiring presence on stage, with some killer dance moves and endlessly satisfying vocal melodies! Check the vid for “PARAD(w/m)E,” you’ll see what I mean. Stark transition to the guitar heavy rock of St. Vincent, who seemed to have a fresh neon axe for every song in the set. St. Vincent is a musical genius with a totally original style of alt-rock and…she changed the lyric in “New York” to Montreal, warming thousands of hearts in the crowd simultaneously, mine included. ! My highlight of the night. I has missed them back in 2009 when they last played and I was stoked to the power of ten to see Karen o and co. rip the stage apart! They delivered, playing a career spanning set full of punk rock energy and indie bliss, mixed in with confetti and giant inflatable eyeballs. The set peaked with “Maps” as to be expected, the song is timeless, yet still somehow captures the essence and sound of the early 2000s.
Saturday. Cloudy skies and rain didn’t stop Montreal’s own John Jacob Magistery from pouring out a heartfelt and energized set. Lead singer/guitarist Johnny Griffin had the soaking wet audience captivated and oblivious to the mud that their feet sank in. The set was highlighted by the beautiful yet tortured song “Carol.” There are always concurrent moments at festivals that completely contrast each other and thus make each moment feel a little more special. The sun was shining bright not long after for Alvvays’ set, which was pure summer time vibes! Another indie band out of Toronto, they are primed to take the next step and with their infectious sound and energy will be on the main stages soon. I quickly followed this up with The Beaches, whos hit “T-Shirt” has been getting seriously play on CHOM. Their punk rock/riotgrrrl jams were actually the perfect precursor to the next act I saw, one of the Queens of the original New York punk rock scene Blondie! I have mixed emotions about this set. I don’t think it was the ideal venue for them to perform at and although there was a massive crowd, the sound was a little spotty and way to low! Still songs like “One Way Or Another” and “Call Me” set the place on fire. Future Islands delivered as I have come to expect after seeing them twice before. Lead singer Samuel Herring left his heart and soul out there on the stage, as he does every performance. Arctic Monkeys closed day two and honestly I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. The set was good, their new album Tranquility Based Hotel And Casino is good, wholeheartedly average overall just as the Arctic Monkeys stage presence was.
Sunday was an absolute blur…maybe I was mentally drained, but it was also my busiest day. So I’ll hit you up with some speedy reviews and leave some room for two special moments. Montreal’s Kallitechnics, very chill trip hop vibes with lots of positivity. Dermot Kennedy, country folk vibe, undeniably heartfelt and emotional set. The Neighbourhood, fucking hot out there on the pavement. Too much effect on Jesse Rutherford’s voice. The crowd was energetic, lots of dancing. Slaves! The first of two special moments. There’s almost always a band I discover at the festival that I hadn’t known previously and this was it. The duo of Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent from the U.K. were a breathtaking explosion of raw, aggressive punk energy. It’s not something you hear typically at Osheaga and man it was a breath of fresh air! Listen to their track “Cease Fire” and like me, you shall become a fan for life. Franz Ferdinand, they’ve gotten comfortable as they’ve aged, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you like their sound I suppose. Fun set, high energy and full of life. The second special moment goes to The National, who have become one of my favourite bands in recent years, even though they’ve been rocking since 2001. Every release seems to get better and the same can be said for their live set, they are indeed like a fine wine. Frontman Matt Berninger was a colossal mass of passion, aggression, humour, wit…and it all shines through the live set, which hits on all the right points and leaves nothing to be desired. Berninger even took a stroll through the pit of the massive crowd, barely missing a note as he sang. The peak of the set was a deep cut “Mr.November,” that left an incredible impression on me and was at least a top three moment of the entire weekend. Finally, Florence and the Machine was a little bit of a come down for me after the National’s set. But the same can’t be said for the rest of the festival goers, it seemed like the biggest audience of the weekend. Florence Welch is absolutely the perfect person to close out an outdoor music festival. Her voice and songs seem more magical in an outdoor environment.
Another classic Osheaga, as if there was any doubt. Can’t wait for next years instalment back at the original grounds! Get yourself some tickets! Come hang.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photograpy by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy