osheaga is a music and arts festival currently running its seventh year here in montreal. every august at parc jean drapeau on ile ste helene, the osheaga site is home to more than 100 musical acts over the course of the weekend. next level shit. this year was my fourth (fifth? i’ve lost count) osheaga, and is an annual tradition with one of my best friends. i was lucky enough to attend all three days this year and as my friend and fellow osheaga-goer arthurscott pointed out – osheaga is truly a music marathon.
after many years spent weaving through the crowd at osheaga, i really thought this year would be a breeze. i was sadly mistaken. the festival site blew up to exaggerated, almost laughable proportions – the number of attendees almost doubled and sadly, jean drapeau and its surroundings are just not well equipped enough to handle the masses. instead of shutting down the entire island, the roads remained open, meaning that in order to access two of the five stages, you (and 30 000 other drunk, angry people with heatstroke) had to climb a flight of stairs and cross a (sketchy) bridge. the lines for food were at least a half hour. there was very, very little breathing room on the ground in front of the stage and on what were arguably the hottest days montreal has seen this summer, the shadey areas were super cramped as well. don’t even get me started on the bathrooms (i went in one port-a-potty that had shit on the walls. THE WALLS people) (i’m not kidding)
despite all of that, it was a pretty un fucking real weekend. here are my top highlights in no particular order:
there are no words. flo was the act i was most excited for, and her performance was stunning. she performed at sunset on friday and despite the heat and the fact that i have never felt so claustrophobic in my life, it was by far the highlight of the weekend. it was everything i wanted it to be – and even though she didn’t play a few key songs i was hoping for (heartlines, heavy in your arms), she made up for it with some of my favourites including cosmic love, dog days are over (a big crowd pleaser – seeing everyone dance to this was awesome) and her latest single spectrum.
her best moment, for me at least, was never let me go (my favourite flo track and my go-to singing alone in my house at full volume song and p.s: have you seen the video?! fucking incredible)…i have to admit to tearing up almost immediately when she started! i still get chills when i listen to that track and think back on the moment – the sun was just sinking, the weather was cooling down, there was a very subtle breeze and the tens of thousands of people gathered just shut the fuck up to listen. unreal.
aloe blacc was the wildcard of the weekend. i had no idea who this man was and to be honest, i was only at his set because i was waiting for passion pit to come on. blacc is an american soul singer – don’t let that fool you, though – his set was jazzy, funky, almost hip-hop, and it was so good that everyone in the vicinity was asking “who is this guy?!” . the weather was kind of gloomy at this point on sunday, so it was a welcome dose of upbeat flavour, especially during his biggest hit i need a dollar (which i knew, but didn’t know was by him)
oh, sbtrkt. i was really, really looking forward to sbtrkt and he did not disappoint. even though i was hoping he would take the stage in one of his dopesauce african tribal mask get ups, he played fucking hard and the crowd went absolutely nuts. even though i was really tired, i power danced for the entire set and loved every minute of it. it was more electro than i had expected, but amazing nonetheless. but damn, where was the mask?!?!
what can i say about little dragon? collectively, i’d say this was the performance i was the most surprised by. what even happened up there?! don’t get me wrong, it was crazy good but we all agreed that it was nothing like what we had expected. the little dragon i know is very electro pop (think seconds or blinking pigs etc) almost to the point of bubble gum. but the little dragon that hit the stage at osheaga was super hard, abrasive electro that turned into really grungy dubstep for a couple moments. i know i’m not alone when i say i spent most of the performance thinking “wait, is this little dragon?” . they knocked it the fuck out with wildfire though, let me tell you. a great way to pick up where sbtrkt left off!
kathleen edwards was another artist i had never heard of and honestly, i only saw her because my friend was dying to hear her play. i’m so glad i went because she was so sweet! and she’s canadian, which makes her like the 4th good thing to come out of canada. she played a really smooth set and despite the fact that it was hotter than a witch’s asshole, she kept the mood up with gritty vocals and really fucking beautiful lyrics. it didn’t hurt that she’s a total babe on the guitar as well. her track change the sheets was an amazing moment.
i love austra. i love her look and i love the bizarre quality of katie stelmanis‘ vocals. and i love their sound. i was so amped to see austra perform that we braved the crowds and crossed the bridge of death to the far stage to see them. so. good. however, home girl needs a new stylist. i don’t know what was happening with their outfits but it was not very good and not at all coordinated. while i loved katie’s round vintage sunnies and peasant skirt, her drummer was very punked out while one of her back up singers looked like a 16 year old candy raver. not entirely sure what was happening but it was a hot mess. aside from that, they tore the place down – and when katie broke out in lose it, i couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
i spent the rest of the day after james vincent mcmorrow telling people “we saw this really great dude called vincent james morrow..james morrow mc..what was his name again?” – another artist i had never heard of, he rocked it. a little beardy irishman, i have to admit to not entirely paying attention to his set until it was clear how much the crowd adored him. the last half of his set felt very intimate and very meaningful; everyone was laughing and swaying or singing along, the sun was shining, all that cheesey stuff. perfectly folksy.
i’m not too familiar with young galaxy but i like them enough to venture over to one of the far stages, tucked away in a little nook in the forest, to see them. i don’t exactly know how to categorize them, musically, and admittedly i just searched them on wikipedia, which has told me they’re “dream pop”, whatever the fuck that means. to me, they were more indie electronica. i’m reading the word pop a lot, but i didn’t hear too much of that at their set. the turn out was off the chain though, with droves of people swarming the small stage. they played a pretty chilled out set, very laidback – a lot of people, including myself, sat for most of the performance but it fit in perfectly to its shady, mellow setting. very cool.
i don’t think anything could have prepared me for buraka som sistema. i knew what i was getting myself into given their performance at this past igloofest but jesus fucking lord what a party. hot hot vocals that made your head spin, rain pouring down, absolutely fucking non stop beats and the crowd was easily the craziest i’d seen all weekend. everyone was drenched and covered in mud and sweat but there was no stopping buraka. intense is an understatement.
my heart melts every time i think about passion pit. not because i really love them that much, but just because of the one moment that i think pretty much made everybody’s osheaga. i would say aside from flo, this was the best moment of the weekend. when they started their set, it was thunder and fucking lightning and everyone was cowering on the hill by the main stage, huddled under umbrellas and ponchos, when suddenly, in a matter of seconds, the rain stopped. the sun burst out and all at once, the entire crowd gathered on the hill, cheering with arms raised – the mood was instantly uplifted and everyone was dancing. it was really one of those moments you never forget.
another act that we braved the sketchy bridge to see, m83 was epic. that’s the only word for it. the stage was located in this huge field at the bottom of a hill – there was space to dance or sit down, which was a welcome change. the light show was phenomenal, and a very fitting (almost) end to the weekend. even though the vibe was a bit more mellow than i had expected, especially because i found his set weirdly hard to dance to, when he played midnight city, it was just…epic. definitely another winning moment. but also, kind of cheesey. just the way i likes it!
i only found out that brandt brauer frick was playing the morning of the festival and i’m so happy i got to see them! another highlight for me was that a friend mentioned that my post earlier in the week that featured them, inspired him to catch their set as well. very impressive and very intricate work, i did feel like it would have been better with more instruments present. regardless, they played a killer live set that was admittedly somewhat too progressive for a festival. once they got going though, it was all techno and the crowd was rightfully intrigued and impressed.
the weekend was really incredible, as always, but of course, there was a couple disappointments. metric was a fucking bore and the black keys weren’t great either. city and colour didn’t play coming home, so that’s pretty much all you need to know on that front. the weeknd just did not fit in at a festival, or you know, life in general. why was he invited? plus, he just cut into flo’s stage time. brand new was the worst fucking thing i’ve ever heard. and then there was snoop dogg/lion. does he know any other songs other than his like 7 hits? this marks the second unfortunate time i’ve seen him live and he played the exact same set both times. next!
i’m kind of on the fence about attending again next year – this year was overly packed and retardedly hot but, at the same time, i’m not sure i’ll be able to resist that much good music.