OSHEAGA – It has become one of, if not the biggest and most anticipated music festivals in Canada. Last weekend was the 10th anniversary of this musical celebration, and my first opportunity to experience the full three days. I eagerly awaited a lineup that boasted some of the biggest names in current music and some hidden gems eagerly awaiting their chance to show the massive crowds what they can do. Some come for the party, some come for the music, and everyone is ready to have a completely unique experience. This year Osheaga delivered on all fronts, cementing its reputation as a must-do for a Canadian music fan in the summer.
The lineup of artists was stacked with talent in every genre, forcing fans to pick and choose what they would participate in and what they would unfortunately have to miss. Six stages with exquisite sound populated parc Jean-Drapeau for the weekend, meaning that a minimum of three artists played simultaneously and difficult choices needed to be made. Looking back I actually saw a remarkably small number of independent bands, but here are some acts, major label or not, that really stood out. Keep in mind, it was physically impossible for me to hear every artist, and I definitely missed out on some great acts.
Patrick Watson – This band blows my mind every time. Throw in a few brass players, a string quartet, some extra vocalists, and you have a recipe for a powerful set. This was one of the few times when I felt the artist was not necessarily catering to the festival crowd, and played whatever the hell they wanted. This culminated in a raucous version of the rare “Machinery of the Heavens” towards the end.
Alt-J – Despite the deep layering and colourful texture of their albums, Alt-J navigated through their music with precision and ease. They hit every crisp harmony and every quick change without skipping a beat, and had me completely enthralled for the duration of the set. The intense lighting backdrop turned the band members into musical silhouettes. Thankfully this was a night set, allowing the audience to receive the full effect of their lighting.
St Vincent – I have to say, Annie Clark knows how to get some serious crunch out of her guitar. She is one of the most eclectic guitarists I have seen, and she pulls it off beautifully. Her music was played rather true to the album version, but with additional firepower in a live setting and a little extra time for her to shred.
Guster – This was my new discovery of the festival. Light-hearted, infectiously catchy, and some really nice jams to top it off. They were absolutely perfect for a mid-afternoon festival set at the Scène des Arbres. We danced our butts off among the trees and had a genuinely joyous time.
Gary Clark Jr – Not much time spent playing songs, a lot of time spent grinding out some mind-bending blues guitar. This guy is a top-of-the-line guitarist, and his talent was on full display.
Florence + the Machine – Sweeping waves of emotion characterized this set. This band has a huge sound and an even bigger voice leading the way. They put on a show that is exactly what you would expect in the best way possible.
Other notably great shows – Weezer, Of Monsters and Men, The War on Drugs, Sylvan Esso, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
Disappointments – The Decemberists (not bad, but I hoped for more), The Black Keys (they need to ditch the other two players and get back to their roots, I have seen much better shows from them in the past), The Avett Brothers (again, not bad, but I’ve seen them a few times and they use the same setlist of hits every time)
Osheaga, we will see you next year!
PS. Three days after the festival, my legs are still definitely a tad sore. That was a lot of dancing.