Osheaga: A growing Canadian tradition

When it comes to weekend-long music festivals, most concert-goers think of heading south to festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. But gaining massive popularity in the last couple of years has been Osheaga, a three-day long music festival held at Parc-Jean Drapeau in Montreal, Quebec.

Since its inception in 2006, the festival, over the years, has attracted popular acts such as Arcade Fire, Snoop Dogg and Coldplay. The 2011 edition of the festival, however, was the largest to date with an overall attendance of about 80,000.

The three-day experience was just as exciting, thrilling and enjoyable as expected, and the scorching heat had no effect on the upbeat and lively crowd of French and English. Throughout the festival, many popular acts and even some lesser known ones, put on impressive performances over four stages and made Osheaga one of the best music festivals to attend in Canada.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Due to the work schedules of many city folk, the festival did not start until 4 p.m. on Friday. Even though the Friday slot was shorter than the other two days, it wasn’t any less spectacular.

One of the solid acts of the day were Toronto natives Broken Social Scene. Amy Milan from Stars came on stage to do the female vocals of the song “Almost Crimes.” The band also performed a cover of Modest Mouse’s “World at Large” and finished powerfully with “Meet Me in the Basement.”

A surprisingly impressive act of the first day was Rural Alberta Advantage, when they played just before dusk at the Tree Stage — probably one of the best stages of the festival. The intimacy of the venue and their sound of folk infused with rock made for a very enjoyable set.

The most anticipated act of the night was none other than Eminem, who generated the largest crowd of the festival. Every step made on the main grounds wasn’t done without the brushing of shoulders and the occasional, “excuse me.”

Eminem came roaring on stage with his intense song “Won’t Back Down” from his album Recovery. He also played classic songs such as “Toy Solider” and even some of his remixes such as “Airplane.”

Eminem was definitely a crowd pleaser and with a crowd of 38,000 alone just on the Friday night, the iconic rapper was an excellent choice as a headliner.

The only disappointment of the night was that Ohio-based rapper Kid Cudi cancelled his performance due to illness, which left many attendees very frustrated.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The next day of Osheaga had some of the most anticipated acts of the whole festival, including the bass driven band Death from Above 1979.

Death from Above 1979 upset fans in 2006 when they decided to split up, but rejuvenated the hopes of many when they announced in February that the band had reformed. Recently, they have been playing multiple festivals and venues around North America.

Many fans have waited five years for the moment to seem them live and Death from Above 1979 delivered just what everyone wanted.

The two-piece played many songs from You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, including “Romantic Rights” and “Pull Out,” and their performance was raw, loud and mean. A wave of pure energy just soared through the crowd.

Another impressive act of the day was George Lewis, who uses the stage name of Twin Shadow. His nostalgic, new-wave inspired sound make the‘80s seem like a decade worth revisiting.

Lewis, who sings and plays guitar with a band, played around with his songs during his set by adding intros and solos to make the performance even more unique. He even took the time to compliment, in a humorous light, Osheaga’s choice of food for the bands.

The hardcore punk band Fucked Up played the last set of the day at the Tree Stage and brought everything they got. The intense force of three guitars, the menacing yells of the vocalist and the complete chaos of the mosh pit may have put the festival security on edge but their set was one of the best experiences of the weekend.

Playing songs from their recent effort David Comes to Life and their Polaris winning album, The Chemistry of the Common Life, as well as having Death From Above 1979’s Sebastian Grainger come on stage for a song, Fucked Up concluded the Saturday show with a spectacular performance.

Speaking to The Cord the following day, vocalist Damien Abraham said, “That 10:15 time slot is really hard to have, but a lot of people came out to it. It was awesome.”

The biggest disappointment of Saturday was Tokyo Police Club, who put on an awkward and rather boring performance. The main stage wasn’t their domain, and if they were to play a smaller stage, they may have sounded better.

Other notable acts from Saturday were retro rockers Elvis Costello and the Imposters, energetic rapper Lupe Fiasco and the ambient sounds of Braids.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

While many were sad to see it come to close, the final day of Osheaga was just as impressive as the previous two.

Indie pop band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart played a nice, cheerful set with their lively tunes. While mainly having that “pop” sound, the band still demonstrated their energy through loud progressions and quick guitar leads.

Beirut was definitely one of the freshest moments of the festival, as the band took one of the main stages to demonstrate their eastern-European infused indie sound. The sound of the horns, cello and the accordion, mixed in with Zach Condon’s flawless vocals created a soothing yet moving performance.

Even through technical difficulties — with microphones and Condon’s ukulele spontaneously deciding to fail — the band calmly improvised so that it didn’t hinder the performance the slightest bit.

Other notable acts were indie veterans Death Cab for Cutie, ‘80s inspired electro-rock band White Lies, Wilfrid Laurier University alumnus Shad, Montreal-based band Malajube and Canadian favourites, The Tragically Hip.

The worst performance of the whole festival had to be Cypress Hill with his out-dated rap sounds. His performance may have gathered a huge crowd, but it was extremely over the top, cheesy and even went 20 minutes over time, which made acts such as City and Colour cut their sets in half just to get the main stages back on track.

The Flaming Lips, the last band to perform at Osheaga, put on an odd, yet interesting and exciting performance. The sounds of psychedelic rock and pop created that calming, but appropriate conclusion to the festival. The whole set felt more of like a celebration, with confetti, balloons and laser lights filling the stage.

Lead singer Wayne Coyne even went to the lengths of going into a “space bubble” and started to walk on top of the crowd, as well as marrying a couple on stage. The legitimacy of the marriage is uncertain.

Even though attendees left Osheaga tired, sunburnt, battered and grimy, nothing could beat the three days of amazing music and the experience of something that can’t be matched anywhere, at least for the moment, in Canada.

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