Osheaga Festival 2012 - By Volume

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Osheaga Festival 2012

There's no Canada, like French Canada! It's the best Canada in the land!

And the folks behind Osheaga along with the wonderful people of Montreal look to prove this sentiment very, very true.
Author: on August 19, 2012
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Sweeping overstatements and existential blabber aside: Canada, I have always felt is somewhat of a misunderstood place for many an outsider like myself. We, who venture past various borders into its breathtaking landscapes populated by those generally washed in a casual kindness, often return home with beaming grins – yet I feel as though at times this elation can be underappreciated. Almost taken for granted in the eyes of us satisfied tourists as though this experience can be granted just anywhere; foolish as it may sound this may stem from the general consensus amongst most Canadians, at least in my experience, to seem quite content with the fact that Canada is awesome. No desire to sing it on high nor plaster it across the globe – the place speaks for itself.

Which is why, when prior to making my second hike in three years about six hours north into Montreal, Quebec for Osheaga 2012 it was more than exciting to hear the festival was paced to sell out all three of its days this year. That’s forty-thousand people stuffed onto Parc Jean-Drapeau, a couple of connected islands situated in the St. Lawrence River east of downtown with a single Metro line connecting all of us from park to city. So not only were there rumblings about of this possibly turning into one of Montreal’s largest festivals ever it was also supposedly filled predominantly by those from outside Quebec.

The Metro will probably be packed — but reasonably quick none the less!

A statement that seemed to ring quite true by virtue of the fact of the sheer volume of English-speakers present (two years ago the festival tried to hold dearly to its Quebecois roots with an unspoken adherence to French – this year it was understood as a useless endeavor) and spoke volumes for the festival’s opportunistic grab at all those too far east of Chicago for a Lollapalooza weekend. Sharing a number of major acts (they seemed to swap many almost daily if one were to keep up with Facebook/Twitter feeds) and in a similarly urban setting it was great to see the efforts of so many not wasted as multitudes of tickets were purchased. And thankfully the investment of thousands was repaid in full as Osheaga made a case for themselves once more as the sleeper go-to music festival in eastern North America come late summer.

The back area at the Sennheiser Stage.

Beyond the lineup being eclectically excellent what really has stuck with me both times now far after I depart Osheaga’s warm embrace is just how fucking simple they make everything – and in truth their whole setup is logistically so much more of a cluster-fuck than many major US festivals. But one would assume that if your attendance nearly triples from one year to the next that your security acumen should become that much more stringent. Well not if you’re those planning Osheaga and that is not meant as a dig of any sort rather the highest of praise. Security was present for sure, you generally couldn’t go more than a handful of seconds without seeing their blue or red shirts, but they were no bother, instead they strove to assist you. I never once was searched or patted down at Osheaga (I was at least asked to take part in the usual pocket empty/pat down my previous visit), they simply checked any bags brought in quickly at the entrance and scanned your ticket. You are even allowed to bring your own water in without so much as a peep from the staff.

Food and alcohol were cheap, plentiful and easily acquired.

Alcohol and food were sold at respectable prices by generally gleeful staff and was brought out into the crowd frequently by vendors and if for some reason you couldn’t find yourself a shot-girl or fruit-person: the Parc was littered in booths for food/drink/booze. Bathrooms and water-stations were plentiful, free, clean and easy to find with rarely a long wait. And as it was Montreal, a wonderfully relaxed city, most attendees were simply viewed with a passing glance by security. Which essentially left the staggering crowd with a laid-back demeanor making the entire experience exceptional – even as we were packed like sardines between sets or simply traveling from stage-to-stage. You put enough similar people into a spot for celebration (assuming these folks aren’t violent) and they’ll probably be able to police themselves. It helps when you give out a bunch of free shit (booze, gifts, merch, food) and are willing to go out of your way to assist your attendees. Makes us want to, you know, not trash everything in sight; it is a good play on the part of Osheaga and this trust has flourished into a truly unique concert populous as apt to be filled with little children as recent retirees all immensely enjoying themselves.

Folks lounging in the back of Parc Jean-Drapeau.

The lineup, while maybe still not quite banging its drum as loudly as the likes of Coachella, Lolla or The Roo but they’re certainly making a lot of racket. This year in particular was able to stack such an absurd amount of talent into three days that it was difficult to not spend the entire afternoon debating between various overlapping sets. And while for the most part the festival grounds catered quite well to the concert-goers, the walk between the main double-stage setup and the back area with an additional three stages could be excruciatingly cluttered, assuming the masses were en route from one big stage to the next. Really this would be the only weakness of the festival, save the fact that if you do not bike onto the island over the Jacques Cartier Bridge you’ll probably be waiting in either your car or in line for the metro. But there’s not much to be done save building an additional subway line and chances are this isn’t happening unless all of Jean-Drapeau’s festivals are floating at least forty-thousand folks annually.

So as far as the line-up is concerned I figured I would hand out a few mock “awards” in lieu of the fact that I really did not witness anything but heart-stopping, life-affirming performances from the artist I was lucky enough to catch with a crowd so fucking down for it.

Santigold — but more importantly the packed, energetic crowd.

Don’t-Wait-To-Repeat-This Award

This is being bestowed upon Sigur Rós for their absolutely entrancing performance at dusk on the first day. I am not completely certain but it seemed like the entire audience of forty-grand was plopped down at the main stage park for these guys. Not that I blame them half the reason I went was to see these Icelandic angels but it was exceptional to glance back (I luckily was only about thirty-or-so feet from the stage) and see the place filled all the way back. The silence too, is what was most entrancing, the second they emerged from the shadows, a lit in an azure hue the crowd uttered no peeps. Obviously few were going to be belting out in Icelandic or Hopelandic so Jónsi’s vocals and their cascading arrangements just echoed across the field. Supremely transcendental.

Sigur Ros emerge.

Oh-Shit-She-Means-Business Award

Florence Welch holy fuck this woman has a command over a crowd like few others and she possesses it simply at the mere utterance of a note from her mouth

Electronic-Heaven Award

TIE

M83 & Justice: M83 may have put on one of the best performances of the entire festival capping off the final night by headlining the back-stage while The Black Keys were occupying the main park. But Justice’s pure grandiose candor is something only their idols Daft Punk could hope to outperform. M83 earned points for sheer musical chops and engrossing performance (“We Own The Sky” expanded into a sprawling House-influenced-epic was one for the ages) while Justice simply play on a much larger scale than so many of their contemporaries: their show was an entrancing banger of quick record cuts and flashing lights.

How-Did-They-Just?-I-Never…-Wow Award

Amadou & Mariam:  Seeing them made me feel like I was at a Santana concert circa 1971 except the two of them are fucking blind.

Pimp-As-Fuck Award

TIE

TheWeeknd & A$AP Rocky

Abel quite simply has one of the most angelic voices to be heard and how he and the band have transitioned TheWeeknd mixtapes from studio gems to Jazz-inspired runaway jams is more than impressive, it is downright fucking amazing. The bass they exuded was earth shaking and hearing the music produced by a four-piece breathes a whole new type of life into the otherwise cold, distant music.

While Rocky simply knew how to control a crowd as he corralled us like a ringleader at the back Sennheiser stage. Us his willing cattle and he our pill popping, gold-grilled commander – it was a hell of a time.

Rocky commanding his crowd.

WHAT-THE-FECK Award

4 WAY TIE

a. The Raveonette’s ½ a set because they seemed to only put that much on.
b. The day-of lineup switch of Passion Pit’s and Tame Impala’s showtimes on Sunday
c. Walking from the main stages to the back stage area
d. Zola Jesus’s two-song-suite that culminated in her early departure at the behest of the stage manager and some foreboding thunderheads.

Which leads me to…

Water-Is-Wet Award

This is granted to The Shins for their great set and playful disposition despite being accompanied by a torrential downpour.

Fuck-Me-Lights Award

3 WAY TIE

“Olsen Olsen”


Yeasayer, M83Sigur Rós all had absolutely entrancing light setups that fit the tone of their music perfectly, but Yeasayer in particular had an extremely elaborate setup for a band of their stature. This, though, is such a wonderful aspect to add to their easily-danceable tunes in such a care-free setting as Osheaga. It made their entire set a joyous dance-party at dusk on Saturday

Yesayer’s Excellent Display

Dylan-Loses-His-Shit Award

The Jesus and Mary Chain and their set which I was front row for.

Right. There.

Surprise-Of-The-Show Award

Of Monsters and Men were a band I have heard raved about for months now. Their record while certainly nothing shabby at all should never even be mentioned in the same breath as their live show. It is, for the lack of a better term: a completely different monster indeed.

Sorely-Missed-Award(s)

As a festival timeline begins to pan itself out and assuming said festival is of quality, one should frequently be forced to make otherwise life-changing decisions on who will be seen and who will be skipped. I’d hand a few golden tears out to these acts I sadly had to miss this time around but hope to one day soon be graced with their presence.

a. The Walkmen
b. Dum Dum Girls
c. Atlas Sound
d. Classified
e. Wintersleep
f. Killer Mike
g. Passion Pit
h. Nosaj Thing
i. SBTRKT
j. The Black Keys
k. The Dø
l. Memoryhouse
m. Black Lips
n. Little Dragon
o. Garbage
p. Woodkid

And that’s what I had to skip…

All in all the experience might be the finest I have had at any festival and as a showcase for the beautiful city that is Montreal you will not do much better than Osheaga. And with the progressive strides they keep making year after year towards a genuine easily-managed, care free massive music festival I cannot help but feel like soon enough Osheaga’s weird ass name will be on the tongues of thousands throughout the world. Just like the Coachellas, Bonnaroos and Lollapaloozas have before them.

Au Revoir

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