Photos by Sean Chin.
The third and final day at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival would prove to be a hot beast, not only due to the unrelenting sun and heat, but also the music coming from the stages. Sunday sold out first and with a solid lineup it was easy to see why.
As an old man, a third day of hopping all over Parc Jean-Drapeau is a daunting task – my limbs can only take so much of 11 hour days in the heat walking all over the place with beer for energy. But I manage to muster up the energy for one last day.
My only foray away from the mainstage area was to catch England’s glam-rockers The Struts over on the Village stage. Led by the love child of Marc Bolan and Freddie Mercury, the Struts were a fine time for those gathered – their energy probably would have been more useful in the mainstage area as everyone obeyed all commands like a mini Kiss army.
From there it was all mainstage area action, first starting off with Australia’s The Cat Empire, a band I only know of because they continually sell out Toronto shows. Never heard a single song but they were the perfect band to get a party started with their jazzy ska-rocktronica. Whatever you want to call them, they got the place dancing.
There’s always one band to provoke awe in the form of incredulous gasps of “what the ..?” sprinkled with expletives. This year at Osheaga the honor went to England’s Foals. On the heels of alternative hit “Mountain at My Gates”, the band gave the most intense and satisfying sets of the weekend touching on all areas of their career. “Inhaler” and the title track from their latest album, What Went Down were particularly memorable. Over the course of 45 minutes, the band gave compelling evidence of a headlining band in the making.
Foals should have been hard to follow up but Texas youngster Leon Bridges made it look easy and breezy. Sporting a “Texas Gentleman” t-shirt, Bridges smothered the mainstage area in some much needed soul. Most of the set came from his current excellent album, Coming Home, but a cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony” towards the end really sealed the deal for the uninitiated.
Canada’s Grimes brought the end of her 9 month tour supporting last year’s Art Angels. With two sprained ankles, Grimes informed us that she was really ill, the second time I’ve seen her ill in two months, but she brushed the ailments aside and delivered a frenzied set focusing on Art Angels, including a memorable Russian reading of “Scream”. The song with no album home, “Go”, which I hope is released as a bonus on some Art Angels reissue, really amped the momentum of her set and for the rest of the day. Rumors of a bucket playing a co-starring role could not be substantiated by my vantage point.
My second time seeing French band M83 finally saw them rightfully graduate to the main stage and seized their opportunity with another highlight set. Whatever your thoughts on new album Junk (I don’t mind it but understand it’s a pretty radical departure, almost all the new tracks benefitted in the live setting and fit in nicely with older tracks stretching back to their debut’s “Sitting”. Obviously their breakthrough hit “Midnight City” generated the biggest response; their entire set was an awesome display of bombast and was the only band that managed to have the volume at a respectable level.
Despite having their stage set up, London duo Disclosure were the victims of a flight cancellation and sadly had to cancel. Gramatik impressively stepped in to keep the party going, but there was a collective disappointment that could be felt throughout.
This was my sixth Osheaga and in all my years I have never seen the mainstage area as packed as it was for Radiohead, performing their only Canadian date this year behind their most recent release, A Moon Shaped Pool. It was hard to get to the halfway point of the field and impossible to get anywhere beyond that. The only silver lining to the Disclosure cancellation was getting an extra 15 minutes of Radiohead who took to the stage after 8:30.
Opening with “Burn the Witch” off the new album, Radiohead delivered a brooding set that built in intensity over the course of almost two and a half hours climaxing with their first hit “Creep”. All their albums were represented with the notable exception of their second album, The Bends.
Their light show was its usual impressive self although they didn’t use the screens to display what was going on so thankfully the visuals were just enough to make you not miss watching the band. Either way, 45,000 people were given their Osheaga highlight.
So with my sixth Osheaga over, the festival still retains its relaxed and generally happy vibe. I met a lot of people, a lot of them from Alberta and America and I had a blast with everyone I met. Two drawbacks this year; the volume on all of the stages was noticeably lower this year, or my hearing is going. Also I’m not sure if capacity was increased this year, but the washrooms were overwhelmed at times.
Still, there’s no party like an Osheaga party.