Photographs by Sarah Rix.
Montreal’s Osheaga Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary at the beautiful Parc Jean Drapeau pulling in 45,000 for each of its three days.
A few minor tweaks to the layout this year were noticeable, mainly the raising of the Osheaga sign on the hill, blocking off the shaded area behind it. The Vallee stage was also moved again, now parked towards the back of the Verte stage, and maintaining a rotating schedule with that stage that resembled how the two main stages worked.
This was the quietest year in terms of hollering Metro riders, possibly an attempt to consume energy for a sunny and hot first day, or maybe the festival is all people from Ontario.
The first day always seems to be the day that sound issues get sorted out and this would greatly affect a few acts unfortunately.
England’s Catfish and the Bottlemen kicked the day off on the Riviere stage with an energetic set before an audience ready to get their festival on. Their set was pretty quiet volume wise, but someone behind the sound board seemed to notice by the third song and finally turned the sound up.
Vermont’s Grace Potter brought a flying V guitar, a beaming smile and tracks from her forthcoming album to a sunbaked crowds hydrating with alcohol, as water was probably the most elusive beverage of the weekend. Her personality won everyone over. Unfortunately she would play her first five songs of a 45 minute set before the sound was turned up to a respectable level. Future headliner if this set was anything to go by.
I caught a bit of Iron and Wine with Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell. Their new album is a collection of covers. The two voices sounded great together and they were surprisingly fun from what I saw of them.
Run the Jewels have seemingly played every festival on the planet which could wear a band down, but you would think it was two teenagers on stage based on the energy of both Killer Mike and El-P. They also had one of the most enthusiastic crowds of the weekend as they tore through tracks from their two albums. Killer Mike also had the most-entertaining banter hinting at a scary wife. Unfortunately, their set was not nearly loud enough to make it to the back of the stuffed field reducing the annihilating effect of a song as intense as “Close Your Eyes”. Future headlining status guaranteed.
Sound issues would really plague The Kills’ set. While obviously annoyed by the situation, the duo along with some additional drummers made the most of it touching on all their four albums over 45 minutes. Opening with “U.R.A. Fever” and including notable songs “No Wow”, “Pots and Pans” and “Kissy Kissy” should have slayed by performance but the soundboard was having none of it. Jamie Hince threw his guitar in frustration at the end.
After five hours in the sun it was time to run to a shaded area by the mainstage for some food and to catch Stars’ set which kicked off with “Hold On When You Get Love” and then tracks from their breakthrough Set Yourself on Fire bringing Colin Meloy from the Decemberists along with other Canadian indie stars.
I had no intention of catching the Avett Brothers. While I’m a fan, I just thought they wouldn’t provide the right vibe for this time of day and boy did they prove me wrong with a musically impressive hour long set that was also a lot of fun. Totally unexpected and I will not make this mistake again.
Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men were a massive hit a few years ago when they played the Verte stage stuffing the Verte stage unlike anybody else I’ve seen on this stage. While I haven’t heard their sophomore Beneath the Skin yet, their set lost momentum with the airing of the more somber material from said album. It was the debut highlights that the crowd really wanted and roared for more of that. Their light show was quite impressive though.
Florence and the Machine rightfully headlined the first night and rewarded the weary and battered crowd with an intense set that you couldn’t help but be impressed by, and by the first song alone! Florence is bringing 110% to her shows this year and having seen them a couple of months earlier, the rush of their Bestival set was no fluke as witnessed here. Opening with “What the Water Gave Me”, she could have left after the first song and everyone would have been content, it was that massive. But then she just poured on the charm, the intensity and the songs that the crowd wanted to hear, including her collaboration with Calvin Harris, “Sweet Nothing”. She wasn’t kidding when she indicated the gig was almost derailed by storms only to find out that she brought the storm. If you have the chance to see her on this tour, don’t debate, just do it. Easily one of the festival highlights. And that was just the first day!