Oh Osheaga, you’ve done it again. The annual Montreal festival once again took over Parc Jean Drapeau for three exhausting days of music. With six stages and 119 artists at the 2015 edition of the festival (which also marked Osheaga’s 10th year), if you weren’t dead-on-your-feet by the end of it, you were doing something wrong.
For the tens of thousands of festival fans making inaugural and repeat visits to Osheaga, a good time was all but guaranteed. The festivities themselves went off without much of a hitch. A brief shower on Saturday only helped to enhance Interpol’s brooding set on one of the two main stages and a last-minute “travel cancellation” from Action Bronson wasn’t really worth blinking an eye at – especially given the fact he would have been playing (or is that eating a sandwich on stage?) at the same time as St. Vincent anyway.
One of the hands-down best things about Osheaga is its atmosphere. It’s hard to explain what separates it from other weekend-long music events, but the setting and culture is absolutely spectacular. Establishing itself as a destination festival, Osheaga attracted a good portion of the Toronto population for the Civic Holiday long-weekend. Given how many people attend it, you’ll definitely find yourself cursing a lineup at some point over the weekend, but it’s just a slight delay until more good times. To add to the fun, new this year was the introduction of a mini-carnival of sorts, with things like human-sized bubbles to roll around in and swings which were surprisingly well-worth the ride.
Osheaga also, rather famously, has the best artist catering in the business – smartly aware of the fact that a well-fed band is a happy band. As a result, most of the artists taking the stage seemed downright delighted to be there. And when a band is happy, the crowd is generally pretty happy as well.
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In the interest of conciseness, here’s the five best things I saw at the sold-out Osheaga 2015.
At Osheaga, I saw a lot of bands I’ve already seen. Of the 29 I made time for, only seven of them were new. This is more my fault than the fault of the festival’s (though in my defence, I do go to a lot of shows,) but the English artist was one of the seven ticking that new checkbox. It wasn’t just good: it was an absolute stunner of a show thanks to her stage presence and artistry. It was hard not to be entranced by the way FKA Twigs conducted herself on stage. Now that I’ve seen her once, I’d like to do it again – as soon as possible. [click for full photo set]
I saw Kendrick Lamar the week before, granted, but you never pass up the chance to see the best present-day rapper do it again. Lamar delivered the type of set well worth the top line of a festival poster, performing to a massive crowd of ridiculously excited people. He was also clearly delighted to be there – taking a moment to smile as the audience mass-chanted his line of “we gon’ be alright” and grinning his way through a guest spot from Mos Def.
As an added bonus to Kendrick Lamar’s set, one of the absolutely best things I saw all weekend was supermodel Cara Delevingne trying (and failing) to rap-argue her way into the platinum VIP pit during “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Celebrities! They’re just like us! [click for full photo set]
Father John Misty
Father John Misty is the sarcastic cool dude you want to be friends with but know you’d be far too terrified to ever make eye contact with. His voice is fantastic and – even when he was playing slower songs like “Bored in the USA” from 2015’s excellent I Love You, Honeybear, you were still holding your breath to see what he was going to throw at the crowd next. Between hilarious banter, cell phone theft for the purposes of selfies, and slowed, out-of-place fist pumping, you could tell he won everyone over. To sum up the set in his own words: “Alright, let’s f*ck this pig.” [click for full photo set]
Florence and the Machine
If there was any ever worry that Florence and the Machine wasn’t top-bill worthy, it was cast aside by her Friday night headlining set on the River Stage. For one, her voice has gotten much stronger over the years. For another, her new album absolutely lends itself to massive crowds. It was my third time seeing Florence Welch at a festival this year and she really does just keep getting better, connecting with the crowd and leaving everyone with the feeling like it’s all going to be okay. [click for full photo set]
If you were expecting the smallest stage at the festival to be tucked in a corner, secluded from the general sunburnt populace, you’d be wrong. Thanks to its rather prominent space, the stage drew crowds for many of the mid-level acts playing shows there. Shakey Graves was an early indication of the stage’s success – but he was also a damn good reason to be there, showing off his abilities with a blues-soaked guitar and moving the crowd from dead silence to loud cheers with a few quick, calculated gestures. [click for full photo set]
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As for room for improvement, yeah: there’s a few things that could be looked at for Osheaga 2016.
Portable sinks by the porta-potties
Look, hygiene at festivals inevitably tends to take a hit. But portable hand washing sinks exist! Other festivals use them! They’re helpful! I saw them at a couple of banks, but certainly not all of them. Until Osheaga implements them at all the outhouse stations, I’ll just be excusing myself from any and all high-fives.
Hey security, how about some help?
For the most part I felt safe at Osheaga. But there was one incident that left me a little shaken: during Kendrick Lamar’s headlining set, two members of his (very riled up) crowd started fighting. And I mean fighting. I got knocked over as one guy shoved an inebriated festival-goer out of the way and then proceeded to punch him. Hard. I gestured for security to come over and they most certainly saw what was happening, but they didn’t so much as move until the guy had landed a couple more considerable blows. Eventually they ended up kicking out the guy on the floor – not the guy throwing punches. My still-sprained ankle is still less-than-impressed.
It’d be a great idea for Osheaga to take a look at how other festivals do this. Governors Ball has fantastic water stations to keep festival-goers hydrated. Heck, even Digital Dreams seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to water serving. Upgrade your water stations Osheaga: the thirst is real.
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Congratulations to everyone that worked on Osheaga 2015 and for all the behind-the-scenes effort that went into making the festival a great weekend and a summer highlight. Thanks Osheaga! We’ll see you for your 11th!