Photo by Sean Chin
Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau hosted the 11th annual Osheaga Festival for a sun-filled weekend that wasn’t suffocating hot. The crowds didn’t burst into song on the Metro as it pulled into the station which was different from every other year I had been here. Sunny patrons hit the park early with crowds right from the start, something I’ve also never seen before. In all the years I’ve gone, I’ve made it for the first band and walked right in. This year many others had the same idea but thankfully lines were processed quickly.
Banners opened the mainstage proceedings with a blissful English-inspired set that was the perfect sunny greeting to welcome the masses. Where in previous years the first couple of sets generally capped out at half an hour, this year sets were longer earlier in the day and Banners made the most of it with an engaging 40 minute set.
Walking through the park, there wasn’t many changes from previous years until arriving at the Green Stage area where the most significant changes could be found – the Green Stage itself was off to the right tucked in beside the Grandstand seating. The stage itself was an open airy version that looked every bit temporary. In the middle of the field were fountains shooting water, a welcome respite for those who couldn’t find relief in the shade or beer.
South African singer-songwriter Jeremy Loops was on stage and I have to admit his sound was distracting and lured me in. A very trippy lightshow was wasted in the sun but was a nice effect. While I wish I caught him from the beginning, what I heard definitely warrants further investigation.
British multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt was across the field at the Valley stage and he brought a rabid fan base out. I couldn’t tell what was the star of his set – his beautiful voice or his frantic drumming, but while I’m not familiar with any of his recorded output, I will definitely check him out when he returns.
Everyone has heard Elle King’s “Exes and Ohs” hit which is probably why I intended on avoiding her set, but thankfully ended up catching it and was nicely impressed. She was happy, sassy and just the amount of attitude to pull off a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”.
Silversun Pickups were never my thing but my second time seeing them at Osheaga made me think I had it wrong. My friends around me really liked them so I decided to give them another shot. They injected the mainstage area with some energy and delivered their “Lazy Eye” hit at the end to the delight of a huge crowd gathered for them.
One problem with so many people showing up early was the queue for the bathroom which is unfortunately where I spent most of Wolf Parade’s set. The songs sounded fantastic from what I could tell (that stage area was also quiet), but I had more pressing items on my mind.
Back over at the mainstage, I finally catch Beirut, the favourite band I didn’t know. They are the perfect breezy band in preparation for a sun setting slot. They managed over a dozen songs in less than an hour with last year’s excellent No No No being showcased the most.
For a band celebrating their 25th anniversary, Cypress Hill brought the party like they were 25 years old. The energy in the whole field was amped and palpable as they hit up all their hits including “How I Could Just Kill a Man” and “Insane In the Brain”. They even divided the crowd up to compare reaction to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Easily the party highlight of the day although I regret not taking pictures of the plumes of smoke wafting over the crowd for the duration of their set.
English pop group Years & Years gave a stripped down set over at the Valley Stage. Their keyboardist was too ill to perform so it was either no set or something completely different for the band. They went with the latter and were surprisingly great, much better than I thought they would be and the many gathered showered them in rapturous appreciation.
Vince Staples has been plugging his awesome debut seemingly forever and he headlined the Valley Stage Friday night. With an intense light show, Staples’ set started off slow mainly due to sound issues but as his hour went on Staples got comfortable and proceeded to tear through an intense set to the delight.
I made it back to the mainstage area to catch the mid-section of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ set. Technically their set was perfect – the Chili Peppers have always been a tight groovy monster every time I’ve seen them and this was no exception. Their lights didn’t overwhelm the band and for the first time in the day, the sound finally sounded at a level that filled the park. Full of hits and a helping off their latest album, Dark Necessities, the packed field sang the songs right back at them with one last chance to expel what energy was left.