Say what you will, Montreal is a music hotspot. We always knew it – and were damn proud of it too – and judging by the record-breaking turnout at this year's Osheaga festival, the rest of the world is finally starting to catch on.
Now in its seventh year, Osheaga drew 120,000 music lovers to Parc Jean-Drapeau from August 3-5 to watch 105 acts perform their asses off in everything from scorching killer heat to monsoon-worthy storms. For the first time ever, all three days were sold out, making history and proving that we have a pretty good idea about what it takes to offer local and international music-loving fans a good time.
Yours truly and photographer Andrej Ivanov braced the elements – with the occasional stop in the oasis that was the media area to sit, rest our weary legs and enjoy a cold, refreshing beverage – and we saw, we enjoyed and we conquered.
The festival’s performers ranged from good to fantastic, from unknown to award winning and (in)famous the world over.
Kicking things off for me on a real high note were Fun. who, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by. Better known as the band behind one of this summer’s catchiest (and best) tunes, one of the ones that ware out the airwaves with such frequent airplay it's ridiculous, but in a good way, “We Are Young.”
I’m almost willing to bet the large crowd was drawn to their stage early Friday afternoon because of that hit, but even though the song was played second to last, no one budged. Fun. captivated their audience with high energy and solid music, proving themselves as more than a one-hit wonder. Of course, nothing beat “We Are Young,” but with enough fans believing in them and enough time in the industry, they may just prove to be a solid band with a solid live show.
Although they aren’t straight up rock – more of a rock and hip-hop fusion – I was really looking forward to seeing one of my favorite party bands (they’re a guilty pleasure of mine, if you will), Down With Webster. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint. And although some haters could be heard scattered throughout the crowd, the amount of ‘W’s raised high and proud in the air shut them up real quick.
When DWW said sing, the people sang. When they said jump, the people jumped. That’s one thing I love about DWW, they know how to interact with their audience and there’s just something about them that makes you want to really get into it because somehow you know that if you do, you’re gonna have a good time with these guys on stage.
Now, surprises aren’t always great, frankly, sometimes they suck, but Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men were a very, very good surprise. Not knowing much about them, I found myself catching their set thanks to Andrej’s suggestion and I sure was glad about that decision about two minutes in. Any band with an accordion and trumpet is good in my books and when they use them right, I’m in love. The only way I can describe the band and really make a point of how great they are is to say they’re Arcade Fire’s cooler, hipper younger brother.
There was one downside to having caught them live, though. The way the festival was set up this year, a series of up and down stairs had to be crossed to go from the main stages to the smaller ones. A very (very, very, very!) poor organizational decision. The stairs were continuously clogged, there was shoving and pushing and all the great things that come along with a big crowd and it took roughly 40 minutes to cross back to the main stages. All that can be said is OY!
Another high point, Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand. They were all the rage back in the early 2000s, as most will recall, and then things went rather quiet. But about five minutes into their set, they managed to remind past fans like myself why they rocked the charts the way they did, showing off that they’ve lost none of their magic. I’m sure some new fans were made in the process too and I’d love to see these guys make a real serious comeback and explode back onto the scene. I’m sure they’d be welcomed with open arms.
Speaking of Scotland, American-based Garbage, who just so happen to have a Scottish frontwoman, also brought it, although maybe not as well as Franz Ferdinand, throwing it back to the good ol’ ‘90s, a time when gritty rock reigned supreme. Bravo indeed.
English rock band Florence and the Machine may just have been my personal favorites from the entire festival. A haunting talent like Florence Welch is hard to find or beat and if you think her voice could lead men into epic battle when you listen to the band on CD, you aren’t remotely prepared for the wonder that is Florence’s voice live.
Accompanied by running around and jumping and dancing in her swooshy cape dress, it wasn't difficult to see that Florence is a free spirit, just the type of wonderful person we need more of. As one of the ladies standing behind me said, ‘She looks like she's gonna fly away in that dress, back to heaven where she came from.’ The only thing missing was a harp. Wait, they even had that covered.
The other mega star worthy of mention was Snoop Dogg, recently reincarnated as Snoop Lion. Fans certainly appreciated that he took the time to spit out hit after hit – Snoop classics, if you will – but what no one appreciated was his lateness. Being a few minutes late is fine, but when that few minutes turns into 45, there’s a problem. No matter who you are or how much street cred you have, if your chosen career is as a performer, then you better be on stage when you're supposed to be, doing what you do best, giving the people what they want. Yes, it was great to see Snoop live, but it would all have been more enjoyable had he come out on time and done more, like he had done two Osheagas ago.
But moving right along, all in all, as the sold out status proved, Osheaga is just getting better and better by the year. The 2012 lineup was exceptional, truly offering something for everyone from a large variety of genres and styles. If they can manage to keep this up next year and down the line, they may soon be stealing fans from North America’s biggest fests like Coachella and Lollapalooza, creeping out from the trenches to win the battle for ultimate festival glory.
Makes ya kind of proud to be from Montreal, don’t it?
For all the latest on Osheaga, visit www.osheaga.com
For more on Andrej Ivanov, visit his Facebook page here.