Where else in the world would you rather have been on Saturday, July 31 than in Montreal, where the annual Osheaga Music and Arts Festival went down? Over twenty bands shared this eminent day, as music junkies gathered from across the country for this unforgettable experience of talent debauchery.
My heart was pulsating and I could feel the adrenaline creeping as I arrived at the gates of Osheaga 2010, all the bands running through my mind – Jimmy Cliff, Stars, The National, K’NAAN, Arcade Fire – what an amazing day it was going to be! The weather was flawless: sunny, slight breeze, and immaculately warm. I entered, much to my surprise, without any wait, digging out my map to see where I was bound and the first show to see. Beautiful people littered the grounds, everyone eyeing one another up and down – I give kudos to those who braved the show with kids in tow.
I arrived just in time to catch the last bit of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Edward chanted to the crowd, with his head full of dreads, claiming that he didn’t want to be an asshole by playing another song though, despite his efforts, did it anyways. Next the crowd shifted conveniently to the River Stage, just a few feet away, where Jimmy Cliff was due next. Dressed all in red with brilliant, shimmering gold shoes, Jimmy opened with Cat Stevens’ classic, “Wild World,” asking the crowd if we knew this song (obviously, as thousands sang along) and gave ‘thunder claps’ all around. While Jimmy continued in true reggae form, the crowd danced, hips swaying. I was loving the momentum he was building in the crowd, as if we were all holding hands and singing “Kumbaya My Lord” around a fire. Then, as if on cue, a dance train emerged from the crowd, contriving my emotions. Apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling like this! Next was his hit version of “I Can See Clearly Now” from the “Cool Runnings” soundtrack. His band danced with their bright, cheerful orange t-shirts, perfecting the overall island vibe from Jamaica. One message was loud and clear throughout Jimmy’s set: Love, peace, and unity. Oh, to live in Jimmy’s world!
Next up was K’NAAN the Canadian-Somali political hip-hop hero from Toronto. The crowd cheered at his arrival and instantly heads were bobbing and arms waving, as he sang “I Come Prepared”. It was amusing to see K’NAAN test the crowd’s singing abilities by encouraging them to sing “La la la la la” though after much dismay and bleak response let it go. However, the crowd definitely came alive for his last song, and international hit, “Wavin’ Flag,” which was the official theme song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and, without a doubt, the track everyone was waiting to hear.
Following the world unity performance of K’NAAN were Montreal darlings, Stars. The band ran onto the stage, breaking out with the contagious and rhythmic “We Don’t Want Your Body” and the crowd came alive cheering, electrified by their presence. Unfortunately, the flare didn’t last long and the majority of their set mellowed out while they played tracks off of their new album, ‘The Five Ghosts.” But just to show how truly lovely and sweet Stars are, they threw beautiful white roses out into the crowd throughout their set.
Fully refueled and amped for the rest of Osheaga 2010, I made my way to the Green Stage to hear Beach House chant it out before my climax of the festival, The National. Unfortunately, upon arrival, Beach House was nowhere to be seen and instead a sound crew was still testing the goods. Eventually, after an impatient thirty minutes passed, the trio took the stage though by that time I had lost all interest and was anxious to make my way to the Mountain Stage for The National.
I couldn’t even contain myself and my walk evolved into light jogging as I made my way towards the main stage where The National would soon perform. Thousands and thousands were already beginning to gather, all with one mission in mind. I pushed my way to the front and waited in agony. Goosebumps were starting to break out on the surface of my skin as everyone was trying to catch a glimpse of the band. Abruptly, the crowd came alive; cheering and clapping as The National ran on stage, breaking straight into “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” I swayed, singing at the top of my lungs, “I still owe money to the money I owe, I never thought about love when I thought about home.” I was captivated and seduced by this incredible band whom quite impossibly may sound even better live than on their amazing albums. For the next hour I was lost within The National’s performance, which comprised mostly of their newest album, “Ultra Violet,” though did they play classics like, “Fake Empire,” “Apartment Song,” and “Slow Show.”
And for the grand finale – Arcade Fire. Tensions were rising as everyone shuffled and squeezed to get closer to the stage, even though there was still fifteen minutes before the scheduled show. When the bubble finally burst and the band took stage, the energy was palpable. This septet was home and it was amazing to see what truly great performers they are. Especially Régine Chassagne who sophistically bounced from accordion, to keyboards, to hurdy-gurdy, all the while singing as well. The crowd praised the band like Gods and Arcade Fire reciprocated the gratitude as Chassagne cutely said “Merci” after each song. Their entire set was phenomenal. They played mostly tracks from their new album, “The Suburbs,” but, of course, the show couldn’t have ended without “Wake Up” and “Keep The Car Running.” Blowing confetti into the audience, they just proved what a celebration this day really had been.
I was elated, but my body hated me for this day of fervent music escapades. As armies of people shuffled towards the exit of the grounds, I was blasted from the ingenuity of all the bands I had seen. And even though I wouldn’t be able to feed myself for the next week because I had broken my bank account to buy my Osheaga ticket – it was priceless and worth every damn cent!
For footage and photos from Osheaga 2010, and info on next year’s edition, check out: http://www.osheaga.com/en/