Montreal is my favourite Canadian city.
The European feel combined with the people create an easy going vibe that always appealed to me, though I never seem to visit as much as I would like. A few months ago when organizers announced the initial line-up for the 2012 Osheaga Festival, I knew Montreal was again in my not-too-distant future.
Osheaga is relatively new to the festival circuit but its stature grew exponentially after last year’s booking of Eminem. Held over 3 days in scenic Parc Jean-Drapeau, Osheaga is a great way to experience all kinds of music with some beautiful music lovers. Five stages grace the expansive park with the two main stages side by side. This allows for quick set alternation between the two, delivering a constant stream of live music for the gathered masses.
The six hour bus ride from Toronto to Montreal was made all the more enjoyable by the A/C malfunctioning half way into the trip. This may have dampened our clothing but certainly not our spirits. Eyeing the weather forecast was futile with Friday’s forecast of thunderstorms actually being the blazing sun with two fluffy white clouds!
Travelling to the festival once on Montreal’s Metro is incredibly easy, with a stop at the park entrance gates. Aside from some sweaty and aromatic moments on the jam-packed subway and tunnels, the commute to the site was the first thing that made me happy.
Secondly, after years of festival conditioning in Ontario I was especially thrilled by the civility of the Osheaga festival experience, including being able to enjoy your beer anywhere in the venue you wanted rather than within a fenced area covered by advertising.
So on to Friday’s Music recap...
While it’s impossible to see everybody, this is what I did get to see. I will also include a few thoughts from my partner-in-crime who braved his first music festival...ever.
London, England’s Bombay Bicycle Club kicked off our festival experience at the Green Stage, nestled nicely within a canopy of trees. A small gathering held fort at the front of the stage while the majority sought solace from the stifling heat in the surrounding shade. In 30 minutes they tore through most of their debut, A Different Kind of Fix, highlighted by a frantic “Your Eyes.”
The quaint Green Stage was packed to the point where mobility was a major issue for Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men. Clearly they should have been on the main stage but the collective ran through most of their My Head Is An Animal album to the delight of the crowd. Their sunny folk-rock songs were perfect in getting the sunny festival vibe just right.
The mass exodus from the Green Stage made for some serious congestion through the park’s stage-connecting trails and pathways. This meant missing half of Amadou & Mariam’s set.
The Mali group seemed to be in their element and inspired some of the first dancing I would see over the weekend. We stayed toward the back of the massive main stage area to get some much needed food and shade.
Franz Ferdinand delivered a set heavy with all the songs you would expect of them and a couple of new tunes. The names of the new ones escape me, but one did morph into an old cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” Again, we stayed in the back in the comfort of what little shade was available, keen on preserving our energy for the rest of the evening.
Toronto’s The Weeknd only began performing a little over a year ago, but you would never know it from the confident set the crew delivered Friday, happy to be in Montreal and seducing the throng with their quirky R&B. At this rate, they’ll be headliners next year.
Within 24 hours, I saw Florence and the Machine twice; Toronto on Thursday and then Osheaga Friday night, with Osheaga being the better of the two. It all came down to the crowd. Easily the biggest draw of the day, Florence worked up a big sweat running and jumping across the expansive stage, while massive screens on either side captured Florence’s beaming face many times. Most of Ceremonials was covered with surprisingly little attention to her debut, Lungs. When she wasn’t so darned happy and excited to be performing for the majority of the 40,000 that bought tickets, Florence punctuated the songs with high drama which really kicked at this massive setting. Ending with “No Light, No Light,” Florence capped off a day for many on a high note. But if you left after that, you would be sorry…
Iceland’s Sigur Ros was my highlight from the entire weekend, delivering an epic hour long set that touched on each of their albums. Their new album Valtari surprisingly got very little attention aside from their set opener. Visually, they were the most stunning over the weekend and their drama was all in the music. Closing their set with standard set-closer “Popplagid,” those around me paying little attention were soon enthralled.
While French duo Justice’s second album, Audio, Video, Disco, was a bit underwhelming at first listen, it’s grown on me with repeated listens. The initial plan to leave the park when they came on was thwarted once their pounding beats thumped out into the park. Strobes were set to “stun” while Justice slayed the crowd with a seamless medley of tracks from both their albums.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel, exhausted and sweaty yet exhilarated from a thrilling first day of music set within the perfect atmosphere.