This past weekend, August 2-4, some 135,000 people (over the 3 days) flocked to Parc Jean Drapeau on the small Montreal island of Ile St Helene to take part in the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. The largest of its kind in Canada, Osheaga has solidified its spot as THE festival to attend over the Canadian August long weekend, drawing fans from all across Canada, the US and Europe.
With 5 stages nestled throughout the woods of the park and the cityscape of Montreal as a backdrop, Osheaga is an outdoor concert experience you won’t find anywhere else!
Sharing its lineup with Lollapalooza 2013 in Chicago, Osheaga hosted some of the biggest names in music including Mumford and Sons, Beck, Phoenix, The Lumineers, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Vampire Weekend, The Cure and New Order.
Capital Cities kick it off with a bang!
The first band to hit the main stage on Friday afternoon was Capital Cities. What a kick off! Their fun and energetic set had people on their feet from the moment they started right till the end. Playing all their big tracks from their album In A Tidal Wave of Mystery (trumpet player and all!) it was a perfect way to get people in the mood to party!
But then the happy vibe quickly ended when Canadian hip-hop artist k-os took the stage 20 minutes late. They were obviously having sound issues because when k-os finally started his set he only played for 2 minutes then said “I can’t do this right now – I can’t hear myself”, and threw his all access pass into the crowd and walked off. Undoubtedly the crowd booed.
The next 3 artists on the main stages – Daughter, Ben Howard and Alt-J – were a bit too chill, especially after Capital Cities. Two Door Cinema Club stepped out in class with lead singer Alex Trimble sporting a pompadour coif and belting out hits like “Something Good Can Work” and tunes from their latest album Beacons. The crowd was back on their feet and stayed that way through Ellie Goulding and Vampire Weekend.
The best show of the night went to Phoenix. Their catchy and fun melodies perfectly matched their high energy on stage, and that enthusiasm quickly spread like wild fire to the crowd. The epic moment came when lead singer Thomas Mars “fell” into the crowd during their song “1901” and paraded through while being kissed by all those that could reach him. It was awesome to watch.
Unfortunately for the Cure, Phoenix was a hard act to follow. Although they played all their hits (well almost, the organizers had to pull the plug on them at 11pm), they just couldn’t get the crowd to that same energy level.
Day 2 – k-os comes back!
I arrived a little later on Day 2 of the festival, missing Grouplove and The Heavy, but heard they played great sets. Canadian twins, Tegan and Sara received a warm welcome and played a nice mix of hits from their latest album Heartthrob and old fan favorites.
Miguel was due to play next at the main stages but cancelled last minute due to a vocal cord injury. Who could they find last minute to fill his spot? How about k-os? He’s gotta work to get paid, right?
Not impressed by his previous day antics, there were a lot of people who decided to skip his show, including myself.
Heading over to the Scene Verte stage in the woods, another set of twins were just getting ready to play, Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders. A large crowd of 30 and 40-somethings gathered to relive the mid-90s as the band played their epic album Last Splash from start to finish. Everyone sang along as they rocked through classics like “Cannonball” and “No Aloha”. Pure Awesomeness!
Back to the main stage, the Imagine Dragons performed one of the best shows of the festival. Energetic, passionate and playful, lead singer Dan Reynolds gave it his all…and the crowd ate it up! Touring on just one album, Night Visions, they were the surprise show of the weekend.
After that, the crowd was pumped for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who kept the party going with their party anthems “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us”. For their latest radio hit “Same Love”, they invited Tegan and Sara to sing the chorus, usually performed by Mary Lambert. They only managed to play 8 songs in their hour long set because Macklemore would ramble on before every song, telling stories about his grandmother who once worked at the Montreal General Hospital. It was sweet but annoying after the second story.
The Saturday night closer was Beck, whom the promoters had been trying to get to Montreal for 7 years. Coming out in a cowboy hat and looking like Bob Dylan in his younger days, Beck kicked it off with a funky rendition of “Devil’s Haircut”. Despite the rain, fans held on. A fave moment came when Rishi Dhir of Montreal band Elephant Stone played sitar during “Loser”. Although Beck played nothing from his albums Mutations nor Midnite Vultures, he played several covers including Korgis’ “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”.
Day 3 – Mumford and Sons draw record attendance
Day 3 of the festival was the first day to sell out, and most can assume it was because of Mumford and Sons. The day was quite cool and windy and there was a heavy downpour of rain in the afternoon (which can always ruin a buzz) so the earlier shows such as Little Green Cars, Silversun Pickups, Big Boi, The Lumineers, Father John Misty and Kendrick Lamar lacked luster, compared to the artists of the previous days…or maybe it was just me!
As the sun (or what there was of it) started to fall, the crowd revved up for 80s/90s legends, New Order. With ¾ of the original band (minus Peter Hook) present, Bernard Sumner belted out classics such as “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “True Faith”, “Blue Monday” and “Temptation” to an adoring crowd…most of who weren’t even born in New Order’s heyday! Their hour and a quarter set closed with a trio of songs from their Joy Division days – “Atmosphere”, “Shadowplay” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – with pictures of singer Ian Curtis splashing on the screen behind them.
Last but not least, the final show of the festival, Mumford and Sons. With stringed lights strewed from the stage to the sound booth, the crowd was on their feet before they even took to the stage. The place was packed, there was barely anyone sitting down. There was no doubt this was a record attendance for Osheaga!
Marcus Mumford and his bandmates took to the stage in blue light and softly harmonized to the beginning of “Lovers’ Eyes”, until the peak of the song when the bright white lights came on and the energy on stage as well as in the crowd was explosive. “Little Lion Man” followed, everyone in the crowd sang at the top of their lungs. From “I Will Wait” to “Lover of the Light” to an awesome Springsteen cover of “I’m on Fire” to the closer “The Cave”, Mumford and Sons demonstrated they were worthy of being top headliner at this festival.
It was a perfect way to cap off the amazing weekend and put the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in the top ranks of summer music festivals worldwide.