Osheaga is without a doubt one of Canada’s largest and most important music festivals. The three day gathering drew over 135,000 fans from around the world to hear their favorite bands, musicians and DJ’s give one-of-a-kind live performances. The work that goes into planning and executing the festival is bigger than any of us can imagine. From the behind the scenes personnel that get the artists where they need to be to the amazing waitstaff that man the bars, restaurants and tents, Osheaga couldn’t happen without their dedication. Everyone involved it creating this force to be reckoned with in music deserves a pat on the back. For the fans Osheaga is one of Montreal’s coolest weekend parties of the summer, creating memories for a lifetime.
This year was my first year to attend the music festival. Thanks to the kind folks at Sonnet Insurance (who hosted a stage featuring St. Lucia, Caveboy, Bloc Party and more) and La Journaliste for the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands and hear wild live versions of some of my favorite music. I would also like to send a special shoutout to H&M for letting us recharge our batteries (both our phones and our souls). Though I didn’t make to the third day (rookie mistakes all over the place keep me shivering in a corner all day Sunday), I did manage to soak up two sun-filled days at Osheaga and here’s my thoughts on my first outing at the festival.
After 11 years Osheaga has grown from a small venue music show into a well-oiled machine. Their installations and signage are spot on, their sound systems are flawless and the lighting and visual presentations are crisp, clean and clear. Extra-circular activities that keep people busy between shows are fun and clearly designed for the cool kids of the moment. As we wandered the woods of Parc Jean-Drapeau there was so much to see and do, it was impossible to take it all in. Seeing it all for the first time, the overall execution of the weekend is very impressive. Evenko certainly knows how to throw a party.
Osheaga’s massive drawing power means getting the biggest names to easily fill the three days and six main stages on the grounds. This year’s headliners included Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Radiohead and Lana del Rey and past performers have included huge names like Florence & The Machine, Nick Cave, Sam Roberts, The Cure, Mumford & Sons and many more. During my two days I took in more live shows than I ever have and while some of them left me a little deflated, others made me smile brightly. The festival featured 110 artists including 28 Canadian groups, 16 of which call la belle province home. Over the course of the three days, more than 30 hours of live music was belted out to fans filling up the sprawling site. A link to my review of the performances can be found at the end of this article.
Seeing an ocean of fans dancing and singing along to groups like Half Moon Run, Coeur de Pirate and Cypress Hill was an astounding thing to bare witness to. The sheer immensity of all that energy was utterly profound. As I walked around the site and saw fans running from one stage to the next it made me happy to see that music’s influence over people hasn’t diminished in an age where stealing from these artists is as common as buying music once was.
The more I saw of the shows and the grounds the more I saw that Osheaga is as much about the business aspect of the festival as it is the music. The endless sponsorships, the tight (and with over 30,000 people, necessary) on and offsite security, the multiple wristband checkpoints to get in and out of the site and VIP areas brought my newfound free spirited, music loving reality to a grinding halt. From the moment I walked onto the site, I looked at Osheaga from a critical standpoint (which is why I was there) and although I wasn’t expected it to be as commercial as it was, I wasn’t shocked by that commercialization either. It takes a village to put together a massive event like this and every entity that helped make Osheaga a reality deserves to have its name in lights. It may have been the constant ads for “official” Osheaga merchandise and the Evenko-Amy Schumer show at the Bell Centre that I felt may have been a little too much.
But the fans from around the world aren’t in Montreal and at Osheaga solely for the music or the talent. They come to Montreal to party and live in 3 days of bliss, away from parents, jobs and general responsibilities. The fans and Osheaga add millions of dollars to our economy, more than most of our other summer festivals combined. They fall in love with Montreal at a young age and will want to repeat this experience for years to come. Osheaga to them (and us as Montrealers) is more than music and art. Whether you’re from here or a visitor to our city it’s an awesome long-weekend vacation with one of North America’s largest music festivals as a backdrop and that’s pretty cool.
Image credits: Tim Snow, Pat Beaudry, Pierre Bourgault