My first ever experience at Osheaga was an overload to my senses. With the sights, smells and sounds of the music and art festival still fresh in my brain, here’s what I thought of the shows I saw.
On Friday we arrived mid-afternoon and wandered around the site before settling down inside the VIP area to try and get a better view of our surroundings and the Molson Canadian Scène de la rivère and the Virgin Moblie Scène de la montagne.
Michale David Rosenberg is better know to the world as Passenger. We walked in and took our seats as Passenger started playing his set at the de la montagne stage. The 32 year old native of England quietly serenaded his way onto the Canadian music scene with his hit song “Let Her Go” back in 2012. His first experience at Osheaga seemed to have been a humbling experience as he kept repeating “I can’t believe I’m here” in between songs. His wry, English sense of humour along with smart lyrics and melodic music make him easy to listen to and his set at Osheaga was technically spot on. He connected well with his audience and even got a little emotional as he left the stage. His music, however good, is quite downtempo. This slowed the momentum at the main stages and set the pace for much of the afternoon.
Beirut followed Passenger with an offbeat set at the de la Rivère stage. Fans of Beirut no doubt love their music. They were not booked at one of the main stages of Osheaga because people don’t like them. I didn’t like the performance. I found the band to take themselves a little too seriously, they frowned and scowled through their set and were a little low on energy. Dull is the word I would best use to describe the set. This was my first foray into the band’s repertoire and since then I’ve given them a listen at home. The musical arrangements of songs like Santa Fe and East Harlem are creative and cinematically epic but they are nothing I haven’t heard before. Zach Condon, whether live or recorded sounds a little like a pretentious Brandon Flowers (if that’s even possible).
Cypress Hill took to the de la Montagne stage just as Beirut limped off stage and set things right as the sun was beginning to set. They were not messing around as they kicked the show off by smoking up on stage and getting into their classic hits. They had more energy than anything I’d seen so far (which, to be honest, wasn’t that hard) and had the crowds on their feet with a roaring left vs right side of the stage play along. They played their hits and everyone was happy. They told us that they’d been doing this for 25 years and had a new album coming out. Sometimes nostalgia is best left in the back of our minds but on Friday, we were thankful it was centre-stage.
Though I am not a fan of Half Moon Run, I am aware of and can appreciate their music. I am now also very aware of their fan base. As they entered the de la Rivère stage the crowd went wild. Dressed looking like not quite carbon copies of Harry Styles, they know what the 14-28 demographic is looking for; sweaty, messy long hair, cooler than cool guy clothes (that fleur de lys tank top was fun) and their ability to draw you in with their music. They played their set all over the stage, happy to be home in Montreal, addressing the squealing crowd in French and English and running through their hits. Having seen them live, I’m still not more of a fan than I was before but at least now I won’t look old when people say the name and my eyes won’t glaze over. I’ll just say yeah, they killed at Osheaga.
The last show of the day for me was The Lumineers. They too to the de la Montagne stage at 8:20 and rolled through their repertoire for an hour. The Lumineers are a vestige of time long gone by when folk rock made a huge comeback 3 years ago and brought crowds in droves to the Osheaga stages. They released their new album, Cleopatra in 2016 and played songs from both their albums. The red sky over head helped set a moody atmosphere that paired well with the music. The vocals were strong throughout the set as Wesley Schultz sung us through the overplayed Ho Hey and sluggish Dead Sea and then impressed with new songs like the melodic Ophelia and they energy filled Cleopatra. I walked away from the set and Osheaga for the evening a happy man for having stayed around for the show.
Image credits: Tim Snow, Pat Beaudry and Pierre Bourgault