The first week of August in Montreal, Quebec, triggers a lot of movement. Vacationers on the rise, inopportune roadwork marred by endless traffic, and over 135,000 people from all over the world travel to island Parc Jean-Drapeau to attend Osheaga Music Festival. Since 2006, Osheaga has established itself as the biggest festival of its kind in Canada. Always delivering an impressive line up of talent, this year’s big headliners included Lorde, Outkast, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys. The Guardian Liberty Voice was on site this year, soaking in the experience through a summer haze as some of the biggest musicians of rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM) performed to an animated ocean of fans.
Parc Jean-Drapeau sits to the east of downtown Montreal, in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River. It hosts a number of attractions including the Fort de l’Île Sainte-Hélène (Stewart Museum), an amusement park and a beautiful venue with 360 degrees of scenic river views, giving way to a perfect angle of the heart of southern Quebec.
Osheaga offers four main stages and three side stages, with performances ranging between 1:00pm – 11:00pm Friday though Saturday. Like most mainstream festivals, there are a number of art installations, promotional tents and lounges. Osheaga reached its capacity of 40,000 all three days of the festival this year.
Day one kicked off Osheaga with a DJ-heavy line up, attracting a crowd of young partygoers with the pulsating vibes of electronic beats. Shlohmo, Flume and Jacques Greene held down the electronic tent, while Skrillex brought another one of his famed dubstep sets to the main stage after playing Lollapalooza in the U.S.
Outkast undoubtedly caused the most excitement that evening, with their comeback tour stealing the spotlight Friday night, however not over shadowing great performances by Mac Demarco and Chase & Status (who were also playing closing sets). Outkast opened up to an already amped crowd with the high energy hit Bombs Over Baghdad, and from there they graced the crowd with oldies to send them back a couple decades, to a time before mainstream rap began blurring the line between hip-hop and EDM.
Saturday, narrowly escaping rain, the fest filled up to near capacity a few hours after opening. Against Me, St. Lucia, and Serena Ryde kept the crowd high energy for their day sets, followed by Modest Mouse and Four Tet. Jack White closed the main stage area, continuing on his tour for his newest album Lazaretto. Since going solo, White has turned more towards the blues side of rock. Always a fan of incorporating new instruments, White’s work with fiddle player Lillie Mae Rische perfectly complements each country song in his repertoire.
The festival did not lose any momentum by the time Sunday came along. Kate Nash, The Kooks, and Chvrches were amongst the most crowded sets of the day. The Replacements continued on their comeback, reminding fans that they can still rock as hard as they did in the ’80s.
Lorde gave arguably the most emotional performance of the weekend, heavily laden with dramatic expressions and convulsive dancing. The 17-year-old performer has not only secured her place in the opinions of the public as a talented songwriter, but is also breaking the mold for how the world views teen pop stars. She performed her songs stripped down with a two-piece band, accentuating her vocals and connecting with the crowd on every syllable. She was followed by the beloved indie rock group, Arctic Monkeys, bringing their charm and enigmatic presence to the table.
Throughout the weekend people continued to flood into the festival, excited to see many of their favorite musicians in one place. The all ages event certainly attracted people of all ages. The festival has hosted big names in the past such as Arcade Fire, Weezer, Sonic Youth, and Iggy & The Stooges, while still incorporating rising artists as well. For a European style festival in North America, Osheaga is the place to be.
Review by Morgan Louchen