I can’t help but feel like a seasoned pro after my third-straight year of going to Osheaga, Montreal’s Music and Arts Festival (although it must be said it’s primarily music). While my first year left me battling with the often-chaotic bridge crossing and my second ended up being a shortened, streamlined approach, this is definitely the year I felt like I finally figured out how to get the most out of the festival.
The lead-up to the big weekend is in many ways as important as what you do when you get there, especially when this year marked the introduction of a couple of new things meant to make the whole experience easier on attendees—including a special weekend pass for Montreal’s Metro and on-site lockers that you could get to at any point during the festival (making them far more useful than the coat check just outside the entrance). As usual, the free iTunes playlist helped me pick out a couple of other bands I’d like to see that wouldn’t have been on my radar otherwise, especially since they were playing the low-key Scène de la Vallée stage, and the Osheaga app once again kept me notified of a number of schedule changes.
Friday was filled with the most confusion, as usual, especially at the gates when the festival appeared to be changing up its policy on bringing in outside food. The only other notable downside of the weekend came when I went to catch July Talk on the red stage—possibly the second smallest of the festival and usually well suited to whoever’s playing. But after the summer the band has had there just wasn’t enough room on the lawn for everyone who came out, meaning there was almost no chance for most people in the audience to catch the band’s on stage antics, a pity considering it sounded like they were having plenty of fun with the fans up front.
But aside from a rough start, the rest of Friday went off without a hitch as it transitioned from indie rock with Bleachers in the morning to hip hop with Childish Gambino and Outcast making up the evening line up (along with the odd inclusion of Skrillex, who at least offered up a personable set of thrashing). If that wasn’t your thing, Canada’s Bear Mountain and Chromeo offered up some pleasing alternatives—although half the festival awkwardly cleared out after Outkast performed its two biggest hits.
Saturday started strong and loud on the main stage. Kevin Drew launched the day, wrapping his set with some music from Broken Social Scene before Kongos defied the heat and got everyone dancing. Against Me! took over after that and packed the space in front of the stage with some committed fans who really went for it despite the sun beating down the whole weekend. Hiding out in the shade afterwards, Calgary’s Reuben And The Dark drew passerbys from nearby with their alternative folk and Saskatoon’s Reignwolf electrified a good half of the festival grounds with his set, in part because sound started bleeding over from the red stage. While I had no objections to Reignwolf being heard loud and clear, it was more of an issue when the tail-end of Basia Bulat’s set got mixed in with !!! (who at least managed to sound fun from a distance), and unfortunately the volume issues never really got sorted.
I went into Sunday thinking it would be my slowest day, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It started when I found myself splitting my time between folksy Matt Mays and up-and-coming Mozart’s Sister, who subbed in for Wake Owl last minute, and running back to the mainstage for Bombay Bicycle Club and The Kooks before catching AFI’s incongruous but energetic set and then bouncing between CHVURCHES and The Temper Trap since I couldn’t pick between the two.
It was almost a relief to park in front of the main stage for the evening to catch Kodaline and a euphoric Half Moon Run—especially when the Montreal band was so obviously excited to be playing their home festival. Lorde was wrapping up another leg of touring that night and her nostalgic intro to “Ribs”, along with the slew of compliments for the audience, made for a feel-good hour before The Arctic Monkey’s took over. Despite how busy things were, I still couldn’t resist dashing over the wobbly bridges once more to clock in some time with Lykke Li—ending the weekend on the more restful hill of the green stage.