Osheaga, come at us!
This weekend I attended Osheaga 2015 and it was one of the most unreal weekends of my life. The whirlwind of three days included so many of my favourite bands, some of whom I have waited 4+ years to see live, some of my favourite friends who are spread across the country and magically managed to land in Montreal for the festival, and a slew of new friends + new favourite artists. As my new friends might say, the weekend was hype, yo.
Friday morning kicked off with a pre-party in our airbnb where I stayed with Kaylee, one of my best friends who lives in Calgary, and a group of friends of friends. We started things off right with a home DJ set in our living room before heading out to the festival grounds where we made sure we got in early enough to catch George Ezra‘s 3pm set. As anyone who has been around me lately knows, I adore this kid and his set did not disappoint. His voice was as big, if not bigger, in real life and it was almost all the more shocking to see it in person coming from such a gangly little white kid. I can’t pin down an absolute favourite in the set, but he closed with Did You Hear the Rain which was a unique end as it has a powerful sonic quality and wasn’t the standard approach to drop the biggest single as the close. It was funny (albeit decently annoying) to hear a group behind us yelling “Play Budapest!” throughout the entire set. I mean c’mon, we all know that it’s going to be played and it’s decently disrespectful to the artist to not even bother to listen to what else is on offer. Other than that the set was ridiculously perfect and all I wish was that it could have lasted longer, especially so that I could have heard two of my favourite songs Drawing Board and Get Lonely.
After George Ezra, the next wonder to await us was Stars‘ set, where they played the Set Yourself on Fire album in its entirety to celebrate its 10th anniversary, bringing in everyone who contributed to the album to build out the full sound, from strings and horns to guest vocals. They even got the singer, Amy Millan’s, adorable little daughter up on stage to play the shakers. Hearing this album in its entirety was a beautiful thing because its been such a stronghold in my music arsenal for so many years and because it holds both of my two favourite Stars songs, Your Ex-Lover is Dead and Calendar Girl. These songs have always held such a powerful place in my heart, especially Your Ex-Lover is Dead, which got me through a particularly shitty break-up years ago and helped me realize that you don`t ever have to regret what has happened, as long as you learned from it. As the song goes, “I`m not sorry I met you, I`m not sorry it’s over, I`m not sorry there`s nothing to save.“ The other great thing about this set was that it clearly meant just as much to my friend who I peeked shedding a few tears as the set closed.
Our next treat was Of Monsters and Men who I have been waiting at least four years to see, always just missing out before tickets sold out. It was incredible to finally see them play live, especially after such a long wait and after enjoying their new album Beneath The Skin so much. We were able to wiggle our way to the front of the crowd and had a spectacular view as we sang along with an incredibly enthusiastic crowd to some great indie anthems. I will note that their stage presence is lacking, potentially driven by a language barrier or simply by too few years on the road. Regardless they sounded fantastic and I can`t wait to continue watching them grow.
The night closed with a set by Florence + The Machine which was mind-blowing. Words cannot describe how insanely talented this woman`s voice is. I couldn`t even bring myself to sing along as she hit incredibly clear note after note. From the back we danced giddily, in awe of her vocal ability. A highlight of the festival was as we made our way towards the metro to attempt to beat the crowds, she began to sing Dog Days are Over and we skipped into a huge group of people dancing like nobody was watching. Of course we joined in! It was such an incredible high to end the night on, I couldn`t believe that we still had two more days of wonder ahead.
Saturday highlights kicked off with Milky Chance, a band I`ve recently been obsessed with. I swear sometimes I turn on the 10hr version of Stolen Dance and just let it run as I get things done around the house. So it was incredible to get into the crowd for this set and sing along to some of my favourite jams. Downside on this one was a poorly sound-checked stage that had bass you could feel in your bones (not in the good way) and a bit of an annoying crowd, but that still couldn`t stop me from loving this set. I would definitely check them out again if they hit Toronto any time soon.
Next up, we hit the Electronic stage to see Oliver Heldens. Now I`m not usually one for Electronic, but I have to admit that I have been falling for it more and more lately, especially with some incredible mixes popping up as Youtube playlists. This set was one of those moments where great friends, good weather, and danceable jams blend together into pure joy. We actually danced our faces off, barely stopping to catch a breath for the full hour. This was also an extremely interesting set to experience as someone who attends music festivals 100% sober as we encountered people that were at all kinds of levels of intoxication. Despite being one of the few dry people in the crowd, I didn`t feel any less ecstatic and was so happy to share it with a friend who is equally as naturally hyperactive as me.
The final Saturday highlight was watching Weezer play. I`ve never been a massive fan, but they were always around when I was in high school, kicking it behind my mountain of Green Day albums. So as they played hit after hit, I couldn`t help but feel like I was 13 again as I sang along to every word. I also had a great laugh as a 17 year-old girl walked by and said to her friend “let`s get out of here, this is like totally Dad music“ with disgust. All I could think was you know what, maybe it is, but I’m pretty sure most Dad’s have a hell of a lot better taste in music than you do. Ain’t nothing wrong with the old school jams. This was made even greater when I discovered that the adorable little girl playing piano during Perfect Situation was River Cuomo’s daughter. It must have been take your kid to work weekend or something at Osheaga!
Finally, we checked out a few of Kendrick Lamar’s songs, mainly so my sister wouldn’t 100% kill me when she heard that I left during his set.
We woke up Sunday a little sad to know that it was our last day at Osheaga, but super pumped to dance hard for a third straight day. Sunday was a great day because I saw sets from three different bands that I’ve always meant to listen to properly, but never had. It started with James Bay who was really great live and reminded me of a younger, scrawnier Jack White in his looks and demeanor. I have been meaning to check him out since he runs in the same crowd as George Ezra and I’ve learned over the years that listening to your favourite musician’s friends tends to be a surefire route to great music (hence my Lotus Child / Hey Ocean! addiction days). After James we saw The War On Drugs who were unreal live and I absolutely cannot wait to add them into my musical repertoire. They seriously killed it and I feel a bit stupid that I did not get on this band wagon sooner. After, I also checked out Hot Chip who I always disregarded after last Osheaga when my friend compared them to The Cure and told me I likely wouldn’t enjoy them. But boy, was he wrong! Maybe my taste has changed or maybe it was the atmosphere, but dancing to Hot Chip was ridiculously good fun. We made friends in the crowd, had a stranger pour glitter all over us, and danced like we had nothing to lose. Similar to the electronic set on Saturday, this was just pure joy as we lost our inhibitions
Hot Chip glitter party.
Finally, Black Keys took the stage and we knew that the end of the festival was near. Despite our aching, destroyed bodies (I quite literally felt like I might collapse at any moment from the aches in my back and feet), we powered through the set, singing and dancing to every song. I cannot get over how absolutely incredible they are live. It is rare these days to see such musicianship on a stage. Of course I love my indie bands, but they don`t exactly push the boundaries on what you can accomplish with an instrument. Black Keys seriously have this figured out. At one point they played just the two of them without a back-up band and I couldn`t believe the depth of the sound that was coming at me, simply from a drumkit and a guitar. Watch out favourite bands, Black Keys are some mad real competition. As they walked off the stage, it didn`t quite feel real that the show was really over and that we needed to head home. I was really disappointed that they didn`t play Everlasting Light, not only because it is a phenomenal song, but because it was the song performed at Ariel`s memorial and always makes me shiver and think of her when I hear it play. Despite it not being performed, I still carried the thought in my heart and hopefully one day will be able to see them play it live in her memory.
I honestly didn`t expect Osheaga to be such an emotional whirlwind of a weekend. I knew the week leading up that I was incredibly excited and that it was going to be a ton of fun, but I never imagined it would be as incredible as it was. Through the heat, sweat, tears, joy, and aching feet, I felt invincible this weekend and I couldn`t have done it without my ridiculous partner in crime who was always down to get turnt and drop a set, Kaylee.
Till next time, Osheaga!