Spareparts Goes to Osheaga 2013
As originally published on TheRooster.ca
Three eclectic days at Parc Jean-Drapeau went as quickly as they came for the festivalgoers of Osheaga 2013. Canada’s biggest summer music festival took place from August 2nd – 4th in Montreal and saw its fair share of both sunshine and rain. The sold-out crowd was treated to mostly fantastic performances and the low points were few and far between.
The festival grounds were large but filled with plenty to explore. Numerous free giveaways and contests could be found and the food options represented some of the finest local cuisine available, with everything from smoked meat sandwiches to a wide range of poutine varieties. The crowd members were, for the most part, fairly young and mostly laid back; it seemed that flower headbands were the top accessory among young ladies overflowing with excitement to finally hear The Lumineers perform “Flowers in Your Hair” live. The event was well organized, things never got too rowdy and the performances were wide-ranging in style. It was, in short, a pretty solid weekend all-around.
MY FAVORITE PERFORMANCES
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY – This was probably my absolute most beloved show of the entire weekend. I’ve seen this instrumental rock group a couple of times before but I was still caught off guard and overwhelmed (in a positive way) by what they had in store for the late Saturday crowd in attendance. I couldn’t tell you what songs were played – after a while they all blurred into one giant musical experience – but I can tell you the band did not relent from the first chords to the final explosion of lights. I spent most of the show with my eyes closed and my mind focused on the sounds; the lights from the stage appeared through my eyelids as pulsating glows of red and it became less like a normal concert performance and more like something resembling the trip through the stargate in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
IMAGINE DRAGONS – Radio-friendly pop/rock at its finest. The band may have been swinging for the mainstream fences but they were swinging hard. I only caught half of the show but even a cynical old man like me was wowed by the group’s stage presence. Lead singer Dan Reynolds kept commenting on how amazed he was by the audience’s overwhelming response to their music. Reynolds came across as sincere and genuinely humbled by the 40,000 screaming fans in front of him and his band. Seemingly everyone who stuck around for the whole set was amazed – one of my travel companions called it her favorite show of the festival and that sentiment was overheard multiple times throughout the crowded lines to the subway station exit on Sunday night.
CAPITAL CITIES – The first show of Osheaga 2013 started everything off on the right note. With their matching white jackets and synchronized dance moves, the band behind such hits as “Kangaroo Court” and “Safe and Sound” won the crowd over from the second they hit the stage. Plus, the band was incredibly approachable and friendly when my eagle-eyed girlfriend spotted them in the crowd and asked for a picture. High-energy in front of the crowd, personable out of the spot light – this band’s a class act all-around.
SILVERSUN PICKUPS – Another festival favorite thanks to countless hits from their three well-liked albums. Mother Nature provided this show with an extra bit of ambiance when an intense rainstorm kicked in towards the end; lead singer Brian Aubert took the mic to encourage audience members to not let their spirits be dampened. “There’s a storm coming,” Aubert said, “let’s get through it together.” The opening chords of “Lazy Eye” got the crowd cheering and sustained energy throughout its entire length. A shot on the big screen of Aubert taking a bow while a rainbow appeared in the sky over a field of screaming fans was one of the weekend’s most indelible images.
MUMFORD & SONS – Fantastic renditions of songs from both Sigh No More and Babel – the latter of which everyone else in the crowd was clearly more familiar with than I was. There were sing-a-longs a-plenty and even some beautiful white confetti raining down at the end of the encore. Not many flaws in the band’s performance, but it wasn’t the most amazing headlining show I’ve seen. Still, it was perfectly enjoyable (even when the slower songs made the pain in my feet that much more apparent).
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – Straight-up rock n’ roll from the New Jersey band that can’t be stopped. The band’s Friday night performance on one of the smaller side stages was a real treat for my ears.
FRIGHTENED RABBIT – A Sunday afternoon slot on the main stage suited this Scottish band perfectly. Lead singer Scott Hutchison’s interaction with the crowd was both heartfelt and hilarious – his charm and quick wit bolstered a set that was already strong thanks to powerful performances of emotional indie rock songs like “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and “The Woodpile”.
GROUPLOVE – Potentially the straight-up happiest group of hippies at the entire festival. Californian indie pop of the most gleeful order, Grouplove made for a perfect start to a sunny Saturday afternoon.
ELLIE GOULDING – Crackling sound and a practically inaudible songstress for 30 minutes made for a very frustrating time in a very packed crowd. I’d love to see her again with a proper sound system but the technical team at Osheaga really dropped the ball during this prime Friday evening slot.
NEW ORDER – Not exactly a band the kids in the crowd cared much about at all (it seems the organizers of the festival confused legacy for relevancy on every night of the weekend – see also The Cure and Beck). I’m actually a fan of this British 80’s band but even I was underwhelmed by their seemingly never-ending shoegazing set. A couple Joy Division covers and some recognizable hits helped ease the pain, but the crowd was restless throughout it all.
ALT-J – Sounded great but didn’t do a lot on stage. With such a unique sound and such talented musicians “indifference” shouldn’t have been the feeling I was left with.
JIMMY EAT WORLD – Their early Saturday afternoon set contained many songs that triggered high school memories but the band seemed to occupy a spot on the lineup simply as a novelty.
THE IN-BETWEEN SHOWS
With so many bands and such little time it isn’t exactly easy to give every artist your full attention. I’ve seen Frank Turner live a few times before and the parts of his performance that I caught were classic Turner (complete with more f-bombs than I could count). Shovels & Rope are an up-and-coming folk duo from South Carolina that provided a perfectly enjoyable background soundtrack to some relaxing time spent sitting down with some poutine. The Lumineers got their hits out of the way and padded their set with more than a couple covers. I’m not against cover songs at all but the band could really use some more original material to start truly earning the prime festival spots they’ve been wracking up over the past year. I’m not the biggest rap fan around but I know what I like and Kendrick Lamar made a lot of people happy with his minimal set – no dancers, no hype men, just a microphone and a DJ. Tegan & Sara always come across as authentic even when they’re in front of a massive festival crowd; their songs can speak to the love and the heartbreak that everyone has felt at one point or another but their set, as fine as it was, favored the synth-pop songs from their most recent album over their older fan favorites. The Calgary-born-and-bred sisters also made an appearance helping out Macklemore on “Same Love”, which I was told was a highlight of an otherwise mediocre set.
NOTED FOR NEXT TIME:
Learn when it’s worth it to stand for hours on end waiting for one band and when it’s ok to enjoy the shows while seated – standing for two hours during acts you could care less about means your feet will be killing you by the time the good stuff rolls around.
The guys strolling through the crowd with cold beer are both a blessing (cold beer on a hot day = good) and a curse (extremely easy access during every show = I’m broke).
The numerous ice cream carts sprinkled here and there need to be embraced because ice cream is good and dammit you’ve earned it after doing all that walking! …I could just be trying to justify my own weakness for sweet snacks here…
Perhaps I’m just perpetrating a stereotype here but there seemed to be a lot of smokers at Osheaga. If you’re asthmatic it might be best to pack an inhaler if you’re thinking of making it to Osheaga 2014.
Backpacks are essential but after the first day it’s not a bad idea to revise its contents for the sake of your back.
If you’re planning on sticking together with your group then some easily identifiable features (like matching hats or helium balloons) will assist with tracking each other down. Picking a central meeting place is also a wise idea to find someone or help you be found by others. Downloading an app like “Find Your Friends” can help in locating your crew but it will also drain your battery life significantly.
There are numerous charging stations located around the festival so it never hurts to bring your cable in case your phone dies (it likely will at some point).
Compared to other festivals I’d say Osheaga made for an above-average experience. It’s growing with each year and can only be getting better from here, so it’s definitely one to keep your eye on in 2014. The fact that it’s located in a big city adds lots of exciting options for exploring outside of the festival. Those who are averse to camping will likely be enticed by the fine shopping and nightlife options that Montreal has to offer. Osheaga may not have the breathtaking beauty of the Gorge at Sasquatch but it is becoming comparable to something like Lollapalooza, at least in terms of the lineup.
Did anyone else make the trip out to Montreal for the festival? Hit us up in the comments with your favorite memories from the weekend! Also, be sure to check out our Instagram and Twitter feeds for some pics and assorted highlights from the festival.