This year’s Osheaga music festival was one of such great scale and circumstance, it might as well be called Osheaga: Extreme. Under unrelenting sun and high temperatures the first two days followed by storms and downpours on Sunday, the crowds this year – over 120,000 people, we’ve heard, a huge leap from last year’s 81,000 – seemed to fill every nook and cranny around and between the five stages that spanned the newly expanded festival grounds. And on those stages, the music flowed non-stop…
The unspoken expectation of outdoor summer music festivals is that every year should be bigger and better, and somehow Osheaga manages it, even in its seventh year, even without a clear headliner – though The Black Keys, who closed the fest on Sunday, complete with an eye-popping Moment Factory light show, are a big enough name now to utterly pack the double-wide main stage area with fans (even the rain stopped for them).
Meanwhile, further into Park Jean-Drapeau, M83 had a huge crowd dancing, glowsticks and all, the awesome Asexuals rocked out to an appreciative if too-small audience, and Knife Party on the Piknic Electronik stage had everyone in a sweaty, dancing frenzy.
But let’s go back to the beginning. With the sunshine, the humidity and an at-capacity, sold-out Friday. The day started with Hey Ocean! and The Walkmen, and the real fun began when Fun., their breakout hit “We Are Young” and a high-energy performance. Way over on the Verte stage, Poliça beat the heat, followed by a surprisingly big crowd for Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men.
Saturday as a whole had a more mellow vibe, from the sun-filled main stages – starting with Portugal: The Man followed by a truly inspired set by pros Calexico and Montreal’s Plants and Animals – to the smaller stages where Memoryhouse, The Raveonettes and Young Galaxy turned the crowd on with melodic synthesizer-rich pop.
By evening, Germany’s Brandt Brauer Frick was bringing joy to the Piknic Electronik dancing crowd, as A$AP Rocky gained thousands of new fans at the Verte stage, and Brand New did their California-punk-pop-hardcore thing over on the de la Montagne stage, one of the two side-by-side main stagesNight time brought Garbage back to life, big time, with hits new and old, followed by Feist, her guitar, beautiful back-up singers and heavy-hitting band.
Something completely different was happening over on the Verte stage, where The Jesus and Mary Chain joyously resurrected a certain faction of the early-90s – and it was awesome, complete with actor Jessica Paré singing on Just Like Honey and Sometimes, Always and a crowd, young and old (by which we mean over 30; everything’s relative…), that knew all the words.
Sunday’s rain storms didn’t diminish the heat, literal or figurative. Another sold-out crowd filled the Osheaga site with festival fans who didn’t seem to mind the mud at all. As the rain came down, Dan Mangan and his band brought the energy up immediately, followed by the marvelous Aloe Blacc and Common, who MCed over all manner of remixes.
Over on the Verte stage, Austra wooed us, as did Michael Kiwanuka and Sandro Perri on the des Arbres stage. As the rain seemed to let up, big names took over the main stages: Passion Pit brought their brand of pop straight-up to frenzied fans, and Santigold delighted and surprised many with musical prowess, neon costumes, dance acts and boundless energy.
Rock came on strong with Tame Impala and a little softer with City and Colour, followed by The Shins, who played their hits and lesser known songs tight and to the crowd, Osheaga stalwart and crowd fave Metric, and the always awesome, aforementioned The Black Keys.
On the Piknic stage, Buraka Som Sistema made new fans all over the dancefloor, while over on the now very muddy Verte stage French musician and artist Woodkid brought the weird and wonderful and Bloc Party had soaked, happy fans hopping, hands in the air, crowd surfing and singing along – the kind of spirit that might only be found at a tens-of-thousands-strong, three-day weekend of music, rain, shine and extreme fun.
Check out the complete set of Osheaga 2012 photos by Eva Blue on the Montreal Buzz Flickr.
Photos: Eva Blue