The Nation was well represented at Osheaga

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by Dan Isaac and Matt Dessner

In its 13th iteration, the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, the crown jewel of Canadian music festivals, invaded Parc Jean-Drapeau’s Île Notre-Dame August 3-5 for a sold-out musical odyssey while construction continues on new amphitheatre at the old site on Île Sainte-Hélène.

About 45,000 people attended each day of Osheaga. With many from out of town, the fans help transform the entire city when the yearly spectacle trots into town. It’s a bit of a circus. The population grows by thousands, and likely gets younger by decades. It’s bro-ey-er, hence the affectionate nickname: Brosheaga.

It’s a time when adults get to act like kids, and come together with other music lovers to make memories. And there was plenty to choose from.

From local talent to up-and-comers from the UK to international music icons, the festival had a little something for everyone. Genre-wise too, it was a buffet of musical delights.

But the dominant theme of this year’s Osheaga (if there was one) was rap – or hip-hop, as the kids are calling it. Everyday saw a major hip-hop act headline one of the main stages.

Of course it’s not just about the music. Like the first day of school, fashion always takes centre stage at Osheaga. It’s a time when everyone in attendance dresses up or down to impress, while the musicians shine a light on upcoming and timeless fashion trends.

It was a scorcher this year, leading to much dressing down, but the festival did its part to keep people cool and hydrated. Fire hoses drenched fans at several stages.

It was the ideal landmark for friends to find friends they had lost in the crowd, or bump into one’s they hadn’t seen in years.

Speaking of bumping into people, the Nation was well-represented as production coordinator Dan Isaac, designer Matt Dessner, journalist Josh Grant, and editor Lyle Stewart all made a pilgrimage to Parc Jean-Drapeau for at least one day of the festival.

Day 1

Osheaga started strong with performances by indie-electronic duos Sylvain Esso and Chromeo and continued with the eclectic, guitar-driven melodies of St. Vincent and the sombre rock act, Cigarettes After Sex.

Tim Snow

Following the early acts, front woman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sandra O, owned the main stage belting out the band’s classic songs such as “Zero” and “Maps”. Then the Australian electronic act Odesza wowed the crowd with pyrotechnics on the adjacent stage.

While most of the bros stayed at the main stage to see Travis Scott who headlined the first day of performances, some more enlightened listeners headed over to a stage. Here, James Blake’s down-tempo electronic style hypnotized the audience – and also quite possibly the swarm of flies that circled his head throughout the entire performance.


Day 2

The second day began with local artists gracing the smaller stages. Montreal bands John Jacob Magistery and Ponctuation both stunned with energetic performances – and despite the many hung-over souls in the audience, people showed up in droves to support the home-grown talent.

Tim Snow

As the day continued, a blast from the past hit the stage with Blondie’s 73-year-old singer Debbie Harry sporting a cape that read, “Stop Fucking The Planet.” The attitude matched as she rocked a vibrant audience of all ages with classics like “One Way or Another” and “Call Me”. The dancing continued with solid performances by the soulful folk act Bahamas and the synth-led pop anthems of Future Islands.

As the sun set, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals took the crowd by storm with their whip-smart blend of rock and R&B, and the dancing, moshing and crowd-surfing continued as Arctic Monkeys began their closing show. The British rockers played all their hit songs and a very fatigued audience went home happy.

Day 3

While up-and-comers liked The Neighbourhood and Børns graced the outer stages in the early afternoon, closing night at Osheaga saw arguably the most star power hit the main stages.

First to hit a main stage on closing night was Post Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post. A true showman and amateur comedian, Post had the crowd in the palm of his hand for his entire set. Playing hits from his new album Beerbongs & Bentleys, the entire open-air venue sang along and swayed as the sun began to set.

Following that memorable set, melancholy indie-rock band The National blew the crowd away. Playing all their hits, the atmosphere was electric as the band set the stage for the dramatic closing act.

Florence + the Machine closed out the festival with a most memorable performance. The power of singer Florence Welsh’s voice alone was enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.

But it was Welsh’s interaction with the crowd that elevated the show to that special place. Stomping around the stage bare-footed, she belted out the angelic pop-rock ballads the band has become known for, and kept insisting that fans hug the person next to them. She even jumped into the crowd at one point to do the same – the perfect conclusion to an epic weekend of music.

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