Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011


osheaga 20111 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011Music festivals have come and gone in Canada, but one which seems to have taken hold and established an identity is Montreal’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. Conveniently scheduled right at the end of July, and picturesquely located on its own island by the Saint Lawrence River, it brought fans from across the country and elsewhere up close and personal with nearly 100 bands and DJs. It’s not quite as big as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Coachella yet, but Osheaga is well on its way to becoming a preferred summer destination. I lost track of the number of times artists referred to it as a “beautiful festival,” and anyone who I talked to couldn’t stop raving about what a great time they were having.

Because of the quality of headliners Osheaga attracted in 2010, it necessitated an expansion to three full days, a move that proved to be an unqualified success. (Just ask the beer and merchandise vendors!) It was an eventful weekend. The vibe was off the charts, the food was great, beer was literally brought to you, there were spectacular fireworks, and there was even a wedding presided over by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. Remember what they say: Whatever happens in Montreal…ends up on Consequence of Sound! And the best part of all? Looks like Osheaga is here to stay – The 2012 edition is already scheduled for August 3rd-5th next year!

-Gilles Leblanc
Staff Writer

Friday, July 29th

Sweet Thing – Galaxie Tree Stage – 4:00 p.m.

sweetthing1 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Toronto pop rockers Sweet Thing got the sixth edition of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival off to a flying start – Literally! Charismatic lead singer Owen Carrier seemed determined to fire up everyone gathered at the scenic Tree Stage for the long weekend ahead. He let some patrons up front shake his streamer-laden tambourine, and he also took a swig from a unsuspecting festivalgoer’s beer. I don’t think he left a tip, but here’s one from me to you… Check Sweet Thing out, especially the song “Change of Seasons”, recently featured in the trailer for Crazy, Stupid Love. -Gilles Leblanc

Kid Koala – BlackBerry River Stage – 4:00 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

After Kid Cudi’s cancellation, due to illness the morning of the festival, the festival managed to find another Kid…albeit in a koala bear costume. “I am not Kid Cudi,” Kid Koala announced through some booing from the audience before he launched into a light DJ set. Due to the last minute booking of his performance, he didn’t have his laptop with him, forcing him to stick to old fashioned record spinning at the turntable. Vintage yet unsuccessful, leaving much of the crowd to dissipate. Oh well. -Stewart Wiseman

Lights – Sennheiser Green Stage – 4:20 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Lights is the alias for Valerie Poxleitner, a lovely young girl from the same Northern Ontario town as Shania Twain. She plays cutesy electro pop with a tinge of guitar, which the young women not already at the main stage area for Eminem ate up. I don’t mean to accuse her of something like this, as she’s obviously talented, but it looked like her mic was on a bit too much of a fade at times, if you know what I mean (as in she MAY have been lip-synching). I caught her later happily posing for pictures at the artist’s entrance, so all is well as far as her fans are concerned! -Gilles Leblanc

The Knux – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 4:40 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

After a short DJ set, New Orleans’ own The Knux were welcomed to the stage with the crowd shouting “Knux! Knux! Knux! Knux!”. Oddly enough, the fanfare died down and festivalgoers remained rather stoic, despite suggestions by an energetic Krispy. But, here’s an act that’s different than many in the highly contested genre. For one, the members can fill in on instruments when they’re not rhyming. During “Capuccino”, Joey laid some guitar solos down that worked behind Krispy’s flow. It was this versatility that brought the crowd up again, and by the time they reached “Bang Bang”, their closer for the set, the crowd knew they were seeing quality rappers with a bright future to come. –Stewart Wiseman

Uncle Bad Touch – Galaxie Tree Stage – 5:00 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

No creepy, incestuous in-laws back at the Tree Stage, just some straightforward, honest-to-goodness garage rock by a band from Montreal titillatingly called Uncle Bad Touch. With a healthy dose of Led Zeppelin thrown in. Not only that, two of their four members are female, including a tambourine player named Julia who was making her debut with them. And I found out from singer/bassist ‘Mikey’ that they’re coming to Toronto in a few weeks to play a free show with Parlovr Formidable! -Gilles Leblanc

Charles Bradley – BlackBerry River Stage – 5:20 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

At 63 years old, it’s a wonder why Charles Bradley wasn’t discovered earlier. At Osheaga, the new legend performed one of the most beloved sets of the weekend, and songs like the soul stirring “This World (Is Going Up In Flames)” had the whole audience grooving along. The good vibes carried out until the end, when Bradley finished his set with a surprise cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, reworked in an unimaginable soul comb over. That sent the Canadians over the edge – but also Bradley himself. The grateful look in his eyes hinted that he’s finally found his place in music: amongst the great soul voices of our time. -Stewart Wiseman

Broken Social Scene – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 6:10 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

The Canadian indie-rock pioneers attracted the first big crowd of the day, and vocalist Kevin Drew thanked Montreal for how well they’ve been treated over the last 10 years, stating how the band can always depend on the city to be there for them. Opening with “KC Accidental”, Broken Social Scene bled out their trademark raw energy, issuing solid cuts of “Forced to Love”, “Texico Bitches”, and a cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large”. A couple of surprises, though. For “Almost Crimes” (off 2002’s You Forgot It in the People), Brendan Canning invited local singer Arielle Engle to join in for the biggest rocker of the set. And while “World Sick” didn’t make the 50 minute set, they did throw in “Meet Me in the Basement”, performed by not so much a band but better yet a tight family that maintains a very healthy relationship. -Stewart Wiseman

Bran Van 3000 – BlackBerry River Stage –  7:05 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

With Kid Cudi withdrawing due to illness, recently reunited Montreal collective Bran Van 3000 moved up a slot. It became somehow appropriate that they followed Broken Social Scene, as you could argue that they were the late-’90s precursor to BSS’ formation in Toronto, only more electronic. When telling other music fans that I was going to Osheaga, I was surprised to hear how many people not only remembered BV3, but wished they could come with me to hear songs like “Drinking in L.A.” (from their 1997 album Glee). Newer stuff from their 2010 comeback The Garden was very well received too, namely “Grace (Love on the Block)” and “Jahrusalem”, which incorporate rapping/hip hop along with costumes on stage. One girl dressed up like a peacock! -Gilles Leblanc

Joseph Arthur – Sennheiser Green Stage – 7:15 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

So it didn’t draw the most, but Joseph Arthur held quite an intimate evening set. The Akron, OH folk singer started the block in nontraditional fashion – by painting. After finishing a modernist Picasso-esque piece, Arthur turned to his band of foot pedals, and swam about in his sea of loops. As much as the crowd asked him to play “Into the Sun”, he never touched it and stuck mainly to material from his latest effort, Graduation Ceremony. Lyrical lessons arrived in the form of “Black Lexus” and “Honey and the Moon”, the latter highlighting his essential strengths of providing words of wisdom via poetry. Where else would you see a spoken word piece involving oil paints? -Stewart Wiseman

The Rural Alberta AdvantageGalaxie Tree Stage – 8:00 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Another Canadian draw, The Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA) took to one of the festival’s smallest stages, which in turn produced the most excited (and packed in) audience of the day. Travelers from all over – Calgary and St. Johns, to name a couple – arrived to see the group. So appreciative this crowd was – the last time RAA performed at Osheaga was ’09 – that at moments, the die-hards sang louder than singer Nils Edenloff. Still supporting their latest effort, 2011’s Departing, the set was quite heavy with newer material, with one standout being “Tornado 87”, thanks to its irresistibly catchy chorus. A key to the band’s success is their wide range of sounds. From the beautiful “In the Summertime” in which Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff traded vocals, to the rocking finale “The Deathbridge In Lethbridge” where drummer Paul Banwatt was at his best. Because of this, the RAA are a band loaded with songs for every musical taste, and their performance on Friday night was only a glimpse into what’s to come. -Stewart Wiseman

Janelle Monáe – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 8:05 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Janelle Monáe didn’t just take advantage of the huge crowd waiting for Eminem; she knocked a home run right out of Parc Jean-Drapeau and into the Saint Lawrence River with a performance that had Montreal raving about her so much, she became a trending topic on Twitter. It was funky to the max, energetic beyond belief, and boundlessly creative. With her backing band sharply decked out in varying degrees of black and white, Monáe entered fully covered in a cloak accompanied by two similarly dressed “druids” before shedding her garment and launching into “Dance or Die” off her breakthrough album The ArchAndroid. We got her hits “Cold War” and “Tightrope” back-to-back, as well as an absolutely KILLER cover of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. We even got to see her artistic side as she painted an impromptu picture in glitter during instrumental parts of songs. -Gilles Leblanc

Eminem – BlackBerry River Stage –  9:20 p.m.

One word heard all night Friday during Eminem’s return to Canada as a headliner was « malade. » Translated, it means sick, with a similar meaning to how English-speaking kids use it today slang-wise, only more amplified, more frenzied. Yeah, I’d say it’s a suitable way to characterize the Osheaga-record throng of 38,000 ‘hip hop heads’ who came to see Mr. Mathers before he hits Chicago for the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza. Eminem sure wasn’t afraid to play up that we were witnessing something historic, from the dramatic opening video to the hard road he’s been on that led to his latest chart toppers Relapse and Recovery, pausing occasionally to remind Montreal how much he’s missed the city.

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Photo by Bobby Foley

I don’t know about momentous, but there were an abundance of highlights – Royce da 5’9” made a guest appearance for “Fast Lane” and “Lighters” (Em even wore a white Bad Meets Evil T-shirt to commemorate the occasion). There were tributes to 2Pac and Nate Dogg. But the biggest cheers were saved for Eminem’s greatest hits medley, where he rapped a verse from each of “My Name Is”, “The Real Slim Shady”, and “Without Me”. That is until everyone lost their collective $#!% when they heard the riff to ‘Lose Yourself’ after a short encore break. An explosive finish to a stellar Day 1 of Osheaga! -Gilles Leblanc

Saturday, July 30th

The 222s – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 1:00 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

The thing that was maybe most impressive about Osheaga in 2011 was how receptive the crowds were to so many bands, even The 222s, who were probably NEVER up this early back in their late-1970s punk prime. Hailed back then as one of the genre’s first ever bands from Quebec, they reformed last year for North by Northeast, but this was their debut at a fest like Osheaga. And it doesn’t look like this will be just another one-off, as they had people bopping their heads to their fun fun fun Ramones-indebted songs like ‘I Love Suzan.’ -Gilles Leblanc

The Midway State – BlackBerry River Stage –  1:30 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Montreal and Toronto aren’t always the best of friends, for reasons that extend far beyond music. The “Centre of the Universe”, as Toronto is sometimes called derogatively outside its borders, actually had quite a heavy presence at Osheaga 2011, including alt-rockers The Midway State. They just released their second album, Paris or India, a couple of weeks ago, and were in full showcase mode Saturday afternoon. By the reaction new tracks like “Alive”, “Fire!”, and “Lightning” got when they were played, it was as if a busload of Torontonians had made the 6+ hour trip to the festival…and encouraged everyone else to cheer them on! -Gilles Leblanc

Manchester Orchestra – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 2:00 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

“I took French for seven years and failed every year of it,” frontman Andy Hull announced to an adoring crowd. Luckily, he didn’t need his French skills to communicate to the French speaking crowd; from the first strum of his guitar the crowd was already into it. Atlanta, GA’s Manchester Orchestra knocked out 40 minutes of catchy pop-rock. With vocals that ranged from soft-spoken to aggressive rage, Andy Hull made the crowd familiar with his music, which seemed fitting given that the first time they played in Montreal there were only 18 people in the crowd. “Shake It Out” turned things up a notch, building a chin dance from the crowd. All in all, a very surprisingly enjoyable set. -Stewart Wiseman

The High Dials – Galaxie Tree Stage – 2:10 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

In need of some shade after being out in the open and exposed directly to the sun, I headed to the comfortable Tree Stage for the first time Saturday to take note of The High Dials from Montreal. They didn’t help cool me off much, as their psychedelic rock-meets-power pop got bodies working up a sweat, and when their saxophone-playing friend joined them for a handful of songs, forget about it! And I must say, they also had the most radical-looking amplifier case of anyone I covered at Osheaga, as it was littered with stickers of admirable bands like The Kills and Franz Ferdinand as well as places they’ve conceivably travelled to in the relatively short time they’ve been together. -Gilles Leblanc

Hey Rosetta!BlackBerry River Stage –  2:40 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Hey Rosetta! has been receiving more and more attention as of late, and their set at Osheaga helped them win over many new fans. The folk-rockers from Newfoundland mainly played songs off their latest LP Seeds, and proved to the audience why they were put on the Polaris Prize short list. The crowd picked up “Yer Spring” relatively quickly, and echoed the line “I’m going up!” along with vocalist Tim Baker for the song’s entirety. Smiles were apparent on the faces of many in the crowd, and it seems that Hey Rosetta!’s music has a way of lifting the spirits of a whole audience. This was quite apparent when the band closed with a cover of The Constantines’ “Do What You Can Do”, an anthem about doing more to help others, which Hey Rosetta! definitely did on Saturday by helping make Osheaga a memorable event. -Stewart Wiseman

Mother Mother – Galaxie Tree Stage – 3:10 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

After taking a quick beer break, I was amazed by how many more people were now at the Tree Stage in anticipation of Vancouver’s Mother Mother. Once mohawk sporting singer/guitarist Ryan Guldemond and the rest of his band got going, it was easy to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t know if the same holds true for the rest of the country, but these guys (and two girls, including Ryan’s sister Molly) are gaining a lot of steam in Toronto – Two songs from their 2011 album Eureka, “The Stand” and “Baby Don’t Dance”, have been getting significant airplay on modern rock radio station 102.1 The Edge, and they’re booked to playSound Academy this September. -Gilles Leblanc

Tokyo Police Club – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 3:20 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Over 40 minutes, vocalist and bassist David Monks’ high-energy antics kept the crowd in line, which happened to be the first great gathering of Saturday. Pulling from 2008’s Elephant Shell and 2010’s Champ, the Canadian outfit received the best response from earlier work, especially the tender “Tessellate” and “Nature of the Experiment”. In a smart move, they closed their set with the very fitting “Your English Is Good”, a song which united the voices of the French and English speaking people into one universal language. Much has changed here, and for the good. -Stewart Wiseman

John Butler Trio – BlackBerry River Stage –  4:00 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

I learned at Osheaga that Australia’s John Butler Trio have some pretty hardcore Canadian fans. They were the only band I can remember where people brought handmade signs for them – One in particular was from a “Sheila” claiming she had trekked all the way from Vancouver (nearly 5,000 kilometres, or 3,000 miles) JUST to see them!  I also learned that the John Butler Trio were one of the more rocking bands at Osheaga; when Butler himself wasn’t getting’ down and bluesy with his lap slide guitar, he was kickin’ up a proverbial storm playing banjo-fuelled bluesgrass. An easy highlight of the entire weekend for me. -Gilles Leblanc

Sam Roberts Band – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 4:50 p.m.

samrobertsosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

When Arcade Fire headlined Osheaga in 2010, it showed how powerful the Montreal crowd can get supporting a major hometown act, and that’s exactly what happened when Sam Roberts and crew hit the stage. The much anticipated set started with the heavy hitting “I Feel You”, off his recent critically acclaimed effort Collider, and from there the crowd just continued to ignite. His first performance at home, at least in support of his latest LP, Roberts worked with a devoted following, which altogether felt more or less like a homecoming. As a result, he brought out some close friends, including Elizabeth Powell (lead singer of Land of Talk), who performed backup vocals on “Longitude”, and renown Montreal sax man Chet Doxas who joined Roberts’ brass section. To close out the set, Roberts shouted to the audience, “On va chanter ensemble mes amis,” before kicking into “Brotherdown”. In any other festival in the States, Sam Roberts might just be a second thought on a festival lineup; but in Montreal he was one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend. -Stewart Wiseman

PS I Love You – Galaxie Tree Stage – 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

PS I Love You are rapidly becoming the type of band you don’t ever get tired of seeing live, as something memorable is always bound to happen. When I saw them a little over a month ago at NXNE, Paul Saulnier and drummer Ben Nelson blew out an amp by the sheer force of their rawk. At Osheaga, Saulnier ‘only’ broke a string off his guitar, but he hardly bat an eye as he was too busy trying not to bite his protruding tongue. He also showed a good deal of wit, saying things like, “Don’t cheer, I’m just the roadie,” and “We’re PS I Love You, and we only have 12 minutes left.” I foresee big, big things for these Kingston boys. -Gilles Leblanc

Lupe Fiasco- Budweiser Mountain Stage – 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

After a day chock full of rap and hip hop, Lupe Fiasco had all of Saturday to own the genre. Chicago’s finer export kicked off with “Shining Down” which saw him parade around the stage in glory. Unlike some other acts, Fiasco didn’t need to try hard to pump up the crowd, as they were ready and willing to party. Where many rappers rely on beats to accompany their music, Fiasco’s band blended rock sounds with his rhymes in a surprisingly good combination. Things got weird halfway through his set, however, when Fiasco went on an anti-American rant that had many scratching their heads instead of cheering, but then again this is the same rapper who labeled President Barack Obama as “the biggest terrorist”.  Oh well. Closing with his biggest hit “The Show Goes On”, Fiasco brought the energy back and the party started once more. No new fans per se, but those who turned out had a blast. -Stewart Wiseman

Death from Above 1979 – BlackBerry River Stage –  7:25 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Having seen Death from Above 1979 less than two weeks before at the Quebec City Summer Festival, I didn’t think they could get much more intense, but they may have actually topped what drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger himself called the best show so far on their reunion tour. The mosh pit at the main stage bordered on the insane, but what was even crazier (yet infinitely cool), was how several of Grainger’s friends in music, such as Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Jimmy Shaw from Metric (who he owns a recording studio in Toronto with), came out to support him and Jesse F. Keeler from down in front, in the photographer’s area, as opposed to side stage. -Gilles Leblanc

Ratatat – Sennheiser Green Stage – 8:15 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

A friend of mine who’s more well versed in electronica than yours truly insisted I see Ratatat, touting them as the “American Daft Punk.” I don’t know if I agree entirely with his declaration, but I’ll give Ratatat this: They know how to draw a crowd and throw a heck of a unique dance party, complete with a glassy, monolith-shaped projection system to add to everyone’s, um, trip! Dope, hand waving beats from mastermind producer Evan Mast were accentuated by bendy guitarist Mike Stroud. They were fun, but the festivities at the Green Stage would only get louder and more penetratingly pulsating as the weekend wore on… -Gilles Leblanc

Bright Eyes – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 8:15 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

To follow Fiasco’s fiesta was a little unfortunate for Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes. As a result, he arrived to a much smaller crowd, though this didn’t affect the band’s performance at all. Opening with “Four Winds”, the female-heavy audience serenaded Oberst with his own lyrics; a trend which continued throughout most of the night. “Poison Oak” started out soft and mellow, like the majority of Bright Eyes songs, but had an emotional climb towards the end of the song, building up higher and higher and making it one of the highlights from their set. “The Calendar Hung Itself” was a particularly dark and moody number, contrasting slightly with the other more upbeat songs. Performing closing duties, “One for You, One for Me” rang loud as a perfect anthem and one of the best of the night, leaving their many fans with a message of endearing hope. Much needed today. -Stewart Wiseman

Elvis Costello & the Imposters – BlackBerry River Stage –  9:20 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

The second night of Osheaga was, er, a bit of an anomaly compared to the rest of the festival. Once the carnage had subsided following Death from Above 1979, it was time for Elvis Costello’s carnival to roll into town; he even brought a go-go dancer and strongman scale. (The “Hammer of Songs.”) Unfortunately for the 40 year music veteran, the assembled masses couldn’t have been more indifferent – At best, it was maybe a quarter of the size of Eminem’s audience from Friday. Not much of a ‘mass’ by any means. And that’s a shame, because it’s not like he didn’t belong there; his “Watching the Detectives”, “Everyday I Write the Book”, “Alison”, “Radio Radio”, “Bedlam”, “I Want You”, “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”, and “Clubland” all form the basis of present-day alternative rock. And he gave it his all, too. Those who were there will tell you they had a rollicking good time. I felt bad for ol’ Elvis, but that said, I still left before his encore to see the end of Fucked Up’s set at the Tree Stage. Any guilt I may have been feeling went away rather quickly when Damian Abraham presented Sebastien Grainger as a special guest to ‘sing’ a F’ed Up song with him and do some crowd surfing among his francophone peeps! -Gilles Leblanc

Fucked Up – Galaxie Tree Stage – 10:10 p.m.

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Photo by Stewart Wiseman

At a festival where most of the people could be labeled as pot-smoking hippies, the Fucked Up crowd of punks and hardcore fans was a rare sight. After Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham brought out his son for an appearance, the band arrived too and wasted no time in getting the crowd psyched up, starting with “Queen of Hearts”. The song didn’t even start yet before Abraham was interacting with all his fans from the photo pit, and it only took two songs for him to lose his shirt, crowd surf, and join the romping mosh pit. Naturally, Osheaga sent their toughest security guards to work this set, and they were the busiest they had to be all festival. Admittedly, the messages in these songs can often be lost due to the loud nature of the show, but Fucked Up has put together some great love songs, which is often a challenge for hardcore bands. Of course, that’s the last thing anyone’s thinking about while they’re performing, but on record, especially their latest LP,  David Comes To Life, it’s something to always consider. There’s much more to this shirtless maniac than what meets the eye. -Stewart Wiseman

Sunday, July 31st

Elephant Stone – Galaxie Tree Stage – 1:00 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

After everything that had happened at Osheaga over its first two days, it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least to have heard someone on the Montreal Metro say, “You know what this festival REALLY needs? A band to seriously rock a SITAR!” Enter Elephant Stone, the brainchild of Rishi Dhir, a former member of The High Dials, who of course played the day before. There are sonic similarities between the two competing groups, but where Elephant Stone takes psychedelia to a new level is when Dhir stretches barefoot on a raised area to jam with his Indian imported instrument. Groovy, man! -Gilles Leblanc

The Sheepdogs -Budweisier Mountain Stage – 1:00 p.m.

sheepdogsosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

The Sheepdogs cracked open Sunday with some good old fashioned rock and roll. The Saskatoon natives have been making the rounds, thanks to their fame via Rolling Stone, but they back up the words on print. Ewan Currie is everything a rock and roll frontman should be: great voice, works with the country rocker look, and enjoys cold beer for breakfast. Musically, it’s just as picture perfect. Country rocker “I Don’t Know” sounds like it came straight out of the 1970’s, with Currie and bassist Ryan Gullen trading vocals, while a song like “Southern Dreaming”, specifically that guitar hook, kept the crowd awake and dancing. Good things to come. -Stewart Wiseman

Typhoon – BlackBerry River Stage –  1:30 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

No, not every indie musical ensemble who prominently feature string and horn arrangements in the 2000s are Arcade Fire rip-offs. (Or is that Shark Attack now?) But when you play the same stage as they did the year before, in their hometown no less, there are bound to be comparisons. Portland, Oregon’s Typhoon didn’t make anyone at Osheaga forget who Arcade Fire is; however, they definitely won themselves some new fans with their determination to make it to the festival combined with outstanding musicianship. Anyone with dueling drum kits is worth a listen! -Gilles Leblanc

An Horse – Sennheiser Green Stage – 2:00 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Seeing all these different instruments producing such great sounds, I was taken aback somewhat to discover Australia’s An Horse are only a two-person band who probably would have fit in better yesterday. At first glance, I guess you could call them a “reverse White Stripes,” as there’s a girl named Kate Cooper on guitar and Damon Cox on drums (Sex = Male). I found them slightly underwhelming; if anything, they made me yearn for The White Stripes even more…or at least The Raconteurs. Sorry to digress, but I’d like to ask the Osheaga organizers to book Jack White, Brendan Benson and company for next year’s festival. Now! -Gilles Leblanc

Eels – BlackBerry River Stage –  2:50 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

The enigmatic Mark Oliver Everett brought his bearded Eels to Montreal for one of the more anticipated slots of the Osheaga Festival. He looked to be ecstatic to be there, high fiving bandmates after songs and yelling nonsensical things like “We did it!” Focusing mainly on his recent Eels album trilogy (Hombre Loco, End Times and Tomorrow Morning), I’d say it was a triumphant return to Canada for the man simply known as E – It rocked, it was soulful in a Blues Brothers kind of way, and it was plenty weird, but we’ve come to expect that from him since Beautiful Freak introduced us to E’s world in 1996. And I think he was the only artist to express his love for poutine. And maple glazed donuts, apparently! -Gilles Leblanc

The Sounds – Budweiser Mountain Stage –  3:30 p.m.

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Photo by Gilles Leblanc

Does anyone reading know the Swedish equivalent for “Damn?!”As in “Damn, are The Sounds ever awesome!” Considerably more rocking than ABBA, but not quite as punkish as The Hives…I think the majority of people at the Budweiser Stage would concur with me that their “new” New Wave was just right for Osheaga. I KNOW a lot of red (and white)-blooded males in the audience were transfixed on sexy Sounds lead singer Maja Ivarsson. And I know it got awfully hot in Montreal that weekend, but those little black bicycle shorts she was wearing? All I can say is…DAMN! (Or is that jävla?!) -Gilles Leblanc

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Sennheiser Green Stage – 4:15 p.m.

tpobpah1 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

As luck would have it, my feet were hurting pretty bad by the time New York City’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took to Osheaga’s Green Stage. It didn’t take long for them to be joined by my ears, but in the best manner possible. Their driving, all-out guitar assault was pure bliss to me. I can see why their album Belong has been so highly regarded this year. I must look into this “Nu Gaze” movement more, as I definitely heard echoes of NYC’s own Sonic Youth, Gish and Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, and My Bloody Valentine. I especially found it cool how singer Kip Berman even stopped at one point to acknowledge someone wearing a MBV T-shirt. -Gilles Leblanc

Cypress Hill – BlackBerry River Stage – 4:20 p.m.

cypresshillosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Sunday saw a fun, nostalgic site: Cypress Hill. Whether it was intentional or not remains to be seen, but the veteran hip hop stars performed at 4:20 p.m. and naturally the smell of weed was inescapable near the stage.  With the exception of The Flaming Lips, the West Coast rappers attracted the biggest crowd of the day and they were definitely the most adrenalized. B-Real started the set with a short freestyle before calling on Sen Dog to join with him on “Shoot ‘Em Up”, which had fans making finger guns in the air. “Are you fucking high right now?” B-Real asked the crowd to mass applause, edging them on to smoke more and more. By the time the set ended with “Rock Superstar”, it was hard to find one person in the front row whose eyes weren’t bloodshot, a mission accomplished for Cypress Hill. -Stewart Wiseman

Viva Brother – Galaxie Tree Stage – 5:00 p.m.

vivabrother3 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

A music festival just doesn’t seem complete without some flair and flavor from the UK. Thank goodness latest buzz band Viva Brother made the trip to Canada. They describe their sound as “Gritpop”, or a grittier version of mid-’90s Britpop as practiced by Blur and Oasis. Speaking of Oasis, if you were to tell me Viva Brother frontman Leonard Newell was a relative of the Gallaghers, I’d probably believe you. His eyes also seem to have a bit of a Thom Yorke ‘droop’ to them; if that’s not a perfect pedigree for rock ’n’ roll success, I’m not sure what is. If that wasn’t enough, they had someone in a full-blown gorilla suit (and Viva Brother T-shirt) show up at their Osheaga set and bounce nonstop with their arms in the air! -Gilles Leblanc

Beirut – BlackBerry River Stage – 5:50 p.m.

beirutosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

“It’s great to be back in the land of poutine,” vocalist Zach Condon joked early in the set, before speaking to the crowd in surprisingly good French. Beirut’s music was able to put all the festival goers under a trance, creating a relaxing atmosphere for the evening set. “Nantes” had the entire crowd clapping and cheering along from the moment Condon raised his trumpet. Zach Condon’s a talented multi-instrumentalist, but bad luck hit him when his ukulele’s sound failed to be picked up across the speaker system. After trying a few times, he decided to give up and move onto “Scenic World” which literally moved the audience. Overall, the combination of poetic lyrics and rousing horns won over the crowd, and Beirut’s set was spoken about for the rest of the evening. -Stewart Wiseman

City and Colour – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 6:35 p.m.

cityandcolourosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

City and Colour started their performance with “Sleeping Sickness”, welcomed by cheers from the crowd, which only grew louder when Dallas Green invited Tragically Hip vocalist Gordon Downie to the stage to sing a verse. Alexisonfire and City and Colour could not be further apart musically, and the introspective music had the crowd pleased and clapping on songs like “Weightless” and “Fragile Bird” from this year’s release, Little Hell. The set wrapped up not long after that with “Sometimes (I Wish)”, leaving fans disappointed as the band only played 30 minutes of the 50 that they were supposed to play before the delays. (Fans that caught Toronto’s critically acclaimed rapper Shad’s set at 8:00 were treated to a surprise in his opener, as he brought out Dallas Green to sing the chorus to his song “Live Forever”.) To make up for their short set, City and Colour promised to be back in Montreal soon for a full length concert; leaving their many faithful waiting for the day where they can enjoy Green’s poetry once again. -Stewart Wiseman

White Lies – Sennheiser Green Stage – 6:55 p.m.

whitelies3 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

White Lies’ Harry McVeigh struck me as having an amazing beautiful ‘alternative’ singing voice, reminiscent of Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode. They have some downright gloomy sounding songs and lyrics (i.e. “Holy Ghost”, “Death”, and debut album To Lose My Life), yet I found them fairly pedestrian, almost gentlemanly, especially compared to the rougher-around-the-edges Viva Brother. I loved how they joked about this fact, saying how while it may have looked like they were crying occasionally, they were actually sweating. Polite like Coldplay, but with more underground indie credibility…for now! -Gilles Leblanc

The Tragically Hip – BlackBerry River Stage – 7:25 p.m.

tragicallyhiposheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

It’s hard to watch The Tragically Hip and not solely focus on Gord Downie running around the stage with odd-ball antics, apparent right from the start on opener “Grace, Too”. Too much time is often spent watching Downie, that the guys behind him actually making the music are left under-appreciated, but guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker were superb at their craft and were critical in the great performance The Tragically Hip put on. Songs like “Bobcaygeon” and “New Orleans Is Sinking” had the entire crowd roaring the lyrics back at the band; a true testament to how influential The Tragically Hip have been for almost three decades in shaping the sound of Canadian music. The band closed with the rocker “Little Bones” that lifted the spirits of the entire crowd, many of whom came to the festival for the sole purpose of seeing the Hip; and by the end of the set everyone knew why The Tragically Hip will go down as Canadian legends. -Stewart Wiseman

Crystal Castles – Sennheiser Green Stage – 8:15 p.m.

crystalcastles2 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

It’s not that I don’t or can’t appreciate club-style electronica at a rock festival – I think it’s brilliant that Osheaga has the Piknic Electronik as a place for people to dance or chill out. That said, I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t ‘get’ Crystal Castles’ strobe-flashing, seizure-inducing live show. Seriously, why does Alice Glass have a mic? It’s not like we can ever make out what she’s singing, and she doesn’t really add much else other than inciting crowds even further by jumping into the sea of bodies to surf. Security didn’t like how her actions inspired some to climb trees either. They did end with their cover of The Cure’s “Not in Love”, even though it took us all a minute to recognize it because of all the distortion. -Gilles Leblanc

Death Cab For Cutie – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 8:25 p.m.

deathcabosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

For a band coming out of Washington state, the pressure is always there to match up to other local greats like Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and Pearl Jam. For 10 years and counting, Death Cab for Cutie has managed to rise to fame without the roaring rock ‘n’ roll, commanding a devout legion of fans, all of whom can recite any of their lyrics in their sleep. This extends out into Canada, of course. After an extended intro that saw Ben Gibbard go from guitar to piano, “I Will Possess Your Heart” launched the group into a slightly erratic set. Two songs into their performance, Ben Gibbard’s guitar started acting up on him, and after replacing it with another guitar that wasn’t working, he showed his professionalism when he sat down at the edge of the stage to serenade his loving fans instead of stopping the entire song. Favorites like “Soul Meets Body or “The Sound of Settling” worked well, but so did new single “You Are a Tourist”. Technical problems aside, the gig was a joy. -Stewart Wiseman

The Flaming Lips – BlackBerry Stage – 9:25 p.m.

flaminglipsosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Before The Flaming Lips started their festival closing performance, frontman Wayne Coyne advised the audience about his strong strobe lights and to be careful with his giant space bubble; but what he should have warned the crowd about was that his performance may induce acid trips. Right from the very beginning with the band members walking out of an illusionary door in an LED screen, the audience knew they were experiencing perhaps the most jaw-dropping rock show they’ll ever see. Coyne eagerly anticipated this performance and told the crowd that he last played Osheaga in 2006, and that Osheaga is not just one of the greatest festivals in Canada, but is one of the greatest in the entire world.

flaminglipsosheaga2 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Alongside a cast of characters dolled up a la Wizard of Oz, Coyne & Co. rolled out their 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in full (with the exception of “Buggin’”) to a crowd that may not have been familiar with their work, but who knew theatrics when they saw it (this is the city where Cirque du Soleil was born after all). Halfway through the performance, however, Coyne (looking truly emotional) told the crowd that sometimes this album has the power to “fuck him up” and that this may be the last time that anyone ever sees it performed in full live. This would be a shame, especially since it builds to quite the climax. The end of the album is just electric, and on Sunday, “The Spiderbite Song” attracted cheers from all who were there to witness the end to a great weekend at Osheaga 2011.

ozosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Stewart Wiseman

Before finishing his set, though, Coyne called upon one of his many Dorothy’s and another man dressed as the Cowardly Lion for a wedding ceremony. Coyne announced that the two were from Calgary and that they met at Osheaga that morning, took 10 hits of acid each, and then decided to get married. “With all the power vested in me by the universe, The Flaming Lips, Montreal, and LSD; I now pronounce you man and wife!” Coyne proclaimed for the new happy couple, before launching into “Do You Realize??” -the last song of the set. Now, how were you planning to get married again? -Stewart Wiseman

MSTRKRFT – Sennheiser Green Stage – 9:50 p.m.

mstrkrft2 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

Photo by Gilles Leblanc

There’s no use trying to review MSTRKRFT’s DJ set other than they altered the entire space near the Green Stage into the biggest rave I’ve ever seen! Standing side-by-side at an oversized steel table, donning headphones occasionally but always with a smoke in their mouths it seemed, DFA 1979’s Jesse F. Keeler and his longtime friend Al-P pushed the sardine squished crowd to a veritable fever pitch with their high-speed, aggressive, bone-rattling rhythms. It was an unconventional way for anyone with leftover energy to get themselves tired and ready for a long sleep after a weekend unlike any other, but hey, it worked for me! -Gilles Leblanc

The Culture of Osheaga

Gallery by Gilles Leblanc and Stewart Wiseman

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