The theme of this years Osheaga Music and Arts Festival could have been titled The Price of Success. What had been building as a niche event for musically aware fans since 2006 turned into a juggernaut in 2012, seemingly overnight. For the first time in their history, Osheaga organizers had to deal with sellout crowds, even with the grounds at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helens Island having been expanded considerably. The lineup was that good, featuring a mix of artists parachuting in and out of Lollapalooza, as well as some band grabs exclusive to Montreal that had the fest community buzzing in the months leading up to it.
Try as she might, Mother Nature could not put on a damper on the enthusiasm that spread throughout the entire weekend. Extreme heat and the threat of thunderstorms? Pfft, bring it on was the mantra chanted. Nothing was going to get in the way of anyones enjoyment. Considering the insane level of festival coverage devoted during these three days, Consequence of Sound decided to focus on what were deemed the absolute best, most unique and special sets during Osheaga 2012.
Friday, August 3rd – Virgin Mobile River Stage 5:50 p.m.
When Osheagas lineup was first announced, Franz Ferdinand turned plenty of heads. Everyones favorite band named after the Austrian archduke responsible for World War I have been shrouded in a little mystery in recent years. There still hasn’t been a formal announcement of a fourth studio album, which might explain why their set time was curiously early. However, once they finally materialized in Montreal for their first North American show in almost three years, scrutiny over Franz Ferdinand quickly turned to blame. Their scorchingly danceable set also introduced two new songs: Right Thoughts! Right Words! Right Action! and Scarlet and Blue. The latter is classic-sounding Franz Ferdinand, with revving guitars supplemented by sparse notes played on an electronic organ. We were also treated to the infamous Franz Ferdinand drum circle on Outsiders. And I have to add that while Im sure no woman in attendance Friday would ever kick him out for eating krÃ¤ckers, if you know what Im saying, whats with the new stache Mr. Kapranos? -Gilles LeBlanc
Friday, August 3rd – Sennheiser Green Stage 8:45 p.m.
All day dedicated fans waited patiently to hear and see the return of MGMT. Many hoped for a sneak preview of their forthcoming self-titled third studio album, while others just wanted to hear their favorite song. Those in the former category walked away (slightly) disappointed, but, rest assured, many favorite songs were played. Sticking to a set heavy on Congratulations material, the Connecticut outfit did manage to squeeze in a few oldies like “Future Reflections”, “Electric Feel”, and an extended rendition of “Time to Pretend”. A welcome surprise highlight of theirs was a psychedelic cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie”, which received a stamp of approval from the crowd. They didn’t play “Kids”, despite an onslaught of crowd demands, but they offered up one new track: “Alien Days”. Synths and acoustics layer an oddly nostalgic anthem about missing “those alien days.” Some might have been disappointed in the lack of newer material, or the exclusion of one particular track, but most settled for a band aging on. -Stewart Wiseman
Saturday, August 4th – Budweiser Mountain Stage 1:30 p.m.
On Saturday, The Mountain Stage started the day in a mellow and joyful mood with a performance by the ever-smiling Kathleen Edwards. Playing a mix of songs that spanned her entire career, Edwards left her fans in good spirits by the end of her set. The performance began with Empty Threat and Comedian, before Edwards strapped on an electric guitar for the country-tinged title track to her album, Asking For Flowers. Although the singer-songwriter grew up in many different places around the world, she considers Ottawa her home, and recounted a story of how she drove to Montreal the night before. She spoke of a stretch of road that she drove by that made her think about how Canada is a part of her, and how she’s still a part of Canada, and that we should all hold our identities dear to our hearts because our homes are what shape us. One thing to take away: Edwards has a freakish but powerful talent of making darker themed songs (e.g. Six Oclock News) still sound pleasant, always bringing joy to the audience
regardless of the subject matter. Pretty cool. -Stewart Wiseman
Saturday, August 4th – Budweiser Mountain Stage 3:00 p.m.
Unlike MGMT the previous night, Calexico was more than happy to try more than one new song on the audience. Although the band is based out of Tucson, AZ, frontman Joey Burns was actually born in Montreal, and the festival was a homecoming for him of sorts as he had a large contingent of family and friends come out to see him. Montreal has never been a city known for embracing country and Latin music (this is the city that brought you Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, and Leonard Cohen), and sadly the audience was unresponsive to Calexico. Burns attempts to get the audience excited (counting down in French, simultaneous clapping) didnt last very long, which was a shame as they were the guinea pigs for several new Calexico songs. The band played two exciting cuts off their upcoming release Algiers, starting with the haunting Para and continuing with the eerily quiet Splitter. The new material will no doubt be embraced by Calexico fans; however, its too bad they couldnt test the songs on an audience that would truly appreciate them. -Stewart Wiseman
Saturday, August 4th – Virgin Mobile River Stage 7:15 p.m.
The crowd on Day 2 of Osheaga was significantly lighter than Friday, but one of the more vocal reactions of the entire festival undoubtedly belonged to Garbage. Well, make that for Scottish singer Shirley Manson, who, at almost 46 years old, prowled the River Stage with more stamina and edge than performers half her age. (She also clearly inspired some front row fans to doll up for the occasion. I couldnt help notice one girl in particular wearing a pink feather boa. Shouldnt that be considered a choking hazard here?) While Manson herself was anything but demurely dressed, Garbages set wasnt as theatrical as say, Florence + the Machines the previous evening. The band stuck to their popular hits as well as a few standouts from their latest entry, Not Your Kind of People (Automatic System Habit, Blood for Poppies, Control). While Wi-Fi may have been spotty at Parc Jean-Drapeau, people were well aware of what had happened at Lollapalooza, especially as the wind started to kick up, ironically during closer Only Happy When It Rains. Thankfully, the only storm ended up being the thunderous applause Garbage received for returning to Montreal for the first time in seven years. -Gilles LeBlanc
Saturday, August 4th – Budweiser Mountain Stage 8:15 p.m.
Back in Montreal for her second time in the last year following a sold out show last December, Feist relied heavily on songs from her latest album, Metals. Playing the second-to-last set of the day, the Toronto indie-folk goddess had a massive audience lined up for her, and began her set with a raucous version of A Commotion. (Stray observation: Wearing a heart-shaped piece of red felt attached to her dress, its unclear if Feist meant to show support for the ongoing student protests in Montreal, where red felt has become a symbol of support for the students.) Somehow a palm tree managed to find its way from the audience to the stage during Graveyard, and Feist greeted it as a dream come true, as she placed it beside her microphone. Feist finished her set with an energetic performance of Sea Lion: a perfect introduction for the new star of reggae, Snoop Lion, who would follow next at the nearby Virgin Mobile stage. -Stewart Wiseman
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Saturday, August 4th – Sennheiser Green Stage 9:45 p.m.
One of Osheagas biggest coups had to be the addition of alternative trailblazers The Jesus and Mary Chain. Perpetually squabbling siblings Jim and William Reid have only played sporadic shows as a band since they first reconciled in 2007. (I was debating with some fellow writers as to when the last time they would have been in Canada. Suffice to say, its been awhile, as much as 20 years, even.) And in a lot of ways, it was an all-star shoegaze squad that had assembled at Osheaga, as JAMCs present lineup includes former Lush bassist Phil King and Ride drummer Loz Colbert. But the star quotient was definitely upped a notch with the appearance of lovely Mad Men actress Jessica Paré. The Montreal native reprised the role Scarlett Johansson made famous at Coachella 2007 by duetting with the younger Reid on Just Like Honey and Sometimes Always. Those were two of the quieter moments in a 15-song set that was as ear-piercing as any time during their early-90s height. Jim Reid joked at one point that they were having technical problems, which none of us older fans noticed — that is, until the singer forgot the words to Happy When It Rains. The pure fact that he was at Osheaga with his hollowbody guitar-playing brother made us willing to cut him a little slack. -Gilles LeBlanc
Sunday, August 5th – Budweiser Mountain Stage 3:15 p.m.
By now it’s fully disclosed news that Passion Pit‘s Michael Angelakos has been going through some hardships as of late. Yet one of the more rapturous crowds of the weekend greeted the band as they made their way on stage. Part of it may have been out of sympathy, but given the uber-enthusiastic reaction to opener Take a Walk, with thousands of arms thrusting forward in a symbolic sign of support, even the most cynical observer had to feel good for him. Angelakos fed off the crowds positive vibes, which kept coming even when it started to downpour rain, a scene which would repeat itself over the course of Day Three. In a similar way that the inclement and rollercoaster-like weather bonded everyone together, those who saw Passion Pit at Osheaga became a big component of the healing process. -Gilles LeBlanc
City and Colour
Sunday, August 5th – Virgin Mobile River Stage 7:15 p.m.
Following through on his promise from last year to make up for his shortened set (due to weather-related difficulties), City and Colour‘s Dallas Green attracted one of the days biggest crowds. Canadians have a special way of embracing their homegrown talent, and bands which would be afterthoughts in the US often generate massive crowds at Osheaga. Going back to the bands original style, they opened up with a succession of acoustic songs, starting with We Found Each Other In The Dark and the anthemic Sleeping Sickness, which had the audience singing the chorus. Switching from quiet to loud, Sam Malone was performed as a raw rock song, with Green pleading in a falsetto as the rain crashed down around him. The loudest cheers of the performance were for Fragile Bird, the powerful single off their latest album Little Hell. Dallas Green finished his set with a cover of Neil Youngs Like A Hurricane, letting the audience know that theres another Canadian around who has also managed to master both acoustic and rock music. -Stewart Wiseman
The Black Keys
Sunday, August 5th – Virgin Mobile River Stage – 9:15 p.m.
Up until around ten at night, Bloc Party were in the lead for the last spot in this Top 10 compilation. The Black Keys are great headliners, but if youve seen Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in the last two years, youre familiar with their bluesy-cum-glam rock dog and pony show. Its still thrilling, but certainly in danger of becoming predictable. This past weekend, they pulled a proverbial rabbit out of their hat with a little help from Montreal multimedia company Moment Factory. If the name sounds familiar, theyre the ones who orchestrated the dropping of all those bright beach balls while Arcade Fire played at Coachella 2011. This time, they waited until Everlasting Light to hand out special bracelets to catch pixels cascading from the night sky that turned different colors for the rest of the encore. Those who had braved the earlier rain and stayed for The Black Keys were having the time of their lives, but the addition of this surprise made everyones Osheaga 2012 experience that much more memorable. -Gilles LeBlanc