The Gig: Osheaga music festival
Where: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
When: Sunday 1 August 2010
In One Word: Special
Saturday at Osheaga was incredible but Sunday was a lot more of the same – and then some! Sure, Arcade Fire’s performance was not bettered, but the atmosphere and fun times had been kicked up a further notch. The turn-out for Sunday was even greater, with thousands upon thousands of sun-kissed faces smiling from ear to ear as they devoured the music feast being served up. The only clear space that could be seen around the festival site was the sun exposed quasi-desert area [looky] which lay between the crowds gathered at the two main stages and the hundreds of people huddled together on the hill, while drinking beer and consuming copious amounts of free chips (crisps to my fellow Brits) and humus.
The Black Keys were the first highlights of the day, as the Ohio blues-rock threw down the gauntlet with a solid, but not show-stopping, performance. Their latest album, Brothers, is one of the records of the year and it was great to hear all those soul and true-blues vibes laid down to a doting crowd in Montreal.
Over on the third stage, local indie-electro rock trio We Are Wolves put on a performance that was memorable for two reasons. Firstly, the band appeared on stage dressed in a get-up which would have been better suited to a band called We Are Peacocks, given that each band member had a giant flagpole strapped to their backs to flare out some artwork. If that silver and black plumage was not successful in getting the band attention, then the mating call screamed out with the organ-pounding ferocity of their bass beats surely did – I watched half of the band’s set from a metre distance of said main bass amp, with the sound-waves giving my middle a better work-out than any abdominal belt ever could.
Snoop Dog had the Osheaga crowd eating out of his hand. The atmosphere for Snoop was just amazing, though I heard most of his set from a distance as I was in the backstage area interviewing a really pleasant band called Ra Ra Riot.
Along with Pavement, Sonic Youth were the main draw for me at Osheaga. As mentioned in my Saturday round-up, I’d been very disappointed to arrive at the festival site to be told that I wasn’t actually going to be getting any photo-pit access. However, by 7pm on Sunday, after rallying support from label contacts and some more helpful media people on site, the situation had been resolved and I had been granted full photo-pit access in time to photograph Sonic Youth and the rest of the Sunday headliners. I wasn’t just excited, I was bouncing.
Seeing Sonic Youth in concert at Osheaga was a moment to be cherished. The band are iconic and their music is close to my heart, though they’ve always been an ambiguous one for me. Sonic Youth’s music takes you in many directions, but always with a gentle nudge, hand-in-hand – you don’t question it, you just enjoy it and let yourself be immersed. Sonic Youth at Osheaga was every bit as absorbing as listening to them at home in your bedroom but with the difference being that Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore & co. were all up their on stage to send a clear signal to your brain that, “YES, you are watching Sonic Youth live!”.
Sonic Youth were a real treat, but sadly more in terms of the “I was there” factor. Sure, they gave it “100%”, and for those of us like myself who were seeing them for the first time, we can count ourselves truly lucky, as chances are that we may never get a chance to see them in concert again. But, the set-list contained way too much of their latest record, 2009’s Eternal – even the most die-hard SY fan would have preferred a more of a “greatest hits”, career-spanning set-list. But alas, they picked it up towards the end at least with more of the golden oldies. Oh, and as an added bonus, did anybody else notice Mick Jagger’s lips making a guest appearance? Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like they have taken up home on Thurston’s face – I’d never spotted the resemblance before… judge for yourself with the pictures below.
Metric always deliver a solid performance, and as one of the flag-bearers for Canadian music in recent years, they did not disappoint an ecstatic Montreal crowd. It was pretty much the same thing I’ve seen from Metric at festivals before, but this time with the added bonus of material from their latest record, 2009’s Fantasies, which does improve the quality of their set-list.
US new wave demigods Devo pulled in a huge crowd over at the third stage. They were a heck of a lot of fun. Their set included 1980’s originals, including smash-hit “Whip It”, but the most impacting thing to me about their performance was hearing some of their 2010 return Something For Everybody (Warner). Devo’s latest album is new wave done right: bonkers fun, and indeed, something for everyone. Playing a combination of their old and new tunes, Devo delivered a performance that was a schooling to the sludge of mediocre snore-bore new wave bands that we’ve had to endure in the past few years. It’s seems like the new wave fad of recent years is happily dying off, but for those of you who hanker for the new wave thang then go get your robot on to Devo.
I stuck around at Devo for as long as I could before legging it over to Weezer who were the festival closers. My only previous experience of Weezer was some five years ago, when I’d made a 14 hour trip from north Scotland to London, England to see the band play at Brixton Academy. That London gig was alright, but it was part of Weezer’s tour for their 2005 record Make Believe, which wasn’t that good, so the set-list suffered. Bar the odd song here and there, the Weezer we all love is the Weezer from their debut record up to until the green album, and thankfully Weezer played all their good stuff at Osheaga: “Hash Pipe”, “My Name is Jonas”, “Buddy Holly” – you name it, Weezer played it.
Weezer gave Osheaga the perfect send-off. Their brand of rock music is fun by its very nature, but I was surprised by just how fun the band were live – their whole performance was like a sugar-rush of college rock. Energetic and then some! Frontman Rivers Cuomo was really up for this one: By the third song of their set he had ran down to the edge of the barrier to sing into the faces of a pumped-up crowd. Later on during the set, Rivers’ had ran over to the vacated second main stage to sing while the rest of the band kept playing. Two giant beach balls were also introduced, which Rivers’ enjoyed playing around with, using his guitar as a bat to hit the balls back into the crowd. So much fun, and the ideal ending after such all the fanstatic and diverse musical fare that had been served up over the weekend.
Canada needed a proper major outdoor festival this year: Osheaga delivered it. Let’s hope that the other big provinces like Ontario and BC can come up with a festival to rival Osheaga because the Great White North really deserves ,(and has the market for), more festivals of this calibre. Au revoir Montréal.
Photos from Sunday at Osheaga, 1 August 2010
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice