Osheaga 2010 Recap

<div> <a href="features/osheaga_2010_recap/"><img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/osheaga10recap.jpg" alt="Osheaga 2010 Recap" /></a> </div> <p> The act of the soft spoken elegance of Montreal's Parc Jean Drapeau all but fading, to make way for...
Osheaga 2010 Recap
Osheaga 2010 Recap

The act of the soft spoken elegance of Montreal’s Parc Jean Drapeau all but fading, to make way for the shredding, punk rock stylings of Shane Murphy, was only the first in a weekend-long series of entirely ironic, mostly enjoyable surprises.  Thankfully for music fans, the sheer magnitude of Osheaga’s line-up, Saturday, July 31st & Sunday, August 1st, ensured that nothing put a damper on the city’s biggest celebration of indie, although there were a few interesting moments along the way.

entrance to OsheagaThe music festival’s gate was right in front of the where the subway stop let out, and after a boulevard of corporate sponsorship booths, was divided between the Main Stage and, over a short bridge, the smaller Green Stage & Trees Stage (or, as everything was French first in Montreal, ‘Scéne Verte’ & ‘Scéne des Arbres’).  over this water to the smaller stagesThe Main Stage was divided itself, with two stages right next to each other (officially River & Mountain Stages – or rather, ‘Scéne de la Riviére’ & ‘Scene de la Montagne’), so that while one band played, the other set up, leading to short break times between most Main Stage acts – and to Day One concluding with the most awesome one-two-three punch ever, Pavement-The National-The Arcade Fire.
two Main Stages

 

Shane Murphy
Shane Murphy

Shane Murphybig stageClick image for full gallery

Shane Murphy had the unenviable task of being the very first band of Osheaga, and his more old-school blues-rock didn’t seem to fit with the festival, or at least the type of attendees who would show up right at doors.  Indeed, there seemed to be more people waiting for The Walkmen on the stage next to his than actually watching his set, to which Murphy responded with a joke about how many hipsters it takes to screw in a light bulb.
Shane Murphy

 

The Walkmen
The Walkmen

Click image for full gallery

Osheaga’s Main Stage really only kicked into gear when The Walkmen hit the kick-start.  Playing mostly from their upcoming new Lisbon, the new material is thankfully a return to older, grittier Walkmen ways, after 2008’s classed-up You & Me (QRO review).  A band that started in drunken revelry and got sharper day-by-day, many long-time fans have missed what The Walkmen once brought in pieces such as “The Rat” (QRO video – which they surprisingly didn’t play at Osheaga), as the Brooklyn outfit sobered up and suited up, so it was great to hear a touch of the old & new in what was really the start to Osheaga.
The Walkmen

 

Rich Aucoin
Rich Aucoin

Rich AucoinClick image for full gallery

what's in his mouth?The last-minute fill-in on the Main Stage for Cage the Elephant, Aucoin had opened the previous night’s ‘Osheaga In the City’ show by of Montreal [please, keep your ‘of Montreal playing Montreal’ jokes to yourself…], and did channel some of that flamboyant Kevin Barnes (QRO solo photos) vibe, albeit limited by not that many people knowing who he is or that he was playing, and the strong daylight knocking out any of the projection screens he normally uses (a fact Aucoin remarked upon himself).  Still, he was able to engage what crowd that was still in the area who didn’t leave after The Walkmen (who Aucoin also thanked) for the festival’s first ‘big name on small stage’, Owen Pallett.
got some arms in the air

 

Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett

Owen Pallett, pre-'incident'Click image for full gallery

Hardly an hour into Saturday’s program, soft-spoken violin virtuoso Owen Pallett lost his cool with the Green Stage’s monitor set up, and began digging into the sound guy between songs.  The further the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy got into what should have been an upbeat hometown reunion show, the worse his temper became.  A wave of static in his mic was a strike two of sorts, and when Owen was unable to hear the looped piano part in “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”, he and guitarist Thomas Gill fell unbearably off pace.  The crowd watched in silence as Pallett then combined an apology with damn sound guy!yet another jab at the sound guy, and then proceeded to storm off stage, cutting his set two songs short.  While the seemingly gentle performer’s unusual outburst was more amusing than anything, the situation was only made more humorous by the fact that the Green Stage was Sennheiser-sponsored.
Owen Pallett

 

Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid MichaelsonIngrid Michaelson, superstarClick image for full gallery

Meanwhile, another singer-songwriter was doing better on an even smaller stage.  Ingrid Michaelson is definitely a more mainstream artist than the ex-Mr. Final Fantasy, but proved enjoyable, albeit lost a bit amidst her backing band when on keys.  For her final song on the Trees Stage, Michaelson covered Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, both comically & sexily, and closed with her & her band doing a fabulous synchronized mock-dance routine that was probably the standout of her set.
Ingrid Michaelson, dance star

 

Sarah Harmer
Sarah Harmer

poutine!Click image for full gallery

Sarah HarmerWas a little singer/songwritered-out by this point, so hit up a food cart for some poutine & cheeseburger – the Montreal delicacy of poutine was excellent, even if the cart had run out of forks [warning to Yanks: don’t try to eat these fries with your fingers!…], but the cheeseburger was so flat it looked like a mini-pancake.  That’s not how they do burgers in the States!…

While taking in the Quebecois cuisine, listened to the relatively mainstream Americana stylings of Sarah Harmer.  Nice enough, but Owen Pallett (see above) should have been had this spot on the Main Stage – did next-up next-door Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (see below) not want the competition?…

Note: the flat hamburgers are the style of that truck – apparently, the rest Montreal does burgers like the U.S. of A.
what Montreal does well & what it doesn't

 

Dan Black
Dan Black

Dan BlackClick image for full gallery

Like a (toned-down) Sacha Baron Cohen character with music, up-and-coming dancetronic musician Dan what is that thing he's pressing?Black (QRO interview) had energy – but, like Rich Aucoin (see above), was also limited by playing outside during the day, and not in a night time dance club like he’s used to.  The crowd at the Green Stage had thinned after the Owen Pallett debacle there (see above), but didn’t seem to phase Black, and made the whole extended area a more comfortable place to just hang out during the day.
Dan Black

 

Japandroids
Japandroids

a JapandroidClick image for full gallery

Following a successful water bottle refilling/overpriced burger trip, it was then time for two of the best surprises of the weekend.  Firstly, Japandroids destroyed any and all fragments of Green Stage disappointment with a thrashing set of driving post-punk melody.  Their crashing percussion and heavy riffs brought the songs of critically acclaimed album Post Nothing to life, and genius improvisations like a Montreal-instead-of-Vancouver shout out in “Sovereignty” proved to be just the right icing on the cake.
Japandroids

 

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe...

...& The Magnetic ZerosClick image for full gallery

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros then lit up the Main Stage, leaving all the stale hype in the world behind them, while bringing all of the theatricality imaginable.  They played through a short but sweet set of tracks from their debut album, most notably a revved up version of “Come In Please”, but also seeing frontman Alex Ebert come right into the photo pit and sing direct to the crowd during their second number.  After a stage manager tried to kick them off without playing their trademark song, “Home”, the crowd got more than a little rowdy.  Fuelling off of the energy of the moment, Ebert apologized to the crew, and then powered through a shortened version of the band’s quintessential single.

 

Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff, bustin' some movesClick image for full gallery

Also hangin’ out was reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, back on the Main Stage.  An outlier at Osheaga in both age & style (though more so the former than the latter), Cliff might not rock hard enough to really deserve his recent induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but the old-in-years-but-not-in-energy artist (who would later that week appear on The Colbert ReportQRO Indie On Late Night TV) was enjoyable & effervescent (and it was authentic, like some might accuse Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros of not being).
Jimmy Cliff orchestra

 

Bahamas
Bahamas

Afie JurvanenClick image for full gallery

After the side stages had stolen a lot of the attention during the day, the Main Stages were heating up, and that unfortunately left the Trees Stage crowd a little thin for Toronto’s Bahamas, who had to compete with Edward Sharpe & co. on the Main Stage and fellow guitar-and-drum duo Japandroids just over on the Green Stage (see above).  A more country-and-blues-style guitar-and-drum duo than punk rock, main Bahaman Afie Jurvanen kept his spirits up with such pieces as “It Could Be Worse” – dedicated to the women standing in a nearby line, who weren’t waiting to see him, but rather waiting for the bathroom…
it could be worse, ladies

 

K’naan
K'naan

K'naanflyin' the Maple LeafClick image for full gallery

Back at the Main Stage, Canada’s own K’naan brought an up-anthem style of hip-hop, lots of not only arms waving in the air, but even a Maple Leaf – as the jumbotron caught & displayed, for a rather impressive & carrying set.
some serious hand wavin'

 

Stars
Stars

Click image for full gallery

It was then off to another surprise, though this time it was a trying one for another hometown favourite in Stars.  While The Five Ghosts (QRO review) genuinely seemed like the band’s Amy Millanresurrection, Stars managed to suck.  Torq Campbell, thinking it's not his faultBig time.  The five-piece struggled through technical difficulties, which led to singer Torq Campbell freaking out, running offstage to yell at the crew, and finally to him kicking his Micro Korg clean off its stand.  The rest of the band seemed like a bunch of stale hipsters, and despite playing three songs masterfully – “Your Ex Lover Is Dead,” “Take Me To The Riot”, and “I Died So I Could Haunt You – it was truly a pleasure to walk away from the stage and talk to friends & even perfect strangers about what went wrong.
Stars

 

Keane
Keane

KeaneClick image for full gallery

in case you forgot their nameThe shockers kept on coming, as Keane managed to delight the now-swelling crowds for the entirety of their time slot.  The band couldn’t have picked a better set list, and their piano-driven pop/rock was delightfully spiced up by just enough of their newer synth-pop style.  Standing at the feet of a truly massive backdrop, Keane shone on favourites like “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Everybody’s Changing”, before inviting K’naan (see above) on stage, and eventually moving on to their best song in recent memory, “Shadow”.
aw, shucks

 

Pavement
Pavement

Click image for full gallery

that's not Pavement 2.0, but 20 minutes leftThe biggest indie-reunion since The Pixies (QRO live review), Pavement has been playing seemingly every festival out there since announcing this year’s reunion tour, including Pitchfork in Chicago (QRO recap) two weeks before Osheaga, and Toronto Island (QRO recap) a province over a month before that.  However, unlike on the Great Lakes, in Montreal Pavement wasn’t a day’s headliner, but instead two slots earlier, and it seemed to take a great deal of pressure off the band, who played it far looser & goosier at Osheaga.  Singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus opened the set by saying, “Hi, we’re Pavement, it’s 1996…”, messed with even the iconic indie-rock kiss-off lyrics to “Range Life” (the ones about Smashing Pumpkins & Stone Temple Pilots – which Billy Corgan had been bitching about less than a week earlier – QRO live review), and let the crowd in on stage crew hand signals of how much time they had left.
Pavement percussion

There were a few slip-ups – percussionist Bob Nastanovich unfortunately dedicated the worst song of the set to the guy wearing a Montreal Expos cap (hasn’t he suffered enough?…), and the band called an audible & skipped “Conduits For Sale” (where Nastanovich is at his best, “I’m tryin’!”), but it was great to see slacker-rock in its slackiest.
it's really all about Bob Nastanovich

 

The National
The National

Click image for full gallery

Wrapped snugly in a veil of undaunted glory, were the final two, and perhaps the two most unsurprising performances on Osheaga’s first day.  Firstly, Brooklyn-by-way-of-Cincinnati’s The National exploded onto the Main Stage, opening with layered single “Mistaken For Strangers”.  For a brief moment during that first number, it seemed as though the festival’s equipment set-up would be incapable of capturing Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone.  Just before the crowd’s collective doubts became tangible however, there was an immediate about-face, and the singer’s voice was all that you could have wanted it to be, and more.  The band’s charm grew, along with the goose bumps from the expectant crowd, and amidst the individual pulsations of each member, the band collectively teamed up for one hell of a masterful musical output.

The National’s set contained a perfect mix of new songs from High Violet (QRO review) with that of older material The Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parryfrom Boxer (QRO review) and Alligator, their set-list featuring nearly every favourite.  From the Matt Berninger, drink in hand, looking for somethingheartfelt nature of “Apartment Story” to the sorrow of “Fake Empire”, and then onto the raw power of “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Abel”, the band stole away the exhaustion from tired concert goers and replaced it with pure captivation and charisma (even when a drunk Berninger tripped over the monitors for guest Richard Reed Parry of The Arcade Fire, he was able to save it by then proclaiming, “I was looking for that!…”).
The National

 

The Arcade Fire
The Arcade Fire

Win ButlerClick image for full gallery

Closing out a fantastic first day was a rejuvenated super group in The Arcade Fire.  Whereas two other prominent hometown bands had fallen earlier in the afternoon, the Montreal-based band flourished in a set full of material from all three of their albums – the genre-defining epic, Funeral; the only-in-comparison sophomore slump that was still a exceptional Regine Chassagnealbum, Neon Bible (QRO review); and the invigorating songs that make up their invigorating revitalization, out-the-following-Tuesday The Suburbs (QRO review).

Amid the absolutely stellar line-up at Osheaga, this was still Will Butlerclearly The Arcade Fire’s festival.  After disappearing for about three years, the band returned to grace their home province with some shows leading up to Osheaga, after which they headed south of the border for their first U.S. show in three years in Boston (QRO photos) and then two nights at Madison Square Garden (QRO venue review), the latter of which (QRO photos) was streamed live & directed by Monty Python‘s own Terry Gilliam (!).

The set list was naturally heavier on Funeral & The Suburbs than Neon Bible; of the new pieces, single “Ready To Start” and Owen Pallett, post-'incident'Régine Chassagne’s “The Sprawl” particularly stood tall – her best piece to-date, Marika Shaw or Sarah Neufeld?“The Sprawl” saw Chassagne at her Björk-iest, though without any of the excessive weird.  Owen Pallett, seemingly recovered from his ‘incident’ earlier in the day (see above) was part of the large team, along with the best-looking indie-stringswomen this side of Ally Lawn (QRO interview), Sarah Neufeld and Marika Shaw – though singer/frontman Win Butler seemed to have copied Pallett’s unfortunately hairstyle.  The redheaded Richard Reed Parry, less geeky than before in Elvis-style sequined jumpsuit, and Win’s brother William were still bringing the energy they always have.

Richard Reed ParrySarah Neufeld or Marika Shaw?There might have been a few too many “Merci”s – we get it, you’re Francophone Canadian… (well, Chassagne’s from Haiti, and husband Win & brother William are actually American – despite Win referring to the geodesic dome frame visible past the trees as, “Given to us by The Americans”…) – but from opening notes (which followed odd between-set music of “This Land Is Your Land” and an old song in French) to the confetti they made rain during their encore, The Arcade Fire not only returned, but reclaimed their place at the top of the world.

makin' it rain

 

 

Day Two of Osheaga undoubtedly didn’t have as killer a line-up as Day One.  No acts could compete with The Arcade Fire/The National/Pavement one-two-three to close Day One, so, in a way, Osheaga didn’t even try to.  Instead, Day Two featured more mainstream rock acts to bring out the bros, who were in force, hailing no one needs a shot, ladyevery beer man they could find (but never, on either day, saw anyone buy a shot from the unfortunate women in tight white shirts holding their bottles of liquor aloft).  Day Two was also a bit of a grab-bag, with some acts seemingly more fit for Day One but playing the second day due to scheduling & the like.  But there was gold of different stripes in thar’ hills on Day Two.

 

Still Life Still
Still Life Still

Brendan SaarinenClick image for full gallery

Toronto’s Still Life Still wasted no time on Sunday, proving the buzz at the heart of their underground success story, Girls Come Too (QRO review), was well deserved.  While the sweltering Montreal sun raised Sunday’s temperatures to about fifteen degrees higher than the day before, the band – and a few songs in, the crowd – seemed entirely unfazed.  Instead, Still Life Still thundered into a quick but strong set of originals, most notable GCT standout, “Pastel”.  The five-piece may seem a bit new to the scene, but they’ve in fact been playing across Canada for over a decade, and have lately gone international with the likes of The Hold Steady (QRO live review) and The Most Serene Republic (QRO spotlight on).  Their live show has taken them a long way, and it proved to be an infinitely better spark for Still Life Still at Warchild Stagelighting Osheaga: Day Two’s fuse, than Shane Murphy on Day One (see Day One).

Still Life Still also played a second time at Osheaga, at the acoustic stage set up by the Warchild charity (of the benefit compilation – QRO review), located on the path from the Main Stages to the Trees & Green Stages – QRO photos.
Still Life Still

 

The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight AnthemClick image for full gallery

It was doubly hot near the Main Stage, sun hitting gravel and threatening to overwhelm any band – but it actually kind of worked for The Gaslight Anthem.  Hailing from New Brunswick (making both of your correspondents partial to them…), The Gaslight Anthem brought the Garden State from their latest, American Slang (QRO review), with “Bring It On” and “Stay Lucky” the best from the new album, along with The ’59 Sound‘s title track.  Yes, they’re clearly inspired by The Boss (QRO live review), and yes, you’re seeing a lot of that these days, but still as good an artist as any to be your touchstone.
The Gaslight Anthem

 

Blitzen Trapper
Blitzen Trapper

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Portland’s Blitzen Trapper may have looked like hippies, but played distinctly country music.  Unfortunately, this is a sound that’s been getting less & less special, and that hit BT, who were sweet & nice, but like on their latest, Destroyer of the Void (QRO review), also fairly boring.  Less heat & more of a breeze might have made their set a relaxing one, but as it was, it was just forgettable.
Blitzen Trapper

 

The Black Keys
The Black Keys

Click image for full gallery

Why were The Black Keys playing this early in the day?  The two Ohioans garnered a huge crowd, despite the heat & only being a two-man band – unless you were close, Brothersthere wasn’t a lot you could see.  Still, pound-for-pound, they’re one of the hardest-rocking bands out there (though did have a second guitarist), and were a good fit for the bros on a stage that previously had The Gaslight Anthem (see above) and would later have Weezer (see below).
who's that third guy?

 

The Antlers
The Antlers

Click image for full gallery

After overcoming some more Green Stage technical difficulty, Brooklyn’s The Antlers finally mastered the backline, and exploded into a set full of the emotional, atmospheric rock.  While the band ditched some of the more stripped-down, poignant numbers that dominated their last effort, the band still managed to showcase the heartbreaking elegance that captivated listeners on that fantastic concept album, 2009’s Hospice.  Singer/guitarist Peter Silberman put on a powerful display of resonant riffs and shattering vocals, and Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci managed to impressively recreate the atmospheric nature of band’s catalogue on drums and keys respectively.  While The Antlers did play a very solid set, their time on stage was not without its standouts.  The band’s live version of “Sylvia” featured an epic build-up, and the revved up version of their signature song “Two” left the Green Stage crowd in a well deserved state of awe.
The Antlers

 

Major Lazer
Major Lazer

SwitchClick image for full gallery

DiploOsheaga had a fifth official stage, the ‘Picnic Stage’, on the other side of the path between the Trees and Green Stages.  Dedicated to dance & DJs, it featured no one you’d ever heard of – save for Major Lazer.  The combination of DJ/producers Switch & Diplo, Major Lazer got easily the biggest crowd the Picnic Stage saw at the festival.  While Switch was the one revving up the crowd, Diplo was focused on his turntables, having the classy look of an up-market Euro DJ, but with the sound of an urban American DJ.

 

The Morning Benders
The Morning Benders

Click image for full gallery

Berkeley’s The Morning Benders have had something of a boom recently, headlining bigger & bigger stages (such as New York’s Governors Island – QRO photos), on the back of their full-length Big Echo (QRO review), but were still slotted for the small Trees Stage at Osheaga, resulting in a packed crowd.  Nice-sounding, but deserving of the hype?  The group also seemed too focused on singer/guitarist Christopher Chu, making him overconfident in a kind of unappealing way.
The Morning Benders

 

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg

Click image for full gallery

One of the biggest, yet least-talked about waves in alternative music, especially alternative music festivals like Osheaga, is the embrace of hip-hop – well, sort of embrace of sort of hip-hop.  ‘Classic’ rap artists like Public Enemy (QRO photos) or Snoop Dogg have been playing alternative music festivals, such as Public Enemy’s appearance at Sasquatch! in May (QRO festival recap), or Snoop Dogg’s appearance at South-by-Southwest in March (QRO festival recap).
indie-kids love Snoop Dogg?

Snoop......DoggWhy the love of old-school hip-hop in the alternative music scene?  Well, indie kids these days grew up with artists such as those playing the background, and if acts like Pavement (see Day One) can come back, so can Public Enemy.  Reality television & the like has humanized – read: made less dangerous – artists such as the star of Flavour of Love.  Fans of indie music get to drop the liberal-thinking straightjacket of the scene & be as sexist as they want to be – or, for girls, as sexy as they want to be.  They all also get a break from the still pretty lily-white alternative music scene.  And there’s the pro-drugs & alcohol stance, “Smokin’ endo, sippin’ on gin & juice”, that everyone can get behind.  It all seems like a match made in heaven.

But it’s not.  A very serious rant could be made about even the dorkiest of indie kids movin’ to hip-hop beats, the kind of people who got into indie Malice in Wonderlandmusic because they could never succeed in the egocentric world that’s occupied by everyone from football jocks to hip-hop stars – guys who weren’t cool in high school, girls who’d be frightened by the likes of Snoop Dogg, face-to-face.  There’s the fact that, while they’d jump at the chance to see Snoop Dogg at an alternative music festival, that’s far different than going to an actual Snoop Dogg show – at a festival, they’re surrounded by friendly indie music fans and not whoever they’d fear would populate a Snoop Dogg show, and only have to play tourist in the hip-hop world in between their usual indie fare.  And then there’s what they’re actually watching: not hardcore, cutting-edge gangsta rap, but artists so old and defanged that they might as well be starring besides ZZ.  There’s something so… fake about it, a sham, this meeting of two scenes that value authenticity so highly.  Okay, a rant was made there…
got some pale arms in the air

close up on the D-O-double-GNot that any of that came to all but the hater-est of haters at Osheaga.  No, there was lots of groovin’, hands in the air, vocal responses to, “Does anyone out there like to smoke weed?!?…”, calling out the people in the VIP bleachers for sitting, and Snoop closing it out by talking about “the love” and promising to return to Montreal (after starting his set late, though had time with the cancellation of deadmau5, who was supposed to follow him).  The D-O-double-G certainly did what he came to Osheaga to do, and what those at the Main Stage came to see.
VIP bleachers better get up, too!

 

Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth

Kim Gordon - lookin' goodClick image for full gallery

Snoop Dogg to Sonic Youth had to be the strangest one-two ever (though it does work alphabetically…), but the cancellation of deadmau5 (he threw out his back or something – those ears are heavy! – QRO photos) rearranged the evening of Day Two, with Sonic Youth being shifted from the Green Stage to Main Stage – putting them in the exact same time & place, one day later, as Pavement on Day One (see Day One), i.e. Sonic Youth bassist Mark Ibold’s ‘other band’ (and Ibold looked & acted the exact same, day-to-day, band-to-band).  Ibold being unable to do Lee Renaldodouble-duty on one day was probably what led to Sonic Youth playing on Day Two of Osheaga – though they had played Brooklyn on Saturday (QRO photos), albeit without Ibold.

Singer/guitarists Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore & Lee Renaldo, plus drummer Steve Shelley (never forget about Steve Shelley!…) have a legacy that’s really second-to-none in the punk rock field, having stayed together for about three decades now (!).  Thurston MooreAfter finishing the last of the Rather Ripped tour (QRO live review), where Ibold was just the touring bassist, Sonic Youth played a number of shows that celebrated that past, whether the ‘greatest hits’ at Battery Park in New York for Fourth of July in 2008 (QRO photos), or select top-to-bottom performances (QRO review) of the seminal 1988 double-LP Daydream Nation (QRO deluxe edition review).  But since the release same time, same place for Mark Iboldof last year’s Eternal (QRO review), the first with Ibold as an ‘official’ member (taking the place held for five years by Jim O’Rourke, playing bass after Gordon moved to guitar), Sonic Youth has stuck mostly to Eternal live (QRO live review), and the rest of the set list is really old material – i.e., they ain’t playin’ anything off of grunge-era commercial success Dirty, or even Daydream.never forget about Steve Shelley!

So maybe it wasn’t a surprise that the crowd for Sonic Youth wasn’t as strong as it could/should have been – moved time/stage the day of, really different than the Main Stage act that preceded them, and you wanted to hear classic, late eighties/early nineties Sonic Youth anyway…
Sonic Youth

 

Metric
Metric

Emily Haines' legsClick image for full gallery

A shift making a lot more sense was Sonic Youth-to-Metric, old-to-young (and Metric would play the same place in Brooklyn on Thursday that Sonic Youth had on Saturday – QRO Metric live review), but akin to Pavement-to-The National in the same time on the Main Stage on Day One (see Day One).  deadmau5’s cancellation did mean that Sonic Youth & Metric didn’t overlap (QRO photo of new set times), but Metric didn’t start with the world on fire, choosing to begin with a brand-new song (not even the single from Twilight: EclipseQRO soundtrack review).  However, while not as good as a ‘regular’ Metric show (which can pretty much be said for any band, regular show vs. festival appearance), pieces from last year’s Fantasies (QRO review) & older numbers like “Handshakes” got the crowd going – with frontwoman extraordinaire Emily Haines kneeling before the crowd & keepin’ up her ‘twist’, now on “Empty”, not old piece “The Twist”.no, you kneel before Haines!

Another difference between Days One & Two was in the number of Canadian bands like Metric, meaning of the twistwith far fewer on Day Two (only other Canadian act on Day Two we reviewed was Still Life Still – see above – and they’re both from Toronto, neither from Montreal/Quebec).  But Haines did bring out some Great White North praise, saying that, when she didn’t know what to do, she just, “Tried to think of what Neil Young would do.  So, for this song, think of Neil Young, out on his ranch – in America…”  U.S.A. #1!
Metric

 

Ra Ra Riot
Ra Ra Riot

More

Alexandra Lawn on keysClick image for full gallery

One overlap deadmau5’s cancellation lessened but didn’t entirely avert was that of Metric on the Main Stage & Ra Ra Riot on the Trees Stage, begging maybe the most important question in today’s indie-rock: Emily Haines or Alexandra Lawn (QRO interview)?  Haines is the frontwoman with “Stadium Love”, while Ra Ra Riot’s Lawn is just one of a collective, and not even the lead vocalist (that’s Wesley Miles – QRO interview) – and Haines is blonde.  But Lawn is younger, plays cello & keyboards (which beats Haines’ sometimes-guitar, sometimes-keys, never forget about Rebecca Zeller!oftentimes-neither), and has a much better tan.  In the end, Ra Ra Riot were playing a much smaller stage with much fewer bros in the crowd, and have Rebecca Zeller on violin (never forget about Rebecca Zeller…), so the American outfit won out.

Even though it was less a month from the release of their sophomore LP, The Orchard (QRO review – out in Canada on Toronto’s Arts & Crafts, something Miles made sure to mention, though he seemed to think that saying the label’s name would get more applause; this is Montreal, Wes, not Toronto…), Ra Ra Riot stuck mostly to debut full-length The Rhumb Line (QRO review) & Ra Ra Riot EP (QRO review), though did include Orchard‘s “Too Wesley MilesDramatic”, which still feels like more of a Rhumb piece (and not just because Rhumb has the similarly-titled “Too Too Too Fast”…).  Considering the competition from the end of Metric on the Main Stage and the start of DEVO on the Green Stage, Ra Ra Riot had a healthy turnout, with Miles high-fiveing the crowd near the end of the set (which still wasn’t the cutest moment of the performance – that was Zeller breaking some of the horsehair on her violin bow, and continuing to play as it bobbed in the air, like a string being played with by a cat).
Ra Ra Riot

 

DEVO
DEVO

pom-poms!Click image for full gallery

do you believe in DEVOlution?!?Yes, DEVO is an iconic alternative band, so post-punk they actually preceded it, but other than signature single “Whip It” and their spaceman-like outfits, what do you actually know about them?  After the young energy of Ra Ra Riot, one might have only expected old men in silly costumes singing a thirty-year-old song, just something to pop in on before Weezer.

And oh how wrong you would have been.  Well, DEVO were old (save for their drummer, tucked behind speakers – hiding that it wasn’t regular DEVO drummer Josh Freese, who was doing time in his ‘other’ band, Weezer; him & Ibold covered four of the biggest bands at Osheaga…), but had as much energy as anyone in Ra Ra Riot – hell, singer Mark Mothersbaugh at one point pulled out pom-poms!  Yes, they were wearing yellow spaceman-like suits, but not for the entire time – Mothersbaugh tore at his during one song, and they all removed them, down to matching black t-shirts & shorts later on.  Most importantly, they were electric – even if you didn’t know what song they were playing (at one point did seem to DEVO-fy covers), everyone in the audience had to answer yes when bassist Jerry Casale asked, “Do you believe… in DEVOlution?!?”

tearing at their spacesuitIt was honestly hard to tear away from a band with the energy, timing, skill, and showmanship of DEVO – it was only when the lights went out that their grip slacked.  It seemed to be a planned part of the show, right around when DEVO removed their yellow jumpsuits – but the black undergarments only made them harder to see in the lack of light.  And with what lighting there was coming from just-set up flood lights on the side of the stage, or a spotlight from the soundboard, plus Mothersbaugh joking that the power had gone out, it actually started to feel like this wasn’t part of the act.  If it was, it wasn’t the best move by the band – but if it wasn’t, kudos to them on handling it well enough that it felt like it was all part of the plan.
DEVO in the dark

 

Weezer
Weezer

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Brian BellAfter making a place for themselves in every alt-rock fan’s heart in the nineties, Weezer has gotten a lot of knocks in this century/millennium for going glossy and mainstream (The Onion called them, “Devoid of humanity”…).  Some of that has been fair – 2008’s Weezer (Red Album) (the third self-tilted Weezer record, each also named after the color of the backdrop) out-and-out sucked (QRO review), and this year’s Raditude was kinda like the title: a little funny, but not that ‘rad’ (QRO review).  But some of the criticism has been unfair, too – their alt-rock was never that ‘alt’ to begin with, and no band could keep up the greatness of early Weezer records like Weezer (Blue Album) and Pinkerton.
everyone on drums!

Expos fan on harmonicaRivers' poker faceSo throw out what you think you remember about Weezer’s records, and just enjoy their live show – there’s a lot to enjoy.  Pieces like “My Name Is Jonas” & “Buddy Holly” are still absolutely awesome, with singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo still bustin’ out the harmonica after “The workers are going home” on “Jonas”.  In fact, Cuomo is still an excellent live frontman, often liberated from guitar (drummer Pat Wilson filling that spot, with touring drummer Freese – not only also of DEVO, but once of Nine Inch Nails & Guns ‘n’ Roses!… – on skins most of the time, though Wilson does go back there occasionally).  At Osheaga, he started by sporting an Expos hat (Bob Nastanovich would be proud – see Day One), the later doffed a white wig for the bands medley cover of MGMT’s “Kids” & Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” – and didn’t just get the crowd going by standing on the big speakers at either end of the stage; he didn’t just jump into the photo pit and go into the crowd; he even went around the crowd, behind a fence and up into the VIP bleachers (and then returned by heading straight through the crowd)!  Snoop Dogg (see above) may have called out the bleachers, but Rivers Cuomo actually went there…
a Rivers runs through the bleachers

Could Weezer compete with Day One closer Arcade Fire for musical skill, where-have-you-been anticipation, or hometown love?  No, of course they couldn’t – no one could.  So Osheaga wisely went another direction and recruited a band you loved that love to play to you, playing songs you loved.  Put it this way: you know the show was great when you were not just singing along to “Jonas” or “Say It Ain’t So”, but even Raditude‘s “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” – the one that features guest vocals from Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl (Cuomo did both vocal parts at Osheaga – no pull-from-the-crowd guest singer like in Brooklyn two weeks ago – QRO live review – or Blair Waldorf herself like in Manhattan on Halloween – QRO live review)…
everybody loves Weezer

The set list was similar to those earlier shows, heavy on the earlier material (and they once again closed with everyone in the band joining Freese on drums, then taking a bow) – and they’re planning a tour playing all of Blue Album & Pinkerton.  Weezer’s next album is entitled ‘Hurley’, and it’s got a big picture of your favourite Lost star on the cover (QRO’s own photo of Jorge Garcia).  So dude, Weezer’s awesome again…
take a bow, Weezer

 

 

 

-words & photos: Ted Chase & Brendan MaGee

 

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