Osheaga 2011 Recap

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Osheaga 2011 Recap
Osheaga 2011 Recap

Last year, Montreal’s Osheaga Music Festival reached the top level of North American music festivals with an indie fan’s wet dream (QRO recap).  Rather than try to repeat that trick, Osheaga 2011 went wider, both in terms of acts – everyone from Eminem to Elvis Costello (and that’s just the letter ‘E’…) – and days, expanding to a third, now Friday-Sunday, on July 29th to 31st.

 

Osheaga Day 1

The ‘new day’ at Osheaga, Friday, Day One, was an outlier for other reasons. It started later than Saturday or Sunday, with doors not at noon, but 3pm (which was nice if, say, your flight from NYC had been cancelled and the one you were bumped to touched down at Trudeau Airport at 3:15pm…). It also featured a rather stark divide between the two main stages (River & Mountain, or ‘Riviére’ & ‘Montagne’) that were set up next to each other under the sun (thankfully the rain had stopped by show time), and the two side stages (Green & Trees, or ‘Verte’ & ‘Arbres’), amidst the trees. The main stage area was populated by fans clearly there for the night’s headliner, Eminem, along with disappointed Kid Cudi fans (Cudi cancelled that day-of due to ill health, bumping up Bran Van 3000 – QRO photos – and Charles Bradley – QRO photos), while the side stage area was stocked with your alternative music fans.

 

Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene

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guest Salvidar & ShawBroken Social Scene really got things going around 5pm (and brought the indie music fans out from the trees and to the Mountain Stage) – you know you’re doing well when these guys are kicking off the day! While they indulged in a few older favourites like “Superconnected” and “7/4 Shoreline”, BSS shied away from most You Forgot In People-era standards, instead opting to focus on latest release Forgiveness Rock Record (QRO review) – though did include a cover of Modest Mouse’s (QRO album review) “The World At Large”. This meant some pretty impressive renditions of “Forced To Love” and “Meet Me In the Basement”, although it also left fans craving a little something more from the Toronto titans (who were joined by friends like Amy Millan & Jimmy Shaw, of, respectively, Osheaga 2010’s Stars – QRO photos – and Metric – QRO photos, plus Liam O’Neill of Montreal’s late Stills – QRO spotlight on – and Dallas’ Ariel Saldivar).
Broken Social Scene

 

Joseph Arthur
Joseph Arthur

Joseph ArthurClick image for full gallery

After two albums with back band The Lonely Astronauts (QRO photos), Joseph Arthur returned to truly solo on this year’s The Graduation Ceremony (QRO review), and was likewise solo at Osheaga – though not without his art (he once had his own gallery in DUMBO area of Brooklyn, ‘The Museum of Modern Arthur’ – QRO venue review). Arthur had some psych-guitar moments, but was mostly playing stripped-seventies alt-folk, perhaps a little too Americana for a crowd on this side of the border.
Joseph Arthur & his art

 

The Rural Alberta Advantage
The Rural Alberta Advantage

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Amy ColeWith a set that brought QRO front row center and kept us there throughout, The Rural Alberta Advantage then captivated a huge Tree Stage crowd with tender stories of homesickness and big city blues. As the sun set on Montreal, the Toronto-based trio played through an interesting set list made up of fan favorites and lesser known songs off of both Hometowns (QRO review) and Departing (QRO review). From the power and fury of “Stamps” and “Drain the Blood” to the soft-spoken elegance of “In The Summertime,” the bands live show captured the heartfelt nature of their records, along with the attention and hearts of the audience. The clincher? Dozens and dozens of rowdy Canucks singing along with Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole on “Edmonton”.
The Rural Alberta Advantage

 

Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae

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Janelle MonaeThe artist that probably best managed the main-side stage divide, other than national heroes Broken Social Scene (see above), was Janelle Monae. Her main stage set was big and exciting for said stage, but the up-step dance and especially Monae’s great attitude & presence could work on anyone. There’s a reason she can play with of Montreal (QRO live review, with Monae) or Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. Her moves & dancers could be a little hard to see in the now-dark evening (especially when Monae was lying on the floor of the stage), but she was always felt – and special props for literally singing that she would do this even if she didn’t get paid…
Janelle Monae & co.

 

Timber Timbre
Timber Timbre

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Taylor KirkThe sun had vanished by this point, and with darkness sweeping across the island; a creepy atmosphere quickly enveloped Osheaga’s Green Stage. Although Brooklin, Ontario’s Timber Timbre pleased their small crowd with the hits of recent Polaris Prize nominee Creep On Creepin’ On (QRO review), it seemed as if TT’s Taylor Kirk may have taken the album’s title a bit too seriously. Donned in a strange, black hooded garment, and with fog rolling and odd lights dotted across the stage, Kirk & co. built a strange ambiance around their mostly ordinary live show. Sure, “Black Water” and “Bad Ritual” were nice and catchy, but Kirk’s complete lack of stage presence and off-putting theatrics didn’t quite cut it here (indeed, he shoed away photographers trying in vain to shoot him through the smoke and low red light…).
can't see the Timber for the smoke

 

Eminem
Eminem

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The biggest draw of Osheaga was clearly Eminem, unsurprisingly, considering he’s the top-selling artist of the twenty-first century (The Beatles are a mere #2, even after finally getting on iTunes…). The entire River Stage area – and much of the Mountain Stage area next to it (there was a divider between the stage areas for the two stages, so one couldn’t just shift to the right or left after one main stage act was done to still be up front for the other, unlike last year) – was filled with fans for a record Osheaga turnout.

and Osheaga had beermenDespite being in Francophone Canada, Eminem fans in Montreal are pretty much like Eminem fans in America (except for being whiter – or perhaps his U.S. audiences feature as few African-American faces as his Canadian ones…). They were down with the beats, cheeringly loudly for ‘classics’ like “Stan” (which featured the video played above Eminem – wonder how actor Canada’s own Devon Sawa – Final Destination – feels about still being shown as title character in that video; given the maturing teen heartthrob’s current career, perhaps doesn’t mind any exposure…), putting their lighters up for “Lighters”, and welcoming Eminem playing a number he’d never done live before, “Space Bound”. They were also drunk (no ‘beer tents’ in Montreal – can drink wherever you want!), with some near-fights breaking out, a few fans arrested, and guy pushing through the crowd, holding up his incoherent girlfriend, to get to the side to find medical help.

It was interesting to note how much of Eminem’s work eschews the boastful hip-hop for the solemn, not about his success but his troubles – “Put your lighters up” for his torch songs. Marshal Mathers himself sounded a little drained at the show – if you stuck around; all the indie fans from the side stages were beating the crowds and going home early, to get rested for Day Two.
skies of Montreal

 

 

Osheaga Day 2

Day Two was, in some ways, the ‘real start’ of Osheaga (that’s how it had been previously, just Saturday & Sunday), as the Eminem fans of Day One were gone. The line-up was particularly diverse, headlined by the iconic Elvis Costello, but also featuring everyone from the out-of-control dance-punk Death From Above 1979 reunion to hip-hop in Lupe Fiasco (QRO photos), and everything in between:

 

The Midway State
The Midway State

The Midway StateClick image for full gallery

Toronto’s own The Midway State were one of the many Canadian bands at Osheaga given the unfortunate early slots at one of the main stages – when lots of people aren’t there yet, and those that are don’t want to stand in the hot midday sun & dust. The Midway State was a little over-emotional at times (especially when the singer moved from guitar to keys), but not bad – and extra points for one of the band members mentioning that their gym teacher was in the audience…
The Midway State

 

Oh Land
Oh Land

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Oh LandUnlike Day One, Days Two and Three of Osheaga often had bigger draws playing the smaller side stages, and that started with Oh Land at the Green Stage. The Danish lady looked lovely in her white flowing robe & blonde flowing locks (though some P.C. types in the crowd might have objected to her feathered headdress…), mixing the stage presence of not just Lykke Li (QRO album review) – an obvious antecedent – but also Little Boots (QRO live review) and even Emily Haines (QRO solo album review) of Osheaga 2010’s Metric (QRO photos). She started with “Wolf Song”, with her now-two man backing band wearing wolf masks, but suffered some technical problems that made standout “Son of Gun” sound scratchy – but had the big crowd dancing.
Oh Land

 

Manchester Orchestra
Manchester Orchestra

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Andy HullSome festivalgoers thought they were being treated to a surprise appearance from Mumford & Sons (QRO live review) after arriving a bit late on Saturday… Instead, they got Georgia’s Manchester Orchestra, who turned out to be just as good as and a little less clichéd than M&S. The band’s set featured an entrancing keyboardist who happened to also drum, as well as a lot of lesser known picks from the Manchester Orchestra songbook (QRO most recent album review). While they didn’t make any sort of crazy, long-lasting impression, the five-piece did well to pump up the growing crowds, mixing emotion with the band’s harder fare.
Manchester Orchestra

 

Hey Rosetta!
Hey Rosetta!

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Fast-rising Canucks, Hey Rosetta!, put together an upbeat medley of tracks, mostly off of recent Polaris Prize nominee Seeds. It likely seemed odd to HR!-outsiders when the band drove into their set playing a song titled “New Goodbye”, but the fervent mandolin strumming and elegant strokes of violin and cello were more than enough to distract. From there, the crowd was treated to lively, built-up renditions of “Yer Spring” and “Yer Fall”, as well as a much needed shower from an Osheaga staffer wielding a fire hose.
Hey Rosetta!

 

BRAIDS
BRAIDS

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BRAIDSThanks to some inebriated, unapologetic friends, QRO made it safely in front of a couple hundred folks at Green Stage waiting for Calgary’s latest buzz band, BRAIDS. The charming quartet proceeded to play a loud set of the indie pop gems that earned their debut record Native Speaker a slot on the 2011 Polaris Prize shortlist – and based on the audience’s demeanor, it seemed as though friends were not the only ones partaking in overpriced domestic draft. While beer led the crowd, it was hit song “Lemonade” that dominated the Canadians’ mostly engaging set list.
BRAIDS

 

Tokyo Police Club
Tokyo Police Club

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bring out the hose!Back at one of the Main Stages was a more established Canadian act, Tokyo Police Club. Keyboardist Graham Wright might have said (QRO interview) that the band isn’t good at outdoor festivals, but that didn’t show at Osheaga (to be fair, he made that statement after playing Bamboozle in New Jersey, so now in their native land, and Osheaga >> Bamboozle…). The heat and sun didn’t damper the band, who had the crowd clapping along – and right when you were thinking that the set needed Hey Rosetta!’s hose, out it came (right near your correspondent…).
Tokyo Police Club water cannon

 

The Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats

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John DarnielleSaturday’s biggest surprise came out of killing time at an early afternoon set on the Trees Stage. Despite facing off against Twin Shadow and John Butler Trio (QRO photos), Claremont, California’s The Mountain Goats drew a respectable crowd to the shaded, fenced in nook; what’s more, the audience’s eruption upon their taking the stage signified that most were there to do more than just beat the heat. Much to the crowd’s delight, the trio played a punk infused set of their acoustic and thought-provoking catalogue. “This Year” and “No Children” made for the best moments – while his sentiments around the latter made for an energizing moment, frontman John Darnielle was at his best being supported by the audience on the former.
The Mountain Goats

 

Twin Shadow
Twin Shadow

George Lewis Jr.Click image for full gallery

In the last year, lots of people have been talking about George Lewis Jr., the creative force behind & frontman of Twin Shadow. It would seem that an appearance in the artistic Montreal would be a perfect showcase for the man/group, but that wasn’t the case. While decent, his electro-rock hardly sounded revelatory – though Lewis himself was certainly having fun.
Twin Shadow

 

Sam Roberts Band
Sam Roberts Band

Sam RobertsClick image for full gallery

Fresh off releasing the closest thing to critically acclaimed debut album We Were Born In A Flame, Sam Roberts Band strayed away from the new stuff, and instead focused on the in-between. “Detroit 67” and “Fixed To Ruin” certainly weren’t slouching songs, and the band’s performance was lively and animated… but with Canadian classics like “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” and new flames like “The Band Vs The World” just gathering dust, the shaggy rocker’s set list could have garnered a lot more affection from the thousand or so people in the crowd.
Sam Roberts Band

 

Suuns
Suuns

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not a Suuny faceOut at the Trees Stage, Montreal’s own Suuns probably had a larger crowd at Osheaga than they would at any other festival, as their sound is an acquired taste. Somewhat reminiscent of Liverpool cult act Clinic (QRO spotlight on), Suuns were slightly off-putting and experimental, but also intricate and interesting – though more twenty-first century than Clinic’s turn-of-the-century antique feel (no melodicas). And Suuns’ singer could definitely use the surgical masks that Clinic always employs, given the kind of faces he makes on stage…
Suuns

 

Sia
Sia

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Sia FurlerAnother major artist playing a side stage at Osheaga, Sia was greeted with squeals of delight from the mostly female audience when she took the stage, wearing an Afro-Caribbean style get-up (and her band in striped pajamas). The Aussie was an engaging and funny personality throughout her set, from funny faces and dances to asking, “Does anyone have any heckling they want to do?”When someone shouted, “Show us your tits” (hopefully ironically…), Sia quickly responded, “They’re just like your moms…” Big and bold pop maybe would have been better on a main stage – certainly would have fit better – but well received anywhere.
Sia

 

P.S. I Love You
P.S. I Love You

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P.S.Another bright spot came from leaving the “Free Rum Shot” booth, and heading back to the Trees Stage for P.S. I Love You. Much like last year’s fellow Canucks Japandroids (QRO photos from Osheaga 2010), the band’s two members rely on gang vocals, distortion, and some good ol’ punk rock spirit. The Kingston duo quickly filled up their relatively tiny alcove, as the sounds of “Meet Me At Muster Station” powered through the now-sweltering heat, and the warm, albeit enthusiastic audience. Unfortunately, the beer vendor was nowhere to be found, and Death From Above was set to unleash on the other side of the island… two factors that cut PS’s set short for much of the Tree Stage Crowd.
P.S. I Love You

 

Death From Above 1979
Death From Above 1979

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With a ten dollar Souvlaki in hand, it was time to cross Parc Jean Drapeau once again… and while the intensity of Death From Above 1979 was a marvel well worth the hike, the band’s time at Osheaga failed to account for the buzz they created at SXSW earlier this year (QRO recap). Death From Above 1979Sure, “Black History Month” tore it up, and Sebastian Grainger (QRO solo album review) and Jesse Keelor proved to be both talented and magnetic musicians, but when all was said and done, something didn’t quite fit for this one. Thankfully, fans were able to form one heck of a mosh pit in the mud that remained from occasional hosings down, along with numerous crowd surfers (such as a guy in a Superman outfit, who was threatened with expulsion by security after trying to get a ‘victory cheer’ from the crowd while walking out of the photo pit he’d landed in) and the mood was still upbeat.
Superman 1979

DFA1979 also brought out a number of Osheaga artists to watch from the crowd, including Graham Wright (QRO interview) & Dave Monks (QRO photos) of Tokyo Police Club (see above), as well as Kevin Drew of Day One’s Broken Social Scene (QRO photos) with guests Liam O’Neill of the late Stills (QRO spotlight on) and Jimmy Shaw of Osheaga 2010’s Metric (QRO photos).
above Death From Above 1979

 

Ratatat
Ratatat

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When DFA finished, it seemed like the entire crowd from that main stage raced over the Green Stage for Ratatat – making for a massive crowd (seemingly every photographer raced over to Ratatat as well, and pushed in front of girls near where one would enter, only to be told that the pit was full, so they just stood there in front of the actual fans; QRO was too polite to do so, and none of us got into the pit…). Fans weren’t just getting on others’ shoulders, but even climbing into trees – and there was a crowdsurfing Purple Man.
Ratatat

 

Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes

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Whether it was the fall out from DFA-disappointment, being in the same slot as The National in 2010 (QRO photos), being up against Ratatat, or maybe even a touch of heat stroke, dashed expectations seemed to plague Nebraska’s Bright Eyes as well. The brainchild of Monsters of Folk (QRO review)’s Conner Oberst was playing what was rumored to be one of their final dates ever – in spite of that urgency and their strong instrumentation, though, the band came off as angst-ridden and unrelatable. Save for a touching performance of “We Are Nowhere And This Is Now”, Bright Eyes proved to be the perfect background music to eating a heavenly hamburger (or at least it seemed that way at the time), and taking a nap under the setting sun.

 

Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Elvis Costello & The Imposters

Elvis CostelloClick image for full gallery

Elvis & go-go dancerWith much of the DFA crowd having gone to Ratatat or otherwise dissolved during Bright Eyes, it looked like living legend Elvis Costello wasn’t going to get the crowd he deserved, headlining Day Two (the big mud puddle left over from DFA moshers & the daytime hose also gave a hole in the crowd). They were also a bit of an odd fit as headliners, considering none of the other Osheaga acts were as long-lived (though many on Day Two paid tribute to the man, including Sebastien Grainger of DFA turning the “D!F!A!” chant from the crowd into “El!Vis!Costello!”…). None of this seemed to faze Elvis or his Imposters, who put on a hell of a show.
go-go dancers

Hammer of SongsThey also came prepared. While Costello didn’t have the ‘Wheel of Songs’ that he had recently revived on tour (a giant, carnival-like wheel that he’d spin to pick a song to play), claiming that Montreal didn’t let him bring it, he did have his ‘Hammer of Songs’ – a carnival-like hammer game with titles like “Songs of Sneer” and “Ladies Excuse Me”. Costello also brought his go-go booth – a gilded cage for his own go-go dancer. A second dancer was brought on to pick a song and swing the hammer (led to the Hammer by a third, who sort of played the role that the stage models do at awards ceremonies, guiding people around the stage), before spending her own time in the go-go booth.
Elvis Costello & fans

go-go hammerElvis CostelloBut that was hardly all, as Costello also invited two fans, a boy and a girl, up from the front of the crowd onto the stage, to pick a song each (neither ever swung the Hammer, though). The boy was particularly excited, falling when climbing up onto the stage (but bouncing right back up), energetically pointing at Costello and the band – so much so that the tall blond who guided them around the stage had to pull him back. Both were eventually put into the go-go booth (the boy couldn’t dance, and even fell down a second time), perhaps as much to keep them – i.e., him – from potentially causing problems on stage. Later, when he returned to his friends (right in front of your QRO correspondent), they saw the bruises the young man had from his trip, but “I’m so happy that I don’t care!”
Elvis Costello & The Imposters

 

 

Osheaga

After the main/side stage divide of Day One, and ultra-eclectic line-up of Day Two, the third and final day of Osheaga was the most indie-rock-friendly, from headliners Flaming Lips (playing 1999’s The Soft Bulletin in full) on down. It was also perhaps the best day for seeing strong acts on side stages, even if the main stages were a bit more challenging for some bands:

 

The Sheepdogs
The Sheepdogs

on the cover of Rolling StoneClick image for full gallery

Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs opened the final day of Osheaga with a lot more buzz than most bands playing at 1:30 in the afternoon, thanks to a little magazine called Rolling Stone. The band was down to the final two in a contest for an unsigned band to be put on the cover of Rolling Stone, to be announced the Tuesday after Osheaga [update: they won].

And, like so much hype, hearting that made one like the band a whole lot less. Their seventies guitar-grit rock wasn’t bad, but was hardly inspired – one could think of a million better unsigned bands (half of them in Brooklyn…). In the case of The Sheepdogs, they’re unsigned because they’re from the middle of nowhere, not because they’re ‘underground’ – literally labels don’t have someone scouting in Saskatoon. If they were from New York or Los Angeles, they’d have been signed and opening for some Kings of Leon (QRO album review) at stadiums. One could say that Rolling Stone was correct in putting them on the cover in the ‘this unsigned band will be successful’ way of looking at the contest, but this kind of contest shouldn’t just be doing a label scout’s job.
The Sheepdogs

 

Elephant Stone
Elephant Stone

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The side project of Rishi Dhir of Day Two’s High Dials, Elephant Stone is most notable on record for employing the sitar, yet live, is more of a rock band – though Dhir still brought out the sitar (including sitting cross-legged) at the end of the Trees Stage set.
bring on the sitar!

 

Typhoon
Typhoon

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A large ensemble that still fit comfortably on a main stage, Typhoon‘s more orchestral rock (including cellist, violinist, horns, and two drummers) was lost a bit in the air & sun.
Typhoon

 

An Horse
An Horse

An HorseClick image for full gallery

An HorseIf Canada is the Wales of North America (QRO interview with Welsh band on Canadian label), then Queensland is the Canada of Australia – big and windswept, but people only ever visit the cities in the south, seen as an adjunct to their more populous neighbor. Queensland’s An Horse are reminiscent of Wales’ The Joy Formidable (see below), strong female-fronted indie-rock that’s energetic and raucous while also being skilled. This two-piece still need to develop their stage show a bit more, but thankfully don’t sound like just another two-piece.
An Horse

 

Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit

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The somber Scottish tones of Frightened Rabbit always sounds good, but also always is a bit of an odd fit for an outdoor, daytime set on a large stage. Their Osheaga set couldn’t help but lack for the intimacy of a regular FR show (QRO review) – captured in the live acoustic Liver! Lung! FR! (QRO review), but did get people to jump during “Living In Colour”, the songs of theirs that most fit the time of day.
Frightened Rabbit

 

Eels
Eels

a bearded man called EClick image for full gallery

A bearded man called E – a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett – came out with his bearded band – a.k.a. Eels. Unfortunately, E & co. stuck mostly to newer stuff (QRO review of latest album) from the prolific singer/songwriter, when his older material (QRO greatest hits review) might have been better received by a crowd that probably didn’t know a lot of his stuff.
Eels

 

Smith Westerns
Smith Westerns

Cullen OmoriClick image for full gallery

Despite some abominably pathetic stage humor from singer Cullen Omori, Chicago’s Smith Westerns managed to thrill the Green Stage for the first time on Sunday. Playing mostly off of Dye It Blond, sharp guitars and the occasional burst of keys led songs like “End of the Night” into a of fantastical-yet-grounded haze of solos, gang vocals, and all around tight instrumentation. The band was kept to just the right set-length, and…
Smith Westerns

 

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

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Surprisingly, the Green Stage crowd thinned out big time for the start of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Thankfully, the New Yorkers did not let it faze them – save for bassist Alex Naidus shooting QRO a glare for getting too close with a flash. Regardless of the hellish humidity and some major overlap with Cypress Hill’s main stage slot (QRO photos), the band played through a seamless set list that drew fans in and held them tight. The very modest Pains let loose on fan favorites, though no song was met with such delight as “Young Adult Friction”. “Say No To Love” was a close second, and the five-piece ended with their fans in the palm of their hand.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

 

The Sounds
The Sounds

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Singer Maja Ivarsson of The Sounds might not be quite the showwoman that Emily Haines (QRO solo album review) of Osheaga 2010’s Metric (QRO photos) is – and The Sounds certainly aren’t as good as Metric – but she’s coming close. The Sounds played extra-long, probably to cover up Cypress Hill starting late (no surprise – but they had been scheduled to start at 4:20 PM!…), and were more than up to the challenge. A particular crowd favourite was “Living In America” and its chorus line, “We’re not living in America / But we’re not sorry!”
The Sounds

 

Malajube
Malajube

MalajubeClick image for full gallery

For a band with two Polaris Prize shortlistings, several international tours, mass public and private airplay, a gig at the Olympics, and slots in a handful of commercials under the belts, Malajube was rather… bleh… on Sunday. Worse still, the quartet was playing a main stage in their home province, to a crowd of over a thousand fans. While their recorded material (QRO review) is among the best of francophone acts in North America, the set simply came down to poor sound quality and non-engaging material.

 

Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding

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Ellie GouldingEngland’s Ellie Goulding has gotten quite successful, quite fast. Maybe that explains Osheaga putting the songstress at a side stage, because the crowd at Green Stage was massive (and there was a tight fit in the photo pit, photogs only getting one song a piece, but it was better run than when similar overflow occurred there on Day Two). You perform at one little royal wedding… Yes, it was a mostly female crowd, but there were a fair number of XY in attendance as well, including one who rather absent-minded sung to himself while waiting for the show to start, “I love Ellie Goulding so much… I am going to make out with her…”
they all love Ellie Goulding so much

 

Beirut
Beirut

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Zach CondonIf a crowd of a couple thousand insanely expectant fans was meant to intimidate Beirut‘s Zach Condon, the mob failed miserably. By opening on his most popular song, Condon only upped the ante with “Nantes” – quite thankfully, all five musicians performed intricate and wonderful harmonies on it and throughout. From impeccable accordion to a sweeping trio of brass, and with ukulele sprinkled throughout, Beirut eased their way through forty-five minutes of remarkable musicianship. Not even a broken instrument mic or a poorly timed crowd hosing could slow them down; in fact, things only got better as time went on. “Postcards From Italy” featured a mind blowing instrumental, while many others from Gulag Orkestar as well as The Flying Cup Club were given new life live. Overall, Beirut performed one of the all around best sets of the festival.
Beirut

 

The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable

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Ritzy BryanTech problems delayed the start of The Joy Formidable‘s set, and they never quite ironed out a background noise that sounded like, “A squirrel on a pogo stick” – but those are the kind of things that can bug artists, but the crowd never notices (indeed, a crowd can get annoyed at a band for delaying or interrupting their set for tech problems no one not on stage notices, but TJF weren’t that bothered).

But other than that, and the still-daylight taking away a bit of the band’s drama, The Joy Formidable put on one of the best sets at Osheaga. The group brings it from start-to-finish, fronted more than ably by Ritzy Bryan (and her great faces), and they’ve also got the music to back it up.
The Joy Formidable

 

White Lies
White Lies

White LiesClick image for full gallery

One great band that you’d fear might wilt in the daylight would be White Lies. They tap into that grand, Anglo-tragic vein with epic force, and while they bring a hell of a light show on tour, the daytime might just be too darn sunny for them.

Thankfully, that was not the case at all (though the band had to come out without their handsome blazers). Their sound has a serious size that works well with a large outdoor crowd, and doesn’t rely on just doom & gloom, but also that spark of fun as well.
White Lies

 

The Tragically Hip
The Tragically Hip

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Clad in one heck of a sharp outfit, Gord Downie led The Tragically Hip on stage in style, before diving into a set list that didn’t shy away from the swagger, either. The iconic Canadian band breezed through an hour of hits from Phantom Power, “Up To Here” and “Fully Completely”, while also sprinkling in some well proportioned newer material as well. The band clearly showed that they’d learned a thing or two in the twenty-five or so years they’ve been around – the highlight of their set? Hearing “Bobcaygeon” & “New Orleans Is Sinking” back to back.
The Tragically Hip

 

Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie

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Benjamin GibbardAs the sun set on Montreal, Death Cab for Cutie erupted onto Osheaga’s other main stage… er… rather tried to erupt. Plagued by some technical difficulty – brought on by eccentric guitar changes – Ben Gibbard’s axe cut out a couple of times, forcing the band to come to a standstill. When they came back together, Death Cab burned through a strange, albeit sonically pleasing set of material both new and old. While they played primarily from Transatlanticism and Plans (with some new stuff off of Codes & KeysQRO review – as well), the band’s best song was still Transatlanticism‘s “The New Year”.

 

The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips

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Wayne CoyneAnd then the show really started. A quaint, normal-seeming Wayne Coyne strolled onto the adjacent stage with a warning. The singer modestly told the crowd of an impending light show and his tendency to do strange things during Flaming Lips show (as well as getting an introduction by comedian Jeff Ross – who’s also opened for Charlie Sheen ‘My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option’ tour…). He then turned and walked back, but just as quickly as he’d gone offstage, the whole band, a handful of mascots and a dozen cheerleaders, kicked off Osheaga 2011’s last set with “Race For the Prize” and several hundred dollars worth of effects.
Wayne addresses the crowd

Wayne rides the crowdThe band were in Montreal to play iconic album The Soft Bulletin, which Coyne told the crowd of a two or three thousand could be the last time such a show is performed. From “The Spark That Bled” to “Waiting For Superman”, and everywhere in between, the Flaming Lips played their most cherished record seamlessly, and with the help of an insane projected show, lighting, streamers and confetti cannons. A fair bit of the crowd couldn’t handle the show – and their respective drug concoctions – so it was actually quite easy to advance. Try as we might though, QRO could not get close enough to shove Coyne, upon the front man inserting himself into a bubble and rolling around the crowd.
Wayne rides the crowd
The Flaming Lips

Wayne up closeAs both “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” and “Sleeping On the Roof” elegantly wound down, an air of ‘What’s next?’ was omnipresent across the Osheaga festival grounds. As Coyne set down his strange, theremin-like object, and the band disembarked the stage, the crowd was a still as the Montreal night. They returned and proceeded to marry one of the cheerleaders to one of the mascots – both having never met and allegedly doing ten hits of acid each before the show. As he read their vows, Coyne asked his faithful keyboardist to play a bar or two of FL’s trademark song, “Do You Realize?!?”, which resulted in blissful pandemonium. And as one of the saddest, most beautiful songs of a generation wound down, the crowd, still singing, gave The Flaming Lips a monumental and entirely well deserved ovation.
The Flaming Lips

 

And with the island now quiet, the confetti settled into the ground, the merch tent sold out of Flaming Lips t-shirts, and the crowd filing onto the metro, Osheaga officially ended it’s biggest year ever.  Ultimately, adding an extra day’s worth of diversified programming culminated in a line-up just as potent as last year’s legendary crew (see Arcade Fire, Pavement, The National, etc.).  With a festival dominated by sets from Beirut, Rural Alberta Advantage, Mountain Goats, Ratatat, The Flaming Lips and more, it’s hard to imagine what Osheaga organizers have left up their sleeves for 2012.

 

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