Osheaga 2012 Recap

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Osheaga 2012 Recap

Osheaga 2012 Recap

The Anglophone alternative music festival community just doesn’t give enough credit to those events held outside their sphere.  To be fair, North America (QRO Festival Guide), U.K. (QRO Festival Guide), and Down Under (QRO Festival Guide) all have a ton of festivals – but one of the best, in any language, on any continent, is Osheaga, in Francophone Montreal.

Now with a fully established third day, Osheaga went toe-to-toe with any festival out there Friday-Sunday, August 3rd to 5th.

 

 

DAY ONE – FRIDAY, AUGUST 3RD

Like all of Osheaga, Day One on Friday, August 3rd had a diverse line-up of acts across a variety of stages.  Really across, as the festival had not only expanded its Friday (which is only grew to last year – QRO recap) to a full day, but expanded the actual festival grounds.  While the two main stages (Montagne & Riviére) were in the same place, next to each other in front of gravel (though some patches of green were added further back), the other three stages had been pushed further into Olympic Park – indeed, one had to walk up and down a temporary bridge (over an in-use road) to get to the side stages of Verte and Arbres, though the two stages were bigger than they had been in the past, particularly Verte, which had crowd-space that rivaled the main stages (if not the same easy access – a fence & cordoned-off kids area between it and the Arbres Stage made for some serious bottlenecks, unless one took the ‘back route’ down the hill from Arbres and through an opening in the corner of the fence into Verte).

main stages

 

Charli XCX

Charli XCXClick image for full gallery

Considering how much she is blowing up across the pond in her native England, one would have thought Charli XCX would have played later than the first act of Osheaga 2012 (if still on the main stage).  The highly hyped artist felt like a not-as-good Zambri (QRO album review), and had trouble getting the crowd dancing that early.

Charli XCX

 

Solids

There’s no such thing as grunge anymore, but Montreal’s Solids pay a pretty fair homage to the style with pepped-up sludge guitar surfing over sharp snare fireworks.  Hot stuff.  Probably works best in a darkened, tightly-packed rock joint, but it’s a no-brainer for Osheaga to boot up the festival with an early set from local adrenaline rockers.  It was barely 30 minutes into the three day festival and Solids, playing at the Des Arbres Stage at the far end of the park grounds, already had a nice little pogo contingent front stage & center.  Good post-grunge karma.

 

LP

LP (the moniker for Laura Peroglizzi) paid her dues penning hits for the likes of Rihanna and Christina Aguilera.  If you haven’t seen her in person, she sort of looks like a female Emanuel (of Emanuel and the Fear – QRO interview).  Blown out, dark hair, charisma, and a flair for fronting large ensembles doing great things.  She brought her ‘big picture’ orchestration skills to the Riviére Stage – as big as Osheaga had to offer – and set off a few musical fireworks.  Big voice, big presence, big band.  On the flip side, the presentation felt like the work of someone who had been slogging away too long in the background of the music industry to throw the audience any real curveballs.  Spontaneous virtuosity always takes first place – but workmanlike perfection is always a close second.

 

Hey Ocean!

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Hey Ocean!Another local Canadian band, hailing from Vancouver (is it obnoxious to call a Vancouver band ‘local’ when the gig is in Montreal?  What counts as close in Canada…).  The band appeared to have a nice familiar crowd in the pit at the Scene Verte Stage, which knew the songs well enough to play along with the playful call-and-response antics of Hey Ocean!.  Overall, frivolous fun that made for good summer dancing music.  Extra points for the flute (or was that a very elegant slide whistle?) solos from the unabashedly blonde frontwoman Ashleigh Ball.  A tight outfit with zero compunction about breaking down genre barriers – whatever got the audience to their feet, Hey Ocean! had shoehorned into the set.  “Whatever works, man, works.” -the Dude

Hey Ocean!

 

Yukon Blonde

Yukon BlondeClick image for full gallery

a light-haired CanadianAt the end of their set Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! told the crowd that they were going to Arbres Stage to see their friends Yukon Blonde, “And you should, too” – and very many did.  Also hailing from the other side of Canada, Blonde also had a crowd like they were Montreal locals made good (of course, their nation – if not their province – is in their name, and they were name-checked by How I Met Your Mother‘s resident Canadian Robin Scherbatsky…).  The response to their country-rock mixed with power-pop, which is a catchy combo, was so strong the guitarist was able to crowd-surf during the very first song.

Yukon Blonde crowd surf

 

Poliça

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Two drummers?  Poliça had a dance-haunt reminiscent of a less-goth Osheaga Day Three Zola Jesus (see below, though it didn’t work as well in the hot early sunlight.  The singer did have some nice ‘interpretive dance’ style moves – which unfortunately don’t come out in still photography.

Poliça

 

The Walkmen

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The Walkmen played bigger than their early afternoon start time and would have probably fared better in an early evening slot when the madding crowds were doped up enough to fully appreciate swagger happy set.  But the Walkmen are professionals and professionals knock it out of the park whenever asked.  The New York band delivered a dynamite performance, which traded some of the more drunken rough-n-tumble of a dank club gig for the open air, light-of-day showmanship worthy of acts with far more polished, pristine reputations.  Shades of Coldplay/Bono arena maximalism at times.  The icing on the cake was the silver aviator sunglasses sported by frontman Leithauser; when the Jumbotron camera shot a close-up of, the glasses reflected back the great mass of the crowd undulating beneath a pure sapphire sky.  Quite an effect.  Extra shout out to the Fleet Foxes member Skyler Skjelset filling in for an absent Walkman.  Bros helping bros in the Land of the Maple Leaf.

The Walkmen

 

fun.

Sax On the BeachClick image for full gallery

All the yung’uns at Osheaga were out in force for fun., who have bounded into overnight success (including playing Stephen Colbert’s ColbChella a week later – QRO photos).  Their electro-pop still isn’t that remarkable to folks old enough to be hipsters, but they are now sporting a female keyboardist/saxophonist – and the only thing better than a female bassist is a female saxophonist, ‘cause one Lisa Simpson plays “Sax On the Beach”…

fun.

 

Freelance Whales

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While their last record (QRO review) evoked summer turning into autumn, at outdoor festivals this year Freelance Whales has had a straighter-up summery feel – perhaps that’s just the environment, or perhaps their new album will be a brighter one.  The alt-folk collective and their many instruments did take a while to set up – as the soundman said, “Don’t worry about the glockenspiel – let’s just start the set.”

Freelance Whales

 

Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle ClubClick image for full gallery

Bombay Bicycle Club have found recent success on the back of a few amazing singles from A Different Kind of Fix (QRO review), and they remain a band with some amazing songs – and some decent ones.  They did close out on a hit single, but without warning the crowd.

Bombay Bicycle Club

 

The Jezabels

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It’s tough to complain about a band that is visibly throwing as much heart into their music as Australia’s The Jezabels – but let’s give it a shot.  The four-piece rock ensemble sounds like the musical equivalent of a dry well, or an exhausted mine.  Shrill vocals, hackneyed licks, and predictable crescendos.  Imagine the tail end of three or four different, depleted rock genres – and then tie those split ends into one forgettable knot.  Not worth the trouble.

The Jezabels

 

Of Monsters & Men

not a monster, not a manClick image for full gallery

Iceland’s Of Monsters & Men are bigger than you thought.  The Verte Stage had a packed crowd (and a serious bottleneck to get in or out) for the alt-folk collective.  Like Freelance Whales (see above), the group has a lot of people playing a lot of instruments – yet still found a way to get the drummer to the front of the stage, and a wise move, as he was the one to amp up the crowd.  Still, it was a little too packed at Verte – even the food stalls there had massive lines.

Of Monsters & Men

 

Franz Ferdinand

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Though better suited for nighttime or indoors, where their catchy indie makes you dance with their light show, Franz Ferdinand were still catchy in the hot, hot day on the main stage at Osheaga.  What’s more, their set list was weighted towards their older, better material – “Take Me Out” still rocks (and interestingly wasn’t their set closer, though should have been).  However, live outdoors at a festival, FF’s sound wasn’t as sharp as it usually is for this sharp band.

Franz Ferdinand

 

Wintersleep

WintersleepClick image for full gallery

While Florence & The Machine played to a massive crowd at the main stage trying to get a glimpse of Florence Welch’s auburn locks, Canada’s own Wintersleep played a more appealing and accessible (at least physically) set at the Arbres Stage.  They have strong indie-rock, even if you don’t know their music – and the Canadian crowd knew their music.  Their sound was a little high, but not Barenaked Ladies high…

Wintersleep

 

MGMT

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After a smash debut success (Oracular Spectacular), and an accomplished yet faintly nose-thumbing sophomore release (CongratulationsQRO review), MGMT are still a fairly young band with not much left to prove.  The indie boppin’ American Apparel love ‘em; the old guard alterna-rockers love ‘em (looking at you, Trent…); so all these guys have to do is take the stage and the audience will heap boatloads of adoration on them, right?  Pretty much.  If there’s any MGMT fangrumbling that MGMT has a weak stage show/presence, it has to be tempered by the fact that this band of oddballs has had so much affection heaped on them early.  Boo hoo, I know, but it genuinely affects the worldview that a band brings to a performance.  Not that MGMT are lacking the core elements of an enthralling live show: the graphic visuals blasted by high-power laser beams against the backdrop are a stoner’s delight; the audio mix sounds so full & deep & rich that you might as well be wearing $400 headphones; and the live sound doesn’t miss any of the bizarro intricacy of the recorded stuff, which is saying a lot given the studio wizardry MGMT pulls off.  So what’s missing?  Not sure.  Maybe some passion?  At times MGMT comes off like the musical equivalent of an American Apparel model: cheap sensations, artful tailoring, dead, dead eyes.

MGMT

 

Sigur Rós

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The Icelandic band is rightfully regarded as a national treasure, but they’ve long since become a gift to the world at large.  The band is listed as four members deep, but the ensemble that took the large stage at Osheaga – Scene de la Montagne – looked a lot deeper.  All the better to churn out the enormous wall of sound that turned the dry, gravel-strewn pit into a dustbowl Sigur Róshappening.  Ethereal earth particle magic.  The belching fog machines were hardly required.  If you couldn’t worm your way up front, Sigur Rós thankfully provided an impressive video mash-up via the Jumbotron, mixing pre-recorded snippets of Nordic perplexity with live transmissions.  The overall effect was that of an entire symphony orchestra wrapped in cellophane, tied tight with Christmas lights, and then tossed down a multi-story staircase.  Astonishing, delicate, ramshackle brilliance.

Sigur Rós

 

 

DAY TWO – SATURDAY, AUGUST 4TH

Day Two of Osheaga, Saturday, August 4th, was a scorcher, even hotter than the first day.  However, everything seemed to run smoother, from the long walk to the Verte Stage to the cheap drinks in VIP.

 

The Dø

At a festival that proved capable of kick-starting early crowds with lively sets (see Solids on Friday, CHAPPO on Sunday), Saturday’s opener The Dø (pronounced “dough”) was one of the earliest and liveliest.  The French/Finnish duo fire on a lot of different pistons, but the main thrust is Nordic art-core rock.  Frontwoman Olivia Merilahti has the sort of jaw-dropping vocal chops we’ve come to expect, or at least hope for, from Nordic sirens in the post-Björk musical landscape.  Equal parts vim, vigor, and breathy tease, Merliahti made believers of an Osheaga crowd that had probably never heard their music before.  Interspersed between more conventional rock numbers were long, drawn out, hyper-repetitive percussive breaks that gripped the fans’ attention, similar to the way old blues musicians would ride out the same lick ad infinitum until the entire music hall had raised its collective head.  Shades of Day Three’s Metric (QRO live review) at times – definitely a band to watch.

 

Memoryhouse

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Normally atmospheric acts wilt in the sun when playing early in the day at a festival, but while it was sunny & hot out, Memoryhouse held up nicely.  Their relaxed atmospherics actually were Memoryhousepretty nice to have to start out Day Two – akin to Sub Pop labelmates Beach House (QRO live review), though not as far in that direction, as there was still a touch of rock to their work.  They jokingly asked the crowd to all say their favorite band from the day before – all at the same time, but one could make out “Sigur Rós” (QRO photos).  The group then joked that they were the best band that the crowd had seen this day…

Memoryhouse

 

The Aggrolites

Reggae, ska, soul: The Aggrolites don’t reinvent the wheel and they couldn’t care less.  The band looks like it has signed an exclusive couture contract with ‘Los Angeles Stereotypes ‘R’ Us’.  Either that or they’re castoff extras from an unwritten Cheech & Chong movie.  None of that detracts from the music though.  In fact, The Aggrolites are sort of a L.A. party on wheels, and they brought the funk to otherwise funk-less Montreal.  Every good festival needs one or more bands like this to break the ice – it gives the preteens who just smoked dope for the first time something to dance to.

 

Portugal. The Man

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Alaska’s (not Iberia’s) Portugal. The Man have been kicking around for some time now, but only really took off last year with their major label release In the Mountain. In the Cloud (QRO review).  Not the strongest psych-rock around, but it had some strong singles in “So American” and “All Your Light” – and those songs held up live.  However, “Light” was first and “So American” in the middle of the set, meaning that the psych-jam end wasn’t as impressive.

Portugal. The Man

 

Kandle

This homegrown Montreal talent deserves better than the vague, empty, basically bizarre promo blurb she was saddled with in the Osheaga program: “Do not be mislead, Kandle’s first record is an album of substance, depth and true talentIt resonates like smoke from a blue flame and sticks with you like an old friend.  Kandle Osborne: know her name.”  What’s the presupposition here?  That we all collectively read a really terrible review of Kandle, but rest assured, the album is really extraordinary?  That the record resonates like smoke (does smoke “resonate”?) from a blue flame (why blue?) that sticks with us like an old friend?  A catastrophe of mixed metaphors.  On the bright side, Kandle was, indeed, a charming and superlative performer who showed zero hesitance in front of the large festival crowd.  Her mix of homey, countrified licks and smoky (from a blue flame) exoticism was a perfect delight at the Scene des Arbres.

 

Cursive

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Relative veterans these days, Omaha’s Cursive have never quite matched the success of early single “Dorothy at 40” – kind of like peers Superchunk (QRO live review) and “Slack Motherfucker”.  Actually, Cursive live come off a bit like Superchunk, in the well-oiled veteran department & older-looking than their sound, albeit without Chunk’s great humor.  The group mixed & matched from their many albums at Osheaga, though interestingly frontman Tim Kasher seemed most animated not when playing new material, but when doing “Dorothy”.

Cursive

 

The Black Lips

The Black Lips

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A must-catch act on the Osheaga bill had to be The Black Lips at the smaller Arbres Stage – as much because it was the right size for the crowd to go nuts, but the photo barrier to still stay in place (unlike other times – QRO live review).  The crowd did go wild, kicking up a ton of dust that drifted into the photo pit and onto the stage, but it mattered little, as the energy was still at 110%.  “This is the real electronic music – with guitars…”

wild, dusty crowd

 

The Raveonettes

The guy/girl duo took the stage at Scene Verte during what must have been the hottest part of the hottest day during Osheaga.  The sky and earth were white hot, the shade nonexistent – only the bold & beautiful & stoned braved the extreme weather conditions to people the front of the stage.  Thankfully there were many bold & beautiful & stoned individuals because The Raveonettes veritably thrived in the torrid atmosphere.  Their electric guitar licks carved hot, bleeding gashes through the oppressive wall of heat and the guy/girl vocal harmonies laid down a nice, doped up lullaby for the brain-boiled crowd to hallucinate along to.  Fantastic visions, fantastic sounds, a hot tornado of sonic love.

 

Young the Giant

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“Have they played ‘Cough Syrup’ or ‘Your Apartment’ yet?”  “No, nothing big.”  Young the Giant grew giant-size overnight on the back of a couple of singles from their self-titled debut – so one could be forgiven for just wanting to hear those songs as they played a main stage whose audience stretched from the hot & dusty to the hot & muddy (the latter were those closer up who got hit with the hose-in-the-air from the pit – while a cooling down was nice, the guy with the hose seemed to just assume that no one in the wide arc minded getting drenched, and never seemed to think that he might be more annoying than helpful…).  Then they played “Cough Syrup” and “Your Apartment” back-to-back in the middle of the set.

did anyone ask for a shower?

 

 

A$AP Rocky

Along with Kandle (see above), A$AP Rocky was another victim of the vague, empty promo blurb in the Osheaga program.  I won’t even bother to quote it – it’s the meaningless hype blurb we’ve all seen a million times.  But, unlike Kandle (who was local & probably deserved a more substantive write up), the Osheaga crew had an excuse with Rocky.  The NYC-based rapper has buzzed-out & blown-up so quickly it’s pretty hard for the rest of the world to decide why it should care.  A$AP Rocky… he’s the dude that likes “purple drank,” right?  And he has a couple of viral videos?  All the elements were in place for a disastrous set by a flavor-of-the-month who had more marketing savvy that talent.  Sure enough, the set started with a needlessly protracted entrance.  Amidst growing tension and restlessness among the sweltering crowd, the “pretty motherfucker” didn’t show up until ten minutes into the set.  But when Rocky finally made an appearance, he didn’t disappoint.  With solid beats and on-point delivery, the young phenom proved he’s more than a viral sensation, though he’s clearly still working out some of the finer points of filling out a full set at a major festival show.  Growing pains, but he’s got time to grow.

 

Young Galaxy

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Catherine McCandlessSurprisingly, Montreal locals Young Galaxy (who played at about the exact same time as fellow ‘Young G’ Young the Giant – see above) hadn’t played Osheaga before now, despite their connections to Osheaga ‘11’s Broken Social Scene (QRO photos) and ‘10’s Stars (QRO photos).  But even if you didn’t know their material, they sounded good – and looked it, to, with all the guys dressed in all white, while frontwoman Catherine McCandless wearing what appeared to be hot pants, a sports bra, and some sort of sideways, billowing, see-through tube-top (as well as lots of eye shadow)…

Young Galaxy

 

Garbage

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Shirley Manson“If you know us, we’re Garbage.  If you don’t know us, we’re Garbage.  And if you hate Garbage, fuck you, we’re still Garbage!”  One of the nineties’ biggest alt-acts returned this year with Not Your Kind of People (QRO review), but at Osheaga didn’t shirk from playing the old hits like “Only Happy When It Rains” – and also an impressive early non-single, dedicated to the people who came to Osheaga specifically for Garbage, “Why Do You Love Me?”.  Oh, and Shirley MansonShirley Manson is still a kick-ass frontwoman (those were her words at the start of this paragraph), and hasn’t aged, though her hiked up shorts and auburn locks in a tight bun on the top of her head did make her look a little alien – such as one that might have come from of the UFO she pointed out during the set (which was actually a drone camera being operated from the ground – there was one the following Friday at ColbChella (QRO recap); must be new hip thing to have a festival…).

I Want To Believe

 

SBTRKT

SBTRKT was one of the largest acts at the clubby Scene Piknik Electronik (or at least one with the largest crossover appeal) and has had plenty of buzz via the blog circuit.  So it was no great surprise that the London act packed the smaller stage tight during a late afternoon set on Saturday.  The club kids love ‘em, the indie rock kids love ‘em, most everyone that crowded into the shoulder-to-shoulder scene loved ‘em.  SBTRKT has the Aphex Twin-ish ability to effortlessly mix together rock sounds, noise sounds, electro sounds into one big sonic soup served piping hot, resonating with smoky steam from a blue flame.

 

Yeasayer

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Brooklyn’s Yeasayer has evolved into one of those indie mega bands that is so bursting with talent and production value that it’s seemingly impossible for them to turn out an inferior product.  Case in point: their latest album Fragrant World (QRO review), which was showcased at the Osheaga set, doesn’t reach for the ambitious heights of their previous Odd Blood (QRO review), but their artful composition and pristine execution is so flawless that you can’t pass it by.  Yeasayer is virtually a mandatory listen.  That might sounds burdensome were it not for the band’s apparent reluctance to play up to any sort of tiresome rock god stereotype.  The willfully weird ensemble (see the video for “Madder Red”) doesn’t overpower the listener with their musical chops – Yeasayer knows how to show restraint, and that makes all the difference.  The live set at Osheaga showed all their typical restraint; a band that is capable of analog/electro fireworks knows where to hold back and when to press forward at all the right times.

Yeasayer

 

Feist

Even as the sun was beginning to set, the heat of Day Two was beginning to overwhelm – and the crowds were growing ever larger, especially at the main stage.  So forgive QRO for catching the wonderful Feist on the big-screen in the VIP area (which had only just discovered…) – it was a way nicer way to see the lovely lady (and her lovely band, including QRO favorite Charles Spearin – QRO interview), as she belted out a strong set.  Even the bros like Feist, or at least the Canadian bros, eh…

 

The Jesus & Mary Chain

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What’s left to be said about one of the great rock acts of underground rock n roll of the late 20th century?  Now fully aboveground, The Jesus & Mary Chain are enjoying their victory lap.  Has the band lost the edge of its turbulent and troubled past?  Well, duh.  Who cares?  Frontman Jim Reid’s vocals still purr like stoned alley cat and his brother still knows how to send up a wall of wah-wah’d feedback like he was about to set the entire world on fire.  The band seemed a little out of sorts in general, wary of being caught in the has-been simulacrum of yesteryear indie favorites, and the festival PA never approached the hostile pitch, level, and intensity of Jesus & Mary Chain legend.  But, all told, smooth sailing from a band that never knew smooth sailing the first time around.

The Jesus and Mary Chain

 

Snoop Dogg

After The Jesus & Mary Chain headlined the Verte Stage, really wasn’t up to seeing the D-O-double-G from a million miles away as he headlined the main stage – so caught Snoop Dogg on the big screen in VIP (with James Shaw & Josh Winstead of Day Three’s Metric – QRO live review).  Snoop kind of appeals to everyone – gangsta enough for the gangstas, but also relaxed & engaging enough for the white kids.  And he’s just an affable celebrity – plus, maybe nobody this side of Willie Nelson is as associated with weed, and who don’t like weed?  Though not sure about this whole Chris Gaines-style alter-ego side-project, as the reggae ‘Snoop Lion’…

 

VIP

 

 

DAY THREE – SUNDAY, AUGUST 5TH

The comparisons between Montreal’s Osheaga and Chicago’s Lollapalooza are always going to happen, as they occur the same weekend, with many of the same bands.  But in 2012 it was raised further when Lolla had to clear out Grant Park in the middle of Day Two due to “dangerous weather conditions predicted” or something like that.  Osheaga only laughed, but then the rain followed the jet stream and hit Montreal on Day Three.  While nowhere near as bad as Chi-town, downpours hit off-and-on throughout the final days, marring certain performances (from Zeus to Zola Jesus), but hardly ruining the third day:

 

CHAPPO

CHAPPO

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Continuing the weekend’s tradition of strong starts, Brooklyn’s CHAPPO opened Sunday with a tsunami of confetti, flash and flesh.  The neu-psych pop contingent is an easy listen for Canadian fans that might not have heard them before, dropping sonic references to vintage Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and contemporary Alex Chappocross-fertilization with the likes of MGMT and of Montreal.  Always known for a superlative live set, CHAPPO brought out the big guns to Montreal.  Literally: crepe paper cannons sent out streaming volleys over the heads of the young crowd.  After demonstrating the proper firing technique, frontman Alex Chappo tossed out dozens of cannons into the audience, which kept up a steady kaleidoscopic hailstorm of Flaming Lips-inspired insanity throughout the set.  Most of the set list derived from CHAPPO’s latest, the full length LP Moonwater, with occasional throwbacks to tracks from their ongoing EP series Plastique Universe.  An impressive, high energy showing from a band on the rise.  Extra points for the dancing girls, stage craft, and fulminating volcano of silver and gold quadrilaterals.  You had to be there…

CHAPPO confetti

 

Zeus

ZeusClick image for full gallery

Toronto’s Arts & Crafts Records has been snapping up great Canadian bands for years now, and had two back-to-back early on the main stages on Day Three, starting with Zeus.  Their good seventies country-rock got the crowd clapping along, though they were perhaps best with a funky number.  However, the rain did start to fall during their set, but “A little mud never stopped us…”

Zeus

 

Dan Mangan

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Dan ManganNor did the mud & rain stop fellow Arts & Crafter Dan Mangan – though it was definitely heavier during his set.  However, Mr. Mangan had a lot of loyal, excited fans – and he went into the pit (and out from under the covering protecting the stage from rain) to embrace them, and even invited on to stage one who was wearing a big yellow box on his head that said “Robot Dan Mangan” (likely inspired by his Roboteering).

Dan Mangan

 

Zola Jesus

A good-sized crowd had gathered beneath the trees at Scene des Arbres despite the inclement weather.  Rain fell, sometimes hard and sometimes soft, during soundcheck (in which Zola Jesus warmed up with Rihanna’s “Umbrella”).  All signs pointed to ‘all systems: go.’  The roadies were attacking the stage floor with squeegees in the desperate attempt to make the show happen.  Dark, stormy weather suits Zola Jesus and the whole predicament might have been a blessing in disguise until someone in authority, with some good common sense, called off the set.  Zola Jesus sputtered out two songs of sopping wet percussive electric brilliance before the announcement came.  She tried to string out the proceedings for a third song, but to no avail.  Rain out, no rain check.

 

Passion Pit

Shout out to their native Boston?  Check.

Mispronouncing the name of the fest, Osheaga?  Check.

Through the hits and the misses, Passion Pit are all gravy.  No longer the electro-pop up-n-comers, the band has cemented their position in the upper echelons of the indie hierarchy with years of touring and a dynamite debut Manners (QRO review) followed by the more than adequate Gossamer.  Frontman Michael Angelakos leaned less heavily on his signature helium vocals in the Osheaga set while strutting his stuff in suit-and-tie ensemble.  Good crowd response, an entertaining set.  Rumors swirled offstage that Angelakos was in the midst of some mental health issues that had the band juggling tour commitments for the sake of some much needed R&R.  In fact, the original timeslot of the band was later in the day – Passion Pit switched with Tame Impala (see below) on the day of the performance.  No word on the rationale behind the switch, but the last minute shuffle didn’t appear to reduce the crowd turnout for ‘da Pit’ one iota.  Electro-pop crafted with enormous haymaker refrains is a hit pretty much anywhere these days – just show up and don’t have a mental breakdown until the 90 minute set is finished.

 

Santigold

It’s not clear that Santigold has taken any substantive steps forward musically since emerging from beneath the protective, protogenic wing of former world-beater M.I.A. Her stage show, on the other hand?  Superb and restrained, all at once.  Hard to peg what aesthetic Santigold was aiming for.  Imagine a cross between limes, Kanye shutter-visors, Pharaonic civilization, and go-go dancing.  That’s a party vibe no matter how you slice it.  Santigold remains a first rate, show stopping diva.  The critics can squabble over her Pitchfork ratings all they like.  Bottom line?  She bangs.

 

Austra

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Another engaging songstress with dancers was own Austra.  Another Toronto artist playing Montreal’s Osheaga, though she almost sounded like she was singing in French – or possibly Austrian or Australian.  But her dancers sang as well.  Think if Vancouver’s Grimes (QRO live review) had a band (though she does already have dancers – QRO photos).

 

Austra

 

 

Tame Impala

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QRO’s verdict on Tame Impala‘s stellar Innerspeaker (QRO review) overemphasized the Australian band’s allegiance to the garage rock revival.  Their late afternoon-to-early evening slot, a last minute schedule switch, took advantage of the big stage in a big way, proving the band is more than garage rockers that won the garage rocker sweepstakes.  Pin that label on Sunday’s headliners Black Keys (see below).  Tame Impala, on the other hand, boast the sort of eclectic, retro rock sensibility that can mix delicate homage with proggy innovation while still providing the rock ‘em, sock ‘em delivery.  That the sun was shining during the set, in spite of threatening rain, didn’t hurt the crowd vibe either.  Sunny licks all the way down.

Tame Impala

 

The Shins

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A downpour started just as the much anticipated set by The Shins began – but that brought only ironic cheers from the crowd, and the rain did end quickly (though some would occasionally fall from the tarp above the stage).  This year has seen ‘the return of The Shins’, in that main man James Mercer stopped working on side-projects (like his underwhelming team-up with Danger Mouse, Broken Bells – QRO album review), gotten most of the band back together, and started making Shins music again.  There’s a reason so many people wanted The Shins back (and not just Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State), as they’ve got a whole bunch of great songs, which are great live (and better than the occasional non-hit that they played…).

return of The Shins

 

Bloc Party

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Kele Okereke“Let’s get one thing straight, Osheaga – we’re not gonna let a little mud stop us…”  A British act that’s played many a muddy festival in their home island, Bloc Party do know something about playing against the elements – but it wasn’t the mud, but the rain.  One can find a spot without too much mud on the ground, and avoid anyone moving around too much to avoid getting spatter, but only covering will hold off the rain – and even then, you’re still cold (and the rain is getting through).  Moreover, how many Bloc Party songs are you gonna wait for until you hear ones from their first & only great album, Silent Alarm?  At least it wasn’t solo material from singer/frontman Kele Okereke (QRO solo album review) – and he’s still a good frontman.

rainy Bloc Party

 

Metric

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Jesus, Metric are big.  Thankfully, the rain had stopped by the time they took the main stage, but you had absolutely no hope of getting anywhere near somewhat close if you hadn’t been waiting there for a while.  One couldn’t even sidle up the side, as there was a distinct edge to the crowd, which ended right where the fence to the house-right of the stage started blocking your review (also blocking your view from there?  The cameraman on a tripod whenever singer/frontwoman Emily Haines took to her keyboard).  Still, the group is really showmen (and woman), with a set as electric as the band, mostly off of this year’s Synthetica (QRO review).

Metric

 

M83

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One act that’s blown up in a big way this year has been France’s M83 – and you knew that they’d be even bigger in French-speaking Quebec (and main man Anthony Gonzalez did take the opportunity to thank the crowd in French…).  But there’s a reason M83 have blown up so significantly, and it’s because they’re one of the best at mixing atmospherics & dance in electronica, a style that was already very hot – and only getting hotter.  What’s more, M83 lived up to their hype & psyched crowd (including crowd-surfing and one girl on shoulders who tried her hardest to ignore security telling her to get down, but a security member went over the photo barrier and into the pit to tell her boyfriend to bring her down), even if you didn’t know their songs.

M83

 

The Black Keys

Farther along in the hype timeline is Akron, Ohio’s The Black Keys, who have been at the forefront of today’s blues-rock revival.  Singer & guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney can certainly hold down a song, but perhaps the recent onslaught of touring, especially festivals (such as New York’s Catalpa the weekend prior – QRO photos) has taken its toll, as the group sounded a bit more produced and less special; it particularly came out on old numbers like “Your Touch”, the song that surprised you when you found out it was two white guys from north of the Mason-Dixon who made it.  But they still closed with a neat light show (that almost didn’t happen, because of the threat of rain during), bulbs floating down upon the crowd that would light on-and-off in synchronicity.

 

Osheaga

 

 

In 2012, Montreal’s already big Osheaga Music Festival got even bigger.  It’s new third day expanded to full size.The side stages grew in size, as well as distance, with an art installation in between the side & main stages.  Yet it still retained at least an air of alternative independence, from the headliners (no giant mainstream artist headlining to get indie cred) to the side stages (still lots of Canadian goodness) – not to mention the location, an artistic city in the center of the only non-English-speaking majority place north of the Rio Grande.  So even as there was even more to take in, you could still take it all in.

 

-words & photos: Ted Chase & Mike Gutierrez

Osheaga

 

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