Osheaga 2012 : Day One Recap

<img src="https://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/osheaga12d1.jpg" alt="Osheaga 2012 : Day One Recap" />Osheaga 2012 kicked off with a bang on a very full Friday. ...
Osheaga 2012 : Day One Recap
Osheaga 2012 : Day One 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.

 

 

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 (QRO album review), 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 happening.  Ethereal earth particle Sigur Rósmagic.  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

 

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