There was a point, during Osheaga’s opening day that gave me goosebumps. During Arcade Fire’s closing song, Wake Up, a sea of people were linked together in a communal musical experience as we all sang the whoo hoo parts of the song, even after the band left the stage.
For Nick Farkas, that was the moment when he and his team could “put our shoulders down. The hardest part was over.”, he told me the next day.
I remember speaking with Nick about the humble origins of the festival and seeing the glimmer in his eyes when remembering those first few events, not even making a profit. The term he shared was a “camaraderie of misery” that cemented a team with the purpose of creating a festival to put Montreal on the map.
After a crazy pandemic, a mini-Osheaga last year…we finally had the musical extravaganza that is Osheaga, a premiere festival for all music lovers.
The fact that Evenko’s team pulled it off, with a shortage of staff in all industries, just goes to show how much this event means to them, and us.
Brendan Patrick Rice (Warwick, NY) had many characters that he embodies growing up, and Gus Dapperton was the one that fit the music path he took.
Gus took the stage and matched that chill Indie Pop/Bedroom Pop vibe.
The most energetic on stage was his sister, Ruby Amadelle, who played the synths. Instead of swinging the synths like a guitarist would do their instrument, she would twist and crouch, as the instrument stayed cemented in place.
Gus progressively became more animated as the crowd sang along to the songs, obviously knowing the lyrics.
Tones and I
An elaborate set welcomed Toni Watson, better known as Tones and I. Kudos to the stage crew who were putting the finishing touches on the setup right up to the last minutes.
Starting off with Never Seen the Rain, Toni showed that her voice was even more impressive than the set!
Before playing a dance cover version of Forever Young, she shared that it was an homage to her humble beginnings, playing a cappella covers on her YouTube channel, busking, and playing small pubs and bars.
Tones and I became a household name off Dance Monkey, a song she recalls was: “Written alone in a dark closet in not much more than 30 minutes.” She wasn’t alone anymore, with quite the crowd gathered.
From Tik Tok to the Valley Stage, PinkPantheress had a large crowd singing and dancing.
She had trouble with her voice, but ever the performer, got the crowd to help by singing along. At one point, she restarted, jokingly saying that the crowd needed to sing louder than her on the chorus. They did so, when given a second chance.
I was only able to catch a small sample of the 12-song performance, but the crowd was obviously enjoying the music and her charming presence.
She said the only people having more fun than them were those at the spinning ride within eyesight. Admittedly a lover of rides, she promised to try it right after her performance.
King Hannah’s return to Montreal was at the Tree Stage.
Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle form the nucleus of the band, and their sound will vary from a soft Portishead/Mazzy Star vibe to an all-out heavy jam.
A perfect song to emphasize the above was opener A Well-Made Woman, which builds up to a crescendo with duelling guitars vying for our attention.
The Bruce Springsteen cover of State Trooper fits the band so well, you would think they wrote it.
Go-Kart Kid was also another stand-out performance that cements them as a band to have on your watchlist.
Local Natives were my first show on my very first visit to Osheaga. This could have been incredibly overwhelming. A huge sea of fans of all genres mixing in and out everywhere, and I’m tasked with reviewing bands familiar and unfamiliar to me alike. Instead, I felt pretty good! Local natives turned out to be a great entry point into the festival. The music, the demeanour of the musicians, and even the weather on the day were all sunny.
I write briefly about an incident during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show where an audience member had a medical issue. That moment was handled very professionally, and I was impressed by the quick and sensitive response of the staff and festival goers. The ethos put forward by artists as well as festival organizers that we all should be 100% ourselves turned out to be the rule of the day. I found after the incident I now had an instant rapport with a dozen Osheagans, and I can safely say to anyone who, like myself, isn’t great in crowds, this crowd feels good.
A band on my list to see for a while. I’d caught them at the end of a Jimmy Kimmel episode nailing a cover of ‘More Than This’ by Roxy Music (which is one of my personal favourite songs). It was a stunning performance, the vibrato in lead singer Taylor Rice’s voice was perfect as it captured that Brian Ferry fluttery dance perfectly. So I was interested in seeing them live to be sure.
These California boys battled at the beginning of the set to fight through some technical issues. Stage monitors and in-ear monitors can be a fussy thing to get right straight away. Stage sound is crucial to the artist feeling the music, and I got the sense they might have felt the gear or the mix was letting them down.
They moved past it, though and eventually found a balance. Or maybe just a show must go on attitude, and in the audience, our mix sounded great. By the time they got to ‘Coins’ the harmonies clicked. Kelcey Ayer sings lead on this one and really gives it his everything.
My eyes opened wide for the fourth song. Pun intended (and really bad), but it was when the war drum opening gave way to the intoxicating buttery guitar line that I noticed the skyline of Montreal beyond the trees. I listened and took in the crowd and felt like the synth blast heat wave of the bridge was going to rattle me awake and completely melt my body simultaneously. I now felt comfortable. Anxiety medication is good, but Local Natives works too.
From here until my favourite track, ‘When Am I Gonna Lose You,’ the guys hit stride. ‘You and I’ had us dance floating, or is it float dancing?
‘Dark Days’ has a sublime groove bed. You don’t need to appreciate it to fall in love with the slinky guitar figure that hooks you and then leaves a loop in your head for days. I think that little guitar part is my favourite slice of their music.
Every song seemed more recognizable to the multitudes until the perfect closer of ‘When Am I Gonna Lose You’. And then we busted open. Leave em wanting more, isn’t that how the saying goes?
Parcels were my big surprise of the day! Presumably, they’re from California… or no wait, they’re from Bristol… No Frankfurt… I don’t actually want to know yet, so no googling because I’ve decided that they are from whatever universe “One More Time” era Daft Punk is from!
My friends, these are incredibly funky players.
Out on stage strolled these lithe, mostly flaxen-haired boys. I say boys, but they were men. They had well-earned confidence. I had no idea what kind of sound they would make because I waited to listen to them after an excited tip-off from a friend.
When they began, their first song was so interesting. ‘Trance Intro’ started with a choppy texture on the guitar followed by a little bit of a keyboard complement and then when the drums came in it’s like they were out of time with each other. As if the same tempo but the drums were pushed by an eighth or something, if you get what I mean and that all changed when the bass comes in!
Everything locks together with that bass. It’s simple, tasteful, and funky and as soon as it dropped, the audience moved as one.
‘Trance Intro’ continues to show layers; the harmonies the Parcels accomplish are incredible. One voice comes in, and it’s beautiful another voice joins, and suddenly I’m scanning the stage looking for microphones to guess how many perfect singers could possibly join in!
4 part harmonies! If you squint really hard, it was like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were playing euphoric filter funk. I conclude I could listen to this for hours. It’s like a new genre unto itself.
The palms of the synth player’s hands contained several of the girls in the front row. He would subtly glance and they would swoon. Each member seemed to have his own personal swagger.
The audience knew all the words. I like watching audiences sing along; most of the time we know some of the words, especially big choruses that knock you down with their melodic simplicity. But Parcels songs had very well-worded lyrics and a large portion of the audience I observed had no hesitation singing aloud the words at and to each other.
I’m returning to the bass player again because it struck me that it’s so rare for such a funky player also to be so tasteful and serve the song so perfectly. His choices were impeccable. He would open up space by not playing for certain periods of time, not uncommon, I know, but the choices of when to lay back and when to jump back in were so powerful and satisfying. His voice as well, I think it was the strongest of all as far as connecting an emotion into the song.
The guitar player, when he would sing lead, had a bell-clear voice. It has a natural clarity to it; his speech and enunciation are fantastic. You can really hear every word and meaning. But the bass player just had a way of connecting where you didn’t necessarily need to be able to make out the words. He wasn’t mumbling, but you didn’t need to make out every single word to really feel what he was getting at, which is an amazing quality.
The synth player was breezy and understated in his stage presence. The guitar player was well aware of his power and his guitar sonics and textures were well chosen. The drums were tight and punchy. The pianos often brought a welcome classical element into the mix.
As I mentioned, I was unfamiliar with them. They were on my list for someone I wanted to see but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. So huge plus, huge surprise. It was just joyful, tantric, soul-elevating, funky music.
I really stopped caring who was the next band that I was supposed to review (apologies editor, I did come back to my senses) because I was entranced. 10 out of 10, maybe 11 out of 10 will see them again. Will DEFINITELY be deep diving into their catalogue as soon as possible.
In terms of energy, Turnstile were matchless on Friday.
Imagine if the tour bus of Rage Against the Machine collided with Jane’s Addiction’s and that of a metal band. That mixture would expel Turnstile.
Brendan Yates (vocals) is the equivalent of a turbo on a sports car, revving up the crowd. His partner in crime was Franz Lyons (bass), who would taunt the crowd with anticipation of the EDM version of a bass drop: Their frenzied sound.
Just as entertaining was Brady Ebert on guitar, with moves and riffs that brought a certain metal element to the hardcore mix.
The effect was a memorable set that got a sizeable circle pit going. I was happy to observe from the safety of the side, enjoying both the performance and the reaction from the fans.
Charli XCX drove the crowd absolutely bonkers. She made me laugh a few times because she swore a lot, which was pretty jarring. That was indicative of the playful but tough attitude she pushed all show long. Her choreography was powerful, her outfit was amazing, her backup dancers were spicy, and her support visuals were enticing.
Charli pulled some hits that you didn’t necessarily expect, and she left out some things that you expected like “Boom Clap”. That was sad, but her show was so high energy I doubt many people missed it.
She did perform “I Love It,” which she wrote and Icona Pop had a huge hit with, and that seemed to be the peak of crowd interaction because you have that element of nostalgia. Tons and tons of people. A variety of ages, all knowing exactly what’s going on.
I think it was smart, but she placed it early in the set, and I think she really rode and captured quite a few new people myself included. A few songs for us, like yes, I guess I knew that was her song and yes it is really really good.
Charli is one of these artists that seems so talented that while she plies her trade in pop bangers, she could really do any kind of music.
But you can tell from her set that she just finds it a joy to be on stage playing crazy pop music that rattles the change from your pockets and shakes the last bad feelings from your body.
As far as the sonic space, I really enjoyed the polished sound. The basslines had punch and clarity, while the kick and snares had a little extra sizzle.
Charli’s exit from the stage was amazing. I’ve never heard anybody do a sign-off like that. It was just so funny but also so cool she said something to the effect of “Montreal you’ve been great. Give it up for yourselves!” (and the crowd gives it up for themselves) And then, as if it’s an afterthought, she turns back to us and says, “now give it up for me, bitch!”
Suffice to say, we gave it up for her. She deserved it, and she more than earned it. I would love to see Charli again, in a setting where it’s more her fans and a little less general admission. I feel like she would be connecting with her audience better. And yet, she’s definitely got a lot of new fans spliced from the crowd at Osheaga.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It was technically a knockout…
Yes, Karen O’s initials are K.O., and she had them on her back. And she bobbed and weaved all set. We didn’t stand a chance.
The reason I am even at Osheaga is I really wanted to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and hoped to review them. I did not know that it was associated with Osheaga when I requested review approval, and here I am, with many, many many shows to review! I still felt the need to really respect my original desire to review them. To really enjoy their show because even though I knew it would be good, what surprises would there be? And they did not disappoint. This set was an adventure for the band, for the crowd, for me personally, and for some other people around me. I’ll get to that later.
My first notice was that (oooh!) guitarist Nick Zinner has a Danelectro! That is one sweet-looking guitar on him! He could probably play anything through his stack and sound like himself.
Karen O comes out and gets the biggest reaction of the day of anybody in any band that I’ve heard so far. People are going nuts for her and they should. I’m reminded I should have brought my earplugs.
She is a goddess. She looks amazing. She looks like Steven Tyler sorted through the very finest recycling bins in Soho and pieced together and handcrafted her outfit. There was some kind of bicycle helmet with a spike in it and there were shoulder pads made out of coke cans on her frock, I guess I’ll call it a frock, and there was a fringe of vinyl and who knows what else… Maybe Steven Tyler – he’s not giving away his secrets, I don’t believe.
Before she even sang a note, she just had everybody in the palm of her hand.
Brian Chase’s powerful drumming plays an incredible role always, yet there are pieces in multiple songs where I was struck with the thought, ‘wow this moment would be so different if he had picked a slightly different groove. His parts are so much more important than I ever realized when just listening to them in on the records. He was really fun to watch, too, he would laugh any time the screens moved onto the audience, and a young boy or girl would be caught off guard. He enjoyed their reaction to themselves on screen and he also would laugh at Karen’s antics. He really had a lot of fun, very endearing.
Guitarist Nick Zinner on the other hand, it’s hard to get a read on what he’s thinking. Either he’s just a professor of guitar playing and a sonic architect so that he just plays and moves around the stage as he needs to get things done and be kind of an angular counterpoint to Karen.
Karen, of course, doing wild spins and microphone tricks; her mic handling is amazing, by the way.
OH YES, the old spit the water with your body bending backward trick! The lighting behind her just looked incredible, it’s like she transformed into a statuesque fountain spewing lava. It was insane, lasted less than 2 seconds; I’ll never forget it.
OH YES, the old microphone cord in between the teeth trick. Karen would hold the microphone like she was presenting a ceremonial dagger and pull the line taught- fake biting through it. Rockstar moves constantly.
She would prowl the stage like she was some kind of Raven/Panther/Owl hybrid (two birds I guess, because when her head moves side to side, she’s like an owl, oh my goodness, I digress)
New track ‘Burning’ feels like an unearthed Nirvana power ballad. Love it.
Here there is a gap in my show notes; there was an incident involving a couple in front of me, I was asked to assist and for my part, I did what I could. Might not have been much, but I was present and I think was helpful. A medic on the other hand, very promptly and professionally handled the situation and I think about the couple, best wishes to them. Sending out positive vibes, I hope it turned out ok. The event organizers deserve kudos for handling large crowds so well. People felt safe to be themselves at Osheaga, and that’s worth something.
And now on with the show!
‘Wolf’ is an instant classic. Pre-saving the new record NOW. That’s all I’ll say about that.
At this point, I started noticing that even the backdrops are stunning. There was a deep red background and each song had a colour scheme to pitch the mood. There were different gradient backgrounds. A song like ‘Soft Shock’ really benefits from the added touch. It furthers the juxtaposition of this giant spectacle of cooing lyrics to thousands and thousands of people with the intimacy of lyrics probably written in a bedroom, about a bedroom, two bedrooms actually. It reminded me of the joy of young love and love’s confused cousin infatuation. The discovery and the frantic headspace you live in at those moments.
At this point, there was a minion balloon in the crowd, and that was perfect.
The beginning of the song ‘Maps’ is so tantalizing and tingly and the drums and synth intro put you in a trance and Karen teases us awfully! We know she’s going to sing ‘pack up… don’t stray’, we just don’t know when. Instead, she introduces the song as “the Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song” and leads us in a chant of “love! tenderness! love! tenderness,”… and she has a raspy quality to the word tenderness that made it extra- She pops the mic out to us and we scream “LOVE!” and she screams “TENDERNESS!” again again again and Finally she gives us the opening lines and we collectively swoon.
I didn’t think anything could be better than that, but I was wrong. In the very last song, the drums are different from the record and it was perfect. This psychotic drum intro into “Heads Will Roll” sounded to me like Sharona had come back and wasn’t happy about how she had been represented in the old The Knack classic. Unintended consequence? Definitely. Bizarre thought unique to me? 100%. But it recontextualizes a favourite YYY song of mine and isn’t that what different settings of musical appreciation is about?
At Osheaga 2022 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs reminded us why they are solidly and forever royalty of New York music, like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and The Strokes, and always welcome in Montreal.
The Verdict: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were incredible 20 out of 10. 150% would recommend. Definitely will see again. Knocked out completely. Yeah yeah yes.
When we tragically lost Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters decided to put their tour on hiatus. Arcade Fire was a logical choice and a perfect band with Montreal roots to end Friday’s festivities.
Age of Anxiety I started us off, fully describing the global state of mind we all can relate to.
Music is one of the best antidotes to anxiety, bonding us with strangers as we experience a common experience in real-time.
No live stream can match the energy of a performance, let alone one by Arcade Fire, known for their lively stage presence.
The loss of Taylor was acknowledged by a dedication of The Suburbs, early in the set.
Win acknowledged past members, such as Josh Deu, who helped created such classics as No Cars Go, which was just one of the older songs that were part of their setlist.
Afterlife started a dance party that was impossible to resist. The song ended with a snippet homage to New Order’s Temptation.
The disco ball and lasers only added to the club atmosphere during Reflektor and other songs during their set.
The band took on the challenge of performing End of the Empire I-III and IV, which is over 8 minutes all told.
Will Butler, who worked on the WE album recently left the band and was replaced in part by Dan Broeckner (Wolf Parade), who performed a cover of his own song This Heart’s On Fire.
Rebellion (Lies), Sprawl II and finally Wake Up reminded us of a time when Montreal loved a band that the world would soon discover.
The highlight was of course, Wake Up which activated that part in us that might have lost its flame.
The fire we all had before the pandemic became just an ember for many.
“So get up, get out, relight that spark. You know the rest by heart.”
Wake Up reignited that spark and became a fire once again within us, reminding us that we are “gonna find the strength” to power through any obstacle that comes our way.
As the crowd chanted, amid the confetti, the band walked off the stage and Win threw the tambourine, outsourcing the important role of keeping that flame alive, as we continued to sing along.
We were filled with joy and continued the concert performance in the brief rain that refreshed us and washed away the last few years.
Even in the sardine-packed Metro, an impromptu singing of Wonderwall started, reminding me that we were not going to give in…because “maybe”…the Wonderwall are those around us that keep us going.
Arcade Fire’s glorious return to Osheaga reignited an ember into a fire whose warmth comforted us as we left an incredible first day of Osheaga.
Video: Various audience member contributions…thanks!
Writer: Randal Wark (Intro, Gus Dapperton, Tones and I, PinkPantheress, King Hannah, Turnstile, Arcade Fire)
Writer: Mike Rogers (Local Natives, Parcels, Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
Photos: Steve Gerrard, Susan Moss, Tim Snow & Patrick BeaudryShare this :