Osheaga: An Experience


Friday had been the day I was looking forward to the most, and it far exceeded expectations. Here’s a list of bands I saw.

Hey Ocean

Hey Ocean! performing a busking set for War Child at Osheaga.

I had been really excited to see Hey Ocean! particularly because the chance doesn’t come by often, and I absolutely love their blend of West Coast pop with horns. I sadly wasn’t able to catch their actual set, but I was able to catch them busking at the War Child booth. As if you needed them being giving people as another reason to love them. With just the three of them and two acoustic guitars, they did a couple songs, including an awesome rendition of Alleyways seen below. Ashleigh Ball is breathtakingly gorgeous. The acoustic ‘Alleyways’ ended up being a highlight of my weekend.

Bombay Bicycle Club

You could tell these guys were having a blast on stage. Long hair swinging back and forth, it was nice to hear songs from A Different Kind of Fix played live with guitars. Performances of three of my favorite songs of theirs – ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’, ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’, and ‘Your Eyes’ were well done.

The Jezabels

The Jezabels live at Osheaga.

I’d never actually listened to The Jezebels before, but on a friends tip, I checked them out. And I’m glad I did. This four piece outfit is from Australia, and if nothing else, the lead singers voice made the concert worth it. Being bigoted, I’m glad I hadn’t seen a picture of the band beforehand – I would have probably labelled them as emo and not gone. But though the crowd wasn’t that jive, musically they created a great atmosphere.

Of Monsters And Men

As you can see, they packed the bowl.

A closer picture of Of Monsters and Men live at Osheaga.

From The Jezabels, I headed right over to Scène Verte for Of Monsters And Men. If nothing else these guys showed how rapidly things can happen in the music industry. Only debuting as a band last year, these guys drew a crowd that rivaled some of the bigger main stage acts. These Icelanders put on a great shown with a full fledged seven person strong cast (they tour eith an additional trumpet) that brought their songs to life. The finale of ‘Little Talks’, their breakout single, with the crowd singing along was particularly invigorating.

Amadou & Mariam

Amadou & Mariam jamming out on the main stage – not seen, the head behind Amadou is their keyboardist.

At 5, we headed over to the main stage to see Amadou & Mariam, a blind duo from Mali. They added a nice touch of variety to the day, and even though nobody knew what they were singing, people danced and cheered anyways. Especially when Amadou rang out a rolled “Afrrrrrrica!” It was good to see some French at a festival held in Quebec.

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand, main stage, low quality picture.

While I wasn’t sure how this set would be, these guys definitely surpassed expectations. Playing their hits, these guys ended up putting out one of the strongest sets of the day. Particularly amazing was a surprise cover of Donna Summers (R.I.P.) ‘I Feel Love’, which was very well done. They had a particularly energetic finale, playing an extended version of ‘This Fire’, which had all four members surrounding the drum kit and playing it at the same time.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Ulysses, I Feel Love, No You Girls, Take Me Out, This Fire (Closer)

The Weeknd

The Weeknd + backing band. Main stage.

The Weeknd has eyes behind is sunglasses?!

After all the hype that The Weeknd has got over the last year, it made sense that he had a significant slot in the lineup. Having seen him once in October 2011, the difference was remarkable. That being his own show, and in the fall, he embraced the darkness of the night and wore a baseball cap low over his head – at that time many people still didn’t know what he looked like, and he played up the mystery factor. At Osheaga, his set was in daylight, and halfway through he even took off his sunnies. He performed decently, hit his notes (especially on tracks like ‘Life of the Party’) and the Osheaga speaker setup especially served him well, unleashing the bass on tracks like ‘High For This’.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

High For This (Opener), The Morning, House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls, Life of the Party, The Birds, Crew Love, The Knowing, Wicked Games

Florence + The Machine

Truly incredible. The truest way to describe Florence, is to say that she had regal passionate verocity. I can say with confidence that I have never seen anyone perform with that emotion. In each and every song the music absorbed her, she became the fountain everything spilled out of. So it didn’t surprise me that she was a little cracked. During ‘Dog Days Are Over’, she orchestrated the whole crowd to jump on her count of three, and then continuously. And just after we did, she went “Did you see that? I just saw a ghost, of me!” With the level she was absorbed into her music though, it was all good. She took high energy songs and stripped them down, caressing them forever, and then crescendoed. Even though she twirled and ran back and forth across the stage, her powerful voice just didn’t falter. And as was almost expected, during ‘Shake It Out’, she hit a note – then just held it for the sake of it. An immense performance, and with Justice and Metric, I’d say one of the best.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

What The Water Gave Me (Opened the set), Only If For A Night, Cosmic Love, Dog Days Are Over, No Light, No Light (Finale)


Sigur Rós

Sigur Ros in action at the main stage – a theatrically lit stage, for grand music.

Sigur Ros. The whole ensemble – two drums, bass, guitar, trumpet, french horn…

These guys put on a really nice set. Playing some stuff from their new album, Valtari, I had friends moved to tears. Bringing in the mellow mood, they had incredible live visuals that mixed live footage with tripped imagery on the big screens. The stage itself was sparsely lit. The playing style was also remarkable, with Georg Hólm playing his bass by hitting the strings with a drum stick, and Jónsi playing his six string guitar with a bow. Their sound was further rounded out with a large group, including two drum sets, a french horn, a trumpet and more. And of course, there were Jónsi’s ethereal vocals sprinkled on top. Sometimes, I think it’s better to not understand what these Icelanders were saying. Even without core member Kjartan Sveinsson, this was a remarkable show.


Justice hard at work.

Stop – pose time. Now hold it for three minutes.

The absolute pinnacle. I may be busting out the superlatives, but I can definitely say this was one of the most spectacular DJ sets I’ve ever seen. Soon, I’ll discuss the ‘Art of DJ-ing’ and by God, these guys have that art. In that post, I’ll brought up a recent article by A-Trak, where he discusses how much more ‘DJ worship’ has become a thing, and the increased emphasis on light shows. I didn’t fully agree then, and still don’t. Daft Punk partly made their name through the light spectacles at their shows. Justice, with their definitive white cross, showed that even simpler light displays can be massively effective. They had two stacks of Marshall cabinets that functioned as LED displays, lighting up to the music. But on top of all that, these guys have simply mastered their hybrid of melody and wild aggressive electro (or perhaps segmented that into their second and first albums.) it should be mandatory that all newbies that want to learn how to DJ see Justice live. With a use of the phase changer that made completely new songs, and cutting in tracks briefly way before they even dropped them, and throwing the vocals of ‘Civilization’ over their other tracks, these guys were busy mixing up a storm the whole time. No button pushing here. A highlight of the show included their stage splitting apart to reveal an illuminated keyboard, which Augé proceeded to play on. They frequently slowed things down to a near stop after dropping big songs, having you think that they were finished – only to jump right back into the tunes. At one point they stopped and just assumed the most epic pose, shown below. A fantastic performance, and with Florence and Metric, one of the weekend’s best.


Portugal. The Man
If you haven’t checked out Portugal. The Man’s In The Mountain, In The Cloud, you should do that. With a rare Canadian visit, I was able to catch the last three songs of Portugal’s set. And those three songs were fantastic. They were able to bring their sings to a live setting and really make them rock. Definitely was glad I got to catch their set.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Everything You See, Got It All, Floating

Though I wasn’t familiar with Calexico’s material before, I definitely will be after having seen them. Outfitted with three mariachi horns, and the rest of the regular rock setup, they brought a fresh Mexican sound out, and put on a good time.

Plants and Animals

Neat instruments.

I never got the chance to listen to The End Of That, so I couldn’t ID much of this set. But they put on a decent show.

Young The Giant

Yesyesyesyes! I absolutely loved Young the Giant’s self-titled album. The songs were all so catchy. Thus, I was pretty pumped for this set. When the lead singer came on and gave a raucous yell into the mike, I was afraid that they wouldn’t be able to perform well live. I was dead wrong. Not only was he able to switch between raucous and perfect, but the rest of the band was equally great, providing the backing vocals, and instruments amped up just the right amount. The lead singer’s energy was especially fun, bouncing with enthusiasm, and rocking his tambourine. Top 5 set of the weekend.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Apartment, My Body, I Got, Cough Syrup, Strings, songs off their upcoming album.

Brand New
When I showed up and Jesse’s voice was a bit shaky at the slow part of the song they were singing, I was worried. But then things picked up, and the performance became great. Slow or screaming, the band gave their fans what they wanted, and performed with emotion.

A$AP Rocky
I decided to see more of Brand New’s set, so I only saw him perform one and a half songs, with the finale being ‘Peso’. He rapped it, ran around the stage a bit. It was fine. What else am I supposed to even say?

Sometimes life is lame, and I got to see very little of SBTRKT’s set. But the part I saw was what you wanted out of a SBTRKT set. Long atypical sirens, a jungle beat, it was great. I then unfortunately saw Garbage’s set instead. I don’t listen to much Garbage, I’m sure their fans enjoyed them though.

My only gripe with Feist’s performance wasn’t anything to do with her, but with Osheaga. All the vocal mikes were royally screwed up so that even though it looked like she was singing at the top of her lungs, you could barely hear her. But her set itself was fantastic. Her, her musicians and three gypsy singers played a bunch of new material, mixed with some older songs. Snoop also had obnoxious feedback during his setup, while she was playing. The moment an artist takes their sunnies off is always the best – “Well, I guess the sun went down!” she said, and we saw her awesome face properly.great sound.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

My Moon My Man, Limit To Your Love, Sea Lion Woman (finale), The Bad In Each Other, A Commotion (opener), How Come You Never Go There

Snoop Lion

I’m pretty sure he’s wearing a shirt of Tupac’s face in Rasta colours.

Things didn’t start off so well. The setup during Feist was a bit obnoxious, and then Snoop came on half an hour late. But everyone felt it was worth it. With a massive flag of his face in Jamaica’s colors as his backdrop, he was introduced as Snoop Lion. And to this effect, him and his whole crew wore shirts of Tupac’s face with red yellow and green stripes. He had a pretty good set. With great stage presence that showed his years of experience, he busted out the classics, while also dipping into his one Snoop Lion song, which was accompanied by loud “Jah!”s. You ain’t Bob Marley. You can sing reggae without believing in Rastafarianism. His outro was singing the chorus to Wiz Khalifa‘s ‘Young and Wild’ eight times, even piping in Wiz’s verses. Other highlights included him rapping over Drake’s ‘The Motto’, singing his verse from ‘California Gurls’, and his verse from Akon’s ‘I Wanna Love You’.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

California Gurls, Ain’t Nuttin But A G Thang, Gin N Juice, Who Am I, I Wanna Love You, La La La, Young and Wild


Aloe Blacc
Man did Aloe put on a wicked set. So. Much. Soul. Seriously, the man oozed soul. With his trumpet – who threw in a great solo at some point – guitar, electric bass, drums, and his voice, the set was fun. Previewed a couple new songs, had tons of crowd chant backs. Good time. He obviously ended with his hit ‘I Need A Dollar’ – the sing people don’t realize they know of his until they hear it. He ended with a little Occupy flavour, having the crowd chant “The rich get rich…and the poor get poorer!”. Fun set.

Passion Pit
How can you not like Passion Pit? Even if just for ‘Sleepyhead’. Yes, the Man’s voice can go that high live. Lots of energy – one of the defining qualities everyone had the whole weekend – the lewd singer doubled up wailing into his mike. Great set, great sound.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Take A Walk, I’ll Be Alright, Carried Away, Sleepyhead, (Maybe: Constant Conversations, On My Way. I had it written, but Apple technology sucks.)

I’m a pretty big Common fan, so in was pumped for this set. He puts on the energy he always does live, proclaiming into the mike and bobbing around the stage. Lots of “Osheaga!” call outs.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

The Corner, Poke Her Face, Be

This was the only set of the weekend where I really wasn’t paying much attention. I got free water, disposable cameras, and freezies instead. But she was fine? Yeah. Fine indeed.

Tame Impala
Going to be honest, hadn’t heard of these guys before. They weren’t psychedelic, which is what they were billed as, but they put on an alright rock show.

The Shins
By this point, The Shins are pretty legendary. And they out on the set you thought they would. Playing a mix of old and new, they out on a strong performance, with great vocals and rhythms. And I don’t think I could ever not want to hear ‘Phantom Limb’ live.

City and Colour
while I had been more inclined to go see Bloc Party, I ended up sticking around for City and Colour – and I do t regret my decision. Dallas Green’s voice is absolutely beautiful live. They started off the set acoustic, including a performance of that song he wrote for Leah Miller. Then, towards the end if the set they started playing their newer stuff, plugged in and went electric. One of those shows where you could tell the band was jamming out on stage.

Yesyesyes. This was one of the three sets (along with Justice and Florence) I was most looking forward to this weekend. They out on a good show. Emily’s voice did just fine (fine being the most appropriate adjective), and she scaled into the high notes of ‘Breathing Underwater’ nicely. The entire set was very fluid – the sound rolled from the end of one dong to the next, and there were no breaks or pauses the entire time. They had a couple meat tricks up their sleeves – during ‘Youth Without Youth’, the bassist and guitarist added a vocoder effect to their mikes to sing the background as it is in the recording. Again, a very fluid set that showed their experience – much like their latest album. At times Emily also had a keyboard in front of her for some subtle punches. You can always tell a band is in the groove when the guitar and bassist – or more commonly for Metric, when the singer and guitarist – stand face to face and just vibe with each other. Though when Emily widened her eyes, she definitely looked like a serial killer. They closed beautifully with an acoustic version of ‘Gimme Sympathy’. Worthy of a headliner set.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Artificial Nocturne (opener), Youth Without Youth, Speed The Collapse, Breathing Underwater, Gold Gun Girls, Dreams So Real, Lost Kitten, Synthetica, Gimme Sympathy (Closer)

The Black Keys
And the last show of the weekend. Starting off with themselves, (they’re a duo) as well as a keyboardist and bassist/guitarist in the shadows in the back, they played a mix of old and new material. While not their first time at Osheaga, this was the first time they headlined the festival – and after the huge year they’ve had, they deserved it. Unlike Metric, who never cut the sound, The Black Keys normally cut the lights and sound after every song, including halfway through ‘Little Black Submarines’ (but mostly to switch from acoustic to electric guitars, probably). Different strokes. Similar to Metric however, they seemed to be more focussed in just going through their songs, and especially with The Black Keys, Almost going through the routines. But the music was good, and really, it’s impossible to play ‘Little Black Submarines’ without emotion, so it worked out.

    Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Lonely Boy, Dead and Gone, Little Black Submarine, Gold On The Ceiling, Little Black Submarines, Money Maker, Tighten Up, Howlin’ For You. I had more written down, but it got wiped out.

Knife Party

Since the Black Keys decided to end early, I walked over and saw Knife Party, who decided to end late. Perfect. As soon as I got there they dropped ‘Destroy Them With Lazers’ quickly followed by ‘Bonfire’. Then into Skrillex’s ‘Kyoto’. They just dropped their hits in rapid fire, with Rob mainly taking the decks and Gareth playing hype man. As dirty as you’d think the set would be. A nice way to end the weekend.

      Tracks I Remember Hearing:

Destroy Them With Lazers, Bonfire, Skrillex’s Kyoto, Fire Hive.

All that aside, I had one of the best weekends ever. Even though on Friday I got separated from my whole crew, I just made a new friend and had a great time. In fact, meeting new people seemed to be the theme of the weekend. The onlything better than the music was the atmosphere. Positive, uplifting and friendly the people of Osheaga are great. You can literally start up an amiable conversation with anyone – because everyone is there for the same reason: to listen to good music and have a good time. A video of a concert alone can do no justice to actually seeing a performer in the flesh, nor being amidst a crowded subway full of the Osheaga crowd where chants of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ (or, the ‘Flip Cup Song’) are sang in the hundreds. An incredible experience, in an incredible city.

– Zayniac

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2 thoughts on “Osheaga: An Experience

  1. […] Marley‘s ‘One Love’ started playing. That makes PE the second rapper/group to outro with a Bob Marley song that I’ve seen recently. An incredible energetic show from one of the biggest rap groups of all time. Definitely worth […]

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