Like most music festivals, this year’s Osheaga passed by in a flurry of stellar performances, overpriced food, crowded washrooms (crowded everything, really) and free merchandise.
However, this year’s line-up was bigger and better than ever, proven by the almost unreal number of tickets sold. Friday, Aug. 3 was the first day in the history of the festival to be completely sold-out (this was announced a matter of hours after yours truly purchased her own tickets, praise be!) Approximately 120,000 tickets were sold and by the end of the day both the Friday and Sunday performances were completely sold-out.
A blend of household names and up-and-coming Canadian talent, Osheaga sported something for everyone. Headliners for Friday included Justice, Florence and the Machine, Franz Ferdinand, Sigur Ros, MGMT and more. While Florence offered a magical, almost unearthly performance, MGMT brought their music video for “Electric Feel” to life, distributing glow-sticks and psychedelic vibes to all. Sigur Ros, the genre-defying Icelandic band, put on a characteristically unusual and ethereal show and Justice, the last show of the day on the main stages, was an electronic party, with screens flashing brightly on the stage and the La Ronde fireworks exploding into showers of colour over the nearby amusement park.
But the performance that delivered the most surprises was the second Icelandic group on the program (likely a first for the festival), Of Monsters and Men. They were not quite as big a headliner as the above four bands, as evidenced by the fact that they played before sunset and on one of the secondary stages, but they drew an enormous audience (even the band members expressed surprise at the number of people), which was itself enormously enthusiastic, singing along and filling every gap of quiet with cheers and applause. And, despite the rather intense heat in the tightly packed and shadeless standing area, the show was fantastic – I would venture to say that Of Monsters and Men might be better live – and worth the full-body-sweating experience.
Unfortunately, due to the overlapping performances, we could not catch all of the artists who played during our stay, but some of the lesser-known artists that we enjoyed and deserve mention were Yukon Blonde, a Canadian indie-rock band and luxuriant hair collective, who played a really fun show and shared some banter between the lead singer and guitarist onstage. Another was Charli XCX, with a drum set and keyboard decked with flowers and Charli herself in an outfit so outrageous that you (or, at least, I) immediately wanted to be her best friend.
A thorough review of the festival would not be complete without mentioning the impact the sheer number of people had on the experience. In all honesty, it really did take a ridiculous amount of time to get from one stage to another, thanks to the combination of a large crowd and a small staircase. More than one story of people passing out while waiting in line for food and water circulated amongst concert-goers.
Yet, many would argue that this is all part of what makes a festival, well, a festival. The constantly-having-your-toes-stepped-on closeness of bodies and hours spent waiting to buy four dollar water bottles, punctuated by performances by a varied and impressive array of artists, give the experience that certain je ne sais quoi that makes us all proud to say we were there.