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by Archives September 5, 2006

Thousands of music fans spent their Labour Day weekend at the Osheaga festival in Park Jean Drapeau, getting Montreal’s first outdoor rock festival off its hinges.

“Basically I saw the lineup and there were too many good bands not to come,” said Matthew Knoderer, a 32-year-old translator. He said he’d been to festivals like Osheaga before, but that this one was the first in a while. “So far so good,” he said with a smile before strolling off to another show on his list.

Osheaga was based on festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella, where bands of all calibers play on several stages throughout several days. This gives audience members the chance to make a literal pick-and-mix to suit their tastes.

Sixty-seven acts were spread out on Osheaga’s five stages to make a musical feast of local and international acts alike. Even at a healthy $100, all access passes eaven out to a measly toonie per concert, assuming the impossible task of catching all of the shows.

That was definitely not Marie-Helene Desroches’ plan. She had just caught the local rockers in Wolf Parade and was sitting on the grassy field in front of the main stages reading a book. With a couple of hours to kill before the Flaming Lips came on, she said she was very pleased when she heard about the festival. Travelling to another city to experience festival fun wasn’t an option, so for a couple of years she had been hoping one of the larger American festivals would put Montreal on its tour.

Her only complaint was that it didn’t make more room for French music. “They need to make some place for both English and French music. Both scenes are dynamic, so they need to make room for both.”

Francophone notables Malajube played the main stage Saturday, as did the punk rockers Vulgaires Machins and the reggae-act Dobacaracol, but other than those three, the stages were notably void of French language.

The festival did however give a lot of space for local Anglophone acts. Although the top headliners Sonic Youth and Ben Harper travelled across the border to play, several locals hit the stages as well.

One Montrealer who made a lasting impression was Kid Koala. His rendition of “Moon River,” as sung by Audrey Hepburn in the classic 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was so beautifully mixed that the crowd waiting for the Flaming Lips was left nothing short of mesmerized.

Punk act Dirty Tricks was one of the local groups who had a go at the smaller stage Tree stade. Newly joined guitarist Lucas Rupnic played his first show with the group, putting his performance nerves to the test in front of a larger audience than the group usually attracts.

“There were a lot of people there, and they seemed to really enjoy it. It was a lot of fun, I think maybe more than we expected to have,” he said.

If the festival becomes a yearly event, Rupnic thinks it can boost the local music scene. “It’s a whole day worth of shows, so it enables people to see a lot of things that they might not have discovered. [Normally] you see a band on a bill, and you say ‘do I really want to pay to get into that show?’ [People] are already here and they’re walking around, and that’s what is good about these type of shows.”

Although most acts came on promptly and without too many problems, Osheaga bore some telltale signs of a first year festival. Overflowing toilets, food shortage, and a rather bizarre dual main-stage setup (resulting in sound checks in the middle of some sets) caused some inconveniences. Despite this people seemed to be enjoying themselves, even as the rain started to drizzle Sunday afternoon.

Even as the festival closed down Sunday night, and people started to file into the Metro, some were already talking about what next year could bring.

If there was ever any doubt, the organizers can rest assured Montrealers have their back

Dirty Tricks will play Sept. 8 at Le Petite Campus.

Kid Koala will be at Piqnique Electronique Sept. 17 for his CD release party, Your mom’s favorite DJ.

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