If you’re anything like me, you might be more than a little disappointed by the start of the new school year, that all-too-familiar feeling of responsibility that signals the end of everything summer. The Gillette Entertainment Group however, offered us the opportunity to enjoy one last chance at prolonging those summer days of mirth and music in the form of 2007’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival this past weekend.
Saturday and Sunday Sept. 8 and 9 saw our Parc Jean Drapeau packed to the brim with echoes of music from every which way, art displays and merch tents, port-o-potties and promo booths and of course, tons of keen, energized concert-goers of literally all ages. At 79$ plus tax a day (150$ for a weekend pass), it’s not exactly inexpensive, yet the 2nd annual Montreal festival pulled in a total of about 29,000 spectators.
Despite last-minute drop-outs of Amy Winehouse, Placebo and several others, there were still five stages playing host to over 60+ bands in an atmosphere of beautiful weather, wide open spaces and nearly non-stop music; the rain held out on us and everyone was in high spirits.
Here are a few footnotes & highlights:
The Veils: These hard rockers from New Zealand play rock so riveting and full of conviction that you’d be nuts to walk away from them. Singer Finn Andrews, wearing a large black cowboy hat, commands stage presence as he belts out raspy, emotional vocals akin to Jeff Buckley. What they do is loud, often noisy and mesmerizing. One of the best shows of the festival.
Blonde Redhead: As usual, an extremely tight band who are excellent in a live setting. Featuring Kazu Makino in her tiny little dresses (as usual) on bass & keyboard and twins Amadeo and Simon Pace on drums and guitar. Fitting seven songs into 45 minutes, the band whirled through their set like true pros, only pausing to give a modest ‘thanks’.
Pony Up: The buzz around these Montreal gals has been around for awhile and if you managed to catch their show on Sunday you’d understand why. Their ethereal, noisy pop rock will convert even the most reluctant dancer to at least some modest foot tapping. The praise is well-deserved.
You Say Party, We Say Die!: Incredibly tight and prone to inducing fanatical dancing, this group of Vancouverites combine disco beats with fun riffs and emit a serious amount of high octane energy. Their songs may come in short bursts, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything lacking here.
Interpol: Interpol are excellent at setting a mood which either makes us collectively gloomy or, well, a little less gloomy. They came on-stage with a mission, dressed like businessmen and pretty much motionless, but jumped right into their latest album’s opener “Pioneer to the Falls”. Revisiting several crowd-pleasers from their debut “Turn on the Bright Lights” and playing only a select few tracks from their latest, Interpol managed to rile up the audience enough to crown themselves a band that at least knows what its fans want.
Bloc Party: Bloc Party far surpassed, I think, many people’s expectations. Then again, maybe not: earlier this year, their show sold out, so someone’s spreading the word. After a long, chilly day of incessant running back and forth across the grounds, Bloc Party put on an exceptional performance to re-awaken all of our tired souls. Singer Kele Okereke was busting at the seams with enthusiasm and his dynamic stage presence, in combination with the stellar performance of the band, awarded them many fans new and old alike. A fantastic end-note to the festival.
The Smashing Pumpkins: No one really knew what to expect at this show, but not a single person wanted to miss it. Despite the hype and rumors of a set list heavy on older, classic Pumpkins songs, the band’s performance was for the most part, lackluster. After a lengthy intro of new material (and an instrumental “Star-Spangled Banner”, followed by “O Canada”), they blew through an uninspired version of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”. Billy Corgan, wearing a peculiar white outfit, led the band into old favorites such as “Hummer”, “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight” and saved a rendition of “Today” as the encore. Surprisingly however, somewhere mid-set the band broke into an airy, jazzy, instrumental number that was quite interesting. In the end, fans gave The Pumpkins a variety of mixed reviews, but most could confess that at least the nostalgic element of it felt kind of nice.