In 2010, Montreal’s Osheaga Music Festival made a major statement with one of the best two-day line-ups of any festival in North America (QRO recap). In 2011, Osheaga upped their game by expanding to a shortened third day (QRO recap). And last year, the festival expanded again, making that Friday as big as Saturday & Sunday, not to mention expanding the actual festival grounds (QRO recap). For Osheaga ’13, the festival could only add a bit in size to the actual festival grounds, but managed to keep the top-tier line-up that its become known for by this point. And QRO was there, August 2nd-4th.
Day Two of Osheaga had another stacked line-up, even if the afternoon didn’t quite match Friday or Sunday.
While Wild Nothing and Humans started off their stages relatively low-key (Green and Electronik, respectively), Los Angeles’ Grouplove were excited from the get-go on their main stage. Always bouncy is singer/keyboardist Hannah Hooper, who was wearing the skeleton onesie that she’s been sporting all year (QRO photos) – so bouncy that her baseball cap fell off more than once; eventually bassist Sean Gadd picked it up and put it on his head – over the cowboy hat that he always wears. They played mostly from their debut, Never Trust a Happy Song, including killer single “Itchin’ On a Photograph” to open and “Tongue Tied” and “Colours” (QRO review) to close, but also include a few pieces from this September’s sophomore full-length, Spreading Rumors – both new single “Ways To Go” as well as Rumors track “Borderlines and Aliens”.
The twin main stages kept up the high quality in the afternoon on Day Two. After Grouplove came The Heavy, sweaty and energetic like you expected, but also had their slower moments (and singer Kelvin Swaby still has his old-timey microphone). Some people came to Osheaga specifically for Jimmy Eat World, so great is the emo-rock band’s appeal – despite every record sounding like lesser versions of breakthrough Bleed American (QRO live review), including this year’s Damages (QRO review); and yes, they played “The Sweetness” and closed with “The Middle”.
It was an interesting transition on the main stages from Jimmy Eat World to Flogging Molly, but one that worked. Molly’s Celtic workingman’s punk went down surprisingly well in Francophone Montreal, with even an Irish flag or two flying (maybe those fans came up from Boston…), as the band definitely tilted towards the upbeat & rollickin’. Totally unsurprising in how well they went over at Osheaga was Montreal’s own Stars, where singer Torquil Campbell expressed his love not only for playing this hometown festival (which they had also played back in 2010 – QRO photos), but for being part of an event where people pay money to go see music with their friends. “Give it up for yourselves!”
But even more local, way over at the Trees Stage was Loud Lary Ajust. Recommended to QRO by a local music reporter from Cult Montreal, LLA threw down a sort of patois French hip-hop. Admittedly your correspondent couldn’t understand a single word, but the crowd was most definitely digging it. Following them over there was veteran punk Frank Turner, who drew his own healthy crowd on the small stage.
Back on the main stage was Calgary’s twin sister duo Tegan & Sara – it wasn’t surprising that they got a huge crowd on the eastern side of Canada; what was surprising was the healthy percentage of males in the audience, for a band whose core fan base has always seemed to be lesbian teenage girls (of course, the sisters Quin did just play the MLB Fan Cave days prior – QRO photos). The duo is really just a hot commodity – there was a major scrum around them when they did an interview in the media tent. Sara seemed a little superior to Tegan (QRO interview) on stage, as Tegan’s voice seemed a little extra-affected at times, and Sara might have worn black to Tegan’s white, but Sara never wore sunglasses (which might be necessary to put on when up there, but shades always put a little more distance between the artist and the crowd).
From the new to the old, it was 1993 all over again when another pair of twin sisters, Deal, brought Last Splash to Osheaga’s Green Stage. And this wasn’t just Kim & Kelley but the entire, original Breeders – including multi-instrumentalist Carrie Bradley, who seemed to be the happiest of all to be playing. The band even had drummer Jim Macpherson and bassist Josephine Wiggs switch instruments on “Roi”, just like as was done on the recording of the seminal record. Playing at a festival also meant they had enough time to do Last Splash, but only to do Last Splash, and didn’t have to do an underwhelming b-sides encore like on their regular performances of the album (QRO live review). Seeing Last Splash live, one is able to not just appreciate killer singles like “Cannonball” and “Saints”, but also the number of great instrumentals, “Roi”, “Flipside”, and “S.O.S”, which were full-on tracks, not just filler like so many of today’s (usually synth-based) album instrumentals.
Going back a year further over at the nearby Trees Stage (which inexplicably ran house music over listening to The Breeders from afar) was Bob Mould, who started off his set with the first half/side of 1992’s own seminal Copper Blue (QRO deluxe edition review) from his then-band Sugar. Like Last Splash, the album has aged incredibly well, including live (QRO live review of Copper Blue) – but unlike The Breeders, Mould has released a ton of great material since Blue (not to mention before), and he followed Copper up with songs from Silver Age (QRO review), his latest release. Ably backed by bassist Jason Narducy, and drummer Jon Wurster of Superchunk (QRO live review)/maybe the funniest musician twitter feed out there – Wurster joining Mould might be the best indie-rock addition since Mark Ibold of Pavement (QRO live review) joined Sonic Youth (QRO live review) – there was even a good-natured slam-dance by a few older guys near the end of the set to Hüsker Dü (QRO spotlight on) songs “I Apologize” and “Chartered Trips”. The set could have used a better turn out, but it was limited by a bit of rain at its start – and likely Mould’s fans are the older types who don’t go to all-day festivals because they’ve got to find a babysitter…
After oldies like those two, as well as post-rock icons Explosions In the Sky and the surprisingly veteran DJ Bonobo on the smaller stages, there were some newer acts on the main platforms – or at least ones with newer attention. Imagine Dragons suffered somewhat without their stage lighting magic, but Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came in full force for their first-ever visit to Montreal, not just for first time performing in the city, but first coming to Montreal at all. They didn’t just do songs like “Thrift Shop”, “Wing$”, and “Same Love” (where Tegan & Sara – see above – joined to make the pro-gay marriage hip-hop song even more powerful) – Macklemore left the stage at one point, only come back on wearing a mullet wig as ‘Sir Raven Bowie’, stating, “Thank you for letting me come here and dry hump your women.” Regular Macklemore came back for one more song, “Irish Celebration” (the Irish flag from Flogging Molly – see above – made another appearance in the audience), and thanked the crowd again & again – he seemed particularly blown away by the response gotten in Montreal (who knows what Ryan Lewis was thinking – he’s the Rage Cage to Macklemore’s Hollywood Jack…), one of many artists to experience that at Osheaga.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis playing “Same Love” with Tegan & Sara at Osheaga 2013:
While locals We Are Wolves played the Trees Stage, the one-and-only Beck closed out the second night of Osheaga in style. Before Mr. Hansen came on, the Jumbotron screens showed grainy footage of someone writing “REFLEKTOR” – reportedly the name & cover art for the new Arcade Fire record coming this fall (a little random before a Beck performance, but admittedly at least somewhat appropriate as it’s in the band’s hometown, on the same stage they headlined three years ago – QRO photos). Beck mixed old classics and not-as-old songs – there was him doing “One Foot In the Grave” solo with just a harmonica, commenting that only Montreal danced during his 1999 Midnight Vultures tour, mentioned a 1987 guitar solo (and, after technical problems, stated that he’d had his gear since 1987…), and more (including fireworks, which sounded like thunder that night). He’s got an extensive songography, but honestly hasn’t been doing much new stuff lately, too busy producing other people’s stuff (like Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ Mirror Traffic – QRO review) – here’s hoping his recent touring will lead to a new album. Beck did do cover moments of “Billie Jean” and “Tainted Love” (remember when people thought he’d be just a one-hit “Loser” like Soft Cell? – the band behind “Tainted Love”… and nothing else), and closed with an extended “Two Turntables and a Microphone” – Montreal just clapped their hands, just clapped their hands…