A wet and wild Osheaga 2017
It wasn’t pretty, but we made it. Despite Osheaga not quite selling out this time around; having to adjust to a whole new festival site; dealing with torrential downpours right off the jump; and seeing cancellations from big names like Solange, De La Soul and Lil Uzi Vert, the 12th edition of Montreal’s midsummer bash did pretty damn well this year. While the crowd took some time to get used to the temporary digs, the festival would find its bearings nicely as the three-day event progressed – and Shoeclack was there for all of it. Here are my biggest takeaways from a very rainy, very different – and ultimately, still loads of fun – Osheaga 2017.
Mother Nature didn’t seem to want Osheaga 2017 to happen.
If you arrived at Parc Jean-Drapeau at any time between 2 or 4 p.m. on the Friday, chances are you didn’t see a whole lot of music at first. If anything, you were probably busy looking for whatever semblance of shelter you could find. Multiple sets were either delayed, rescheduled, or cancelled altogether – notably indie darling Angel Olsen, slated to perform at 2:45 that afternoon.
Downpours would again interrupt the music once it re-started, including during BadBadNotGood’s set, and also forcing the Shins to start late. Glass Animals were particularly unfortunate victims of the rainfall, being forced to play only two songs after their synths got water damaged.
The rain would continue to hit on and off throughout day one, especially around the start of Lorde’s headline set. Fittingly, the Kiwi electropop superstar would come onstage carrying a white umbrella while wearing an equally white dress and pair of sneakers. In the end, the weather wouldn’t put much of a damper on an excellent set that showcased how much Ella Yelich-O’Connor has grown as an all-around performer since her last Osheaga go-round in 2014.
Nostalgia was the name of the game this year.
When you look at this year’s lineup and see names like MGMT, Justice, Crystal Castles and the Shins, you’d be forgiven for thinking to yourself, “What year is this? Did we fall asleep in the DeLorean from Back to the Future and wind up in 2008?”
Fortunately, those acts – or at least, the ones I got a chance to see – delivered the goods. MGMT provided a very solid early evening set despite the crowd mostly responding loudest to songs from their debut Oracular Spectacular – which, in 2017, feels ahead of its time – and Justice would give an extremely dynamic and hard-hitting set immediately after, criss-crossing effortlessly between both newer and older material.
Keeping the nostalgia train rolling were bands like Temples, who could very well be the living musical embodiment of the ‘60s with both their retro-flavoured image and their John Lennon-meets-the-Yardbirds sound. Beach Slang also brought the sound and raw power akin to that of the Replacements; the Lemon Twigs evoked serious Supertramp vibes; and another big name this year was Foster the People – whose biggest hit “Pumped Up Kicks” is old enough to be in Grade 2 right now. To top it off, Liam Gallagher performed a handful of Oasis classics – yes, he played “Wonderwall” – and Vance Joy’s Sunday set included a cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.
The new site worked well, even if it needed a small adjustment period.
Thanks to the festival being relocated this year to Île Notre-Dame – known for hosting the Canadian Grand Prix – due to major construction on the usual Île Sainte-Hélène site, frequent Osheagans had to learn how to navigate their new surroundings from scratch, though the learning curve would be fairly easy. The AstroTurf all around the main stage area was a nice touch – especially with preventing mud given the inclement weather – and the festival itself felt a bit smaller, more narrow and not as easy to get lost in.
If there are gripes to be had about this year’s venue, it’s that certain areas (specifically the VIP section) were difficult to find at first; and the hill overlooking the two main stages on the usual site was definitely missed, as there wasn’t anything with quite that much space for relaxation this time around. It’s a site festival-goers will have to embrace regardless, as Osheaga will again be held there in 2018 as renovations to the original area continue, in an effort to hold a 65,000 capacity festival when it returns there the following year. (Side note: even when it does return to Île Sainte-Hélène, that bouncy dancefloor on the water at the Scène de l’Île needs to stay, even if it’s on the ground. Seriously, that was just flat-out fun.)
The best performances were some of the biggest Osheaga highlights in recent memory.
Though I was sad to miss out on sets from Danny Brown, Major Lazer and Death from Above (now without the “1979” in their name), some of the shows I did see deserve a place in the Osheaga canon.
Saturday saw Broken Social Scene put on a mesmerizing, career-spanning set as the sun went down, with Metric’s Emily Haines in tow as well to help sing songs both new and old. Run the Jewels breezed through initial sound problems for an ass-kicking midday show full of pure rowdiness, ear-splitting bass, politically aware and razor-sharp bars, and positive messages to the crowd from Killer Mike and El-P. Just before the Weeknd’s rousing grand finale, Alabama Shakes absolutely devoured the Scène de la Montagne with a top billing-worthy performance – all before Brittany Howard’s powerhouse voice was suddenly cut off as the band played past their set time, a highly awkward and unfortunate end to a set that was otherwise awe-inspiring.
Despite all the chaos and commotion, Osheaga rose to the challenge and valiantly weathered the storm this year – literally and figuratively.