Osheaga was a great three days of hardy drinking and music and all I can say about this year’s festival is that there were so many pleasant surprises.
Let’s get right to it: Sunday night was the big night because of its two headliners: Tame Impala and Childish Gambino.
Tame Impala put on a near perfect show. The crowd was transfixed with the neat light beams coming from the stage that seemed to put everyone in a trance. They played most of their songs from their latest LP but did a few good oldies like Feels Like We Only Go Backwards and Elephant.
Childish Gambino then brought the crowd to complete ecstasy by hitting it home and closed out the night with some spectacular fireworks right after the crowd sang along to This is America.
Earlier in the day Metric got the crowd going. At times Hains started speaking what seemed to be poetry about getting shit done in your life.
Mac DeMarco was acting all goofy all day. It culminated in him doing a funny cover of Metallica’s enter Sandman.
Saturday night’s romp with chemical Brothers was one for the bucket list. These superstar DJs were definitely one of the highlights of my festival experience.
Teke:: Teke, Fisher and Vladamir Cauchmar to name drop a few, were as entertaining as ever. And Kurt VIle put on one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen him do.
Black Tiger Sex Magic was definitely the strangest act of the festival with helmets that light up and the oddest crowd mix of electronic dance music bros, pretty ladies and weirdos.
The coolest performance trophy goes to Reignwolf to for their use of the space to play their guitars and bass and the final meshing of the guitar and bass together to end the set.
Side note: As for the venue the park new old location was definitely noticed by people for being more spacious and with a lot more amenities.
The only one negative thing I noticed with the amount of dust I was at this year’s festival maybe it was caused by the amount of construction in Montreal or on site or perhaps it was the sand that was laid out at the base of the mountain but whatever reason a lot of people were covering their face as because of it. Hopefully next year it won’t be as dusty.
Osheaga‘s back this weekend for 3 full days of music, art, food and fun in what is likely to be very hot sun. The lineup this year is as impressive as ever with some very big names sure to draw big crowds.
Here at FTB though we try not to focus on any of those big names. It just seems a little silly to preview what you already know.
Instead we’ll be talking about the hidden gems playing earlier in the day when you might be more inclined to wander aimlessly and get to know a new artist. Here’s who I’m most looking forward to getting to know, feel free to check out their full lineup and form your own opinion.
Stay hydrated my friends!
Disclaimer: This list is totally biased to what I’m into at the moment so don’t tell me I missed someone or it’s in some way wrong.
I’ve always had a soft spot for surf rock bands, especially when they list Takeshi Terauchi as their biggest influence. If you don’t know who he is I advise you to do a quick little google search.
It also doesn’t hurt that Teke::Teke are from good ol’Montreal and what would Osheaga be like without a little hometown bias in the preview.
Give them a listen and you’ll see they’ve got the old surf rock vibe but with some twists. There’s a lot of modern elements as well as some traditional Japanese instruments mixed in for good measure.
While I’m not super familiar with grandson, his track Apologize keeps showing up everywhere and I’m curious to get to know a little more about him. He’s a relatively young artist and starting to get chart-level success so this might be a “I remember when” situation where you get to catch someone before they really blow up.
I’ve always found it funny that “fashionably late” even applies to concerts in Montreal. If you’re like me and actually make it to places at the correct time you can check out Mallrat bright and early at the crack of 1 pm on Sunday.
I know, what an ungodly hour to be awake, and on a Sunday no less! But it will be well worth it. At just 20 years old, this Australia singer/rapper is already starting to make waves, best to get on the boat early.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
The elevator pitch for why St.Paul & The Broken Bones is on this list, the dude can sing like it’s nobody’s business. A whole lot of soul, a little bit of funk and a superb horn section have me curious to see what the live version of the tracks I’ve heard will sound like.
Ok so Mitski is definitely not a lesser known artist but she’s on in the afternoon so it might still count. Besides, this is my list and I’ll do what I want!
She’s the winner of the “Osheaga Artist I’ve Been Listening to Most Lately Award” and as the winner of this completely arbitrary prize she wins a spot on this list.
In this case I have no excuse, it’s super duper duper breaking the rules to put Mac DeMarco on the list. So he’ll go at the bottom and I won’t dwell on it for long but I had to since the “hipster Jimmy Buffet” is absolutely nuts live, don’t forget to go see him, who knows what craziness he’ll get up to.
You might even get to hear his tone deaf drummer sing classic rock songs like he did last summer at Lollapalooza. Like who does that?!?
While this year’s line-up at Osheaga is heavy on the electronic and hip hop acts, there are still plenty of bands for those of you who want to rock out. And personally, while it’s nice to have the mix, sometimes you just want to rock out.
Here my picks for the best indie rock performers playing Osheaga this year:
Indie pop sensations Real Estate have found themselves at a crossroads with their last LP, with longtime lead guitarist Matt Mondanile leaving the band, but still have the chops to take it all the way.
In Mind (2017), their fourth studio album and one recorded in the absence of Mondanile, shows the band is still very viable. With this album taking them in new directions, the future looks for Real Estate.
Sunday, August 4, 4:30pm @ National Bank Stage
I was supposed to avoid writing about the headliners, and let’s face it Mac Demarco is a headliner even if he isn’t the top bill. He has played shows in front of tens of thousands, spawned a resurgence in semi-psychedelic lo-fi sound (and many have tired to copy his trademark sound), and he smokes the king of all cigarettes, Viceroy.
His lo-fi sound started in Mile End but has now reached the four quadrants of the world. And boy has it been one long strange trip.
He’s known for being an oddball and goofing around on stage, so expect to see some serious antics! But his unique sound gives him the tight niche of laid back slacker rock that is just very compelling and very good.
Sunday, August 5, 5:15pm @ Bell Alt TV River Stage
The eclectic coming together of musicians from well-known Montreal bands (Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, Boogat, Pawa) created Japanese-influenced post-punk psychorockers Teke:: Teke.
If you yen for some traditional Japaneese surf rock infusion then this might be the band for you.
Friday, August 2 3:45 @ Perrier Tree Stage
Montreal Art rock band Braids will take the stage a year after winning the Juno for Best Alternative Rock group.
They got me with their 80s electronic beats over Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s vocals, which can be pretty haunting at times especially when infused with some pretty interesting vocal effects.
Sunday, August 4th, 1pm @ Honda Valley Stage
Kurt Vile and the Violators
I’ve been a fan of Kurt Vile ever since the first time I saw him play at Casa del Popolo. He was alone at the time playing his guitar with crazy pedal effects and his sweet nasal voice. Sufficed to say, I was pretty impressed.
His lo-fi sound and voice fills the psychedelia of his songs with wry, sardonic lyrics. His last album Lotta Sea Lice, co-written with Courtney Barnette, was truly inspiring and now he’ll be on stage with the Violators, a band that adds overall emphasis to his unique style.
Friday August 2, 8:15pm @ Honda Valley Stage
We Are Monroe
If you really need to rock out at Osheaga this year then check out Montreal’s own We Are Monroe. They are part classic rock with a new twist Their singer brings a great voice in the singing style of The Black Keys complimented by some terrific backup guitar.
Friday August 2, 2:20pm @ Perrier Tree Stage
Part metal, part rock, this band knows how to riff out an amazingly catchy song. They flew under the radar for a long time until Rolling Stone magazine called them one of the top 10 artists you need to know.
Now, with their new album out Hear Me Out (2019), they are set to go on tour with The Who later this year. Catch them while you can.
Saturday, August 3, 8:40pm @ Perier Stage
Osheaga runs Friday August 2nd to Sunday August 4th at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Tickets available through Osheaga.com
By the time I got off the 80 Parc bus, it was well after midnight. Small crowds of concert-goers were huddled around in clusters, smoking and chatting just outside of the doors of the Rialto Theatre where M for Montreal was kicking off. I shuffled around, anxiously waiting for a friend to arrive before heading in to check out the first of many acts that would follow over several nights of music that could most aptly be defined as insightful.
The scene’s epicenter, the ground zero of the Mile End if you will, is arguably the corner of Parc and Bernard– the location of the Rialto, and the precise place at which I began my four-day musical odyssey through Montreal’s indie network.
Almost right off the bat, I began to notice subtle, cultural markers embedded within Montreal’s diverse performance spaces. I found it interesting that the indie, or underground, acts that I was about to go see were quite literally performing underground.
The artists performing at the Rialto that evening weren’t playing on the main stage, but instead, at the Piccolo Rialto, a much tinier (let’s say intimate) stage one and a half stories below the street. I guess the implication was that these acts weren’t quite ready for the “big leagues” just yet.
As I sipped on a couple of tepid beers, listening to the likes of Calvin Love, She-Devils and Doldrums well into the early-morning hours. I found myself more people-watching than anything else. I was captivated by the amount of people drawn into this small, dark space, late at night, to listen to relatively-unknown bands.
Sure, the music was pretty good, but the word that kept cropping up over and over in my mind was communion. No, not the Sunday School kind of communion, but instead, the almost-transcendental bond that exists between spectator and performer at a small, indie show in Montreal.
The obvious question of why (why these spaces? why these artists? why these audiences?) was addressed when, by chance, I noticed indie-rocker and Montreal resident Alex Calder huddled at a corner table talking to a couple of friends. Calder, who once played with Mac Demarco in the lo-fi rock group Makeout Videotape, is now well established as a solo artist and recently released the well-received indie LP Mold Boy.
As a pretty big fan, I sort of nervously approached his table, feeling like the world’s biggest hack. Pretty quickly, I realized that not only was Calder a really nice dude, but he might help me unpack the seeming mysteries of the Montreal indie scene.
Quite casually, he mentioned that he lived “just down the street” from the theatre. What seemed at first like a self-evident, mundane piece of information actually turned into something of a “Eureka!” moment as I mulled over my night on the busride home, chowing down on a St. Viateur bagel.
Calder’s close proximity to the Rialto, and many other culturally-relevant performance spaces like it, wasn’t just coincidence. And it’s not completely convenience, either. Rather, it’s a cultural trace of an intimate, artistic community at work. The indication of a close connection between performer and performance space in Montreal.
A picture, although still fuzzy, began to form in my mind. Perhaps what draws aspiring artists to Montreal is not just the “cheap rent” (as one music executive mentioned to me in passing), but the intimate connection organically established between artist and audience.
And I don’t mean to say that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, either. In fact, the vibe at the Rialto that night was strangely disengaged, distant. But I began to get the sense that the performer and the spectator relied on each other in an incommunicable way; these indie artists needs the consistent support of a local fan base, and in turn, the fan base relies upon a network of artists to have a musical scene with which they can affiliate.
Poets would call this relationship communion, biologists would call this relationship symbiotic. Personally, I would just call it necessary in the formation of good art.
The next few days passed in rapid succession. Thursday morning, I waltzed into Hotel 10 under the pretense of free coffee and continental breakfast for members of the press. In addition to the free joe, what I also inadvertently infiltrated was an industry meet-and-greet, a kind of speed networking for festival pass holders who wanted to learn more about the ins and outs of the music business.
That morning served as an interesting foil for the rest of my weekend. It was as if I caught a fleeting glimpse at the cogs and gears that make Montreal Montreal’s music scene, for lack of a more artful term, “work.”
That night, I watched up-and-coming Toronto-based hip hop artist Jazz Cartier take the stage at Cafe Cleopatra in front of a small, but very hyped-up, audience. And on Friday, I headed up to Little Italy to check out the Blue Skies Turn Black showcase of Nancy Pants and Look Vibrant! before bombing back downtown to see Busty and the Bass perform (for the first time) at an absolutely packed Club Soda. If there’s one word to describe my own personal M for Montreal adventure, it would most certainly be hectic.
And let’s make one thing clear: M for Montreal is not Osheaga, nor is it trying to be. It is a festival packed to the brim with talented indie artists that are trying to make a long term career out of their music.
But it is also much, much more than that. It’s a celebration of a scene at work. But not just any scene. Montreal’s music scene has historically held, and continues to hold, worldwide status as a juggernaut.
The first, massive name that comes to mind is probably Arcade Fire, a band that has roots in the Plateau, and whose members continue to live and record in Montreal. Think for a second longer, though, and many more contemporary names will emerge: Patrick Watson, Mac DeMarco and Grimes.
Claire Boucher, better known onstage as Grimes, got her start in the small performance spaces and venues scattered around the Plateau and the Mile End. In fact, in her early days, when she was better known as Claire rather than Grimes, Boucher would hang out at the now-defunct Lab Synthese in the Mile End, a DIY-style, art-collective space that eventually spawned major Montreal-based indie label Arbutus Records. It is fitting, then, that Grimes would serve as the headliner for a festival that represents the scene that she used to call home.
And indeed, Grimes’ sold-out Saturday performance at Metropolis felt like a homecoming game of sorts. The floor was packed, the fans were boisterous and rowdy, the energy was off the charts.
Boucher was her typical sweet and eccentric self, taking just enough time in between some of her massive hits such as Oblivion, Genesis and REALiTi to pause to thank the audience and specifically the Montreal community that effectively catapulted her to critical and commercial success. The expectations for the show were undoubtedly high, but Grimes delivered in a fashion that not only felt like artistic triumph, but also a kind of emotional catharsis.
Indeed, the return of Grimes to Montreal validated the existence of the Montreal indie scene. In her early days, Grimes, like so many artists featured in M for Montreal, embraced Montreal’s intimate indie circuit as a place of artistic incubation. On Saturday night, her performance served as vital evidence of a scene that is not only alive, but thriving.
Here’s to many more years at M for Montreal and many more years celebrating the musical talent that this city has to offer.
* Featured image of Grimes playing M for Montreal by Bruno Destombes
I owe Homeshake an apology. When I emailed them, asking if I could come check out the release party for their new double LP, I totally called them “radical muthafuggas.” Although I only curse for colour, they say that familiarity breeds contempt. And so, Homeshake, I’m sorry.
Plastic Factory (like the Captain Beefheart song) is a new local label releasing the aforementioned double LP, and the party for its release is going to be tonight at Drones Club. When I Googled Plastic Factory, some weird shit came up. Like this one thing that says: “Joomla! The dynamic portal engine and content management system.” I guess I should have Googled Plastic Factory RECORDS.
Anyway, forget Google. You know what you should do instead? Go listen to Homeshake’s MUSIC.
You always remember that indelible first impression when a song stopped you dead in your tracks. For me, I was driving up the mountain with someone, case of Pabst between my legs, summer night and setting sun, car window rolled down, warm wind in my face, and he chucked on Moon Woman, off The Homeshake Tape. It was just one of those times.
Now I can’t turn that shit off. Now I can’t put down my guitar. Now I can’t wait for this double LP.
I don’t know why they call it Slacker Rock. I guess we should all feel flattered that someone’s finally validating the way we sleep until noon because we’re up until sunrise doing something weird with a guitar. Slacker Rock. The music of directionless twenty-somethings who drift around, jamming. Too mellow to be punk, too lackadaisical to be included in the phenomenon of every band branding themselves “psychedelic rock,” and too honest to call themselves “garage rock.” (Because who the fuck makes music in a garage? Who even has a garage?)
Who is this grinning young ‘un who looks like Flea’s kid brother and makes music so lo-fi and strange that it makes you want to go running through the streets with a tall can and a lover?
Mac DeMarco is another Canadian (god, we grow good musicians here. Suck it, Slovakia) and probably a result of growing up in the 90’s. All that grunge has trickled down over our souls, giving way to music that is simultaneously full of longing for what’s been lost and rife with sounds that have no name. DeMarco, for all of his twenty four years, is already a force of brilliance, jamming in this sunny, simple way that showcases stiff songwriting skill and a style that is wholly his own. While, sure, there’s room for your garage rock and surf punk and of course, let’s not forget the new staple, psychedelic rock, DeMarco is taking the formula and fuzzing the lines a bit more; he’s really got his fingerprints all over his tunes.
But DeMarco isn’t some serious suffering poet. Or maybe he is. I’ve never even hung out with him, what the fuck do I know? I guess the reason I said that, about the serious poetic stuff, is because of what I’ve read. You know, about how his concerts are described as a “raunchfest” and how he gets naked onstage. Which, while not being serious, could be construed as a little poetic. In my opinion. (And that’s mostly all this article consists of: my opinions.)
Anyway, DeMarco has released two full length studio albums (Salad Days being the latest, released just this year) and with that comes the touring. While it’s a nice sentiment to say that music should only be about music, fans are always interested in more: they want it all, the personal life, the inspiration, the friendship and yeah, the nudity. Bring it on, man. DeMarco’s hitting up Osheaga Music and Arts Festivalthis year (I’ve included him in my Top Picks) and I personally am really excited, clothes or no clothes.
Mac DeMarco performs Friday, August 1 at 9:50 p.m. at the Scène des arbres Galaxie. Osheaga takes place August 1 to 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau.
So you’ve scanned Montreal’s Osheaga lineup for the 9th year in a row, getting that feeling of desperate excitement, visualizing how you’re going to stake out the stage and trample the audience in your madness to get to the front… I’m doing the same, only I have a forum to air my arrogant, opinionated top picks and you all have to be subjected to it. I love it.
Anyway, this is my own personal list of who I wanna see at one of Montreal’s most explosive music festivals. Unlike Rolling Stone’s Best Guitar Players of All Time, this is not a popularity contest masquerading as a definitive collection. Nope, this is just me going through the list and saying yea or nay, in no particular order. Here we go:
Naturally. Is that too obvious for you? Who the hell cares? He’s innovative as hell (check out his record-breaking record pressing!), and for our generation — a generation of fast food/shopping mall/computerized music/apathetic cellphone relationship crap — we should all be going down on our knees and thanking God that we’ve got Jack White. And that he’s coming to Montreal.
These guys keep getting compared with Mumford & Sons. Honestly, fuck Mumford & Sons. Half Moon Run’s album has nothing to do with that country folk revivalist crap. They’re local to Montreal, and when artists like Half Moon Run do what they do, they’re keeping the standard of incredible Montreal musicianship high. You’ve probably heard their songs from debut album Dark Eyes being played every two seconds on the radio, but it’s about time the radio actually played something decent.
I want to see Temples for one reason, and one reason only: my band was going to be called Temples first, but these dorks beat us to the punch. Like every new band, they’ve branded themselves “psychedelic rock” and they’re coming all the way from England. They’re probably great too, the bastards.
The first time I heard him, it was in the early morning and ‘Places’ was coming from someone’s bedroom, breaking my goddamned heart. That’s how you know it’s good. I’ve never heard anything quite like his album Bad Vibes, and I started using it as my sleep album when I suffer from insomnia because Shlohmo is about as close to dreaming as you’re going to get without having to close your eyes.
He’s twenty four years old. He’s from fuckin’ Duncan. And his albums, 2 and Salad Days, my god. Photo shoots with cigarettes raining down from heaven and songs that are so beautiful they’ll rip holes in your very existence, DeMarco is COOL. His songs are dubbed “blue wave” (probably because that’s what it feels like when you dig his stuff) and “slacker rock” (which is just silly but makes me feel better about my life), I scanned that list and couldn’t help but smile and chuck on “My Kind of Woman.” Oh baby.
Reignwolf: Another fucking wolf band?! Are you serious? Get creative, you fucks. There are more animals out there besides wolves. Aids Wolf, Wolf Parade, Wolf Mother and Reignwolf, you should all just form one big pack and go howl at the goddamned moon together.
The Dismemberment Plan: Yes, that is an actual name of an actual band. No, it is not a band made up of three homely, scorned feminists. It’s actually a couple of tragic looking white males. Maybe they’re eunuchs.
So that concludes my top picks. See you at the stages.
The 9th edition of Osheaga Music and Arts Festival takes place August 1 to 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau.
When I think about what I want in a show, the first thing that comes to mind is stage presence. The performers have to want to be there (or at least act like it), otherwise I won’t either. If they’re not having fun, I’m not having fun. That being said, I had so much fun at M for Montreal.
The first band I saw was Midland, Ontario’s Born Ruffians. The set was short, but it was full of energy. To be honest, I’m getting bored of the whole “perfectly polished, four-piece indie rock band” thing, but Born Ruffians is a breath of fresh air. Luke LaLonde’s unique vocals are what attracted me to the band in the first place, and seeing him onstage belting them out was so satisfying. The band looks like they’re there because they love playing music, and that’s it. Its fun and refreshing, and they play in Montreal often, so go see them!
My M for Montreal journey also brought me to Club Soda on Saturday for Mac DeMarco. As I expected, it was absolutely insane (in the best way possible, of course). From stage dives to making out with half-naked boys onstage, Mac DeMarco came ready to have a good time. The whole thing felt like a house party, which is hard to achieve in a sold-out venue as spacious as Club Soda. The best thing about the show was the fact that his antics, as well as those of his band, never seemed staged. Just like Born Ruffians, they were up there for the sake of having fun, they just have a more extreme way of doing it.
I guess the moral of the story is be cool and I’ll think you’re cool. Or, to put it more eloquently, have fun, whatever you do. It makes all the difference.
Photos by Ellie Pritts and Maximillian G. San Juan for M for Montreal