Osheaga 2013 Day 1 – August 2, 2013 @ Parc Jean Drapeau

Despite weather forecasts that called for rain there was nary a menacing cloud in the sky on Day 1 of the 2013 edition of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival.  It turned out to be a beautiful day.  Not too hot and then it cooled down but not too much when the sun went down.  This year at the festival they had set up two misting stations which sent light mists of water onto the people standing around it for people who did get too hot to cool off.  They even put them on top of sand so that it almost felt beach like.  There was a copious amount of dancing going on under the mist near the Molson Canadian Mountain Stage.  People were really in the party mood and the music going on provided them with the right atmosphere.

I only arrived on site at 3:30 so I missed the controversy of the k-os set.  Or, to be more precise, the lack of a k-os set.  For those of you not familiar with k-os he is a Canadian rapper/hip hop artist from Toronto.  Now k-os is 41-years-old so numerically he is past his infant years, but apparently if things don’t go exactly his way he will take his ball and go home.  And that is exactly what he did.  k-os was slotted to be on the Molson Canadian Mountain Stage, which is one of the two side-by-side main stages, from 1:30-2:10.  From all accounts he last one song.  The artist known as k-os was not happy with the sound and so stomped off after one song never to be seen again.  That is until it was announced very late Friday night that Miguel, who was to be stepping in for Frank Ocean, cancelled due to the usual scheduling conflicts so his set on Saturday (Day 2) would be taken over by k-os.  I guess the people at Osheaga believe in second chances (they are more generous than I would have been) or they had simply run out of other viable options.

Despite the initial hissy fit the rest of the day went very smoothly and in my mind it was dominated by acts from the United Kingdom.  Though I stayed at the two main stages, Molson Canadian Mountain Stage and Virgin Mobile River Stage, so I cannot comment on what went on at the smaller stages, Sennheiser Green Stage and Galaxie Tree Stage.  From what I read and heard standouts on the more intimate stages was another Brit Jake Bugg, Lianne La Havas and rock outfit Palma Violets.  On the larger stages the sets by Ben Howard, Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding and The Cure were the standouts.

Surprisingly for someone who only listens to Irish radio I was not familiar with Ben Howard.  Doubly so since he won this year’s Brit Awards for British Solo Male Artist and British Breakthrough Act.  Somehow he slipped through the cracks.  Well, not anymore!  After his set he takes my Discovery at Osheaga award.  Like Ellie Goulding last year, this Brit has a new fan in me.

osheaga day 1 20132A native of West London, Ben Howard says he was introduced to music at a young age by his mother.  He fell in love with the music she listened to like Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison.  The 25-year-old began writing music in his preteen years and has never stopped. With those artists as his influences it is not surprising that his sound is a variety of rootsy folk rock.  On this occasion he was accompanied by a full band and it resulted in a rather heavier sound.  Much of his all too short 45 minute set had a darker vibe about it than expected.  Not going acoustic did allow him to show off his impressive skills on the electric guitar.  The end of each song was greeted with a roaring applause and the young man from the other side of the pond won himself many a fan over the course of his 45 minutes.  Time well spent, I’d say.

Shifting our attention to the stage next door (I love that there is really no time between sets.  One ends and the next one begins.) another British act, Alt-j, using the hyphen that Jay Z tossed aside, began their 45 minute set.  The indie rock quartet from Leeds has a very different sound.  I have to admit not really being too familiar with their music either.  The first kinda taste of them I had through an Ellie Goulding cover of their song “Tessellate”.  They are another in the long line of bright young musicians from England.  In 2012 their debut album An Awesome Wave won the prestigious Mercury Prize.  What is most striking about the band is lead singer Joe Newman’s odd voice, they don’t use bass and their original arrangements.  Maybe the band’s involvement in the fine arts explains the at times choral aspect of their music.  They play music that can fall into several categories like folk, pop and hip hop.

Next up was one of my favourite new bands, Two Door Cinema Club.  Long title, I know.  Hailing from County Down in Northern Ireland and led by a rosy cheeked (could be because despite the heat he was wearing a full suit and tie) Conan O’Brienesque ginger with a unique voice named Alex Trimble.  It was with their sophomore album Beacon released in 2012 that they made the UK music community stand up and take notice.  They have had hits with their singles “Sleep Alone”, “What You Know” and “Sun”.  Their combination of great melodies, jangly guitar work, 80s influence, and pop/electronica was sweet music to my ears.  They seemed raring to go and brought plenty of energy to their set.  Alex’s vocals were faultless.  For a band of young lads they ooze confidence, but not too much that it is off putting. Crowd interaction was kept to a minimum, but that did not seem to faze anyone as the crowd was digging what they were selling and plenty of moving and dancing was going on.

UK dominance continued with electro-pop artist Ellie Goulding.  She was a discovery for me in 2011 at Osheaga.  That year she played the smaller Green Stage and made an impression.  It is not often you find a performer in that genre of music that has a great voice, but Ellie is the exception.  She is a soprano
osheaga day 1 2013though not your typical one with her breathy slightly horse tone and high vibrato.  It is striking and the things she can make it do is impressive considering she has never had a singing lesson.  A true emotional and original voice.  Couple that with a very modern sound and she really is a compelling artist.  In a demonstration of her appeal it seemed like every young lady in the area I was standing knew the words to every one of her songs and sang it along with her at the top of their lungs.  As a point of interest, at the beginning of her set there were some problems with the sound.  Ellie’s vocals were too low and there was a distracting crackling coming from the speakers, but she powered through it and it got better about five songs in.  There was no diva behaviour or stomping off the stage for this English rose.

Trying to represent North America New York City natives Vampire Weekend took the stage next.  The four members of the band are all very good musicians and their music is of a higher intellectual content then your usual rock tunes.  In other words playing it requires plenty of attention.  Somehow I wondered as their 60 minute set progressed if that was what was holding them back.  I just felt like I wanted them to stop planning their every move and just went buck crazy.  There were moments of that, but not enough for my liking.

Another interesting band is France’s Phoenix.  They of the high energy songs with lyrics that don’t really mean anything (like they used Google translate to translate them from French to English).  Words used to describe their sound are sublime, captivating, energetic, personal, and effortlessly cool.  They are no Johnny-come-latelies as they are roughly 15 years into a career.  A career they have built up from an underground following to a successful mainstream one.  So mainstream that their songs like “1901” have been used in television commercials.  Over the course of their career they have proven that they belong on the big stages of musical festivals worldwide.  They have the song catalogue and the savvy to hold huge audiences.  They still possess their indie cred while being able to connect to a wider audience now.  From the catchy harmonies of the opener “Entertainment” the crowd was with them every step of the way.  At the end of their hour long set lead singer Thomas Mars went into the crowd to lap up their adoration.  It was an appropriate and fitting end to a tight and lively set that demonstrated a band that is at the top of their game.

Last up was the final British act and the headliner of Day 1 at Osheaga.  I have been a fan of The Cure since the first time I heard the song “The Love Cats” way back in 1983, so you could say that this has been a 30 year love affair between me and the goth rock band.  Moving towards the middle of the 80s the band achieved commercial success due to the beginning of music videos and stations like MTV.  Robert Smith and his rat nest hair, thick black eyeliner and red lipstick were splashed across televisions everywhere.  Songs like “In Between Days”, “Close to Me”, “Why Can’t I Be You?”, “Just Like Heaven”, and “Lovesong” cemented their popularity in the 80s.  They were one of the first alternative groups to break through and achieve mainstream success.  Pioneers, so to speak.

The pioneers attracted a wide variety of fans to the front of the River Stage.  Middle aged folks who remember the band from back then and teenagers who love a good song consisting of gloom and love, two subjects that The Cure do often and very well.  Those who stuck it out until the end of this long day of music were rewarded with an over 2 hour long set consisting of unmistakable and catchy licks mixed with emotional lyrics.  For the most part wordlessly and workmanlike Smith dressed in all black including a sparkly type zip up top that might be a part of your slightly zany aunt’s wardrobe led his four bandmates through song after song sounding very much like he did 30 years ago.  Yes, he has put on some weight and his hair (if possible) has become more rats nest-like, but he still puts on a good show.
osheaga day 1 20133Early on the band strung the songs “Lovesong”, “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven” together and they are such strong songs that the songs after that seemed almost like a lull until gems like “Friday I’m in Love” and “Fascination Street” pulled us out of our haze.  Then the band put together a sublime 7 song encore made up of the likes of “The Lovecats”, “Close to Me”, “Why Can’t I Be You?”, and “Boys Don’t Cry”.

I have to say once again as opposed to k-os, The Cure went longer than their appointed 2 hour set.  They were scheduled until 10:45 and were still playing “Boys Don’t Cry”, the 7th song of their lengthy encore, when the powers that be decided to cut the power on the band.  They completed the song acoustically with the crowd helping them with the vocals.  I got the impression that The Cure would have continued to play for much longer if let to their own devices, but it was not to be.  Not bad for a band that has been around for longer that ¾ of their audience on the evening had been alive.  Another band knocked off my musical bucket list.

 

 

 

Setlists:

Alt-J (4:15-5:00)

  1. 1) Intro
  1. 2) Ripe & Ruin
  1. 3) Tessellate
  1. 4) Something Good
  1. 5) Dissolve Me
  1. 6) Fitzpleasure
  1. 7) Matilda
  1. 8) Bloodflow
  1. 9) Breezeblocks

10)  Taro

Two Door Cinema Club (5:00-5:45)

  1. 1) Sleep Alone
  1. 2) Undercover Martyn
  1. 3) Do You Want It All?
  1. 4) This is the Life
  1. 5) Wake Up
  1. 6) Sun
  1. 7) I Can Talk
  1. 8) Next Year
  1. 9) Something Good Can Work

10)  Handshake

11)  What You Know

Ellie Goulding (5:45-6:45)

  1. 1) Don’t Say a Word
  1. 2) Animal
  1. 3) Starry Eyed
  1. 4) Burn
  1. 5) Figure 8
  1. 6) Explosions
  1. 7) Your Song (Elton John cover)
  1. 8) My Blood
  1. 9) Only You

10)  Anything Could Happen

11)  I Need Your Love

12)  Lights

Vampire Weekend (6:45-7:45)

  1. 1) Diane Young
  1. 2) White Sky
  1. 3) Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  1. 4) Step
  1. 5) Holiday
  1. 6) Unbelievers
  1. 7) Everlasting Arms
  1. 8) A-Punk
  1. 9) Ya Hey

10)  Campus

11)  Oxford Comma

12)  Giving Up the Gun

13)  Cousins

14)  Hannah Hunt

15)  Walcott

Phoenix (7:45-8:45)

  1. 1) Entertainment
  1. 2) Lasso
  1. 3) Lisztomania
  1. 4) Girlfriend
  1. 5) S.O.S. in Bel Air
  1. 6) Run Run Run
  1. 7) Trying to Be Cool
  1. 8) Love Like a Sunset Part 1
  1. 9) Love Like a Sunset Part 2

10)  Armistice

11)  1901

12)  If I Ever Feel Better

13)  Rome

14)  Long Distance Call

15)  Entertainment (reprise)

The Cure (8:45-11:00)

  1. 1) Plainsong
  1. 2) Pictures of You
  1. 3) Lullaby
  1. 4) High
  1. 5) The End of the World
  1. 6) Lovesong
  1. 7) In Between Days
  1. 8) Just Like Heaven
  1. 9) From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea

10)  A Forest

11)  Bananafishbones

12)  The Walk

13)  Mint Car

14)  Friday I’m in Love

15)  Doing the Unstuck

16)  Trust

17)  Want

18)  Fascination Street

19)  The Hungry Ghost

20)  Wrong Number

21)  One Hundred Years

22)  Disintegration

Encore:

23)  The Lovecats

24)  The Caterpillar

25)  Close to Me

26)  Hot!Hot!Hot!

27)  Let’s Go to Bed

28)  Why Can’t I Be You?

29)  Boys Don’t Cry

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