Arriving at 4:30 p.m. on day 2 at the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival the first thing that struck me was how many more people were there. I guess weather does make a big difference when it comes to outdoor festivals (duh!) Or maybe it was that the musical acts on day 2 are what drew the bigger crowd (18,000 or 5,000 more than day 1. Who knows?
I got there in time to catch the last half of Canada's The Weakerthans set. They are a traditional rock band who continuously gets compared to The Tragically Hip or even fellow Winnipegger Neil Young. True they are Canadian through and through with their references to the GST, Ontario roads, loonies, Gump Worsley, and the Tournament of Hearts, but they have their own thing going on. Enjoying their short time on stage they did not want to leave when prodded to 15 minutes before their promised time. So they stayed to play two more songs to the delight of the crowd gathered around the Mountain Stage.
Upon the realization that I had spent all my time at Osheaga in front of the two main stages I decided to venture forth and take in an act on one of the two smaller stages. I was attracted to the music I heard coming from the Tree Stage, so I stopped for a listen. Boy, was I glad I did as I discovered a local artist I previously knew nothing about. Robertson is a Montreal musician who had previously worked with a band named Bullfrog and played guitar for several Kid Koala recordings. He has just released a solo album entitled "Favorite People" and played several tunes from it during his 35-minute set. Robertson is a one man band with all kinds of pedals, prerecorded drum loops and accoutrements. He creates a sound that is funky that his smooth falsetto goes perfectly with. You have to give kudos to a guy who can write a love song between a fly and a porch light. Sounding a bit like Montreal's version of Jamiroquai, Robertson is truly funky for a white guy!
I headed back over to the Mountain Stage and arrived in time to catch frenetic gypsy rock band Gogol Bordello. They came to people's attention when they played with Madonna during her Live Earth set. That they are crazy is about all you can say about this band. Gypsy punk! The lead singer Eugene Hutz came on stage looking like a wild man and had a bottle of wine in his hand. You knew that this was going to be like nothing you had ever seen before based on the first couple of moments. They were high energy and the crowd responded. It was rowdy times ten! In the true spirit of punk rock they came to party and f*%k those that didn't agree.
Starting a few minutes later on the adjacent River Stage was Welsh performer Duffy. She has been called the sober Amy Winehouse. Singing a kind of old school soul music, Duffy is young (looking like your best friend's younger sister) and petite, but has a huge voice. While I am not the biggest fan of vibrato she uses it effectively in her songs. Even though Duffy is a soul singer she joked how she has embraced the fact that she can't dance due to lack of rhythm. Ironic, no?! She also has a laid back and funny way about her on stage. Duffy pointed out, mid song, that she was impressed with a guy that was carrying 6 beers back to his friends. Despite her more mainstream sound (her song "Mercy" is a huge radio hit) those that were there were dancing, singing and enjoying her set.
Not able to hang around for the evening's headliner, Jack Johnson, due to a commitment, after Duffy I checked out part of British collective The Go! Team's set. They are completely multi-everything with a mix of black, white, male, female and Asian in the six member band. Even their sound is a little bit of everything from 80s New Wave to hard rock to rap. They were hard to figure out, but maybe they're not a band you can 'get' in 15 minutes.
The Weakerthans (partial)
1) Civil Twilight
2) Sun in an Empty Room
3) Night Windows
4) Pleas for a Cat Named Virtue
1) Deeper Shade of Green
4) Back for You
7) Favorite People
1) Syrup and Honey
3) Hanging On too Long
5) Warwick Avenue
6) Don't You Feel Like Crying
7) Delayed Devotion
8) Stepping Stone
9) Distant Dreamer
Photos by Natasha Fillion/The Gazette