[festival recap] What I Did On My Summer Vacation, or, Osheaga Festival 2012


M83 fans sure love to dramatically crowdsurf.


Like all my great essays go, I have a preface and a legitimate alibi to why this one is late. Two words: technical difficulties. I’ve never felt more technologically incompetent this past weekend, surrounded by hundreds of photographers and journalists who “knew what they were doing.” I’m going to start at the very beginning.


I drove for six hours from New Hampshire into the heart of Montreal, ready to take on the world. One broken down car, one tow truck ride and one expensive taxi later, I stumbled out of the metro and onto Parc Jean-Drapeau without many plans, but with many hopes for my first ever music festival. After bushwhacking through 120,000 drunk Canadians, I finally checked into my super-swanky VIP media lounge, greeted by exotic women who handed me gold chains and a stack of Benjamins. Things were going well!


Okay, so what actually happened was I sat frustrated and hungry on a wooden bench trying to get my Internet to work. I slammed my fists on my knees and gave up, deciding instead to head over for the last few Franz Ferdinand songs. I navigated my way to the dual stage setup, again shoving and bumping unapologetically through the crowd (contray to popular belief Stateside, it’s customary in Canada to be a complete asshole) to witness my first ever festival performance. Franz wooed a small but dedicated crowd, a relative calm before the storm of gushing fangirls screaming for Florence and the Machine. Sorry Weeknd, but I took a nap through your set. I was up at 6am that morning. Florence put on a blisteringly vibrant show, tossing and cavorting with spellbinding intensity. Easily the most memorable quote of the night was when she addressed the audience with a difficult request.


“Osheaga, you are fantastic…” she said, “…but we need human sacrifices.”

Florence Welch wants to eat your soul.


Florence was a tough act to follow for Sigur Ros, who kind of looked like they had gotten in an argument over who ate the last dehydrated kale chip. Lots of people left to catch MGMT, but I stayed for Justice, who despite being at a bit of a slump in their career still managed to kill it, Frenchy disco style.


Saturday hit my nostalgia-bone so hard I had an emotionally frustrated limp and needed my 90s emo crutches. It also made me feel strange when I realized I had been sharing these angsty teen feels with musicians nearly twice my own age. As I stared into the slowly-approaching-haggard faces of Cursive, performing a super-slowed version of “The Recluse” I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to be an aging emo kid. It’s embarrassing, but it seems to get better.


I caught some of Black Lips on the way back to the main stage, which was a great pick-me-up. The dust rose high as people got rowdy in the dangerous heat. Black Lips performed as cool as a bunch of cucumbers in the Yukon, without a bead of sweat. Cole was even wearing a black beanie. I was amazed.


The decision between Brand New and A$AP Rocky was a tough one, but seeing Jesse Lacey’s charity acoustic set earlier in the day had me hell bent on hearing some of their Your Favorite Weapon hits. They made me wait through twelve other songs before I heard “Seventy Times Seven’s” disturbingly cruel lyrics. I've never wished death upon an ex, but singing songs about it is kinda fun.


Brand New says 'you're never too old for a miserable breakup.'


Though I missed most of Snoop Lion’s performance, I didn’t miss the wait, as Snoop’s crew let out disturbingly loud feedback several times during soundcheck, likely a problem of smoking too much weed before setting up their instruments. And if anyone was wondering how people felt about the name change, 40,000 people chanting “Snoop Lion” was reason enough to know that the world had not turned its back on him, and had instead come to a collective understanding that this was the new Snoop, and we have to all get used to it. After several minutes of sitting on the muddy ground and listening to old-school hip hop, I realized I couldn’t wait much longer because I had to get to the Jesus and Mary Chain. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know whether or not Snoop was going to perform a reggae or a hip-hop set until I walked by later and saw everyone bumping to “The Next Episode.” My heart sank, but I learned quickly that one cannot see every band they want in one weekend.


The Jesus and Mary Chain was still a good decision, albeit a loud one. I like music and concerts and all, but I have a shred of respect for my well being; a long family history of hearing loss didn’t keep me from forgetting earplugs though. JAMC was without a doubt the loudest show I have ever been to, and I have the tinnitus to prove it. Will Reid’s guitar screeched farther than you could see, and my ears just stopped ringing today. If I’m old and deaf one day, I’m going to blame it on that one guitar solo, like how Pete Townshend blamed his deafness on that time when Keith Moon blew up his drums.

The Jesus and Mary Chain doesn't care about your ears.


Sunday was the last night of the fair. I was broke, tired, hungry, had to pee, and it was raining like nobody’s business. My bag was searched at the door, and even though pounds upon pounds of hard drugs made it through the gates, my one can of Amy’s Organic chili did not. As I asked why a can of beans was considered contraband, I received only an unsympathetic shrug and a flick of the wrist, and my dinner was cast into a trash pit of plastic cups and dirty rainwater. It was crummy, though if it were as hot as the day before, I probably wouldn’t have survived. The rain was a blessing in disguise, even if it made filming extremely difficult. I watched the professionals cover their gear in expensive plastic wrap, and I was left to veil my borrowed camera in a flimsy sheet of torn sandwich bag and hope for the best. The least of my worries was shooting, though, because I was determined after a shitty morning to make the most of my last day at the festival.


Doe Paoro started off the day with a vocal blessing to spread good vibes to everyone. After previously losing my shit at a 15-year-old who sold me a $3 thimbleful of coffee, Doe’s serene and permeating melodies really did calm me down. The feeling didn’t last long, however, when Zola Jesus performed all of three songs before they got shut down because of an impending storm that never amounted to more than a heavy rain.


Later, my spirits were lifted again as Passion Pit not only put on a great (and complete) show, but twice announced that they were from Boston, both times receiving an explosive round of cheers and applause. The Osheaga crowd was especially grateful for this show, because the surrounding dates were cancelled due to Michael Angelakos's mental health. It was heartwarming to see the Michael perform with what looked like a happy and stable demeanor, and to hear that he hasn't forgotten about us.


Santigold clearly won “best dressed” for the weekend. Done up like a futuristic princess and backed by a crew of Devo-esque minions, the jungle beats had everyone moving, all the way to the fence in the back. Then, a dancing horse came on stage. I’m not going to try to explain that.


Possibly the most exciting moment (for me at least) was getting to see Bloc Party. After I was cockBloc’d several years ago when they cancelled their tour and were replaced by the Plain White T’s, the thrill of watching the four original members walk happily onstage was almost too much to handle. Myself and many others were left hoarse after an extremely satisfying set that spanned the entirety of their career evenly.

Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, one of the sexiest men in indie rock. 


At the close of Sunday night, I decided to forego waiting in the photo pit to capture M83 and witness it in the crowd, without interruption. There was one problem: I had to pee, and there was a full hour between Bloc Party and M83. So I was faced with a choice: either lose my place in the crowd, or satisfy my urinary needs.


I held it. It was painful, but worth it.


Though the weirdo alien from the cover of Midnight City made an appearance at the Boston show and not this one, M83s Osheaga set may have topped any show they played in the states. Feeling free to speak fluent French rather than thickly accented English, Anthony Gonzalez was more comfortable than ever, and the entire band let loose on the crest of his euphoric waves, which then descended and crashed upon a weary but ecstatic audience. People crowdsurfed, danced, cried, and, yes, totally lost their shit to what I believe was the best set of the entire weekend.


I walked away from the festival grounds half blinded, mostly deaf, and very weak, but Osheaga 2012 made my summer. Next year, I’ll bring an umbrella and way more money.

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