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Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

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    osheaga 20111 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011Music festivals have come and gone in Canada, but one which seems to have taken hold and established an identity is Montreal’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. Conveniently scheduled right at the end of July, and picturesquely located on its own island by the Saint Lawrence River, it brought fans from across the country and elsewhere up close and personal with nearly 100 bands and DJs. It’s not quite as big as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Coachella yet, but Osheaga is well on its way to becoming a preferred summer destination. I lost track of the number of times artists referred to it as a “beautiful festival,” and anyone who I talked to couldn’t stop raving about what a great time they were having.

    Because of the quality of headliners Osheaga attracted in 2010, it necessitated an expansion to three full days, a move that proved to be an unqualified success. (Just ask the beer and merchandise vendors!) It was an eventful weekend. The vibe was off the charts, the food was great, beer was literally brought to you, there were spectacular fireworks, and there was even a wedding presided over by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. Remember what they say: Whatever happens in Montreal…ends up on Consequence of Sound! And the best part of all? Looks like Osheaga is here to stay – The 2012 edition is already scheduled for August 3rd-5th next year!

    -Gilles Leblanc
    Staff Writer

    Friday, July 29th

    Sweet Thing – Galaxie Tree Stage – 4:00 p.m.

    sweetthing1 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    Toronto pop rockers Sweet Thing got the sixth edition of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival off to a flying start – Literally! Charismatic lead singer Owen Carrier seemed determined to fire up everyone gathered at the scenic Tree Stage for the long weekend ahead. He let some patrons up front shake his streamer-laden tambourine, and he also took a swig from a unsuspecting festivalgoer’s beer. I don’t think he left a tip, but here’s one from me to you… Check Sweet Thing out, especially the song “Change of Seasons”, recently featured in the trailer for Crazy, Stupid Love. -Gilles Leblanc

    Kid Koala – BlackBerry River Stage – 4:00 p.m.

    kidkoalaosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

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    After Kid Cudi’s cancellation, due to illness the morning of the festival, the festival managed to find another Kid…albeit in a koala bear costume. “I am not Kid Cudi,” Kid Koala announced through some booing from the audience before he launched into a light DJ set. Due to the last minute booking of his performance, he didn’t have his laptop with him, forcing him to stick to old fashioned record spinning at the turntable. Vintage yet unsuccessful, leaving much of the crowd to dissipate. Oh well. -Stewart Wiseman

    Lights – Sennheiser Green Stage – 4:20 p.m.

    lights3 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    Lights is the alias for Valerie Poxleitner, a lovely young girl from the same Northern Ontario town as Shania Twain. She plays cutesy electro pop with a tinge of guitar, which the young women not already at the main stage area for Eminem ate up. I don’t mean to accuse her of something like this, as she’s obviously talented, but it looked like her mic was on a bit too much of a fade at times, if you know what I mean (as in she MAY have been lip-synching). I caught her later happily posing for pictures at the artist’s entrance, so all is well as far as her fans are concerned! -Gilles Leblanc

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    The Knux – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 4:40 p.m.

    theknuxosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    After a short DJ set, New Orleans’ own The Knux were welcomed to the stage with the crowd shouting “Knux! Knux! Knux! Knux!”. Oddly enough, the fanfare died down and festivalgoers remained rather stoic, despite suggestions by an energetic Krispy. But, here’s an act that’s different than many in the highly contested genre. For one, the members can fill in on instruments when they’re not rhyming. During “Capuccino”, Joey laid some guitar solos down that worked behind Krispy’s flow. It was this versatility that brought the crowd up again, and by the time they reached “Bang Bang”, their closer for the set, the crowd knew they were seeing quality rappers with a bright future to come. –Stewart Wiseman

    Uncle Bad Touch – Galaxie Tree Stage – 5:00 p.m.

    unclebadtouch2 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

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    No creepy, incestuous in-laws back at the Tree Stage, just some straightforward, honest-to-goodness garage rock by a band from Montreal titillatingly called Uncle Bad Touch. With a healthy dose of Led Zeppelin thrown in. Not only that, two of their four members are female, including a tambourine player named Julia who was making her debut with them. And I found out from singer/bassist ‘Mikey’ that they’re coming to Toronto in a few weeks to play a free show with Parlovr Formidable! -Gilles Leblanc

    Charles Bradley – BlackBerry River Stage – 5:20 p.m.

    charlesbradleyosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    At 63 years old, it’s a wonder why Charles Bradley wasn’t discovered earlier. At Osheaga, the new legend performed one of the most beloved sets of the weekend, and songs like the soul stirring “This World (Is Going Up In Flames)” had the whole audience grooving along. The good vibes carried out until the end, when Bradley finished his set with a surprise cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, reworked in an unimaginable soul comb over. That sent the Canadians over the edge – but also Bradley himself. The grateful look in his eyes hinted that he’s finally found his place in music: amongst the great soul voices of our time. -Stewart Wiseman

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    Broken Social Scene – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 6:10 p.m.

    bssosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    The Canadian indie-rock pioneers attracted the first big crowd of the day, and vocalist Kevin Drew thanked Montreal for how well they’ve been treated over the last 10 years, stating how the band can always depend on the city to be there for them. Opening with “KC Accidental”, Broken Social Scene bled out their trademark raw energy, issuing solid cuts of “Forced to Love”, “Texico Bitches”, and a cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large”. A couple of surprises, though. For “Almost Crimes” (off 2002’s You Forgot It in the People), Brendan Canning invited local singer Arielle Engle to join in for the biggest rocker of the set. And while “World Sick” didn’t make the 50 minute set, they did throw in “Meet Me in the Basement”, performed by not so much a band but better yet a tight family that maintains a very healthy relationship. -Stewart Wiseman

    Bran Van 3000 – BlackBerry River Stage –  7:05 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

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    With Kid Cudi withdrawing due to illness, recently reunited Montreal collective Bran Van 3000 moved up a slot. It became somehow appropriate that they followed Broken Social Scene, as you could argue that they were the late-’90s precursor to BSS’ formation in Toronto, only more electronic. When telling other music fans that I was going to Osheaga, I was surprised to hear how many people not only remembered BV3, but wished they could come with me to hear songs like “Drinking in L.A.” (from their 1997 album Glee). Newer stuff from their 2010 comeback The Garden was very well received too, namely “Grace (Love on the Block)” and “Jahrusalem”, which incorporate rapping/hip hop along with costumes on stage. One girl dressed up like a peacock! -Gilles Leblanc

    Joseph Arthur – Sennheiser Green Stage – 7:15 p.m.

    josepharthurosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    So it didn’t draw the most, but Joseph Arthur held quite an intimate evening set. The Akron, OH folk singer started the block in nontraditional fashion – by painting. After finishing a modernist Picasso-esque piece, Arthur turned to his band of foot pedals, and swam about in his sea of loops. As much as the crowd asked him to play “Into the Sun”, he never touched it and stuck mainly to material from his latest effort, Graduation Ceremony. Lyrical lessons arrived in the form of “Black Lexus” and “Honey and the Moon”, the latter highlighting his essential strengths of providing words of wisdom via poetry. Where else would you see a spoken word piece involving oil paints? -Stewart Wiseman

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    The Rural Alberta AdvantageGalaxie Tree Stage – 8:00 p.m.

    raaosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    Another Canadian draw, The Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA) took to one of the festival’s smallest stages, which in turn produced the most excited (and packed in) audience of the day. Travelers from all over – Calgary and St. Johns, to name a couple – arrived to see the group. So appreciative this crowd was – the last time RAA performed at Osheaga was ’09 – that at moments, the die-hards sang louder than singer Nils Edenloff. Still supporting their latest effort, 2011’s Departing, the set was quite heavy with newer material, with one standout being “Tornado 87”, thanks to its irresistibly catchy chorus. A key to the band’s success is their wide range of sounds. From the beautiful “In the Summertime” in which Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff traded vocals, to the rocking finale “The Deathbridge In Lethbridge” where drummer Paul Banwatt was at his best. Because of this, the RAA are a band loaded with songs for every musical taste, and their performance on Friday night was only a glimpse into what’s to come. -Stewart Wiseman

    Janelle Monáe – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 8:05 p.m.

    janellemonae1 Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

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    Janelle Monáe didn’t just take advantage of the huge crowd waiting for Eminem; she knocked a home run right out of Parc Jean-Drapeau and into the Saint Lawrence River with a performance that had Montreal raving about her so much, she became a trending topic on Twitter. It was funky to the max, energetic beyond belief, and boundlessly creative. With her backing band sharply decked out in varying degrees of black and white, Monáe entered fully covered in a cloak accompanied by two similarly dressed “druids” before shedding her garment and launching into “Dance or Die” off her breakthrough album The ArchAndroid. We got her hits “Cold War” and “Tightrope” back-to-back, as well as an absolutely KILLER cover of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. We even got to see her artistic side as she painted an impromptu picture in glitter during instrumental parts of songs. -Gilles Leblanc

    Eminem – BlackBerry River Stage –  9:20 p.m.

    One word heard all night Friday during Eminem’s return to Canada as a headliner was « malade. » Translated, it means sick, with a similar meaning to how English-speaking kids use it today slang-wise, only more amplified, more frenzied. Yeah, I’d say it’s a suitable way to characterize the Osheaga-record throng of 38,000 ‘hip hop heads’ who came to see Mr. Mathers before he hits Chicago for the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza. Eminem sure wasn’t afraid to play up that we were witnessing something historic, from the dramatic opening video to the hard road he’s been on that led to his latest chart toppers Relapse and Recovery, pausing occasionally to remind Montreal how much he’s missed the city.

    eminem osheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Bobby Foley

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    I don’t know about momentous, but there were an abundance of highlights – Royce da 5’9” made a guest appearance for “Fast Lane” and “Lighters” (Em even wore a white Bad Meets Evil T-shirt to commemorate the occasion). There were tributes to 2Pac and Nate Dogg. But the biggest cheers were saved for Eminem’s greatest hits medley, where he rapped a verse from each of “My Name Is”, “The Real Slim Shady”, and “Without Me”. That is until everyone lost their collective $#!% when they heard the riff to ‘Lose Yourself’ after a short encore break. An explosive finish to a stellar Day 1 of Osheaga! -Gilles Leblanc

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