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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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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

    Saturday, July 30th

    The 222s – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 1:00 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    The thing that was maybe most impressive about Osheaga in 2011 was how receptive the crowds were to so many bands, even The 222s, who were probably NEVER up this early back in their late-1970s punk prime. Hailed back then as one of the genre’s first ever bands from Quebec, they reformed last year for North by Northeast, but this was their debut at a fest like Osheaga. And it doesn’t look like this will be just another one-off, as they had people bopping their heads to their fun fun fun Ramones-indebted songs like ‘I Love Suzan.’ -Gilles Leblanc

    The Midway State – BlackBerry River Stage –  1:30 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

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    Montreal and Toronto aren’t always the best of friends, for reasons that extend far beyond music. The “Centre of the Universe”, as Toronto is sometimes called derogatively outside its borders, actually had quite a heavy presence at Osheaga 2011, including alt-rockers The Midway State. They just released their second album, Paris or India, a couple of weeks ago, and were in full showcase mode Saturday afternoon. By the reaction new tracks like “Alive”, “Fire!”, and “Lightning” got when they were played, it was as if a busload of Torontonians had made the 6+ hour trip to the festival…and encouraged everyone else to cheer them on! -Gilles Leblanc

    Manchester Orchestra – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 2:00 p.m.

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    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    “I took French for seven years and failed every year of it,” frontman Andy Hull announced to an adoring crowd. Luckily, he didn’t need his French skills to communicate to the French speaking crowd; from the first strum of his guitar the crowd was already into it. Atlanta, GA’s Manchester Orchestra knocked out 40 minutes of catchy pop-rock. With vocals that ranged from soft-spoken to aggressive rage, Andy Hull made the crowd familiar with his music, which seemed fitting given that the first time they played in Montreal there were only 18 people in the crowd. “Shake It Out” turned things up a notch, building a chin dance from the crowd. All in all, a very surprisingly enjoyable set. -Stewart Wiseman

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    The High Dials – Galaxie Tree Stage – 2:10 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    In need of some shade after being out in the open and exposed directly to the sun, I headed to the comfortable Tree Stage for the first time Saturday to take note of The High Dials from Montreal. They didn’t help cool me off much, as their psychedelic rock-meets-power pop got bodies working up a sweat, and when their saxophone-playing friend joined them for a handful of songs, forget about it! And I must say, they also had the most radical-looking amplifier case of anyone I covered at Osheaga, as it was littered with stickers of admirable bands like The Kills and Franz Ferdinand as well as places they’ve conceivably travelled to in the relatively short time they’ve been together. -Gilles Leblanc

    Hey Rosetta!BlackBerry River Stage –  2:40 p.m.

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    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

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    Hey Rosetta! has been receiving more and more attention as of late, and their set at Osheaga helped them win over many new fans. The folk-rockers from Newfoundland mainly played songs off their latest LP Seeds, and proved to the audience why they were put on the Polaris Prize short list. The crowd picked up “Yer Spring” relatively quickly, and echoed the line “I’m going up!” along with vocalist Tim Baker for the song’s entirety. Smiles were apparent on the faces of many in the crowd, and it seems that Hey Rosetta!’s music has a way of lifting the spirits of a whole audience. This was quite apparent when the band closed with a cover of The Constantines’ “Do What You Can Do”, an anthem about doing more to help others, which Hey Rosetta! definitely did on Saturday by helping make Osheaga a memorable event. -Stewart Wiseman

    Mother Mother – Galaxie Tree Stage – 3:10 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    After taking a quick beer break, I was amazed by how many more people were now at the Tree Stage in anticipation of Vancouver’s Mother Mother. Once mohawk sporting singer/guitarist Ryan Guldemond and the rest of his band got going, it was easy to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t know if the same holds true for the rest of the country, but these guys (and two girls, including Ryan’s sister Molly) are gaining a lot of steam in Toronto – Two songs from their 2011 album Eureka, “The Stand” and “Baby Don’t Dance”, have been getting significant airplay on modern rock radio station 102.1 The Edge, and they’re booked to playSound Academy this September. -Gilles Leblanc

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    Tokyo Police Club – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 3:20 p.m.

    tokyoosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    Over 40 minutes, vocalist and bassist David Monks’ high-energy antics kept the crowd in line, which happened to be the first great gathering of Saturday. Pulling from 2008’s Elephant Shell and 2010’s Champ, the Canadian outfit received the best response from earlier work, especially the tender “Tessellate” and “Nature of the Experiment”. In a smart move, they closed their set with the very fitting “Your English Is Good”, a song which united the voices of the French and English speaking people into one universal language. Much has changed here, and for the good. -Stewart Wiseman

    John Butler Trio – BlackBerry River Stage –  4:00 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

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    I learned at Osheaga that Australia’s John Butler Trio have some pretty hardcore Canadian fans. They were the only band I can remember where people brought handmade signs for them – One in particular was from a “Sheila” claiming she had trekked all the way from Vancouver (nearly 5,000 kilometres, or 3,000 miles) JUST to see them!  I also learned that the John Butler Trio were one of the more rocking bands at Osheaga; when Butler himself wasn’t getting’ down and bluesy with his lap slide guitar, he was kickin’ up a proverbial storm playing banjo-fuelled bluesgrass. An easy highlight of the entire weekend for me. -Gilles Leblanc

    Sam Roberts Band – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 4:50 p.m.

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    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    When Arcade Fire headlined Osheaga in 2010, it showed how powerful the Montreal crowd can get supporting a major hometown act, and that’s exactly what happened when Sam Roberts and crew hit the stage. The much anticipated set started with the heavy hitting “I Feel You”, off his recent critically acclaimed effort Collider, and from there the crowd just continued to ignite. His first performance at home, at least in support of his latest LP, Roberts worked with a devoted following, which altogether felt more or less like a homecoming. As a result, he brought out some close friends, including Elizabeth Powell (lead singer of Land of Talk), who performed backup vocals on “Longitude”, and renown Montreal sax man Chet Doxas who joined Roberts’ brass section. To close out the set, Roberts shouted to the audience, “On va chanter ensemble mes amis,” before kicking into “Brotherdown”. In any other festival in the States, Sam Roberts might just be a second thought on a festival lineup; but in Montreal he was one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend. -Stewart Wiseman

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    PS I Love You – Galaxie Tree Stage – 6:30 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    PS I Love You are rapidly becoming the type of band you don’t ever get tired of seeing live, as something memorable is always bound to happen. When I saw them a little over a month ago at NXNE, Paul Saulnier and drummer Ben Nelson blew out an amp by the sheer force of their rawk. At Osheaga, Saulnier ‘only’ broke a string off his guitar, but he hardly bat an eye as he was too busy trying not to bite his protruding tongue. He also showed a good deal of wit, saying things like, “Don’t cheer, I’m just the roadie,” and “We’re PS I Love You, and we only have 12 minutes left.” I foresee big, big things for these Kingston boys. -Gilles Leblanc

    Lupe Fiasco- Budweiser Mountain Stage – 6:30 p.m.

    lupeosheaga Festival Review: CoS at Osheaga 2011

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    After a day chock full of rap and hip hop, Lupe Fiasco had all of Saturday to own the genre. Chicago’s finer export kicked off with “Shining Down” which saw him parade around the stage in glory. Unlike some other acts, Fiasco didn’t need to try hard to pump up the crowd, as they were ready and willing to party. Where many rappers rely on beats to accompany their music, Fiasco’s band blended rock sounds with his rhymes in a surprisingly good combination. Things got weird halfway through his set, however, when Fiasco went on an anti-American rant that had many scratching their heads instead of cheering, but then again this is the same rapper who labeled President Barack Obama as “the biggest terrorist”.  Oh well. Closing with his biggest hit “The Show Goes On”, Fiasco brought the energy back and the party started once more. No new fans per se, but those who turned out had a blast. -Stewart Wiseman

    Death from Above 1979 – BlackBerry River Stage –  7:25 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    Having seen Death from Above 1979 less than two weeks before at the Quebec City Summer Festival, I didn’t think they could get much more intense, but they may have actually topped what drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger himself called the best show so far on their reunion tour. The mosh pit at the main stage bordered on the insane, but what was even crazier (yet infinitely cool), was how several of Grainger’s friends in music, such as Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Jimmy Shaw from Metric (who he owns a recording studio in Toronto with), came out to support him and Jesse F. Keeler from down in front, in the photographer’s area, as opposed to side stage. -Gilles Leblanc

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    Ratatat – Sennheiser Green Stage – 8:15 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    A friend of mine who’s more well versed in electronica than yours truly insisted I see Ratatat, touting them as the “American Daft Punk.” I don’t know if I agree entirely with his declaration, but I’ll give Ratatat this: They know how to draw a crowd and throw a heck of a unique dance party, complete with a glassy, monolith-shaped projection system to add to everyone’s, um, trip! Dope, hand waving beats from mastermind producer Evan Mast were accentuated by bendy guitarist Mike Stroud. They were fun, but the festivities at the Green Stage would only get louder and more penetratingly pulsating as the weekend wore on… -Gilles Leblanc

    Bright Eyes – Budweiser Mountain Stage – 8:15 p.m.

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    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

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    To follow Fiasco’s fiesta was a little unfortunate for Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes. As a result, he arrived to a much smaller crowd, though this didn’t affect the band’s performance at all. Opening with “Four Winds”, the female-heavy audience serenaded Oberst with his own lyrics; a trend which continued throughout most of the night. “Poison Oak” started out soft and mellow, like the majority of Bright Eyes songs, but had an emotional climb towards the end of the song, building up higher and higher and making it one of the highlights from their set. “The Calendar Hung Itself” was a particularly dark and moody number, contrasting slightly with the other more upbeat songs. Performing closing duties, “One for You, One for Me” rang loud as a perfect anthem and one of the best of the night, leaving their many fans with a message of endearing hope. Much needed today. -Stewart Wiseman

    Elvis Costello & the Imposters – BlackBerry River Stage –  9:20 p.m.

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    Photo by Gilles Leblanc

    The second night of Osheaga was, er, a bit of an anomaly compared to the rest of the festival. Once the carnage had subsided following Death from Above 1979, it was time for Elvis Costello’s carnival to roll into town; he even brought a go-go dancer and strongman scale. (The “Hammer of Songs.”) Unfortunately for the 40 year music veteran, the assembled masses couldn’t have been more indifferent – At best, it was maybe a quarter of the size of Eminem’s audience from Friday. Not much of a ‘mass’ by any means. And that’s a shame, because it’s not like he didn’t belong there; his “Watching the Detectives”, “Everyday I Write the Book”, “Alison”, “Radio Radio”, “Bedlam”, “I Want You”, “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”, and “Clubland” all form the basis of present-day alternative rock. And he gave it his all, too. Those who were there will tell you they had a rollicking good time. I felt bad for ol’ Elvis, but that said, I still left before his encore to see the end of Fucked Up’s set at the Tree Stage. Any guilt I may have been feeling went away rather quickly when Damian Abraham presented Sebastien Grainger as a special guest to ‘sing’ a F’ed Up song with him and do some crowd surfing among his francophone peeps! -Gilles Leblanc

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    Fucked Up – Galaxie Tree Stage – 10:10 p.m.

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    Photo by Stewart Wiseman

    At a festival where most of the people could be labeled as pot-smoking hippies, the Fucked Up crowd of punks and hardcore fans was a rare sight. After Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham brought out his son for an appearance, the band arrived too and wasted no time in getting the crowd psyched up, starting with “Queen of Hearts”. The song didn’t even start yet before Abraham was interacting with all his fans from the photo pit, and it only took two songs for him to lose his shirt, crowd surf, and join the romping mosh pit. Naturally, Osheaga sent their toughest security guards to work this set, and they were the busiest they had to be all festival. Admittedly, the messages in these songs can often be lost due to the loud nature of the show, but Fucked Up has put together some great love songs, which is often a challenge for hardcore bands. Of course, that’s the last thing anyone’s thinking about while they’re performing, but on record, especially their latest LP,  David Comes To Life, it’s something to always consider. There’s much more to this shirtless maniac than what meets the eye. -Stewart Wiseman

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