Osheaga 2016 Festival Review: The 10 Best Songs

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead make Montréal’s flagship festival so special

Osheaga 2016

When Osheaga booked Radiohead for the band’s only slated Canadian performance in support of A Moon Shaped Pool, festival co-founder Nick Farkas said, “I can pretty much retire now.” Landing Thom Yorke and co. proved to be the most important coup given that Disclosure canceled their penultimate set on Sunday evening due to travel issues. Radiohead saved the day by starting their sprawling performance 15 minutes early to the massive crowd’s excitement.

From Friday afternoon to the final set on Sunday, you couldn’t have asked for better weather, with three consecutive sunny days that hovered in the low 80s Fahrenheit. Food options abounded at the scenic Parc Jean-Drapeau, with poutine as far as the eye could see. The new water fountain installation became a popular meeting point for revelers to cool off in the heat of the afternoon. Mobile phone charging stations, relaxation areas, and free WiFi were all available so fans could stay rested and connected. And aside from the collection of renowned international musicians, the fest also featured prominent hometown artists like Wolf Parade, Kaytranada, and Half Moon Run.

Osheaga - Killian Young (13)

Outside of the ideal setting, there were a few bumps throughout the weekend. Last year I noted how difficult it was to exit the island since there’s only one train line for public transport, but this year I made a concerted effort to position myself by the exit when the headliners were finishing. Being embedded in the crowd versus already moving when the festival ended made a world of difference between making it to the train station unimpeded versus getting stuck in a slow-moving line. Disappointingly, foot traffic never really seemed to make it all the way to Scène Verte, despite a solid set of performers that included St. Lucia, Best Coast, and The Last Shadow Puppets. The stage area filled out well enough during Future’s set, but even then, a stage manager opened the near-empty VIP section for general admission fans to give a fuller appearance for the front of the crowd.

Attendance at the pair of main stages (Scène de la Montagne and Scène de la Rivière), on the other hand, was strong throughout the weekend, with all three headliners drawing fans early on their respective days. Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered a high-energy, crowd-pleasing set filled with their biggest hits, and Lana Del Rey brought her beautiful croon and hypnotic movements. Elsewhere, Grimes gave a gutsy performance, Kaytranada threw a groovy sunset dance party, and Wolf Parade celebrated a triumphant homecoming. So come revisit some of the best songs that soundtracked another memorable weekend in Montréal.

Killian Young
Senior Staff Writer


10. Wolf Parade – “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”

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Wolf Parade may have reunited this year at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, but the Montréal natives got their first homecoming at Osheaga. “I’m a little hungover today,” admitted keyboardist Spencer Krug. “Sweat it out, the toxins,” replied guitarist Dan Boeckner. The quartet then jumped into “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”, with Boeckner headbanging his shaggy hair as he swayed with the beat. When Krug, Boeckner, and guitarist Dante DeCaro harmonized for the chorus, the band’s undeniable chemistry shone.


09. The Struts — “Could Have Been Me”

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Asking for crowd participation, especially on smaller stages, is always a calculated risk at festivals. That was certainly not the case for The Struts, who got the afternoon crowd going with their rollicking tracks like “Kiss This” and “Put Your Money on Me”. Led by charismatic lead vocalist Luke Spiller, the British rockers got the audience to do everything from jazz hands to increasingly complicated sound effects to pretty solid results. The soaring “Could Have Been Me” provided an early anthemic track for fans to clap along to. Spiller’s informal poll showed that the crowd was split about 50-50 between people who had and hadn’t seen the band before. As Spiller roared at the end of the stage: “Remember The Struts!”


08. Kaytranada — “Glowed Up”

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As the sun set over the Saint Lawrence River on Saturday, Kaytranada took the stage at the Scène Piknic Élektronik for one of the longest sets at the electronic stage. The crowd stretched all the way to the rear barricade and spilled out on the side walkways. The hometown DJ/producer grooved through collaborations and his excellent 99.9%, including the lush single “Glowed Up”. As Kaytranada paused the instrumentals, the crowd gladly provided the words from Anderson .Paak’s chorus. With cotton candy skies giving way to the night and neon lasers slicing through the air, there couldn’t have been a more ideal setting.


07. Cypress Hill — “Insane in the Brain”

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Osheaga yet again showed its admiration for classic hip-hop. In 2015, it was for Nas; in 2016, it was for Cypress Hill, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of their debut album. Throughout the set, drummer Bobo Correa was a highlight, adding additional drum hits, like the crash of cymbals on “Hand on the Pump”. Midway through the set, emcees B-Real and Sen Dog split the audience into two sides, imploring each to get louder than the other, a classic but effective staple of hip-hop sets. Finally the crowd came together to bounce as one to the iconic beat of “Insane in the Brain”.


06. HAIM — “I Would Die 4 U”

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HAIM have toured frequently at festivals this summer, but the band always bring upbeat energy to their sets. (This actually turned out to be HAIM’s final summer festival date of the year, as they canceled their remaining European dates to focus on wrapping up their next album.) The sisters utilized their dependable opening slate of tracks, “If I Could Change Your Mind” and “Don’t Save Me”. Bass face/banter expert Este Haim has been leading the group’s cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, and the audience applauded loudly as the main stage lighting then shifted to a purple hue. This time around, Este even hopped down onto the amps to bring her smooth dances moves closer to the audience. Afterwards, she rejoined her sisters onstage for their signature synchronized swing at the song’s coda.


05. MisterWives — “Our Own House”

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MisterWives entered to Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” and then provided a sweet afternoon wake-up call, slicing through the heat on Saturday. Singer Mandy Lee was the star of the show, and she brought an electrifying lead performance as she jumped, kicked, and ran her way across the stage. (The band’s lineup also featured a trumpet player and a saxophonist, adding a jazzy feel to some of the tracks.) On closer “Our Own House”, Lee, guitarist Marc Campbell, bassist William Hehir, and drummer Etienne Bowler all joined forces to create an enormous, unified beat. As the song hit an interlude, the audience erupted in applause before Lee kick-started the song again for a final burst of energy.


04. Lana Del Rey — “Video Games”

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After relinquishing her guitar from throwback “Yayo”, Lana Del Rey eased into “Video Games” for the penultimate track of her set. The singer’s dreamy, poignant voice cut through the gently swaying audience, who responded in kind by yelling back the chorus. As the song ended, Del Rey slowly drifted down to the barricade, taking photos and signing autographs for the superfans who had camped out for hours at the front. It was a curious yet endearing decision given that she was still midset, but she actually ran over her time allotment anyways. (Side note: Del Rey’s backing band were a highlight in their own right, with their expansive jam closing out the set after “Off to the Races”.) Lana Del Rey returned draped in a Canadian flag, earning wild cheers from the crowd.


03. Grimes — “SCREAM”

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And the award for artist who showed the most intestinal fortitude goes to … Grimes. Multiple times between songs, Claire Boucher profusely apologized, warning the audience she was dealing with the flu and two twisted ankles. She introduced “SCREAM” as a collaboration with Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, but since she couldn’t sing in Mandarin, she opted for a Russian alternate of the track. Despite her earlier doubts, Grimes energetically flung herself across the stage, unleashing guttural screams throughout.

Her ailments eventually caught up. Toward the end of the song, she sprinted offstage, and a staffer quickly followed with a trash can. Grimes had already performed for about 40 minutes of her one-hour set, pushing through “Go”, “REALiTi”, and “Venus Fly”. It would’ve been perfectly understandable if she called it a day. Instead she returned onstage while still retching. The audience erupted in cheers as she played one more song, “Kill V. Maim”. Clutching her stomach through it all, Grimes bounced between her console and the front of the stage with her dancers in what easily turned out to be the most metal performance of the weekend.


02. Radiohead — “Creep”

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Yeah, I know Radiohead aren’t too keen on their hit single and they’ve broken the track out for a handful of their recent gigs, but you never know when they’ll shelve it again. With Disclosure forced to make a last-minute cancellation in the slot before Radiohead headlined, Thom Yorke & co. actually took the stage 15 minutes early. Clearly raring to go, the band moved through yet another epic, two-hour-plus set with two encores. (After seeing the band land in the US at Madison Square Garden earlier in the week, it was especially exciting to hear “Karma Police”, which wasn’t on the first night’s set.) The biggest surprise undoubtedly came at the end of the band’s second encore, though. “Thank you for joining us, hope you had a nice fest-i-val,” Yorke deadpanned. “Found somebody nice to get off with … or not.” Sure, he might’ve been low-key railing against the idea that a band needs to play their most famous songs for a generalist audience. But it was still so fucking special to hear “Creep” live — Jonny Greenwood’s famously disruptive dead notes and all.


01. Red Hot Chili Peppers — “Under the Bridge”

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It’s tough to choose the best song from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ masterful headlining set on day one of Osheaga. I’m by no means an expert on the band, but I knew the vast majority of the songs played — a testament to Anthony Kiedis & co.’s trove of recognizable, catchy hits from the past three-plus decades. The LA rockers seized control of the audience from the get-go, barreling through some great singles: “Can’t Stop”, “Dani California”, “Scar Tissue”, and “Dark Necessities”. Throughout, the band’s energy was palpable, with Flea pogoing and slinging his head back over funky basslines and Kiedis bouncing across the stage. Toward the end of the set, RHCP slowed things down with “Under the Bridge”, which highlighted Kiedis’ soft croon and Josh Klinghoffer’s gentle opening riff. Finally the track climbed to its climax, with Kiedis’ voice rising in urgency and Flea frantically jumping up and down. Earlier in the night, Flea made a request: “With all the news in the world, it’d be nice if the media reported at Osheaga a bunch of people got together and had a really nice time.” Here ya go, Flea!

Click ahead for an exclusive photo gallery from Osheaga 2016.


Photographer: Killian Young

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