Of all the times to be visiting Montreal, this past weekend (July 29th-31st) was the one: not only was the annual comedy festival Just For Laughs wrapping up at various venues throughout the city, Osheaga Festival was making its grand return at the Parc Jean Drapeu for the first time since 2019. These events, along with near-perfect weather and a summertime spirit, saw thousands flocking to the city, with musicians, comedians, and lovers of both enjoying all that Montreal has to offer.
Osheaga is more than just a typical city festival — over the last several years, Osheaga has gotten all the more curated, with many festival exclusives, local favorites, and some undeniable stars gracing their many stages. This year, which marked the 15th anniversary of the festival, was no different, but there were a few caveats to booking an impressively deep lineup like Osheaga’s in 2022.
As usual, there were some cancellations; Foo Fighters were originally scheduled to headline both 2020’s edition (before the pandemic hit) and this year’s fest, but had to drop out after the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins (they were replaced by hometown heroes Arcade Fire), and A$AP Rocky was originally set to headline Saturday, but was eventually replaced by Future.
Though there were a few lineup changes, Osheaga 2022 definitely exceeded expectations. From the festival’s layout and its conveniently-located Metro stops, to its unforgettable performances, this is a festival that seems to get better and better each year. Here are some standout themes and performances that we noticed at this year’s Osheaga Festival.
A Delicate Balance
The final weekend of July and first weekend of August is definitely a significant one for festivals: Not only is Osheaga in full swing, but on the other side of the Great Lakes, Lollapalooza is also taking place. The fact that they take place on the same weekend — and are only a short plane ride away from each other — means that they’ll inevitably share a lot of acts. But Osheaga’s booking team, led by founder Nick Farkas, is very deliberate about which acts they’ll share. Dua Lipa, Turnstile, Charli XCX, Wet Leg, 100 gecs, Sam Fender, and IDLES were just a few crossover acts that are more than welcome on any festival lineup, and they felt specifically tailored to Osheaga’s eclectic lineup.
When speaking to Farkas about the challenges of building this year’s lineup, he claims that it’s “all about balance.” “Our first year, we had Sonic Youth and Ben Harper headline. In between those two is, well, everything,” says Farkas, referencing the diverse mix of genres represented at each year of Osheaga. Indeed, the festival’s mix of artists this year was as varied as ever; from Mitski to Burna Boy, Lucy Dacus to Caribou, Slowthai to Local Natives, and various other rising stars like Wet Leg, Sad Night Dynamite, PinkPantheress, and Luna Li, the phrase “there’s something for everyone” is a huge understatement.
That being said, such a deep lineup always leads to some tough set times conflicts. If you’re a fan of both rock music and pop music — like I wholeheartedly am — some of these conflicts were brutal. Choosing between Charli XCX and Turnstile on Friday and Dua Lipa and IDLES on Sunday would likely anger a very small percentage of festival goers (me), but Farkas made a good point about positioning those acts against each other: “In reality, there are a lot more IDLES fans that would want to see Dua Lipa, as opposed to Dua Lipa fans that would skip her set to see IDLES.” No kidding. (Sincerely, An IDLES Fan Who Decided to See Dua Lipa Instead.)
Farkas maintains that community is a major guidepost for Osheaga’s booking strategy. He was inspired by the camaraderie of his local punk scene, which eventually led him down the path to founding Osheaga and creating a musical community of his own. “The greatest thing for us was deciding we wanted to have French artists, we wanted to have Canadian artists, and we wanted them to rub shoulders with some of the greatest artists in the world,” Farkas says about Osheaga’s thriving local talent represented each year.
Perhaps the biggest homecoming belonged to Friday’s headliners Arcade Fire, who kicked off their WE tour with irresistible group sing-a-longs and some loud, loud guitars. Frontman Win Butler took a minute to acknowledge the diverse culture and artistic spirit of Montreal, and meanwhile, Régine Chassagne treated the Québécois crowd to shoutouts of the many Montreal neighborhoods that are important to the city’s identity. The people of Montreal may have been following Arcade Fire since their early days busking on the streets, but Friday night’s show was an example of how significant the band has become since those scrappy beginnings.
Elsewhere at the festival were many standout Montreal, Québécois, and Canadian artists. Local dream pop outfit Men I Trust provided some blissed out vibes on Saturday, but they also featured one of the festival’s standout guitar players (guitarist Jesse Caron was laying down jazzy riffs and wild extended solos with ease). Toronto-based polymath Luna Li opened Saturday’s festivities with lush string arrangements, psychedelic guitars, and gorgeous vocals, representing many tracks from her excellent 2022 LP Duality with passion and focus.
One of the biggest characteristics of Osheaga’s lineup this year was its plethora of electronic, house, and dance music. Dan Snaith, another Canadian favorite who performs with his band Caribou as well as his dancefloor-oriented project Daphni, was pulling double duty on Saturday, with an early afternoon Daphni set and closing that same stage in the evening with Caribou. The tight-knit energy of Caribou’s show was a sight to behold, and it felt antithetical to Snaith’s sunshine-ridden disco set as Daphni earlier in the day. It was a powerful example of his overall range as an electronic producer and curator, and it was one of the highlights of the weekend.
But once again, Osheaga’s electronic lineup was heavily curated and specific — and according to Farkas, they wanted to choose artists that have a bigger emphasis on the live experience. “We don’t want to book an act that plugs in a laptop and presses play… we want there to be some live component,” he tells Consequence. Sure, there were a few EDM heavyhitters like Seven Lions, Kygo, and Alan Walker and many burgeoning house artists like LP Giobbi and Tsha, but there were many standout electronic/live hybrids at Osheaga this year, too.
Polo & Pan played an absolutely euphoric set on Saturday evening, complete with some delightful choreography, multiple anecdotes from Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan, and some dazzling vocals sung in french. Parcels continued their tour in support of their 2021 LP Day/Night with an electronic-infused set, which saw them essentially remixing their own songs to create hypnotic renditions of their disco jams. And 100 gecs, who never fail to rouse their supportive community of fans, continued their victory lap with an auto tune-heavy, blistering performance that felt alien to anything else happening at the festival — in the best way possible.
Obligatory Dua Lipa Appreciation Paragraph
Dua Lipa‘s “Future Nostalgia Tour” has been a feat of performance and production. It’s without a doubt been one of the biggest marquee headlining tours of 2022, and her performance at Osheaga on Sunday night (July 31st) was a true demonstration of Dua’s star power. For one, it’s special being able to see her in a festival environment — especially considering her lengthy catwalk protruding out into the crowd, giving fans an opportunity to see her up close that they may not have gotten at a typical arena show.
But it’s also proof of Dua Lipa’s uniting qualities — for many, the songs on Future Nostalgia were the soundtrack to 2020, a period of uncertainty marked by her imagination and club-ready fantasies, a vision of a world characterized by the past and future in such an immediate and freeing way. The euphoria in the crowd was palpable, and it’s no doubt that her headlining set was the most attended out of every show taking place that weekend. She’s certainly nearing the end of her extensive tour, but if you’re still on the fence about seeing Dua Lipa, let this be a sign — it’s the best dance party of the year (…unless Beyoncé decides to pull together a last minute Renaissance tour).
A Welcoming Experience
Overall, Osheaga’s crowds and festival environment are among the very best. There was a great deal of respect for artists and fans alike in each crowd, with an air of positivity brimming from the festival’s sea of attendees. Though the lines for everything (food, drinks, bathrooms) were way too long after a certain hour (an inevitability of festivals, unfortunately), people were very kind and considerate throughout the weekend and the mass migrations from stage to stage were, thankfully, not chaotic in the slightest.
It should be noted that upon observing hundreds of attendees this weekend, there were a much larger percentage of people in their 20s and early 30s than teenagers — where Lollapalooza has become a Mecca for drunk 16-year-olds in recent years, Osheaga, and its diverse, specific selection of artists, seems to be catered more to (slightly) older fans. While there’s nothing wrong with teenagers at festivals (I was, of course, a teenager at many festivals), the shifts in demographics make for a different kind of experience.
Furthermore, transportation is a crucial aspect to the festival experience that is often overlooked. Luckily, Osheaga’s island location was incredibly easy to go to and from because of its Metro stop being located only 15 feet from the festival’s entrance. Obviously, locations in city festivals can be a bit of a gamble, and organizers will take what they can get — but Osheaga has an easy, accessible transportation option that saved attendees money and is overall better for the environment.
There were countless other moments throughout the weekend that enriched my Osheaga experience, and as a festival, it has so much to offer. There were surprises, cathartic moments of joy, dance-worthy pop and blistering rock performances. The festival has undoubtedly transformed over the last 15 years, and we can only hope for 15 more terrific years of Osheaga.