It was 10:45 p.m. on Sunday when The Black Keys played their final notes, waved goodbye to the crowd and closed out the Osheaga Festival in Montreal.
It would be 12:04 a.m. before I finally was able to exit the park.
Immediately following the band’s energetic headlining set, the 40,000 fans who attended the sold-out festival all headed for the same exit, creating one of the worst bottlenecks I’ve ever experienced. There were a few moments when things threatened to get dicey—one girl passed out and, trapped by a fence on one side and unable to push their way through the wall of people, her friends formed a human shield around her to try and give her some room. A few others angrily jostled the fences, but for the most part, people kept their heads and remained patient.
Still, it was an unfortunate end to an otherwise fantastic weekend—a clear indication that festival organizers will have to make some changes next year to adapt to Osheaga’s growing size. They expanded from two to three days of music last year, and—now in its seventh year—it seems the festival is quickly outgrowing its grounds.
Despite the overcrowding, Osheaga 2012 proved to be one to remember. The lineup was balanced, offering an excellent variety of artists to choose from, but somehow it was the female artists for the most part who stole the show.
Dum Dum Girls started the trend on Friday afternoon, playing a stellar Only In Dreams-heavy set and wrapping up with their new single, “Lord Knows.” Franz Ferdinand gave the girls a run for their money later that evening, matching their intensity—with every member at one point joining in on an inspired drum break—and leaving me wondering when they’ll finally put out a new album.
MGMT inspired frenzied dancing with their hits and delivered a surprisingly solid cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie.” Friday’s highlight, however, was Florence + The Machine. Frontwoman Florence Welch was a force to be reckoned with, at times ethereal and at others positively bombastic. She seemed to truly feed off of the crowd’s energy, at one point instructing everyone to hoist their neighbors up onto their shoulders and leading some frenzied, synchronized jumping during “Dog Days Are Over.”
Speaking of feeding off of the crowd, the Black Lips—who know how to work an audience like few others do—delivered a delightfully rowdy set on Saturday afternoon. It didn’t stray too far from what seems to be their formula of late (mostly Arabia Mountain tracks with a few older favorites like “O Katrina” and “Bad Kids” thrown in for good measure, along with plenty of beer-tossing and spitting), but it never felt phoned-in. Fans ate it up, screaming along to every song. I’ve never had a bad time at a Black Lips show, and this one was no exception.
The Raveonettes put forth a rather sleepy set that didn’t seem to engage much of the crowd, but Shirley Manson managed to wake everyone up during Garbage’s show. Speaking to the crowd in both English and French, she expressed gratitude to the band’s longtime fans. Their latest album, Not Your Kind of People, was kind of a dud, but you’d never know it—the newer material sounded light years better live, holding its own against old hits like “Paranoid.”
Feist followed with an excellent set before Snoop Lion hit the stage after a late start for his second-ever performance following his decision to change his name and shift to reggae. Besides the rasta hat he sported, there wasn’t much difference between Snoop Lion and Snoop Dogg on this particular night, however. He performed his new single “La La La,” but that was pretty much the extent of the evening’s reggae. Instead, more standard Snoop fare like “Gin & Juice” and “Drop it Like It’s Hot” dominated his show—probably rightfully so.
On Sunday, bad weather threatened to put a damper on the proceedings. After Santigold’s extremely fun late-afternoon set—which featured dancers, someone in a horse costume and audience members dancing onstage—The Shins took the stage and were immediately greeted by a vicious downpour that sent some folks running for cover. “Simple Song” seemed to temporarily chase the rain away, and when it returned, it was barely noticeable over the audience’s glee.
Canadian favorite (or should we say “favourite”?) City and Colour kept fans’ spirits up during the lousy weather as well, inspiring muddy dancing and impassioned sing-alongs, and Metric held their attention, wrapping up their set with an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy” that had the entire park joining in and seemed to genuinely move frontwoman Emily Haines.
As mentioned earlier, The Black Keys closed things out—and they did so in spectacular fashion. I’m not exactly sure how they’ve managed to seamlessly adapt to playing stadiums, arenas and of course, festivals, but somehow their music sounds just as raw blaring over a sea of people as it would in a dark, tiny club—let’s just make sure next year that sea of people has more than one exit to flow through.
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Florence and the Machine