Festival Review: And We Danced at Osheaga

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The sun has set on Parc Jean Drapeau and the festival goers have returned home after three crazy days in Montreal. I loved Osheaga this year. The lineup was great, the crowd was fun, and with the exception of a few showers, the weather was beautiful. I went with Kelly, her longtime friend Laurel, and Laurel’s sister Alana. Though we have different taste in music and different energy levels — thanks for putting up with my gratuitous amounts of energy! — we worked well together.

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These are the lovely ladies I travelled with. Part of what made travelling with Kelly, Laurel and Alana so great was that we were comfortable with going our separate ways. By doing that, we were all able to see who we wanted to, and still saw a number of the major acts together.

Over the course of three days I saw: Oberhofer, Daughter, Ben Howard, Alt-J, Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding, The Gaslight Anthem, Phoenix, and The Cure; Jimmy Eat World, Flogging Molly, Stars, Tegan and Sara, Frank Turner, Imagine Dragons, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Porter Robinson; Icona Pop, The Lumineers, Kendrick Lamar, New Order, and Mumford and Sons.

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I was amazed by the number of people at Osheaga this year. Unlike last year, the main stage was packed even early in the day. As a result, the earlier shows were a lot more fun to go to. I enjoyed nearly every show I saw, but a few stood out for me.

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I loved Flogging Molly’s set. I’ve been a fan for years, and was so happy to finally see them live. Their sound was even better than it is on their albums, with tin whistle and banjo solos throughout. Dave King drank Guinness the entire time, as the leader of any good Celtic punk band should.

My friend Jessica is a big fan of Frank Turner, and she told me I had to go to his show. He played on Scène des Arbres, the smallest of the stages. I’m so glad I made the detour away from the main stage, because Frank Turner’s performance was one of the best I saw all weekend. Of course Recovery was a lot of fun because everyone in the crowd knew it well enough to sing along, but even cooler than that was when he taught the crowd the chorus of “Photosynthesis.” The show closed with everyone singing, “And I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up, and most of all I won’t grow up.”

Imagine Dragons put on a great show, closing with an absolutely electric performance of Radioactive. The most memorable part of the show for me, however, had little to do with their music. A guy standing beside me turned and asked for a bite of my sandwich, and I gave him one. He liked me so much after that, I was worried I would never get rid of him. Luckily he left after I refused him a second bite.

Following the sandwich incident was Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The simplest way to describe the show is that all the energy Macklemore has in his videos, he brings to the stage. Their set was so good, I considered calling this blog post Osheaga: “This Is Fucking Awesome,” but I decided against having a profanity in the title. The coolest moment of the show was when Macklemore brought Tegan and Sara on stage for “Same Love.” His positivity was even more impressive than his stage presence.

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I went to the Porter Robinson show at Scène piknic électronik in an attempt to meet up with Kelly, Laurel and Alana, because I had lost them earlier on. If you have ever been to an electronic show, you will know that they do not make the ideal meeting spot. I knew I wouldn’t find them until after the show, so I made my way into the centre of the crowd and joined in the dance party. The photo above was taken with the SlowShutter app.

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This one was taken with the regular iPhone camera set to HDR.

I had never been on an electronic show before, and I couldn’t believe how much fun I had. When I met up with Kelly for Porter Robinson’s encore, she agreed that it was one of the highlights of her day. Let me tell you, we both have impressive rave dance moves.

The opening picture is from the Kendrick Lamar show. You can’t see him on stage in this photo, but at least I caught him on the jumbotron. I’ve really gotten into Kendrick Lamar this summer, and was amazed by his ability to command the stage. In addition to performing the hits from Good Kid M.A.A.D City, he played a few songs off of Section.80, with “HiiiPower” playing in flashes between songs.  I would love to see him in the future because an hour definitely wasn’t enough.

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Mumford and Sons was exactly as good as I thought they would be. At times they had eleven people on stage, with a three man horn section that created the most incredible sound. By contrast, they played what Marcus Mumford called “a very quiet song” with only the four band members gathered around a microphone. Just when I thought the show couldn’t get any better, this happened.

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Everyone left the show after an awesome encore laughing and covered in confetti. It was the perfect end to Osheaga.

In closing, this is what I learned from Osheaga 2013.

1. If you really want to see certain artist, go and see them even if you have to go alone.
2. Check out the side stages.
3. Celebrate the artists you saw and not who you missed. Usually the artists at the side stages play great sets, but to take a detour to a side stage, often you miss one of the bigger acts. If you go to enough concerts and festivals, you will probably see anyone you missed in the future!
4. Talk to the people around you. The experience is a lot more fun if you feel a connection to the people around you, especially if you’re at a show alone.
5. If the people around you are really bothering you, leave the area! Even if you’re in the perfect spot, it’s not worth it to stay there if the only thing you can focus on is the drunk girl beside you.
6. Take photos in HDR. It ensures your pictures have the best possible lighting. Often you can get a double exposure effect, which looks very cool for crowd shots.
7. Wear comfortable shoes. More specifically, wear comfortable shoes that can get muddy.
8. Stay until the end of the night shows. This is when the fireworks go off and the confetti comes down.
9. Focus on the positives.
10. Accept the experience for what it is. Most of the day is made up of show sets played to large crowds. Most of the artists only have the chance to play their biggest hits, and tend to play them to appeal to the largest possible audience. Though it will lack the intimacy of a regular concert, being surrounded by people who are as excited to be there as you are is makes the experience so incredible.

Song of the Day: I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons

Live Review: Bob Dylan’s Americanarama Tour

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I saw Bob Dylan last night in a show unlike any I’ve ever seen. I went with my father because he was the one who introduced me to Dylan. The concert was at the Molson Amphitheatre on a hot summer night. The opening acts were Richard Thompson, My Morning Jacket and Wilco. I was blown away by My Morning Jacket. Their sound was clear and impactful, but with just enough dissonance to make their set feel surreal. Wilco had an easy folk rock sound. They brought Feist to the stage to do a few songs including “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen and “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young. My Morning Jacket joined in on “Cinnamon Girl” too. They were great openers for the Americanarama Festival of Music.

And now for the man of the hour.

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One cannot go to a Bob Dylan concert with expectations or anticipations. As many have learned throughout the history of his shows, a set may go on for hours or may only last for one song. He may play songs no one has ever heard, or make the songs that are known unrecognizable. He played for about an hour and a half, and actually played some songs I knew, though he made “All Along the Watchtower” and “Blowing in the Wind” different from any version I’ve ever heard.

After the show, I ran into Max Kerman from Arkells. Arkells is one of my favourite bands and I was excited to see him at the same concert I was at, but I was hesitant to approach. I needed a clever line. A story about DJ Starr, perhaps? As last I said, “So this is what you do when you aren’t touring.” It turns out, he is ever bit as charismatic and down to earth as he seems on stage. He introduced himself to my dad and I. When my dad told him he took my tickets for the Arkells show last February, Max asked me why I couldn’t make it. I told him I went to Nicaragua the next day, and he asked me about the trip. We closed the conversation we our thoughts about the concert. I said, “Bob Dylan is like modern art. You don’t have to understand it to be moved by it.” We said our good byes, my dad and I headed home, marvelling at the evening. At Bob Dylan concerts and in life, one can only expected the unexpected.

Song of the Day: Hurricane by Bob Dylan

You Never Asked What I Listen To

I’m coming off of the crazy week long phenomenon that is NXNE. I went every night from Wednesday to Saturday, and saw bands that played everything from dream pop to punk rock to hip hop with some African drumming on the side.

I saw some amazing bands at a number of venues, but the highlight of NXNE for me was Fucked Up at the Horseshoe Tavern. I’ve been a big fan of Fucked Up since The Chemistry of Common Life, and I knew that the Horseshoe was going to be the greatest place to see them. My amazing friend Kelly had joined me for the week of NXNE, and though she wanted to go to another show that was on at the same time, she agreed to join me for the 1 AM show. Before she agreed to go, she asked, “Will I like it?”, and as any good friend would, I told her honestly, “No, no you won’t!” She was apprehensive as we waited to get into the Horseshoe, but one can forget many things after an hour and half in line. When Kelly and I finally got in after a conversation with the truly lovely bouncer who just happens to hate his job most days, (all the best my friend!) we moved about as close to the stage as we could without entering what would inevitability become the mosh pit. I was ready, born ready. It had been years since I had been to a hardcore show.

Fucked Up’s show is the reason why I love that kind of music. The environment was electric, with Damian Abraham and the band giving everything from the moment the show started. The crowd was fearless, and there was a sense of community that comes from only the craziest of shows. As Damian said midway through I Hate Summer, “We’re all fat, we’re all too skinny, we’re all too beautiful, we’re all ugly.”

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The show was everything I hoped it would be. Kelly, however, did not feel so similarly inspired. She said afterwards that she “just stood there looking quizzical.”Beyond the question she asked about what she had just seen — numerous fans crowd surfed to the stage to bear hug Damian before diving back in again — she asked me if anyone else knew that I liked this kind of music. Certainly it’s not something I keep secret in the way I do a few concerts I’ve been to*. The main reason why Kelly and my high school classmates I ran into at the show didn’t know that I listened to that type of music is simply because they never asked! Only those who I’ve lived with (love to Becca, Adina and Livs for putting up with the same song seventeen times in a row) or studied with (apologizes to Clara and Mark for the times I interrupted their studying to talk about Earl Sweatshirt) would really have a sense of my range of interests. So in the spirit of NXNE and the greatest hardcore shows, let’s talk about our taste in music. If you never ask, you will never know who shares your love of anarchist folk or French rap, and you’ll never know the genre that could become your new favourite.

Thanks for coming out to read my first blog post! I hope you stick around to see what this blog will become. In the mean time, check out some of my other NXNE favourites, Decent Lovers, Air Dubai and Dan Deacon.

Song of the Day: Black Albino Bones by Fucked Up

*More on that to come.