This past weekend I attended my first “big time” music festival. I’ve attended ones on a smaller scale, but this year experiencing Osheaga was unlike anything else I’d ever been to. First off, the sheer number of people was something I’d never really experienced before. It was also the thrill of getting to see so many bands, many of them new to my ears. And it was a chance to be part of something big, something “cool”.
I never considered myself a festival goer. I had a million excuses. “Too many people, I won’t see anything, the food lines will take too long, everything will be so expensive, I don’t know most of the bands”. But so much of my life has changed. For starters, and as I’ve written about here, music has become much more important to me. After a couple of breakups I began to fully embrace the indie music scene, especially here in Canada. I started looking for my own sound, my own bands to find, and everything in between. I had become lazy in finding new music prior to then. But now I constantly scour for new tunes, and news on my favourite artists. It’s given me a drive outside of work, and quite frankly, something to occupy my mind. Music is also therapeutic beyond being like a hobby.
Case in point, one of the headliners of Osheaga was Florence + The Machine. Her album “Ceremonials” came out during a key turning point in my life. I played that album endlessly. It spoke to me. It helped me get through some difficult moments and helped me move forward. I identify with so many songs on that album. And even though that album helped lift me out of some darkness, I still love that album and hold it dear to me as a sign of strength. I powered through my life like Florence Welch sings. (I know, a lame sentiment but I couldn’t help it). So now with her latest album, I was ridiculously excited to finally see her in the flesh. If I could trade places with any lead singer, it would be her. She is me onstage. She runs, twirls, dances, you name it she does it. She’s so free onstage. It was inspiring to see in person. Her persona onstage is truly how I feel when I listen to her. She inspires me to continue fighting my inner battles, and keep getting freer.
That was just day one! But the thing I realized as the weekend went on, is that I’ve come so far in my life. I have gone from the girl who complained about festivals to the girl who embraced it. I danced. I sang. I jumped around. I found exhilaration in a rainstorm during Interpol. I had so much fun. There I was, little old me in this big crowd. Sometimes I did worry. Was my outfit OK with my Converse shoes? (That was Sunday), do I look stupid wandering around on my own (Friday)? and a few other thoughts that really shouldn’t have been there. But I let them go. I didn’t let them stop me from having fun.
Too often in my life I’ve let my negative thoughts get in the way of having fun, of letting go and truly enjoying myself. This past weekend was a big leap for me. I planned for Osheaga for months. I listened to every single band on the bill. I ranked them from high to low on who I wanted to see. I talked endlessly to Sean about which bands we should see. I couldn’t wait to experience the weekend with Sean. I set a schedule. I was incredibly excited. And the weekend didn’t let me down one bit.
So now, here I am in full swing withdrawal. Thankfully, summer is far from over and there’s much more to look forward to. Aka, many more things to keep me feeling happy, healthy, and full of life. Sorry anxiety. Ain’t nobody got time for you.
Curious to know who I saw and who I loved? I crammed a lot of music into all three days. Here’s my day by day rankings:
DAY ONE – Friday July 31st
10. Catfish and the Bottlemen (Song you might know: “Kathleen“)
These guys weren’t bad so it’s tough to put them at the end of the list. Great energy to start the day and full of catchy rock hooks.
9. Guster (Song you might know: “Simple Machine“)
Val & John speak highly of this band, so I wandered over to the Tree Stage to check them out. Awesome set, and look forward to checking out more of their stuff.
8. Grace Potter (Song you might know: “Stars“)
Grace and her band rock. Period. She has a very classic sound to her voice. Check her out if you dig Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and need a great sound for summer.
7. Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell (Song you might know: “Such Great Heights“, a cover featured on the Garden State soundtrack)
Sounded awesome, and suited the summer weather perfectly. Great set.
6. George Ezra (Song you know: “Budapest” but please listen to “Blame It On Me” since it’s way better)
George Ezra is so much more than his huge hit “Budapest”. His album is one of my faves this year, and his voice was perfect. He’s also adorable and will make you swoon in the summer heat. But seriously, his album is awesome. So great to hear him live! One of my favourites of the whole weekend.
5. Stars + Friends (Song you know: “Your Ex Lover is Dead“)
They performed their 2005 album “Set Yourself on Fire” in its entirety and it was incredible. The best part of anniversary shows is getting to hear songs you never thought you’d hear live, and SYOF didn’t disappoint. Also, click the link if you don’t know the song. One of my favourite music videos and such a beautiful song.
4. The Decemberists (Song you might know “O Valencia“)
It was hard to chose between them and Stars but The Decemberists were a highlight of the weekend. I’m a casual fan of theirs, but their live act completely won me over and has left me with a burning desire to rediscover their music.
3. Of Monsters and Men (Song you know: “Crystals“)
It’s tough to put them at number three because they’re such a great live band. They are so much fun to sing along to, and dance to, so it made for a perfect Friday night.
2. The Avett Brothers (Song you might know “Morning Song“)
Both Sean’s cousin Will & I were absolutely blown away by these guys. They came out swinging to their song “Satan Pulls The Strings” and didn’t let up. Their violinist basically did her own version of a mic drop with her insane talent. They were my shock of the weekend. Truly a convert.
1. Florence + The Machine (Song I want to you to know: “Queen of Peace” from their latest album)
I think I said it all already.
DAY TWO – Saturday August 1
9. Milky Chance (Song everyone loves, but I hate: “Stolen Dance“)
I can’t stand that song above (I know I am in the minority on this, and was clearly the only person at Osheaga that hates this song), and their live set didn’t do anything to change that. I found every beat in their songs the same. Ugh.
8. Young the Giant (Song You Know: “My Body“)
They’re an odd band. Their non-single songs don’t really sound like the songs that were overplayed a couple years in a row. They’re not a bad live band, I think they just need to figure themselves out a little, and it really showed this weekend.
7. Weezer (Everyone knows their singles.)
Weezer aren’t bad, but they aren’t AMAZING either. But they are a lot of fun to see live since their catalogue spans such a long time period, that you inevitably end up travelling through time and memories. Plus, it’s fun to sing along.
6. St. Vincent (Song you know: “Digital Witness“)
Sean walked away with a small crush on St. Vincent. I walked away really impressed with her, and willing to give her album another shot. So win/win?
5. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Song you might know: “Terrified“)
God I love this band live. Please check them out if you ever get the chance. So much passion and energy from three people. And I guarantee you will forget it’s only an acoustic guitar onstage.
4. Interpol (Song you might know: “Slow Hands“)
Even though I had just seen these guys about a week before Osheaga, I still found them to be one of my faves from the weekend. It also doesn’t hurt that it poured rain during their set, enabling me to dance like a maniac in the mud and rock out.
3. Kendrick Lamar (Song every white girl at Osheaga seemed to know: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe“)
I have famously ranted about disliking rappers in person because their concerts are generally the performer rapping over piped in music. But Kendrick Lamar was a lot more than that, and even this hipster white girl was entertained.
2. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Song you should know: “Ground on Down” live version)
Sean convinced me to stay and see Ben Harper over some other bands, and I am so glad we stayed. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals delivered a fantastic performance, one of the best of Osheaga. Not only is Harper an incredible talent, but his entire band performed at a top level. It was also great to hear some blues/rock/country mashed together as the sun set, and the clouds rolled in.
1. The Arkells (Song you know: “Come to Light“)
I know. I am shocked I am putting these guys ahead of some of the bands from Saturday. But they nailed it. There was such an infectious energy coming from them. Afterwards, it left me wondering they weren’t given a higher spot on the bill, considering there were only the third act up on the main stages Saturday afternoon.
DAY THREE – Sunday August 2
8. X Ambassadors (Song everyone knows from the Jeep commercial: “Renegades“)
This band is probably the most “mainstream” rock group that I will listen to. Radio friendly tunes made for a big start to the day as the first band up. I just hope they can become more than a one-hit wonder and find a more diverse sound.
7. James Bay (Song you know: “Hold Back The River“)
The pretty boy of folk rock, he drew a huge crowd as we watched from the hill. I am unsure if I like him past his big single, but he did sound fantastic live. I am curious to see how his career will unfold.
6. Ryn Weaver (Song you may know from Songza: “Octahate“)
This girl is still getting her feet wet, but she’s well on her way to being a big stage presence. She has a truly unique voice, and I love her synth-pop sound. I hope to see her expand her live set and see what she does as she matures.
5. Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros (Song you know: “Home“)
This was a real roller coaster for me. When they first came out I honestly thought it sounded terrible and was going to be a total disaster. But slowly this group won me over with their charm, especially after encouraging a fan confined to a wheelchair to crowdsurf to the front and join the band on stage. I give the band full credit for doing that. It was also fun to sing “Home” campfire style with about 40,000 or so people.
4. The War on Drugs (Song you might know: “Red Eyes“)
Sean & Will might disagree with me, but I really enjoyed hearing this band live. While they lacked the charisma that Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros had, I found their sound and overall performance of a higher quality. It also hurt doesn’t that I am in love with their last album.
3. Father John Misty (Song you might know: “Ideal Husband“)
You either love this onstage persona, or hate it. I loved every second of it. He’s snarky, arrogant, but also hilarious brings out teenaged girl-like devotion in grown men. I don’t know many acts that can get MEN on the shoulders of OTHER MEN. I was just disappointed he didn’t play the above song, since it’s my fave off his latest album.
2. Future Islands (Song everyone knows from last summer: “Seasons (Waiting on You)“)
I linked to the infamous David Letterman appearance by this band because it really sums up how much fun these guys are to watch. The dancing, the assortment of the most random men in such a dance-rock-80sesque band is unlike anything else out there right now. Something did seem to go wrong with lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s mic after the first song, but it didn’t deter his energy. It also didn’t stop me from dancing my face off and nearly getting heat stroke.
1. Alt – J (Song you know: “Left Hand Free” but I want you to listen to “The Gospel of John Hurt” and “FItzpleasure“, oh and “Every Other Freckle” too)
I’d probably put this performance as Top 3 in the entire weekend. I really regret not seeing them on their last tour here in Toronto last year. Their sound is so unique, and watching them perform these synth-rock-electronic songs as the sun set on the final day was just perfect. This performance brought up my respect and love for this band and I would now place them as one of my favourite bands of today. Please give them a listen (even if you’re sick of “Left Hand Free”, I promise you will get some incredible music to listen to).
My end of the year rankings are really going to be difficult this year. 2015 is shaping up to be an truly outstanding year of music.
As always thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter for other random thoughts, rants, etc.