Osheaga 2017: Our favorites (and not so much)

From the best show to the lamest, the best banter to the realest talk, these are the highlights (and some lowlights) of this year’s Osheaga Music Festival in Quebec.
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Muna portrait at Osheaga 2017

Osheaga had a new look in its 12th year, with redefined borders around Parc Jean-Drapeau and a new stage configuration. In previous years, the two main stages—River and Mountain—sat side by side. This year, they sat at opposite ends of a field inside of the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit. The downside of this arrangement is that you need to move back and forth to get a good view, instead of just parking yourself between the two. There were a few benefits. It was easier to move throughout the grounds, and the Green and Valley stages mimicked the setup in a smaller field, so if you wanted to see, say, Foxygen then Die Antwoord, or De La Soul then Sampha, you were golden. For the first iteration of Osheaga 2.0, it went about as smoothly as you could reasonably expect.

But given the setting in Quebec, a province that prides itself on environmental values, Osheaga’s footprint could be lighter. It takes place in the city, so festival-goers rely on public transit, and recycling is reasonably accessible on-site. But the bins aren’t well-labelled, and without clear signage, your average attendee who’s a few deep can’t be bothered. There was also plastic, plastic everywhere. Osheaga would do well to expand their current cup deposit system. There was also no mention of, say, CO offsets. Artists and festival-goers who consider themselves environmentalists should continue to demand that the festivals they attend do more to limit their impacts.

With that aside, without further ado, here are our Osheaga superlatives!

Best Show: Broken Social Scene

The Toronto vets came ready to play, with a full and rotating arsenal. They were the tightest act of the weekend, and played an extended set thanks to some technical troubles at River Stage. Their renditions of old favourites “Cause = Time” and “7/4 Shoreline” were standouts, as was their new track “Protest Song”. A+

Biggest Missed Opportunity: TIE! Glass Animals and Angel Olsen

We were beset by foul weather on Friday, which caused Glass Animals to cut their set to 2 songs and Angel Olsen’s to be written off entirely. Check out our interview with Glass Animals here.

Best Crowd: Sofi Tukker

For fan participation and enthusiasm, full marks for Sofi Tukker, who apply their music in the most straightforward terms imaginable and know how to get the audience going. We had a chance to sit down with Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halper before their set. Keep your eyes peeled for the interview.

Most Ignominious Exit: Alabama Shakes

In an alternatingly rousing and soulful set, Brittany Howard and company played well beyond their set time, blowing through nearly every track on Sound & Color. This resulted in their sound getting cut off… a fact of which they were unaware… to make way for the Weeknd. Speaking of which…

Lamest Set: The Weeknd

Call me old-fashioned, but I actually like to watch something when I’m at a concert—and no, souped-up sparklers do not count. Abel Tesfaye wandering around on an empty stage without a single instrument to accompany him doesn’t do it for me. His voice was spectacular as always; the performance was a snooze. That he relied heavily on his far inferior newer material was irksome as well.

Most Entertaining Set: Lorde

Take notes, Abel. Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s featured costumes, dancers, crowd participation, bangers, weepers, and (gasp!) actual fucking musicians.

Biggest Work in Progress: Car Seat Headrest

When they released Teens of Denial last year, it sounded like Car Seat Headrest had arrived. Live, it’s clear that Will Toledo and his band are still putting some polish on. They weren’t bad by any means, but as far as sound mixing and energy level, there are certainly some improvements to be made.

Most Unexpected Cover: Foster the People, “Blitzkrieg Bop”

Yes, you read that right. In an otherwise po-faced set, Mark Foster whipped out the Ramones classic, and did a decent job of it.

Realest Talk: Run the Jewels

As expected, Killer Mike and El-P had a lot to say during a rowdy and rambunctious set, ranging from: “There are people in this crowd who you don’t even know, who care about you” to “If you find a woman attractive… and you think the way to tell her is to rub your dick up against her leg, please do not do that.” Well said.

Best Audience Banter: TIE! Father John Misty and Whitney

In addition to fantastic, dynamic sets, Josh Tillman and Julien Ehrlich found ways to keep the crowd entertained between tracks.

“The Arkells were saying ‘Rain isn’t gonna bring me down!’ And I’m like, ‘I dunno, man. Rain sucks.’” — Josh Tillman

“You are a very polite crowd, but also enthusiastic when we ask you to be.” – Julien Ehrlich

Favourite Discovery: Muna

Rising Chicagoan electropop act Muna (portrait, above) were a Friday highlight. Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson draw their name from the Arabic word for desire, and after listening to 30 seconds of their music, it’s easy to see why. Their songs are soaked in heartbreak and loss, and confront perceptions of queerness and feminism. Their lyrics illustrate the grey areas, the moments that build up to those “fist in the air” moments. They’re interested in the in-between moments, counting the straws on the camel’s back. “There’s this idea that feminism is about being strong at all times. We think it’s okay to be upset, to be vulnerable,” says Gavin. To get an idea of how seriously they take this mantra, check out their single “Crying on the Bathroom Floor”.

Muna released their debut album, About U, earlier this year.