The Osheaga top 20

The most memorable moments from Osheaga 2014, from the musical to the visual to the social to the WTF.


The crowd. Photo by Cindy Lopez

Did you wake up yesterday wondering what’s up next on the Green stage? Could you still smell the light coat of island grime on your skin, the beer you spilled on your shirt and the sweat in your hair that may or may not be yours?

Well now it’s Tuesday, and after being hammered with live music, parties, beer, beef jerky and social clusterfucking from Friday through Sunday, we’re still walking around in an unwashed daze.

The reason for this recovery mode is of course the ninth annual Osheaga music festival at Parc Jean Drapeau, the island (aka Ile Ste-Hélène) that silence forgot. It’s an event that has grown into a huge gathering for music lovers of many stripes, encompassing everything from ’80s college rock bands on reunion tours to up-and-coming Canadian indie rockers to mainstream and cult rappers to DJs and electronic combos from all over.

Here, Cult MTL‘s senior music reporters have collected the most memorable moments from that big-tent experience, be they musical, visual, social or just plain WTF.


Darcy MacDonald


10. Watching TV in the VIP

We like to go walk and talk and dance and sweat with pretty much anyone smiling at Osheaga here at CultMTL, but we also get to live it up pretty nice behind the scenes with our guest media VIP passes. Yes, hate us. But for dedicated, serious fest-goers in town or travelling to be here, the paid VIP ticket really does seem to give all the bang you want from that buck.

Among other perks enjoyed this weekend with our own access, we were able confirm assumptions that Childish Gambino doesn’t meet his own muster and that J.Cole delivers a polished, plastic set of bore raps, without even leaving our chairs. Time saved is another drink and/or a better set elsewhere. Just try not to get mowed down by Outkast’s caravan of Hummers while walking through special access areas.

9. Smiling

Does anybody remember laughter? Roughly 96 per cent of Osheaga does. The weather and vibes made it easy to stay hella toothy. So an emphatic “boo” goes to the sour-puss when you miss your thing or whatever. If you’re out there ice-grillin’ cause your friend fucked your day up or you wore the wrong shoes, odds are your friend had a good time and your feet should have stayed home. There’s a lot to do out there without getting mad. No joke at all: I saw bigger smiles in the St. John’s Ambulance tents than on some of the people that seem to piss away the day grouching it up under l’Homme.

8. You’re hot

With the above said, it’s insider knowledge that if you go to Osheaga and smile, you’re automatically a babe.

7. Legs

Legs have gotta be the greatest innovation ever in biology. Who designs these things? Even a single day of Osheaga is a serious amount of exercise if you like to get up and boogie. It’s like a long, drunken workout. Your legs will get a lot done in a weekend at this festival, and even more if you’re lucky. Now excuse me while I finally convulse in cramps.

6. Songs

Songs are amazing. When you’re bombarded with them wherever you go, it’s easy to open up to something new. And despite how cool you wanna get about “corporate” this and “mainstream” that, one of the many things Osheaga gets right is programming. If you like to go and chill at the big main stages and hear the radio-friendly headliners of the year, Osheaga’s great, but if you’re also out to discover some new music — which is the point of music fests, lest we forget – you don’t usually have to travel too far to have something draw your ear in.

Some personal discoveries of my own this weekend include Foxtrott, Flume, the Belle Game, Kate Nash and, albeit an oldie, Cut Copy. And thank the gods of rock I listened to my ears and not my pre-judgment,  getting carried away by !!! and their frontman’s Chk Jagger shtick Saturday evening. That was some luxury sweating.

The Belle Game
The Belle Game

5. The Belle Game

Case in point. I just needed an excuse to show up early on Saturday and not sleep until 2 p.m., so I found myself shortly pre-dawn (that is, pre-bed) on YouTube. Vancouver/Montreal crossbreed the Belle Game’s dreamy-yet-rhythmic synth-rock won me over online, and by 2:35 p.m., they had me for life. By 5 p.m., we’d had a hug and taken a selfie together. That’s about as good as discovering music gets.

4. Smokes

If you smoke, and, you know, you know you’re going to smoke…bring smokes. Don’t get mad when a stranger doesn’t wanna share his or her last few butts with you at the end of the day in the middle of a river.

3. Portable, inflatable landmarks

Until the find-a-friend app becomes part and parcel of every festival, this seems to work. Lobsters, Doras, monkeys, Spideys and parrots hovering overhead in the crowd eventually all begin to look alike to me. But while looking out for my old friend Mark and his crew, who had no less than 18 inflatable whales, eventually the system worked. And even if it hadn’t, I’d still take the blow-up dolls over the floral crowns. So 2012.

2. Afterparties

I’ve only got so much Osheaga in me, so I limited myself to a Saturday night post-show Belmont sortie, catching a killer all-local affair with Tommy Kruise, surprise guests les Anticipateurs and the Weed Carrier DJs (but unfortunately missing Noo-Bap and Munno).

I heard great things about other post-fest events all weekend long at SAT and Corona Theatre. And word has it my boy’s whale ended up onstage with Duke Dumont to shut out the Belmont on Sunday. If you’re a soldier, these parties are a ton of fun, with everyone bringing the good vibes from the fest into the city to keep things going. Give it a try next year. They are usually cheap for Osheaga bracelet-bearers.

1. Rap music

Osheaga gets this right more often than not. The cancellation of Chance the Rapper’s early-aft Friday set was all but forgotten by the time Outkast took the main stage that night, pummelling the crowd with hit after hit after hit until none of us could take it anymore. Andre 3000 is one of the best frontmen I have ever seen, which was a neat realization as I saw these legends for the first time. Talk about great stage banter. And in hindsight maybe we were almost run down not by the band, but by the short-shorted groupies that were invited onstage for “Hey Ya.” Who cares? It was dope.

Pusha T’s set the same day, despite some weird sound inconsistencies, crushed the 4:20 crowd – and his DJ actually cuts! Remember scratching? Phenomenal.

Saturday’s Kaytranada set was fun and energetic and the sun was definitely in our corner at the Piknic stage. Kaytra’s live remix game can be most easily described as “boom – and it weighs a ton.” Joey Bada$$, late to the table at the Tree stage and so relegated to a 20-minute set, was still a slice of good hip hop, with the added bonus of Boston’s DJ Statik Selektah, production royalty in his own right, behind the decks.

But the day goes to Danny. One man, on a huge stage in front of several thousand twisted bodies, defined Osheaga 2014 for me: over-chic, bridging age and culture, and dripping with sweaty charm, Lt. Dan had us all rollin’ and dippin’, drankin’ an’ smokin’ and completely pleased by the end of his 40 minutes.

Sunday’s hip hop line-up had less to offer, and G.O.O.D. Music producer Travis Scott was late and ultimately relegated to playing in a little tent no one could find. To the surprise of no one, the Dead Obies’ closing set on the Tree stage ripped the whole day a new one to close it out with their low-end bangin’ and stage fury. I couldn’t be happier for or more impressed by the dudes, and I don’t think my Osheaga experience this year could have finished on a better note.


Lorraine Carpenter


10. Haim face

I’m a sucker for a good horror movie, but the bassist for all-girl Cali power-pop/rock band Haim is monstrous for real. She can rival any longhaired, open-shirted soloist from back in the day with that guitar face (a phenomenon once described as a “something-smells-real-bad face”), maybe because being a straight-haired girl with lipstick on makes her look like a Norwegian black metallist. Is this working for Haim? I guess so.

9. Mud

During a Chromeo danceathon at the Green stage, a couple of girls behind us started slinging mud, you know, just for fun, just for togetherness vibes, man. That was one girl’s explanation anyway, and tripping balls is not a good excuse for ruining someone’s dress and bag (ie. mine). I feel kinda bad about it now, but I had to go Wayne Brady on this bitch.

8. MOR nostalgia

There were bands that executed the arena-anthem and soft-rock thing well, like Sam Roberts or Jimmy Hunt, though even Hunt hit the occasional Claude Dubois note, sending horror shudders up my spine. But if anyone was wondering why rock music is generally perceived to be on the decline, acts like AWOL Nation, Manchester Orchestra and Serena Ryder were there to remind us.

Mayor Coderre & LC
Mayor Coderre & LC

7. The mayor

Coincidentally, part of the Cult MTL crew was in the VIP in time to see Mayor Denis Coderre mingling and making a short speech. I introduced myself, he fist-bumped me, told me how much he was looking forward to seeing the Replacements and consented to having a photo taken with me (after I put my beer down).

6. Freaks

Speaking of crazy, there were some really ridiculous looks happening at Osheaga this year. Of course some of them were weekend freaks, doing it Halloween style, others were tripping, others were just all-around exhibitionists. Some will call it stupid or lame, but I never saw one of these people looking like they weren’t having fun (while freeloaders griping about all kinds of B.S. was a constant in the VIP).

5. Bad behaviour

We spotted a couple jumping the fence (ie. getting into the festival for free), and although they hopped right into a crowded area, I think they got away with it.

4. Dancing

I didn’t see an entire set at the Piknic Électronik stage, but stopped in en route from the main stage to the Green, Tree and Valley stages over on the other side of the site, and it was a great blast of energy and open-air club vibes almost every time. Sets by Jon Hopkins, Tiga and Flume were jammed with party people and their inflatable toys — judging from all the empty baggies littering the ground, it was that kind of party for some, but (relatively) sober folks were grinning ear to ear too.

3. “Runaway”

Not to downplay the rest of Pusha T’s set, which was great, but the whole Cult MTL crew getting to sing along to Kanye West’s “Runaway” (Pusha T is the guest on that track) was pretty amazing.

2. Chvrches

One of the bands I was most excited to see didn’t disappoint, doing justice to songs from their one LP (The Bones of What You Believe), even in front of a main-stage crowd under the sun. Chvrches‘ chief asset is great tunes, and although some of the synth subtlety was lost to the wind (at least where we were standing), the band went over great, even to the people who didn’t seem to know who the hell they were.

1. Lady Sunday

From Montreal acts Mozart’s Sister and Foxtrott, who opened the day at the Green and Tree stages, to Chvrches in the afternoon to Lorde and Lykke Li closing out the night, Sunday was loaded with super-talented females upfront. And with the talent came the fans — shows can often feel like sausage parties, but the gender balance at Osheaga overall was equal this year, if not tipping towards female. That’s a rare and wonderful sight. ■


Check out our Osheaga 2014 bands, style and weirdo photo galleries