Your guide to Osheaga 2018

15 bands to catch at Montreal’s mega summer music festival before the headliners divide the faithful.

We’re getting deep into summer, so deep that it’s nearly that time for that special journey to the island of good times. Parc Jean-Drapeau will be broken in for 2018 this weekend with Evenko’s punk and metal festivals 77 Montreal and Heavy Montreal, and broken down by raving teens in two weeks with their EDM fest ÎleSoniq. But from Aug. 3–5, the mega music event of the summer will be upon us: Osheaga!

With three-day passes now sold out and the complete schedule revealed, festival-goers from these parts and from a wide swath of the ROC are getting primed for three days of live music and communion under the sun and stars. To assist the incoming masses currently wading through the program and schedule in hopes of maximizing every hour, and, if you’re a real nerd about it, estimating travel time from stage to stage — remember that, like last year, this is happening on Île Notre-Dame (check the map above); Île Ste-Hélène’s big makeover will be unveiled in 2019 — our Music Team has compiled a list of 15 (somewhat) lesser known can’t-miss acts playing before the headliners divide the faithful.

Blood Orange

Dev Hynes is nearly four albums into his career as Blood Orange, being on the cusp of releasing Negro Swan Song. The onetime “pop-star whisperer” who penned/produced early songs for Solange and Sky Ferreira (and typically performs some of those tracks live) may not be the household name that Pharrell is, but his command of the pop sphere is on that level, probably higher (and deeper). Hynes performs with a big band, including brass and woodwind players and a pair of back-up singers, a good fit for a festival stage. Even though he’ll be performing before dark, his set promises to be a bit magical. (Lorraine Carpenter) Valley stage, Sunday 6:307:20 p.m.

The Brooks

This Montreal funk/soul outfit may not be on your radar, but if you’re looking to bounce away your afternoon — especially if you enjoyed Trombone Shorty earlier in the day — the Brooks will help keep that dip in your hip. Upfront, party-down grooves perfect for a sweet Sunday afternoon. Also on the local front, la Serre Perrier hosts a packed roster of Montreal talent such as Shash’U, Planet Giza and Voyage Funktastique throughout the day. (Darcy MacDonald) Trees stage, Sunday 4:555:40 p.m.

Carpenter Brut

French synth wave artist Franck Hueso is Carpenter Brut, an act known for his studio output and reportedly pretty killer live sets featuring Hueso on synths and a full rock band complete with a flying-V guitarist. Sample his latest album Leather Teeth for a taste of his horror-soundtrack-inspired sound and get ready to spend your sunset with this master of the dark. (LC) Trees stage, Saturday 8:209:20 p.m.

Chronixx

 

Osheaga has maintained a quiet yet cool relationship with reggae music. Those who were lucky enough to catch Jimmy Cliff in 2010 know that it remains one of the festival’s all-time greatest performances. Two years later, Snoop “Lion” held his first public performance under his new alias. This time around, Kingston-born Chronixx is keeping the spirit of the genre alive with his roots-infused sound. This is sure to be a suitable soundtrack for what we can only hope will be a sun-kissed afternoon. (Mr. Wavvy) Mountain stage, Saturday 3:20–4:05 p.m.

De la Soul

Alright, so it took them a little while to make it to the stage but NYC hip hop troubadours De la Soul finally set the record straight with Osheaga to warm up our Saturday afternoon with a party affair, making up for their last-minute 2017 cancellation. The festival’s hip hop line-up is traditionally diverse and representative of the genre’s many sub-styles, old and new, and game vets De la Soul are the embodiment of time-tested quality, forward-thinking creativity and bouncing good times for all. (DM) Green stage, Saturday 2:403:20 p.m.

Dua Lipa

With a background in modelling and the kind of mainstream ubiquity that might render her negligible for a lot of discerning music fans, the new British queen of pop may have a hard time breaking the hipster set (or anyone over 22, which is how old she is), but just listen to her for a sec. Not only is her self-titled record loaded with catchy hooks and grooves, her lyrics exude strength and her husky tones are so appealing that she’s rumoured to be the voice of the next James Bond title tune. The uninitiated should join the billions (yes, billions) who’ve been enjoying her videos for “New Rules” and “IDGAF” on YouTube, and check out her Calvin Harris collab “One Kiss” while you’re at it. Bonus: Based on recent videos, the live show looks good. (LC) Sunday, River stage, 5:406:30 p.m.

Essaie Pas

Local synth wave stars Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau run hot and cold both musically and as a live act, with the innate chilliness of their genre and propensity for deadpan faces and monotone vocals balanced by the electric sensuality of their dancefloor-friendly production and on-stage chemistry (they’re a couple, after all). Their latest record New Path is a concept album inspired by Philip K. Dick’s novel A Scanner Darkly, and even amid the dystopian narrative and the sometimes unsettling sounds that accompany it, Essaie Pas’s particular allure is strong. (LC) Trees stage, Friday 4:555:40 p.m.

Loud

The Quebec rapper has been packing full houses across the province off the power of his 2017 solo debut Une Année Record, and rightly takes a sweet evening spot to show his hometown and all those visiting how rap chez nous is done. Too bad this is scheduled exactly during fellow Montrealer and taste-making DJ A-Trak’s set on the Island stage, though you can catch good chunks of both sets if you time things right. Those seeking uncut hip hop, lend your ears to Loud. (DM) Tree stage, Saturday 6:307:20 p.m.

Machinedrum

This small stage packs big energy with cool AC and chill DJs all weekend long, offering a mix of local talent, DJ sets by members of bands performing elsewhere during Osheaga and hidden gems such as North Carolina’s Machinedrum. The producer, known for his work with labels such as LuckyMe and Ninja Tune, brings his knack for breaking beats silly to the early evening hours of day one and is a sure shot to help get your limbs loose for the night ahead. (DM) Perrier tent, Friday 45:30 p.m.

Paupière

Photo by Richmond Lam

Montreal synth-pop trio Paupière have grown into a dynamic live act over the past couple of years, in which time they’ve released an EP and a full album of melodic and “neo-romantic” tunes. Their sound is reminiscent of some of the ’80s greats but never feels passé, delivering digital hooks and catchy choruses with a 21st-century punch. Be prompt to see Paupière on Saturday as they’re playing the ultimate sweat-act time slot, kicking off a great line-up on the Valley stage. (LC) Valley stage, Saturday 11:30 p.m.

Rapsody

 

For those burdened by the abundance of “mumble rap” throughout the three days of the festival, look no further than Rapsody to cure your woes. The Roc Nation signee is not one to mince her words. Last year’s Laila’s Wisdom was easily one of 2017’s most overlooked hip hop albums, with her pen game allowing her to hold her own alongside legends like Black Thought and Busta Rhymes. Hip hop is forever changing, but you can always count on Rapsody to keep things consistent. (MW) Trees stage, Sunday 8:20–9:20 p.m.

Rex Orange County

Rex Orange County was my pick for best album of 2017, and with good reason. Apricot Princess was the start of something special. A part-time member of Frank Ocean’s touring band, the 20-year-old talent brings a rainbow-lit aesthetic to the darkest of lyrical themes. Friday’s set will mark his debut performance in the province, an act that the indie-rock world will surely be following for years to come. (MW) Valley stage, Friday 4:55–5:40 p.m.

Slaves

As unapologetic punk rockers, Slaves seems like the kind of band that would have been a better booking for 77 Montreal, a week ahead of Osheaga. Nonetheless, who doesn’t love a little bit of anarchy on a Sunday afternoon? The duo are set to release their third album, Acts of Fear and Love, on Aug. 17. Spectators should be treated to a sneak-peak of what’s yet to come, along with the raw sound that made people fans in the first place. (MW) Trees stage, Sunday 6:30–7:20 p.m.

Tokimonsta

Tokimonsta has been to hell and back, and is here to tell her story. After being diagnosed with Moyamoya, an uncommon but potentially life threatening brain disease in 2015, the producer lost her ability to comprehend what music was. “All music just sounded like noise”, she explained to Pitchfork in an interview last September. The album that followed, Lune Rouge, resulted in some of her most compelling work to date. The producer has always received love from Montreal, and such a sentiment is sure to grow even stronger in her first performance following the album’s release. (MW) Island stage, Saturday 4–5 p.m.

Kali Uchis

Those with a taste for soul served sexy, psychedelic and dangerously moody will slink and sway with abandon to the magic of Kali Uchis. The deservedly buzzed-about singer/composer is gifted with a timeless authenticity and natural elegance perfect for a late afternoon chill-out, and especially so for the lovers in the crowd. There’s plenty of opportunities to get hyped up at Osheaga, but if you’re gonna take a moment to chill, this ought to prove a fine one. (DM) Green stage, Saturday 4:505:35 p.m.

See our editorial about Friday headliner Travis Scott here. See our recommended Osheaga afterparties here.

Keep an eye on cultmtl.com for our upcoming interviews with Chromeo and Calpurnia, follow us on Instagram and Twitter during the festival and watch for our Osheaga reviews and photo galleries after the festival. 

Osheaga is happening from Aug. 3–5 at Parc Jean-Drapeau (Île Notre-Dame site), 1–11 p.m. daily. General admission three-day passes are sold out. Gold three-day passes cost $585, Platinum three-day passes cost $1,150 (see what they include here) and day tickets cost $115/Gold $235.