Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for young people choosing their own idols and tossing out the moribund musical heroes of their elders. When I was growing up, the last thing I needed was another rock dad telling me about the essentials and how the music of today has no soul. I think we’ve all cracked the code here: the music of your youth is the best, and don’t bother trying to win anyone over to your side.
Now to be a big hypocrite: I think the music of MY youth – in this case veteran English DJ duo the Chemical Brothers – will have something to offer as unlikely Osheaga Saturday headliner to an audience beyond those who grew up fist pumping to their block rocking beats in the ’90s. Which will be the bulk of the people at Osheaga – many of whom took to social media when the lineup was announced to ask who they were.
No matter your age, I think there’s always room in your life for the raucous and theatrical, and the Chemical Brothers aren’t exactly demure. The big beat sound may have aged a twinge, but it’s still loud, and perhaps most importantly, designed to make a big field shake. Where better to see them then the newly redesigned Parc Jean-Drapeau, specifically made for such events?
Give them a shot, even if you’ve never heard of them, and you might be surprised.
Musically, I wouldn’t consider their biggest hits something of a bygone era. Their pummeling dance beats incorporate old school hip hop breaks and timeless samples. Like a good Beastie Boys track (Chemical Brothers originally named themselves after Paul’s Boutique producers Dust Brothers), there’s so much knowledge packed in there it works both as a good tune and a living historical document. Believe it or not, the quality of the Chemical Brothers’ music hasn’t fallen off dramatically either: 2019’s No Geography is a fine return to form, sounding like them while subtly absorbing new trends, and in terms of pure technique and dancefloor euphoria, 2010’s Further stands as arguably their finest album. And making people dance never goes out of style.
On a showmanship level, there’s a reason these guys continue to be revered in their native land, where Osheaga is a small get-together compared to some of the mammoth outdoor camping festivals they tend to play. If you like EDM shows with crisp visuals and thunderous bass, the Chemical Brothers have you covered. They helped create the big showy electronic music performance template you’ve come to love. Visually-speaking, the Chemical Brothers are known for their music videos. Know famed film director Michel Gondry? He directed a bunch of them back in the day, oh, and even this year’s “Got to Keep On.” Seeing bits of those iconic (and I don’t think I’m using the term loosely, in this instance) videos on the Osheaga stage might make my head explode.
So why implore the young ’uns to stick around? I mean, won’t they be there anyway, forced to stand through them regardless? Well, anyone with a long enough memory of these Osheagas might remember the time Elvis Costello and the Imposters emptied out the field like a bad fart through no fault of their own, or the muted reaction for a legend like Nick Cave. Heck, I’m not even sure the 18-year-olds knew who Liam Gallagher was. And that’s okay, because with 100-plus acts every year, variety is needed.
But I’ve seen what it’s like to see a legend not get the royal treatment, and I hope that’s not the Chemical Brothers’ fate. It’s a rare appearance by the duo in Montreal, so it would be great if they find the audience they deserve. ■