Osheaga has come and gone for another year, leaving behind a heap of festival detritus at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a layer of island grime on our skin and a tall stack of memories to cherish and replay in our minds (and on our phones). Though the crowd of 130,000 who gathered over three days wasn’t record-breaking for the festival, it’s a testament to the substantial work done on Ile Ste-Hélène over the past two years that being among the hordes didn’t feel as overwhelming as it did in previous editions when turnout was the same.
Out Music Team was all over the Osheaga map from Aug. 2 to 4. Here are our reviews of 19 sets:
With the Lumineers serving as Friday’s headliner, just about any other act seemed more appealing. Closing out the Green Stage, New Orleans horrorcore rap duo Suicideboys could not sound any further from the aforementioned top billing. The performance was particularly unique due to member Scrim’s newfound sobriety. For a duo whose lyrics often center around the pains of drug consumption, rapping these addiction anthems without intoxication can be likened to an out of body experience, the artist hovering over a shell of his past self. Fellow member Ruby da Cherry seems to be moving to the beat of a different drum in terms of clearheadedness; it will be interesting to see how this unequal playing field affects the Suicideboys’ dynamic in the near future. (Mr. Wavvy)
Janelle Monáe’s performance was practically unparalleled at Osheaga 2019, as it was when she played the festival back in 2011. A big band, a spectacle combining (live) music, choreography, props and a little big-screen razzle dazzle would’ve almost been enough for any performer with a few good tunes to best the rest of the roster, but Monáe’s own level of showmanship would be enough for her to carry a one-woman act, even on that big stage. Mixing tracks from her latest album Dirty Computer with songs from her previous records The ArchAndroid and Electric Lady, she wowed and wooed the crowd like nobody else. Why she isn’t a headliner, or at least the pre-headliner, is beyond me. (Lorraine Carpenter)
Logic has the capacity to be a genuinely compelling rapper. Case in point: his second studio album, The Incredible True Story. Since the solid 2015 release, the rapper’s career has gone into strange territory, with each song either too preachy or too poppy with no in-between or saving grace.
The Maryland native used his stage time to present his new artist, Silas, to the world for the very first time. He’s one of the first acts signed to Bobby Boy Records, Logic’s new label venture under Def Jam. Clearly, a strive to build an empire is in the pipeline.
Essentially, Logic is what a post-comeback Eminem would be without the substantial back catalogue. Slim Shady’s contemporary cringe is easily forgivable the second he dives into performing any of his classics. Logic, although prolific (two full-length projects in 2019 alone), is not making music that would lead to him having a headlining spot. He is a checkers player who believes he is a chess master. (MW)
The generational divide may have cost Saturday’s headliner some of its unifying power, but for those who stayed and made their way to the front, the venerable British big beat duo pummelled our collective senses with bass and freaky visuals of people in costumes spinning in circles, disco balls and robots with lasers. Their triumphant set wasn’t mere lip service to the past nor a conveyor belt of hits, either: a deliberately paced procession that gave new album No Geography its proper due while occasionally and tantalizingly dropping hints and reminders of older tracks like “Golden Path” and “Elektrobank” for those who wanted to anticipate and play spot the tune. The thing is, even when they were dropping more recent cuts, their sonic palette remained consistent, meaning you could bop with a sense of familiarity while they expertly weaved together multiple decades of hitmaking into one cohesive musical and visual journey. And when they did recognize their past, it was glorious: a rewarding transition into “Star Guitar” that felt euphoric, Q-Tip’s voice on “Go” and Galvanize cutting through like he was in the room or easy singalongs to “Hey Boy Hey Girl” or “Block Rocking Beats.” The only reason I would’ve wanted to hear the Noel Gallagher collabs or some other omissions was because it might take them another 20 years to come back to town and I wanted it all. I could’ve danced all night. If you’d been waiting for years to see them live, you came away satisfied and reminded of their might. (Erik Leijon)
One of the more hilarious moments of the weekend was when Flume, holding a stack of papers, each with one track’s lyrics hastily written on them, attempted to histrionically throw the cards to the ground like the least cool version of Dylan in the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video. As the song swelled, its insincere emotion driven by a calculated beat drop, the whole production took on an overwhelming air of phoniness. This set-spanning artifice also saw Flume sitting at the edge of the stage looking sullen while one of his sadder cuts rang out. Near the end of the show, the Australian DJ made his way to the crowd and began high-fiving the front row, an act so self-important I wondered if he’d just been fucking with us for the previous hour. Too much credit, I think. (Brandon Kaufman)
DJ Koze’s set was among the best I saw at Osheaga. The German’s 90-minute mix highlighted his funk and psychedelic-tinged trance, which perfectly suited the warm and breezy Sunday evening. Unlike other DJs who hover around the same speed, Koze’s music didn’t serve as mere background vibe; the show was propulsive and demanding. Tension would build as he slowly stitched together various seemingly ill-fitting threads. It would all gloriously cohere, though, and after a few minutes, he would just as easily piece the track apart. Koze’s masterful control made every minute not dancing a minute wasted. (BK)
The internationally acclaimed South Shore-born prophet of funk/soul and all things glowing and groovy received a homecoming fit for the crown he wears as one of the music world’s most sought-after collaborators. The Kaytranada “Live Experience,” as he bills his performance, has grown in scope since his first Osheaga appearance on what was then known as the Piknic Électronik stage. Flash-forward to 2016 and the same stage was totally swarmed by his growing legion of fans for what I’ll forever think of as the pre-party for Future right after at the Valley Stage.
Sunday, as a festival headliner, Kaytra took the Green Stage and filled its canyon-esque space to the brim, pleasing fans from the city, country, continent and globe with a smiling dance party for the ages. His trademark shy cool beamed across the field as he had a palpably fun time entertaining an audience ready to sing, bounce and even flash the big screen with a proposal for a private afterparty by a decidedly less timid fan.
Whatever comes next for Kaytranada — whose brother, rapper Lou Phelps, made a brief but beautiful little cameo, the pair visibly impressed with how far they’ve come from their St.Hubert basement — this moment was his forever to hold. “I’ll always live in Montreal. I’ll always call this home,” he promised. We’ll always welcome you, king. (Darcy MacDonald)
Kurt Vile & the Violators
It was somewhat difficult to settle into any single show or stage on Friday as Osheaga 2019 got off the ground back on its new/old site, what with something of a hodgepodge line-up in the later afternoon to evening. But around sundown, if you happened over to the Valley Stage (my first jaunt over to the “other side” of the festival this year), it wasn’t hard to find a groove with Kurt Vile & the Violators’ brand of heartfelt modern bar rock.
The War on Drugs guitarist and his band move deftly from the basics of the type of downtempo blues-rock that only deserves to exist when you can smell the soil under the fingernails of its players as their riffs hang in the air. Then they match programmed beats and bass to a banjo and you remember it’s 2019 and we don’t necessarily need this but when we know we’ve got it good, we still want it. Excellent, necessary and charming as fuck. (DM)
My 13-year-old daughter was crowing about the 20-year-old Brooklyn-born pop-rocker from the second her show was announced on the Osheaga line-up and was in tears when she finally took the stage Saturday afternoon. You can tell immediately why this cool kid appeals to a generation that listen to anything they feel and don’t have to give you a second chance. Confident without being imposing and genuinely having fun with her fans, KP looks like the average chiller you see waiting for her homies at the metro. Only her voice is well past busker quality and her music is a mix of timelessly cool and endearingly pop-edged. In an age where fame is chased from a pocket device, King Princess seems aware enough that her time is right now and that means have fun while the going’s good. The build-up and pacing of her set reflected a freshness that only someone as green to the industry can resonate so currently and earnestly in the same breath. Catch her at MTelus in October. (DM)
This Jamaican reggae upstart is still on the lighter side of 19 years old and plays uprock roots reggae straight from the heart and traditions of her forebears and contemporaries alike. Osheaga has never been overtly reggae-heavy, and this year, women ruled the line-up, so Koffee came with a double-shot of necessity and currency at this, her first-ever Canadian appearance. An adoring crowd gathered in the late afternoon got the soul shakedown party it begged for, dancing, smiling and vibin’ as the young talent and her blisteringly tight-paced band poured sunshine all over the festival’s Sunday afternoon congregation at the Green Stage. “Gratitude Is a Must,” as her final song and screen-ready slogan proclaimed, and respect is in order for this pure delight of a booking at Osheaga. (DM)
“I got so many felonies, I might can’t never go to Canada. But Drake said he gon’ pull some strings, so let me check my calendar,” raps Gucci Mane on “Both” the opening number for his second-ever Canadian performance. These are lines many northern fans thought they may never hear in the flesh, with the Atlanta seasoned veteran spending a fair amount of the past decade behind bars.
At long last, Mr. Zone 6 invaded Zone 514. With no less than hundreds of songs recorded over his career, the set focused mainly on post-prison numbers, including #1 single “Black Beatles” and the autobiographical “1st Day Out.” Unfortunately, Gucci encountered major microphone issues for the bulk of his stage time, taking away from the charm of his one-of-a-kind, Southern slangin’ voice. (MW)
The problem with most Mumble Rap artists is their keen ability to phone in concerts. Not Gunna. His smooth vocals give even deeper meaning to his Drip or Drown mixtape series. This relatively succinct afternoon set served as Friday’s best party, apart from electronic artists. The sea of white boys yelling the catchphrase “SLATT” between each song made for vaguely problematic entertainment. The only surprise: choosing not to end with “Drip Too Hard,” one of the year’s biggest anthems, let alone Gunna’s most monstrous single. (MW)
Never stop Dreaming. In 2014, Bas played his debut Osheaga set to a crowd of a mere couple of hundred, before coming out as a guest for his label head J. Cole, who played only an hour later to a sea of thousands. The Sudanese-born Dreamville artist takes cues from his boss, bringing a fan onstage to rap Cole’s guest spot on his breakout single, “Lit.”
Celebrating the success of Dreamville’s #1 album with the Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation, the rapper received plenty of fan love when playing his cuts from the project. Bas has always been a commanding performer, only now he has the fanbase to support such a gift. (MW)
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on Q. A disappointing 2015 Osheaga performance seemed like an honest off-night for TDE’s second-in-command. However, after Saturday’s schleppy show, it is clear that Schoolboy Q is simply a lazy performer.
Q rapping feels like a verbal version of erectile dysfunction; struggling more often than not to stay on his Ps and Qs for songs that require much vitality. At one point, the German-born, Cali-based emcee was surprised to learn that only 15 minutes were left in his set. Instead of gunning through his many left out hits, he spent considerable time laughing and complaining about what his next move should be. Any video of Schoolboy’s 2016 MURAL performance proves that he is obviously capable of a better show. Any video of Saturday’s proves that he obviously doesn’t care to make that happen. (MW)
Being a former girl group member, Normani has a dark cloud hanging over her head. No matter how enjoyable her new music may be, fans will forever hold her to the standard of her time in Fifth Harmony.
A slim solo discography left this 30-minute set with an unreasonable amount of filler. Normani has too many collaborations for her own good, cutting down the performance time of each song significantly.
This is not to say Normani is not extremely talented. She can sing and dance just as well — if not better — than any given popstar. The all-female roster of both band and dancers was nothing short of impressive.
Normani needs a hit to take her career to where it needs to be and she’ll need to do it on her own terms. Sure, working with Sam Smith or Khalid is a sure-shot way to climb the charts, but paving her own lane will surely be more rewarding when the time comes. (MW)
Rejjie Snow/Tierra Whack
Sunday afternoon introduced me to two new and very vital voices in hip hop: Irish soul MC Rejjie Snow and Philly sisterly strutter Tierra Whack, both of whom took the Valley deep into their respective styles.
Snow gives a smooth, dance-ready show worthy of a young Common or a pared-down Anderson .Paak, and had fans in the know dancing easily and freely. You could tell the people who came out to hear it know they’re already onto something special, the kind of cool thing you discover and share with your friends whose tastes you trust.
And Whack, well, shit…true to her name, she made the brick staircase and all things surrounding thump, the rumble of her basslines matched in confidence by the bellow of her voice and all-the-way-live hip hop edge. (DM)
Ski Mask the Slump God
Okay, here’s the thing: This guy is really talented. His rhymes have potency, his stage presence is enormous, his energy totally dangerous. But his backing tracks…dear lord, for the love of fuck, would this new generation please just rap when on stage?My theory is that most find fame before they’re stage-ready and then, because so many other people are doing it, never stop to think about how to get over the hurdle of the half hour festival set to develop a sustainable live presence. I encourage longevity in any valid form and Ski Mask deserves to outshine much of what we hear currently if he can make himself last a little longer. There’s a reason we have legends that don’t die, too. (DM)
Tame Impala’s light show was as entrancing as it’s hyped to be, and the Australians sounded tight. But from the first chord it became clear that something was wrong with the mix at the Mountain Stage. The bass overpowered the guitar and the drums could be heard echoing far behind us. It was noticeably quiet, and snaking my way through the crowd, I was able to hear comments to that effect. Lesser bands would be crippled by these sorts of issues, but Tame shone through with a crowd-pleasing setlist that featured popular tracks from their three records and cuts from their upcoming LP. Still, I can’t help but think of what the set could’ve been. (BK)
Donald Glover had two rules for his Osheaga crowd. 1: To love him and ourselves and 2: No phones.
“Y’all don’t know the energy y’all posses,” he explains, but iInsane theatrics, including a platform in the middle of the crowd, made it hard not to sneak my phone out a couple of times. For a man who requested the vanishment of cellular devices, Gambino spent a lot of time hopping into the crowd, an act that required the audience to stare at a giant screen. Despite the irony, the camerawork appears sleeker than others, Glover opting for a more cinematic feel with his high quality cinematography.
Musically, the performance featured a strong blend of Because the Internet fan faves, the Grammy-nominated Awaken, My Love, and new cuts (luckily, nothing from the insufferably corny CAMP, which has aged about as well as six-month-old milk).
A few weeks ago, the internet asked who is a superior triple-threat for acting/comedy/music: Jamie Foxx or Donald Glover. Foxx may have the acting acclaim and stand-up specials to put Glover to shame in those departments but when it comes to concerts, I’ll be damned if Foxx could churn up something half as ambitious as what Gambino pulled off Sunday night. No disrespect to “Blame It.” (MW)