Osheaga lineup 2024

Dissecting the Osheaga 2023 lineup

“The hyper-polarized discourse about the lineup is seemingly an Osheaga rite of passage, and this year is no different.”

Another year, another Osheaga lineup reveal comes and goes. The hyper-polarized discourse about the lineup whenever it drops is seemingly an Osheaga rite of passage, and this year is no different. The 2023 lineup was revealed on Friday, soon after it had apparently been leaked, and the stylistic offerings are as eclectic and varied as ever.

Since much discussion has already been had about previously announced headliners Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and RÜFÜS DU SOL, I’ve decided to touch on things tied to the big reveal, now that we’ve all had a little more time to digest it. Here are some takeaways I had from last week’s drop.

Osheaga lineup 2023 poster

The undercard boasts some REAL solid names

Rina Sawayama! Fred Again! Alex G! Japanese Breakfast! 070 Shake! Beabadoobee! Julia Jacklin! Foals! These are just some of the names that got me all giddy inside, mainly because I’ve never seen most of them live (I’ve only seen Alex G once before). Even if the lineup might not be as deep as people want, there are still some great names — and equally thrilling discoveries — to be made before August.

But one act stands above the rest for me in terms of “Damn, they actually got them!”: the Flaming Lips. Their classic album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will be played front to back, a little over 21 years after its initial release. If I don’t see Wayne Coyne get inside his big bubble and take it for a whirl on top of the crowd’s heads, I’ll be disappointed. But remember, it’s a Flaming Lips show — there’ll be all kinds of psychedelic bells and whistles to be seen.

Having said that, it still leaves me wanting a bit more

Maybe we’ll see more artists get added in the weeks and months to come (that usually happens), but the lineup at a quick glance feels like it still needs a little more oomph to be a truly great one. I also am yet to be sold on the idea of Baby Keem or Aya Nakamura being worthy of second billing, particularly as Aya performs in French and may not resonate as easily with non-French speaking festivalgoers. Sofi Tukker, Rezz and Central Cee being on the first line for their respective days also came as a surprise to me.

The vibe of the Osheaga subreddit will tell you the same thing. You’ll see unfavourable comparisons to the lineups they got pre-COVID, which is obviously unfair given the sheer magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on the music industry. However, they do bring up valid points in that the subheadliners are probably the weakest part of this year’s lineup. Personally, I think Boygenius would’ve been an important get, and artists like the 1975 (who have a slot in their schedule open to do it), Paramore, Bloc Party (who are touring with Paramore), SG Lewis, Tems and Confidence Man were all high on my wish list this year.

A leaked unofficial lineup had MUNA, Subtronics, Loco Dice and others listed, only for them not to show up on the official poster. Magdalena Bay were not part of the original leak, nor were Ganja White Night. It’s not clear if this is a booking swap with another Montreal festival or event, or if the missing leaked acts will be added later. But it’ll be intriguing to watch how fluid the lineup will be in the coming months.

Tons of artists are from the electronic world, many of whom don’t yet seem like home runs

Maybe I’ve become increasingly less “with it” as I’ve aged, but the list of names on the bill from the EDM realm felt like a who’s who of “Who?” for me: PAWSA, Ganja White Night, Hayden James, Kora, DJ Seinfeld, Dom Dolla, Clozee, French 79, Kasablanca, Innellea, Marten Hørger, Monolink. Several of these do indeed have sizeable followings, but they’re all unknown commodities to me. (Cue Principal Skinner saying “Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong!”)

To make things a bit more confusing, several of these artists played ÎLESONIQ last year. Since festivals are supposed to stay as fresh and exciting as possible with each edition, it’s vital to do what you can to book acts you’ve never (or seldom) booked before, to maximize excitement and anticipation — especially when you see tweets complaining about how artists “don’t tour in Montreal anymore.” I’ll likely get really into at least one of those aforementioned artists before the festival happens, so I may very well regret this statement, but these re-bookings are hard to ignore.

Ultimately, reactions to Osheaga lineup drops must be taken with a grain of salt

Just like literally every other year, Osheaga’s 2023 lineup is garnering plenty of hot takes on both sides of the coin — only for those same people to inevitably make new musical discoveries in the months leading up to the festival, getting into artists who also happen to be playing it. I don’t remember there ever being a lineup reveal that was universally praised from the moment people saw it on their timelines.

The Osheaga lineup for 2023 definitely seems a bit more geared toward Gen Z instead of the cross-generational appeal past lineups have had, and the rock side of things seems to be a bit lacking. But it’s essential to remember that music is an incredibly subjective art form, and it’s virtually impossible for fans to uniformly agree about a festival’s lineup when so many variables regarding people’s tastes are involved. 

No matter how you feel about the roster, remember that running a major festival remains a challenging endeavour in this COVID economy. Getting Billie Eilish as a headliner is a particularly big coup for Osheaga, and one that should help make the entire weekend worthwhile. That’s even if Evenko and Osheaga booking her meant eating up a bigger percentage of their budget than other headliners would’ve — plus, it’s easy to find yourself getting crabby about it if you spend too much time comparing the lineup to the Coachellas, Glastonburys and Primavera Sounds of the world.

All I can say is that, just like every year for a decade now, I’ll be there all three days having the time of my life like I always do. Hope to see you there. ■

For more on Osheaga 2023 (Aug. 4–6), please visit the festival’s website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.