Osheaga 2023 review reviews

Osheaga 2023: Reviews of 27 sets at a magical weekend for music in Montreal

Our thoughts on the sweet 16th blowout at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Drawing a record-breaking festival crowd this year, with major stars from the constellations of pop and hip hop headlining and an admirably deep, crowd-pleasing lineup of rappers, indie rock bands and dance-pop acts, Osheaga 2023 was a total treat. As always, the Cult MTL team spread out across Parc Jean-Drapeau over the weekend, taking in 27 sets from Aug. 4 to 6 — loving it, enjoying it, admiring it and sometimes leaving a little underwhelmed.

Here’s what we thought of Osheaga 2023.

Friday, Aug. 4

Altın Gün

Altın Gün Osheaga 2023 review
Altın Gün. All photos by Cindy Lopez

The Turkish psych rockers lent the early hours of Osheaga a trippy dance-party vibe at the Green stage that the festival would have been well advised to double or even triple down on for a Friday that lacked any real momentum off of the main stages until later in the evening. The nice thing about booking a seemingly hyper-niche act like Altın Gün is that introducing a potentially unfamiliar crowd with such a foreign concept levels the playing field for musical appreciation. The modest crowd proved it was more than willing to get pulled into something out of the ordinary. It was an Osheaga moment that wouldn’t quite be recaptured again that day, and it was over too fast. (Darcy MacDonald)

DJ Seinfeld

DJ Seinfeld Osheaga 2023 review
DJ Seinfeld

You can almost imagine what shenanigans the Seinfeld gang would have gotten mixed up in an episode called “The Swedish DJ,” so we’ll just go ahead and do that. There’s the titular entertainer, running the Island stage with an effortless knack for crowd-pleasing. But uh-oh, here come the Van Buren Boys! Shirtless and gleaming, they are not letting anyone pass without the secret code, insisting on a quick fist bump with a “give it here, bro.” 

But wait! Who’s that tall, lanky, dancer with a circle formed around him as he slips and slides on two feet? Is he trying to break a fall, or make one happen? No one can take their eyes off of him. Now there goes a red-faced, balding gent who seems flustered and a disinterested woman who looks eager to be almost anywhere else (or perhaps with anyone else). Maybe their friends told them to wait at the wrong stage. We’ll never know, because a solid 1,000-plus other people are all yelling into each other’s ears between enthusiastic head bobs while the Ninja Tune-approved talent gives a master class in credible electronic music that I’m uncertain anyone there truly appreciated. Gold, Jerry. Gold. (Darcy MacDonald)

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips Osheaga 2023 review
The Flaming Lips

It’s the American dream. A young entrepreneur starts a viable little business. Over time it grows and takes on a life of its own. And a couple of decades later, the founder sells, leaving it in capable hands and retiring with a sweet haul for his years of hard work.

But what happens if you can’t just sell the business? Well, you end up like Wayne Coyne, hanging out on a festival stage in a plastic bubble surrounded by a staff of ragged inflatable pink robots that can’t survive on their pension alone. That’s not even to speak of the rest of the band, who are essentially shop stewards at this point. Yes, yes — the Flaming Lips are legends. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is amazing, and the performance was a perfect fit for sundown at Osheaga. But man, Coyne comes off like a guy who backed himself into a corner and wants out. When the most interesting thing the frontman for a headlining band can think of to banter about is the relatively cool weather Montreal is having, the battle is over. The pink robots, weathered as they are, have won. (Darcy MacDonald)


JPEGMAFIA Osheaga 2023 review

JP came out the gate strong for what felt more like a Friday night hip hop double header in the mud farm serving as home to the Valley and Green stages. 

Whereas I’m personally a bigger fan of the earlier, more experimentally dangerous work from the NYC/Baltimore rapper and producer, I gotta hand it to an indie artist who can evolve with integrity when called to the big leagues. By giving the kids what they want without compromising his creative identity, JPEGMAFIA fed hungry fest-goers with healthy options that still fit a cheat day menu. His raw excitement on stage played to the crowd’s party appetite and made for a memorable Osheaga debut.  (Darcy MacDonald)

Joey Bada$$

Joey Bada$$ Osheaga 2023 review
Joey Bada$$

This wasn’t the New York City rap star’s first Osheaga, but it certainly felt like his arrival. On an opening day that may have compromised something in the way of scheduled cohesiveness in favour of crowd-pleasers to set the table for headliners RÜFÜS DU SOL, a hip hop double header out in the far reaches of the site felt like an early game-defining moment for the festival’s 2023 edition. Joey Bad planted the flag with a closing set on the Green stage with crystal clear sound, a wildly excited crowd and the rapper’s  mix of East Coast swagger, boyish charm and message music that doesn’t preach. 

Whether going all the way back to his earliest material (and without merely paying lip service to it, as many might, but giving it his all) or delivering the hardest tracks from last year’s 2000, Joey came with the energy of an artist who still has the mix of momentum and freshness to convince even the most jaded critic that his career still hasn’t peaked. He’s no longer a slow burn, but he’s definitely in the race for longevity alongside peers that broke bigger. (Darcy MacDonald)

Soccer Mommy

Soccer Mommy Osheaga 2023 review
Soccer Mommy

I’d never seen Sophie Allison (aka Soccer Mommy) perform before Friday afternoon, and was eagerly anticipating it after Bakar suddenly cancelled his set on the other side of the park. Though she’d attract a decent turnout for her set, and the very psychedelic background with her name at the centre was a cool touch, Sophie’s voice sounded a bit weak and flat (or at least her mic levels weren’t where they should be). Her set — which included a cover of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun” — also seemed a bit too simple and lacking in charisma, though I suppose that’s kind of the point. A fitting artist for a late-afternoon festival set, but I still was left wanting a bit more. (Dave MacIntyre)

Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama Osheaga 2023 review
Rina Sawayama

On the other end of the intensity spectrum was Japanese-British pop songstress Rina Sawayama, who brings pure intensity, finesse and attitude to everything she does (that said, I’m pretty sure she mistakenly called Osheaga “Coachella” at one point). Her live voice matches its power on wax, her frequent costume changes were a big part of making her set a spectacle (though I would’ve also liked a more fleshed-out visual component to the set), and she sweats vigour and charisma and confidence while performing. 

Sawayama commands the stage almost effortlessly, whether she’s performing tracks inspired by U.K. garage (opener “Hold the Girl” or the Charli XCX collab “Beg for You”), late ‘90s country-pop (closer “This Hell” is hugely inspired by Shania Twain, down to the “Let’s go, girls!” intro), or nü metal (“STFU!”, which even ended with a brief cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” Luckily, no Woodstock ’99 shenanigans ensued). She did her best to convert a late-afternoon set into a proper spectacle, and the crowd got increasingly engaged and excited as it went on. (Dave MacIntyre)

Charlotte Cardin

Charlotte Cardin Osheaga 2023 review
Charlotte Cardin

Announced last-minute after French singer Aya Nakamura pulled out due to illness, Charlotte Cardin got the opportunity to showcase her ability to command the stage, which was immediately apparent. Her live voice sounded as strong as ever (even if her dance moves were endearingly awkward), and she appeared to seize the opportunity suddenly awarded to her. 

An athletic and exuberant performer, the strength of her live voice and stage presence matched one another as she performed a mix of older cuts with ones from her forthcoming album, 99 Nights. Cardin didn’t look afraid of the moment, whether she was sitting in front of a piano, busting out an electric guitar or simply being a dancing, singing, one-woman show. (Dave MacIntyre)


RÜFÜS DU SOL Osheaga 2023

Yes, the excessive umlauts in their name are incredibly distracting, and I don’t blame anyone who sees that as pretentious, either. But once you get over that (and assuming you enjoy house/alternative dance music), you’ll appreciate the combination of RÜFÜS DU SOL’s intricate, crisply-detailed tunes with striking, all-white strobe lighting and a sublime, tasteful use of lasers and other types of lighting (e.g. the fiery orange-red during “On My Knees”). The Aussie trio, who are no strangers to Osheaga having played the festival twice before (and who played to a packed crowd last summer when they headlined their own show at Parc Jean-Drapeau), proved why they deserve to be in the headliner conversation, even if their status pales in comparison to Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar’s.

Claiming Montreal is their favourite city in the world to play in (whether that’s genuine or simply pandering), they wasted no time creating an atmosphere even if their songs and BPM numbers can be a bit repetitive. Dressed in all-black, and with the audience’s glow sticks per capita rating having shot up, RÜFÜS DU SOL’s sunny, percussive tunes — full of hi-hats and blaring synths — can also be quite emotional and powerful, and they know how to make this stand out in a live setting (on the nine-and-a-half-minute epic “Innerbloom,” especially). Bringing out guest vocalist Curtis Harding for “Surrender” was also a fantastic surprise. Although frontman Tyrone Lindqvist’s voice is a bit weird and lacking in dynamism, it’s a perfect fit for this type of music, and they didn’t let their headlining opportunity go to waste on Friday night. (Dave MacIntyre)

Saturday, Aug. 5


With a co-sign from fellow Marylander JPEP, the 19-year old has graduated from bedroom rapper to player in less time than it takes a college student to finish their degree. And by the looks of it, he’s more likely to be able to afford a house, and faster, too. 

An early afternoon time slot on a Saturday at Osheaga’s Valley stage can deviate considerably in terms of crowd turnout, especially for a relatively unknown artist. 

A decade back, for example, rapper Yelawolf (already signed to Shady and celebrating the release of a collab with Blink-182’s Travis Barker the day before) played the same 2:40 p.m. slot at the same stage. And it felt like a letdown for thousands of actual fans who couldn’t possibly have gotten day-drunk fast enough to keep up with the Alabama chopper.

It’s hard to gauge, but if the crowd for redveil counted about 700 to 800 fest-goers curious to find out what the Learn to Swim rapper is about, 700 to 800 people left entertained and willing to ride with the newcomer for whatever might come next. He showed some clout, too, inviting JPEG out for a quick surprise cameo appearance the day after his own Osheaga debut. All in all, one to watch. 

(Fun fact: That was Montreal’s Narcy on the mic side stage in the role of “Marcus’ proud uncle.”) (Darcy MacDonald)

Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimienta Osheaga 2023 review
Lido Pimienta

Sunny blue skies, smogless oxygen and a cool river breeze hit the right backup notes for a gorgeous, fiercely charged moment with Lido, a Colombian-Canadian treasure and a seriously inspired booking.

Declaring the afternoon “Latina hour,” with fellow Colombian nationals Bomba Estéreo slated to play shortly after her Valley stage set, next door on Green, Pimiento characteristically pulled no punches. 

“This should have been at 8 p.m., but I’m a Canadian artist born in Colombia. So not that I’m not grateful…but…”

That didn’t stop Lido from giving her all. And when her teenage children arrived in the front row, she lit up, inviting the sizeable crowd to welcome them with her. Imagine your mom introducing you loudly and proudly to new guests. Except the guests are thousands of your mom’s fans at Osheaga. The mix of total pride and mortified embarrassment on their faces was priceless. 

But is your mom cool enough to casually invite Nelly Furtado on stage to sing with her? Because that happened.

This was far and away my favourite daytime show at this year’s festival. My only regret of the weekend was not staying around afterward for Nigeria’s Adekunle Gold and Bomba. (Darcy MacDonald)

The Lil Yachty/Baby Keem Conundrum

Lil Yachty Osheaga 2023 review
Lil Yachty

Trap star Lil Yachty, whose recent psych-rock album Let’s Start Here captured the internet’s imagination and attention span for an entire 48 hours when it dropped earlier this year, was a solid choice for Osheaga. 

And so was rising rap star Baby Keem. Despite lacking enough bonafide, mass-appeal bangers of his own, his star is rising. And not only because he’s kin to Kendrick, though that’s helped his name ring out. 

Yachty was evidently under the weather. And at the risk of sounding like an old head, let me preface what I’m about to say by making clear I have no hate, at all, for what he does. He’s a beloved figure in music, and it’s all good. The fact that I couldn’t for the life of me get my head around what he’s trying to do on stage with an experimental rock band is my problem, not his fans’. 

But it’s not a foreign concept to me, either, and I would love to have embraced it. It was too lofty for what it turned out to be, truth be told. 

I couldn’t help but think that it would have landed a little better after dark, before Billie Eilish, in the slot Baby Keem occupied. 

And by the same token, as Sunday’s set from U.K. rapper Central Cee would later confirm, Keem would have been better suited to Yachty’s early evening time slot, especially given the stripped-down effect of his one-man, one-mic performance.

Were Yachty and Keem good? The latter had the less involved, more straightforward performance that I appreciated more. But it’s not fair to compare them. That would be like comparing apples with moonbeam psilocybin space fruit juice. (Darcy MacDonald)

Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen Osheaga 2023 review
Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen entertained the fuck out of a whole bunch of people, myself included, who just wanted to be entertained as fuck by Carly Rae Jepsen. At Osheaga. 

There is nothing wrong with that at all, which in itself is a strange and wonderful fact to just accept. (Darcy MacDonald)

Po Lazarus

Local self-proclaimed “passion rock outfit” Po Lazarus played the impossibly tiny — and frustrating to locate — Sirius XM stage late on Saturday afternoon. Though it looked like they only played to a crowd of 40 people max, the group did their utmost to entertain those who stopped by. Frontman Joshua Carey looks like Father John Misty with the theatrical, operatic falsetto of Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe (while playing rock music somewhat recalling Broken Social Scene and R.E.M.), and the group as a whole did a solid job of entertaining the crowd even while the day was still quite warm and the sun felt overwhelming at times. Some of Po Lazarus’s songs were more straightforward, bluesy alternative rock while others were slower and folkier, and they played a strong, well-rounded set. (Dave MacIntyre)

Sofi Tukker

Sofi Tukker Osheaga 2023
Sofi Tukker

The last time I saw Sofi Tukker perform live was six years ago, when they opened for ODESZA at MTELUS. It’s safe to say the NYC duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld (who grew up partially in Canada) and Tucker Halpern have come quite some way since then, especially as their sun-kissed, electric guitar-driven take on house music has been frequently used in commercials (specifically set openers “Drinkee” and “Best Friend,” as well as “Batshit” — they must make BANK from ad money alone). 

Between their colourful outfits and elaborate stage designs allowing for Sophie to sing while on a swing set, they gave easily one of the most fun and uplifting shows of the weekend. They’re an act well-suited for sprawling outdoor festivals, and a very groovy one, too. (Dave MacIntyre)

More Sofi Tukker

Though it would be hard to beat their 2018 show at Corona Theatre, and my memory of walking in to the first notes of the show’s opener “Baby I’m a Queen” (a great song that’s sadly not part of their setlist anymore), Sofi Tukker’s Osheaga 2023 performance was an excellent graduation to the main stage for the NYC duo, who previously played the Valley stage back in 2019. With backup from Bob’s Dance Shop dancers, Hawley-Weld being fabulous as usual, wielding her guitar while sporting vintage pink lounging glam, and Halpern fuelling the crowd with outright hype and weird energy, Sofi Tukker won over a big crowd and probably made a stack of new fans. (Lorraine Carpenter)

The National

The National Osheaga 2023 review
The National

If you’ve seen the National perform before, you likely already know what you’re getting whenever you watch them. As always, Matt Berninger was sharply dressed with a full beard and his tall 6’3” frame sticking out onstage like a sore thumb. This band doesn’t play particularly complex indie rock, but they do their style in a very classy and refined kind of way. 

Berninger also carried himself as elegantly as ever while performing, from classic cuts like “Fake Empire,” “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “I Need My Girl” and “Mr. November” to more recent ones like “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and no less than four tracks from their newest album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. Again, there weren’t many surprises or elements fans of the National wouldn’t have seen before, but an enjoyable set nonetheless. (Dave MacIntyre)

To read our review of Billie Eilish at Osheaga 2023, please click here.

Sunday, Aug. 6


Beabadoobee Osheaga 2023 review

The second Dirty Hit signee I saw this weekend was Beatrice Laus, aka Beabadoobee, who I’d been looking forward to watching perform for the first time. Her distinctly ‘90s-flavoured style of alternative/indie rock borrows elements of grunge, Britpop, shoegaze and Sonic Youth-esque rock, putting a fresh twist on an inherently nostalgia-inducing musical style. (“Last Day on Earth,” for example, could’ve been a theme song for a show like Boy Meets World.)

Although she sounded good live (and changed guitars seemingly with every song), she wasn’t as charismatic as I’d hoped she’d be. It does make me wonder how much more room for musical evolution she has, or if she’s pigeonholed herself a bit. I’m happy nonetheless that I got to see this 23-year-old Filipina-British singer-songwriter, but I’d like to see if she does better in indoor settings than at festivals. (Dave MacIntyre)

Julia Jacklin

Aussie singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin showed up on the Green stage on Sunday looking very overdressed in a schoolgirl-like outfit complete with a blazer, button-up shirt and kilt. But any concerns about fashion choices went out the window pretty quickly when she started performing, putting her hypnotically melancholic style of indie rock on full display — in other words, a perfect fit for a sunset show with the view of a smoggy-looking city skyline to your left. 

She also adds depth and colour to her songs when performed live, with “Don’t Know How I Keep Loving You” being slowed down a bit and its guitars ringing out in a Neil Young and Crazy Horse kind of way. Though I’d hoped she’d attract a bigger crowd, and she feels more like an indoor act than a festival one, I love how much harder her songs pop in a live setting. (Dave MacIntyre)


Is this the Tik Tok star who changes my opinion about Tik Tok stars? The 22-year-old Palestinian-born, L.A.-raised, handsome bro-dude can rap and sing and speak at least three languages that I caught. 

His music is easy on the ears, and his rap style should annoy the hell out of me, but for some reason, he pulls that “I’m not really a rapper, but I can rap” thing off well. Plus, his band is amazing. I went in expecting typical content and instead found myself pleasantly surprised by real character and as diverse a range of sounds as Saint-Levant counts in his cultural background. (Darcy MacDonald)

Armani White

Armani White Osheaga 2023 review
Armani White

The “Billie Eilish” rapper (who performed said hit on stage with the star herself the night before) drew an enormous crowd to the Valley stage area and got the crowd moving. Any hip hop show on Sunday was unofficially a warm-up for Kendrick Lamar, and Armani made the grade in terms of not only coming with a solid performance of his own but by setting the mood well before sundown. (Darcy MacDonald)

Central Cee

Central Cee Osheaga 2023 review
Central Cee

For 15 minutes, the U.K. rapper held court for what was easily the strongest rap set of the weekend by any MC not named “Lamar.”

Before those 15 minutes, though, his DJ played Drake songs for nearly as long. And after that, mysteriously, there were another 10 minutes with no one on stage, when according to the schedule, there was very clearly still supposed to be a guy named Central Cee rapping some more. 

The “Doja” rapper was great. But where did he go?

My best guess is that he had to run to the loo and, uh, maybe rinse all the infamous Parc Jean-Drapeau island grime residue from his wide, wide-open eyes, which didn’t appear to blink even once the entire time he was on stage. 

Which, as I mentioned, was only 15 minutes. But that’s a lot of time not to blink, innit fam? Bruh…you were supposed to be performing at Osheaga, not blowing (ahem) your paycheque partying there. (Darcy MacDonald)


Veteran British artsy indie rockers Foals wasted little time making their presence felt on the adjacent Valley Stage, opening with “Wake Me Up” and its frenetic, jangly guitars behind Yannis Philippakis’ trademark smoky yowl. Though I’m partial to their first two albums Antidotes and Total Life Forever (of which they played only one track, “Spanish Sahara”, whose buildup and drop sound even more epic live than on record), Foals short-but-sweet eight-song set was career-spanning beyond that, capped off by “What Went Down” inciting a mosh pit despite the warning next to the stage banning moshing and crowd surfing. Even if Yannis’ voice sounded a bit too breathy at times, I’m damn glad I got to see them, even if the set felt like it whizzed by. (Dave MacIntyre)

Japanese Breakfast

Before rushing back to the main stages to watch Fred again.. and  the grand finale of Kendrick Lamar, I watched the majority of Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast’s fantastic set on the Green Stage. Dressed in all-pink as if she was about to go see Barbie, J-Brekkie immediately set the tone by opening with “Paprika” (named after the 2006 Satoshi Kon film, and sounding like a theme song from a Studio Ghibli movie).

Smiling while performing, and occasionally banging a huge gong onstage, Zauner’s carefree energy while performing is infectious and hard not to feel energized by. Though she fell a bit flat with the higher notes on “Be Sweet”, her voice improved as the set wore on, and she radiated charisma throughout. “Boyish” and “Kokomo, IN” are gorgeous songs, as well, and both shine just as brightly in a live environment. (Dave MacIntyre)

Fred Again

Fred Again Osheaga 2023 review
Fred Again

As much as I enjoyed J-Brekkie, her set was part of the most heartbreaking conflict/overlap of this year’s Osheaga for me, and it meant I had to miss the better part of Fred again..’s set over on the main stages. (Worse, I was far enough at the back of the crowd that the sound tents completely obstructed my view of him.) He may get flak for being a nepo baby despite his obvious talent — he has ancestral ties to British royalty, and his family’s neighbour while growing up just so happened to be Brian Eno — but DAMN does he ever bring sheer, unbridled intensity as a producer and live performer. 

I showed up to his packed set in time for “Danielle (smile on my face)”, which unfortunately didn’t see him bring 070 Shake onstage for the vocal parts (she performed at Osheaga the day before). His mixing skills are impressive  and add a lot more depth to his tracks, his transitions are smooth as silk, and his beats punch really hard live — particularly on tracks like “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” (his 2021 collab with the Blessed Madonna), “Delilah (pull me out of this)” and “Billie (loving arms)”. The latter just so happened to be the song he was playing right as his mic got cut off for going three minutes over time. Luckily, he’d enraptured the crowd enough that they had no problem singing its hook themselves right as the greatest rapper currently living was about to get started on the opposite stage. (Dave MacIntyre)

To read our review of Kendrick Lamar at Osheaga 2023, please click here.

To see our Osheaga 2023 music photos, please click here. To see our Osheaga 2023 style gallery, please click here. For more on Osheaga, please visit their website.

For our latest in music, please visit the Music section.