Osheaga 2023

Osheaga 2023: This is our plan for the festival weekend ahead

PLUS the most frustrating schedule conflicts, pro tips for navigating Parc Jean-Drapeau & more.

Whenever Osheaga rolls around, most people are hyped. They’ve gotten over some initial shock from the lineup announcement (not seeing bands they wanted to see booked, etc), and are fully invested in experiencing great live music in an open air environment while jacked on adrenaline (and other things, of course) all weekend long. 

But even if this year’s lineup announcement was met with considerable disappointment from fans (then again, pretty much every Osheaga lineup announcement triggers that reaction), I’ve also seen people still complain in the days leading up to the festival that the lineup is “mid”, or even “an absolute disaster” — all while offering no suggestions for who should’ve been booked instead.

To that I say: bullshit! 

Music is arguably the most subjective and visceral art form out there (aside from visual art), so one’s reaction to any given festival lineup is HUGELY dependent on personal taste. Age is another factor worth considering, as this lineup definitely seems more geared toward zoomers than previous years. The question then becomes, “Is the lineup bad, or is pop music starting to pass me by?”

As far as this millennial’s concerned, there are plenty of gems to be found and cherished within that lineup — some of whom I won’t even get to see due to scheduling conflicts — and others I’m not as familiar with, but for whom I’m keeping an open mind. Here’s a breakdown of my personal picks for this year’s Osheaga, as well as a primer for those wondering how to get around the festival grounds at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

What I’m doing at Osheaga 2023

There’s the obvious one-two punch headlining of Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar, but don’t sleep on RÜFÜS DU SOL’s ability to put on a spectacle during their headline slot. Yes, they’re easily the least well-known headliner and yes, their name is weird and has too many umlauts, but the Aussie alternative dance/house trio are known for live shows that match the emotionally evocative nature of their tunes. Based on videos I’ve seen, that approach hits even harder at nighttime. On top of that, they played a packed headline show at Jean-Drapeau last summer, too, so you can’t say people won’t show up.

Friday looks to be worth showing up on-site early for, specifically at 3:20 p.m. for Turkish-Dutch psychedelic rockers Altin Gün, who’ll be worth lighting a mid-afternoon spliff for to kick things off. Then comes the first heartbreaking conflict of the weekend, when Soccer Mommy and the recently added Bakar go head-to-head at 4 p.m. on the River and Valley stages, respectively. DJ Seinfeld plays the Island Stage at 5:10 p.m., for those who love house music, and Wallows — fronted by actor Dylan Minnette of 13 Reasons Why fame — play the River stage at 5:40 for those who love peppy indie rockers. One of Friday’s biggest crown jewels actually comes in pop star form: Rina Sawayama, who’ll inject the Mountain stage with a whole lot of attitude and exuberance at 6:30 p.m. 

Sadly, she also overlaps with quirky indie rock auteur Alex G, playing the Valley stage on the other end of the festival site. The Flaming Lips performing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots in its entirety at 7:20 on the River Stage will also be a sight to behold, especially if it’s your first time seeing them. I, for one, eagerly await the moment Wayne Coyne finally busts out that giant bubble and walks over the sun-soaked crowd with it. If you love rap music and aren’t going to watch RÜFÜS headline, JPEGMAFIA and Joey Bada$$ will provide what the doctor ordered at 9 and 9:50 on the Valley and Green stages, respectively.

Saturday is also not short on thrills, but they start a bit later in the day. Former Polaris winner Lido Pimienta will take the Valley stage by storm with her fierce performance style and eclectic, Latin-flavoured sound at 4 p.m. The Green Stage will see Vancouver indie four-piece Peach Pit at 6:15 p.m., while the talented yet enigmatic 070 Shake starts immediately after them on the adjacent Valley stage. Unfortunately for those who also love the National, there’ll be overlap and tough decisions on the menu, since Ohio’s finest will start playing at 7:20 on the River stage. 

After 070 Shake is a Canadian double-header, as Carly Rae Jepsen will play the Green stage at 7:50 to show why she’s far, far more than just the “Call Me Maybe” chick, and Toronto punks PUP will bring their characteristically blistering live show to the Valley stage immediately after on the Valley Stage at 8:40. Billie Eilish is obviously the main event at 9:20 on the River stage (and what a coup for the fest!), but fans of both Eilish and Afrobeats will have to choose between her and Nigerian sensation Rema — he’s on at the Green stage at 9:40.

Starting off the final day on Sunday will be Aysanabee, an Indigenous singer-songwriter of Oji-Cree descent whose debut album Watin was recently shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. British singer-songwriter beabadoobee — born in 2000 — will transport those at the Mountain stage back to the ‘90s at 4:50. The Green stage will host Aussie indie chanteuse Julia Jacklin at 6:15, with indie rock vets Foals taking the Valley stage immediately after, at 7 p.m.

While Jacklin’s playing, though, British rap star Central Cee brings a raw cross-the-pond flavour at 6:20 on the Mountain stage. After that is easily my most gut-wrenching conflict of the festival: Japanese Breakfast at 7:45 at the Green stage, with Fred Again starting at the Mountain stage 15 minutes later. After that? Kendrick Lamar bringing it all home at 9 p.m. on the River stage. Sure, this is his third time playing the festival (and fourth time booked for it), but how many artists out there are as worth constantly bringing back as him?

The lay of the land

Osheaga Parc Jean-Drapeau
Osheaga 2016. Photo by Cindy Lopez

As mentioned earlier, Osheaga is located at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène. The site is right in front of Jean-Drapeau metro station on the yellow line, which will need to be accessed via Berri-UQAM metro if you aren’t coming to the festival from the South Shore. 

Once you’re in, you’ll see the two main stages (River and Mountain) directly neighbouring one another as you walk to your left, where a large hill is. Walk another five minutes or so north and turn right past where the view of the city skyline is, and you’ll be at the Island stage, which plays host primarily to electronic artists and DJs. 

Another 10-odd minutes from there once you’ve left that stage area and you’ll be at the Green and Valley stages after you’ve walked over a ridiculously tall overpass. (Note that, instead of the Tree stage, there’s a stage called Backyard Sessions SiriusXM, in case there are smaller acts on the bill this year that you want to see there.) This year Hennessy is installing a bar in this area with a rooftop that provides views of the Green and Valley stages.

Bathrooms are — and we regret to inform you of this — pretty much just porta-potties, so consider doing your business before you leave home for the festival to minimize your shit-box exposure if those things gross you out. There are plenty of concession stands with different types of food, and lineups are inevitable regardless of what time of day it is, but go get some grub when it isn’t right at dinnertime, to play it safe.

As far as how else to prepare for this coming weekend, there are some pretty basic unwritten rules to follow:

  • Stay hydrated! 
  • Wear lots of sunscreen
  • Wear comfortable and durable shoes that are suitable for outdoor use (they can also get real dusty after a day spent on-site)
  • Bring a portable phone charger, if you have one
  • Don’t wear clothes that are particularly prone to stains
  • Have a blast! Otherwise, what’s the point of a music festival?

For more on Osheaga 2023, please visit their website. For information about the festival’s official afterparties, please click here.

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