Nadia Elkharadly: Musique dans la Belle Provence
This weekend I ventured away from the comforts of our fair city of Toronto, and took a road trip east in search of musical adventure. The destination: Montreal, Quebec. The musical adventure: Osheaga Music Festival.
Now in its 6th year, Osheaga has rapidly become one of Canada’s premier music festivals. This is my second year attending the fest, and just like the first time I was struck by the beauty of the chosen venue. Like Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Osheaga is an outdoor festival set in the middle of a city. Montreal’s Parc Jean Drapeau dwells on Île Sainte-Hélène, just an underwater metro ride away from the downtown core.
Its natural beauty, so perfectly nestled and so readily accessible really does make it the best place to hold this type of a festival. And like Lollapalooza, one of the things I enjoy the most about Osheaga is that you can partake in the festival by day, but still enjoy all the awesomeness of Montreal by night.
Outdoor music festivals definitely aren’t for everyone. The days are long and usually hot, you get muddy, dusty, dirty, tired, thirsty, achy and any other number of uncomfortable adjectives. But to me, all the rest outweighs the moments of discomfort. I am a total outdoor music festival convert. I’m only annoyed that I waited so late in my life to start partaking in them (youth and lack of funds being my primary deterrents in the past. From the moment I stepped on the grounds of Parc Jean Drapeau this past Friday afternoon, I felt like I was home again. The sun was shining and the strains of a band could be heard floating towards the entrance of the Metro, and fellow music lovers were smilingly bustling towards the gates of the festival. That’s another thing I love about music festivals – besides a massive arena show, you never get that large of a crowd of likeminded people together. Everyone in that park was there for the same reason, and while there may have been some douche jerks here and there, the majority of festival attendees were engaged in an unspoken camaraderie. Everyone was there because they loved music, and everyone just wanted to have a great time, not just with their friends or significant others or whoever they showed up with, but they wanted to share that feeling of musical euphoria with everyone around them. It really is a wonderful thing.
Weather at a music festival can really be your enemy or your best friend, and sometimes even both at the same time. Extreme Canadian summer weather of course extends itself to Montreal, so for the majority of the weekend was, frankly, hot as a crotch. The heat and the humidity may have been overwhelming for some but I loved it, being the desert flower that I am. But it definitely was HOT. I loved when a cool breeze would blow over the grounds and you could almost hear a collective sigh and swoon of happiness from every person who felt that wind flow over their skin. Intense heat wasn’t all we had for festival weather this weekend however. With that kind of heat for days on end, a summer storm is inevitable, and on Sunday it came. While many were prepared with their umbrellas and ponchos, may others (myself included) decided to say fuck it and literally danced in the rain. It was probably one of the most fun and exhilarating moments of the festival, raising my face to the sky as the rain pelted down, cooling me down and waking me up refreshing me all at once. Of course, that fun rainy festival moment is only awesome for the first few minutes. And after a few hours of that rain, I was definitely ready for it to be over with.
After the music, and after the weather, there is always a lot of talk around “festival fashion” (or hippie chic as I sometimes call it). For most people, festival fashion ends up being just fun and functional. Shorts, tank tops, flowy summer skirts and dresses, lack of shirts for men, festival goers’ first fashion priority is comfort. Durability is also key – this isn’t exactly your normal picnic in the park. There’s tons of walking, dancing, running, jumping and all sorts of things that require clothing and especially shoes to withstand a bit more than the usual wear and tear. And of course there is the dirt factor. Walking through grass, on dusty gravelly paths, and in the mud after the rain, by the end of a day at Osheaga being covered in dirt and grime comes part and parcel with the fun of the festival. What’s great about Osheaga, and any outdoor festival really, is that the people attending manage to take into consideration all of these things, and make a look out of it. Individuality becomes quite evident in the different styles that appear at a festival like Osheaga. Whether its modern day flower children with garlands in their hair, or metal heads clomping about in combat and motorcycle boots despite the scorching heat, or people like me in a decently cute tank top and shorts, we’re all taking part in a new fashion phenomenon.
Having been to Lollapalooza back in 2010 and Coachella in 2011, I have to say that of the three Osheaga has to be my favourite festival thus far. It’s beautifully situated, the lineups both years have been outstanding, and as a journalist coming to actually work at the festival, I’ve found it incredibly organized, and those in charge very welcoming to the press. There’s also something so very Canadian about it that I can’t help but love. The feeling in the air, the communing with nature, the…niceness of it all; it just beats the other festivals by far. With every passing year, Osheaga gets bigger, the lineups get better, and the festival garners more and more attention and acclaim. To me, this year’s lineup was mind-blowing. The variety of genres and musical styles was fantastic; there was literally something for every type of fan. Bands and artists ran the gamut from the new and unknown to veterans making their comebacks. My personal highlights ran the gamut as well. Friday, the wonderful Icelandic musical troupe Of Monsters and Men had me dancing on a chair while trying to get a glimpse of them over the heads of the massive crowd at the Scene Verte (Green Stage). Toronto’s The Weeknd probably could have had his pick of any woman within earshot (and probably a few men too) with his sultry and seductive hip hop style. On Saturday, Georgia’s The Black Lips were my sleeper hit of the festival – they put on great show. Hamilton’s Arkells were one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend, so clearly thrilled to be performing. My absolute favourite show of the entire weekend however was Garbage. Being of my favourite bands since high school, and fronted by one of my personal rock idols Shirley Manson I have wanted to see Garbage live for years. It was completely worth the wait, and I freely admit to singing my lungs out and dancing like a complete and utter fool. On Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Metric’s early evening set, and loved every minute of the ever engaging Black Keys. Be sure to check out my reviews this coming week at the Canada Indie Music Examiner. I can’t wait to relive it all and share my experience and this awesome music with all of you.
Until next time,
Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday
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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet. Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada. She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine. Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.