By Dave MacIntyre
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC
Montreal’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is Canada’s answer to Lollapalooza. Both festivals happen on the same weekend and book many of the same artists. It’s a fantastic three-day experience full of great music, atmosphere, amenities — and Torontonians. You literally couldn’t go anywhere without seeing at least five Toronto Raptors jerseys.
Now that the capacity has been expanded to hold 65,000 people per day — the festival was held on a temporary site for two years prior — it’s not only a more wide open atmosphere, but the event itself is as exciting as it’s ever been, and that’s all thanks to the music.
Toronto artist MorMor attracted Internet recognition with his song “Heaven’s Only Wishful” after being discovered by an associate of fellow Toronto export Daniel Caesar, and he showed off his impressive musical chops early Saturday. His moody, somewhat psychedelic style of indie rock and R&B was a nice touch to the afternoon, and a big crowd turned out to hear him play. Although he jumps back and forth between styles, channelling Prince on “Whatever Comes to Mind” and even a little bit of Arcade Fire on “Outside,” his style is versatile and blends together nicely.
Young Thug is as out there as popular hip-hop stars get, but he’s also one of the genre’s most confident and charismatic performers. Combining extreme swagger with solid stage presence and his trademark chaotic flow, Thugger drew a huge crowd out for his mid-afternoon set, playing a wide range of tracks from his prolific musical output, from “On the Run” to “Digits” to “The London,” as well as features like his excellent verse on 2018 headliner Travis Scott’s “Pick Up the Phone.” This is one set fans are surely glad didn’t get saved to the end during the Chemical Brothers — more on them later.
Janelle Monáe was the best pure performer, so far, and might prove to be the best throughout the entire weekend. The R&B chanteuse is multifaceted, confident and musically gifted in equal measure, with a live band, backup dancers, multiple costume changes, and even a throne to go with it. Performing a variety of fresh, vibrant tunes from her decade-spanning career, wearing outfits seemingly inspired by toy soldiers, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation era, and even vagina-shaped pants during “Pynk,” Monáe staked a solid claim for why she should eventually headline the festival herself. One of this year’s best sets.
RÜFÜS DU SOL
This Aussie alternative dance trio was back at the Green Stage, their multidimensional, pristine spin on deep house music translates effortlessly to a live setting — and without a need for DJ decks. Between frontman Tyrone Lindqvist’s smoky, arresting voice and the group’s heavy use of hi-hats and synths, they played a strong, mesmerizing set for several thousand attendees who made it over and bounced up and down throughout, along with an equally captivating use of lighting. This especially came through on songs like “You Were Right”, “Underwater,” “Treat You Better,” and set closer “No Place.” Electronic acts should try full live setups more often.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
This booking may have seemed like a gamble considering Osheaga’s largely millennial demographic, but it turned out to be a home run. The electronica/big beat legends came through for their first Montreal show since 2003, and it was utterly perfect for a festival setting. Combining exquisitely-mixed tracks from throughout their extensive career (including “Star Guitar,” “Hey Boy Hey Girl” and closing with “Block Rockin’ Beats”) with colourful and eerie backdrops, along with heavy use of white light, the entire set was entrancing, euphoric, freaky, and incredibly fun — sometimes all at once. It even tops any of Travis Scott, Arctic Monkeys or Florence + the Machine’s headlining sets from last year’s edition. Donald Glover, you’re gonna need luck topping this one.Janelle Monáe, Montreal, MorMor, Osheaga, Rüfüs Du Sol, Young Thug