Osheaga 2010 (Day 1)

I got home from a nine hour drive from Montreal, checked my e-mail, and collapsed into bed at 11:30. Osheaga 2010 was unreal. I still can barely find the words to describe it all.

The line up, as I’ve been ranting about for months, was incredible. If you could only go to one show this summer, this would’ve been the festival to end all festivals. Last years Osheaga boasted Coldplay and the Beastie Boys, this years headliners were Weezer and The Arcade Fire. Just looking at the wikipedia for it is mind-boggling. They’ve covered all their bases when it comes to music.

That’s a little vague but there’s so much happening all at once that it’s impossible to really take a snapshot of what is going on. On one end of the park Major Lazer is holding a rock solid dance party at Piknik Electronik while The Black Keys are finishing up their Zeppelin-esque blues, at another end, Snoop Dogg’s Escalade and subsequent army of bodyguards is pulling up to another stage.

If you didn’t go this year, be ready for next year. Osheaga is an amazing festival and the trip to beautiful Montreal is well worth it. Pics and story after the jump…

The Quebecois are leisurely. To the point that it can really get frustrating. I guess that is charming in a very European way. One could linger over a meal for two hours and stroll down Rue Ste. Catherine for some shopping, but on the Osheaga schedule, the pressure was on. We had only a few brief hours to peruse the downtown before boarding a subway tram to Parc Jean-Drapeau.

I have a fairly good sense of direction. When it comes to festivals like Osheaga, one is safe just to follow the hipsters. We navigated the underground trains by following anyone sporting some Ray-Bans and an ironic t-shirt. If they were under 30 and had a moustache, we knew they’d lead us to safety. With a turnout of 53,000 people, there were almost as many Wayfarers and moustaches.

Exiting the dreary underground tunnels filled me excitement. We were finally here, after months of waiting and hoping and only sorting out my press-accreditation the previous week, it was all ready to go. We got in without hassle. Outdoor festivals have a more relaxed attitude when it comes to contraband. People usually assume they can’t bring certain things and don’t, but I can admit to seeing more than my share of outside alcohol bottles. Not to mention alcohol in general. Quebec has relaxed liquor laws, one could drink everywhere on the festival grounds. When in Rome, I thought.

The interesting thing about drinking at Osheaga is that there’s almost no line to buy alcohol. To buy food, yes, ten to fifteen minutes. To use the ATM, longer than I cared to find out. Alcohol was usually line-less. Not to mention there were roving alcohol-vendors throughout the park.

I read that in Quebec if you sit at a picnic table with a prepared meal, you’re allowed to have open alcohol in public. However in Quebec it’s less of a big deal than it is here. Drinking that is. People drink a lot more casually.

We spent the majority of the day at the two main stages, presented by Blackberry and Budweiser. I don’t know what to tell you about the performances. They were good, I guess when you have about 53,000 people watching you, you’ll probably sing/rap/dance your heart out. I managed to get decently close for acts like K’naan, Stars, Pavement, The National, and even The Arcade Fire. If you were willing to arrive before the set-times and stand near the edge of the stage you could get decently close. Ear plugs would definitely be advised. I’ll be going to Wakestock with them in for sure. Yea, you don’t look super bad-ass with them in. But you’re going to look even less bad-ass with a hearing aid (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but being deaf because you stood next to a speaker one too many times is the worst reason to have a hearing aid, some people are born deaf and would cherish their ability to hear some mellow notes on a hot summer day). Protect your ears young’uns, I don’t even get that ringing in my ears from shows anymore. It’s sad. I’ve learned my lesson though.

Peeing was not a terribly pressing issue. We managed to always find a port-a-potty with a relatively small line. Again with a population of about 1/3 of Oakville in attendance, the bathroom situation was handled.  Amber had to pee, so I was waiting for her among the rows of portable toilets.
“Is this where people who aren’t peeing come to wait?” A dude asked me.
Yes it was. We struck up a conversation. He was from Toronto and had been to Osheaga two years in a row. He said the crowds were going to be terrible by the end of the night. It would take an hour to get on the subway at the end of the night.
A hipster-ish girl arrives and enters the conversation. Last year’s bathrooms were much fewer. She’s also from Toronto, and was at the Olympic Island Festival. We are forming an interesting discussion group in the centre of Pee Alley. A third girl arrives shortly before Amber. It is clear that neither of our parties is peeing anymore. We remain for a few more minutes chatting about the festival and the last few festivals we’ve been too. As we turn to leave we bump into a few friends and spend a few more enjoyable minutes discussing Osheaga and the long trek to the city. The bathroom lines become increasingly social over the weekend. I guess we were all brought together with the common bond of being hipsters with heavy bladders.

Arcade Fire closed the first night of the show, with a grand finale involving fireworks. It was a good feeling to stand inside that massive crowd and hear No Cars Go. No brawls, no pushing and shoving, just thousands upon thousands of voices singing in the cool evening air.

We left shortly before the end, snagging the subway before it would get too busy. Had a late dinner of Vietnamese food before heading home exhausted to rest for the following day.

All photos that aren’t credited are thanks to Ambbermash. Who shared her camera with me when I wasn’t allowed to bring an SLR, her only request was that I mention her tumblr, so check it out if you can!

More to come!

  1. I know it sounds sad but festival toilet queues are fantastic places for meeting and chatting to people. When we’re cleaning the toilets we have a fantastic rapport with the crowd.

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