Osheaga 2013 – Day 2 Executive Summary (Saturday)
Day 2: Canadian indie pop, 90s legends, and an instrumental rock band highlight day 2 at Osheaga.
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Stars: The first act I caught today were
Toronto’s Montreal’s Stars. The band made sure they noted multiple times that they are from Montreal. Yet in Toronto, they say they’re from Toronto. This is called “having your cake and eating it too.”
Update: In hindsight, perhaps my sarcastic first paragraph comes off as a bit pretentious, despite me trying to be funny. It’s hard to tell tone on the Internet, but I meant nothing but love, and hopefully singer Amy Millan means the same with her tweet. I’m just kidding Stars, I know your geographical story – I’m just giving you a hard time.
@PeteHatesMusic We all live in Montreal. We all grew up in Toronto.
— Amy Millan (@amymillan) August 4, 2013
Semantics aside, Stars played a “hometown show”, with the drummer rocking an Expos hat, which was a nice touch. The clouds rolled in and the crowd was happy. They showed their appreciation during Ageless Beauty, which was a slice of pop heaven.
Similar to my interview with Torquil Campbell, he had a few mean things to say to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. No love at the top.
When the band launched into their hit Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, someone around me exclaimed “Now this is a festival!” The band built towards a strong finish, with tracks Take Me To The Riot and Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It – two collectively long titled songs. The last track, Hold On…, even had the beer guy rocking out. If you were looking for some bedroom indie pop on a sunny afternoon, then the Stars definitely hit the spot.
Tegan and Sara: Pitch perfect pop. This might’ve been a problem if you wanted a big variation from their albums. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, with a large female contingency singing and dancing along. The band also had the best tweet hashtag of the day.
— Tegan and Sara (@teganandsara) August 3, 2013
What was with those bugs?! Although I didn’t catch Macklemore & Lewis later in the day, Tegan and Sara did join them for their pro-gay song, Same Love, which was a great moment for the band and a very memorable day for the rising indie darlings.
Bonobo: I had casually checked out the electronic stage in passing, but I made my first formal appearance during Bonobo. I didn’t really know much about him apart from a few casual listens after hearing PHM cohort Rich playing a track of his I really liked. Bonobo (aka Simon Green) had very unique rhythms and mixes to kick off the set. Not too in your face, but mellow, head bobbin’ beats. The set morphed into more blips and bloops (clearly a technical term) and vocal samples. The set was highlighted by two conversations overheard around me:
1) (upon seeing Bonobo on stage) “Oh, this is Bonobo! So that’s why they’ve been playing Bonobo.”
2) (15 minutes into the set) “When does Bonobo start?”
“They started 15 minutes ago – this is not the between band music.”
Now that we know who Bonobo is, be sure to check him out for some good beats.
Explosions in the Sky: We just interviewed the band and I personally found the responses fascinating (and the questions weren’t half bad either), so I was excited to see them on Saturday. Bathed in roaming purple lights, the four piece (plus touring player) started loud before descending into a musical soundscape with varying tempos and dynamics. The louds were gladly louder, and the climaxes more satisfying.
There were two percussionists for some tracks due to roaming instrumentation, which added another dimension. The band had some animated members, lost in producing the music that the crowd then got lost in themselves.
The band didn’t need visual musical cues from one another – they did their own thing and they did it well. For those who don’t know Explosions in the Sky, or don’t know what goes into making their music, this might’ve been a nice eye opener for you. Seeing the individual sounds and efforts, the sometimes frantic strumming, picking, and pounding of the various instruments, it was a delight as always.
Beck: This was the guy I wanted to see this festival. The excitement was dulled a little when Beck was 20 minutes late. I don’t get it – given the side by side stage set up, all waiting time is eliminated. However, a random video started on the screen and I’m not sure if it was part of his set and it was aborted or what. Anyway, the show kicked off at 9:25pm with a harmonica during opener Devil’s Haircut. Beck’s vocals seemed restrained during the opener. However, he was rocking a cowboy hat of sorts and a country-ish shirt and suit jacket.
The rain hit us during the second track, Black Tambourine. This meant that umbrellas, which are surprisingly allowed to be brought into the festival, popped up and blocked our view.
Beck hit the harmonica during the fourth song, playing an upbeat tune that got the crowd clapping, as the band left Beck on his lonesome to play One Foot in the Grave.
The band then did a Tainted Love cover, with Beck noting that he didn’t know it well and might need our help. The song then morphed into the track Modern Guilt midway through.
To be honest, I was not impressed with the set at this point. Beck seemed like he wanted to be somewhere else, with lazy vocals and a lack of a stage presence. Could it go up from here? Thankfully, yes.
Beck announced that some surf rock would be played, as he walked to the front of the stage and moved around a bit. This got the crowd into the groove as they played Gamma Ray. A sitar was brought out and they jammed for a bit before going into Loser, officially bringing the crowd to life. I feel bad for Beck, as he has so many good albums but this is what it took to make it a party. The crowd sung along with glee, and really began to move their bodies.
After the track, Beck talked about how Montreal has always danced during his tours when other cities stood still. Beck began to be a little more animated, and the crowd did, too, as they followed up Loser with Odelay track Hot Wax. Towards the end of the song, Beck made a speech about walking around the “dome” on the island, and finding a guitar solo from 1987 and brought it here for us. Then Beck played a 1980s-sounding guitar solo. He never claimed he wasn’t a weirdo.
Beck then came up front for Que Onda Guero and rapped and kept up his high energy. After a sampled intro, there were live drums and a furious pace for Girl. I thought this was awesome and noted it in my phone at the same time my friend said “this song doesn’t translate well.” Well, I have a music blog so no one will read what you think, pal! It is interesting though, how two people with similar tastes can take two wildly different views of the song.
The sitar came back out for Solider Jane, and man, do we need some more sitars in live music or what? Beck busted out a harmonica and acoustic guitar for Golden Age off of his heartbreak album, Sea Change. The track has great vocals, showcasing the music toolbox of Beck. Seriously – he raps, he sings gentle songs, he sings rock songs, he dances – he can do it all.
We had a couple more slow songs with the same instrumentation, including Lost Cause and a song from the soundtrack of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind called Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.
Beck then oddly plugged his Song Reader sheet music album that he released last year. He explained how it worked and that it had 20 songs, and also questioned why he did it. Why did you do it and not record new songs for us?! They played a track from there called Just Noise, which was a straight forward and enjoyable tune. It even had a ukulele!
Perhaps the coolest song of the night was Sissyneck, which Beck pointed out had a beat similar to another song. After making it painfully obvious for a bit, the band then segued into the Michael Jackson song Billie Jean, with Beck commenting that there were square lights on the floor. Beck busted out some moves as the band played a couple of verses of the MJ track, before seguing back into Sissyneck.
They finished with one-two punch of E-Pro and then Where It’s At. Beck used Where It’s At to do some random chattering, in which he said “I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to go in the closet with R Kelly.” Me neither!
All in all, Beck was arguably the most fun act of the day but not the best act. A better setlist and a quicker start to the show would’ve made this a set that couldn’t be topped.
Sad to have missed: Tricky. Again, a victim of schedule and convenience.
Coolest outfits of the day: The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas outfits. Complete with fly swatters. Nice touch.
Best decision of the day: Eating a poutine from St. Hubert. Never had one before, and haven’t eaten at a St. Hubert since they packed up from the Toronto area when I was a kid. It was delightful, and I’m having it for lunch and dinner on Sunday – fuck calories!
Worst thing at the festival: All of the vendors, especially the alcohol servers. I have no less than 5 examples of people claiming they haven’t gotten the right change back, or not wanting to tip the people as much as they think they deserve. One girl had to hold her boyfriend back while he yelled at the guy. I witnessed an argument where two people who didn’t know each other both told a vendor he dropped a $2 coin that someone else was owed, and he tried to pocket it, saying he gave them all their change. Another girl said she only gets paid in tips, so you have to tip her. Despicable behaviour – can we hire new vendors?