Though the large, leafy trees at Parc Jean-Drapeau allow for a less blazing hot experience at Osheaga – especially as one walks between stages – the overall weather continued to provide a cool breeze. As the second day of the fest began, the clouds seemed to threaten rain, but it held off throughout the afternoon and evening, offering a more comfortable experience for audiences watching some of the hottest acts, culminating in the absolute wonder that is Burna Boy. But there was so much great music to be heard in the run up to the clear highlight of Osheaga day two.
It was not surprising to witness the warmer than the weather reception to Sampa the Great, the multilingual Zambian-born and Australian-based wonder. She’s an incredibly charismatic performer, enthusiastic and playful, but also driven and dedicated to showing the crowd a good time. Her cover of “Fu-Gee-La” struck the right balance between the original and unique Sampa stylings, while her own tracks from “Energy” to “OMG” demonstrate why you should run, not walk, to see her if you have the opportunity. She even offered up her verse from Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s fantastic remix of “Agüita” (it’s arguably the best bit of the tune).
It needs to be mentioned that the main stage areas in Osheaga are structured with a neighbouring stage set up in which an act performs on one stage while the set up for the next act is happening next door. This means that seconds after one artist completes their set, another is ready to get started. The programmers seem to organize the proceedings such that different genres are presented one after the other, making it more likely that people will leave than shuffle ten or twenty feet over to see the next band. Thing is, today’s listening environment is one of endless playlists, even more endless access to different genres, and the reality of swiping from one trending TikTok tune to the next, with no need to connect any dots.
Thus, when Montreal’s Men I Trust took the stage, the genre switch from Sampa the Great was not jarring. Front woman Emmanuelle Proulx provides an admittedly different approach, but equally intense and considered performance. Given that the Stranger Things-fuelled adoration of Kate Bush does not seem to be waning, the whispering, ethereal, confessional vocals of Men I Trust, sometimes edging into falsetto, seem to be of the moment. It was hard to tell if the big support was a hometown crowd, but their sound drew quite an appreciative audience. Again, like yesterday, Osheaga’s programmers appear to have chosen the best band for the weather. The dreamy melodic groove of songs like “All Night”, “Oh Dove” and, of course, “Show Me How”, were perfect pairings for a late summer afternoon, their music refreshing like the cool breeze in the air.
Though Sampa the Great and Men I Trust seemed to work together, what was more than a jump was the switch to Tai Verdes, an artist with a huge viral hit, “Stuck in the Middle” – you’ve heard it, guaranteed. It’s obvious that Verdes has a relentlessly positive attitude that he wanted to share with the audience, constantly exhorting them to “get their hands” up. This is a definite reflection of the sticktoitiveness that helped him build the necessary social media capital to get a record deal. He does, however, need a few more big tunes like “Happy til it hurts” and “A-O-K” in order to provide musical fuel for his obvious enthusiasm.
Walking over to the other set of main stages, it was evident from the noise of the crowd that people really, really like Mitski. “Washing Machine Heart” was a massive singalong, with the appreciative crowd not only hanging on her every word, but her every motion. Another voice that can edge into that ethereal falsetto zone, her intense dancing and fully embodied performance style was cheered on at every turn, from “I don’t smoke” to “First Love/Late Spring”. There’s a level of earnestness in Mitski’s music as well as stage presence that is refreshing, allowing her to transcend the meme that is “Nobody”. It’s still a great song with a lovely crescendo, regardless of how many times you’ve heard that one 20 second bit. And yes, the moment she got to the chorus, dozens of cellphones shot up in the air to capture said 20 seconds. It is interesting that now is an age where it’s common to not only have a favourite song, but a favourite specific 20 second bit of a specific song (even if you aren’t super keen on the rest!).
The immediate shift to Khruangbin set the stage for Burna Boy, offering up bass-heavy danceable grooves that sometimes sound like old dusty groove disco with a touch of highlife guitar. The sun-bleached bounce is a visceral feeling, especially on songs with vocals like “So We Won’t Forget”, even if the stage show provided more atmosphere than entertainment. The band is probably at its absolute best in a smaller, enclosed space, however the sound did seem to fill the sprawling park nonetheless. Khruangbin then gently got the whole crowd involved with their grab bag medley of tunes that offers their versions of a little something for everyone – from Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” to Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game”, with a whole wack of other stuff in between, including Warren G & Nate Dogg (or Michael McDonald, depending on your reference point), ODB, Snoop Dogg, and PM Dawn (or Spandau Ballet, again, it depends).
And then there was Burna Boy. Apologies for the review ending here – yes, there were other acts, but all roads ended at this performance. With a full band (complete with clean, clear horns) and full of energy, the man born Damini Ogulu danced, kicked and ran across the stage, all the while demonstrating that his is not just the future of Nigerian music, but the future of pop music. This is a guy who has worked with Stormzy, Dave, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, and can more than overshadow them all. Just as enthralling live, from “Location” to “Last Last” this was a performance from a superstar who had everyone wrapped around his finger.
Words by Erin MacLeod