Sun Shines On Osheaga 2023 Day 2

The Sun shines on Osheaga 2023 Day 2
Billie Eilish photo by Tim Snow

Yet another beautiful day at Osheaga. Sporting much less attractive footwear (learning from yesterday’s muddy musicking) the race to catch as many acts as possible was on! The new Osheaga site set up eliminates the Tree stage, a leafy respite between the larger stages that was the spot for up-and-comers (highlights from last year include Les Louanges and Wet Leg). Work in Parc Jean Drapeau means that the area that hosted the Tree stage is inaccessible. This means less shade, more walking and two footbridge crossings necessary to move between the two sets of main stages.

Whereas last year it was possible to rush back and forth between the main stages, this year it is a futile affair. Plans to start the day with the spectacular genre-defying Lido Pimienta on the far off Green stage and then the charming dream pop of Tennessee’s Goth Babe on the River stage meant missing the majority of both and the biggest disappointment of the fest so far – missing all but the last moments of Nigerian Afrobeats singer Adekunle Gold.

This left great, desperate hope that at least Pimienta might, just might, show up somewhere else – and that was alongside the power house that is Bomba Estéreo. When front woman Liliana Saumet took the stage decked out in head to toe fluorescent brilliance, sparkling and draped with ribbons of colour and the rhythm dropped, the group transformed the field into a carnival. There were folks who were well familiar with songs like the bouncy “To My Love” and self-affirming “Soy Yo”, singing along at the tops of their lungs and dancing joyously. But among those less familiar, a woman was overheard saying “these guys are great, how did I not know about them??” Consider yourself lucky to now be acquainted. And then for the last song – “Ojitos Lindos”, the hit combination tune with superstar Bad Bunny – Saumet invited on stage not only Lido Pimienta, but also Nelly Furtado, all singing the chorus, “y solo mírame con esos ojitos lindos“ (“and just look at me with those pretty eyes”).

Vancouver’s Peach Pit started out in a style that could be this year’s Turnstile. But then they took it down a notch providing a melodic and bouncy pop punk that was met with appreciation from the audience. This is music for summer road trips (heck, they even added in a touch of “Hotel California” at the end of “Give Up Baby Go”), and it was a perfect balm for the late afternoon Osheaga crowd. “Vickie”, a song that front man Neil Smith described as being about “when your best friend pisses you off” was both bouncy and open-road worthy.

On this, Billie Eilish day, which seemed to be significantly busier than Friday, the earlier disappointments led to a difficult decision later in the day to skip out on Carly Rae Jepsen in exchange for the ability to stake out a claim for space in front of the main stage for the aforementioned Ms. Eilish. On the way over, walking passed the dance-music friendly Island stage, it was possible to catch the tail end of eclectic electro pop from the Marseillais French 79 and walk right into a dense mass of people entranced by the bass driven Sofi Tukker as they launched into their fantastic mashup of their song “Matadora” and the White Lotus theme. Dressed in what appears to be a popular look on and offstage: feather edged sheer, Sophie Hawley-Weld pranced around the stage, which was fashioned with a roundabout and swingset. Tucker Halpern, for his part, kept score between Lollapalooza and Osheaga, tallying points for audience energy. With songs like “Emergency” and platonic ideal of a hi-NRG dance track, “Batshit”, Sofi Tukker provided the kind of fun that is exactly what a summer festival crowd wants.

Shifting immediately to The National was, let’s just say, jarring. But halfway through the doomscrolling-focused lead single “Tropic Morning News”, from their most recent album First Two Pages of Frankenstein, Matt Berninger had everyone on side. In his trademark suit and glasses, the man who looks like a favourite high school English teacher marched through a battery of well-loved songs from the band’s near quarter-century life span. Highlights included the lovely “I Need My Girl”, the self-depreciating yet triumphant “Mr. November”, and the final “Terrible Love”, which found Berninger engaged in another trademark element of performance: clambering deep into the hordes of people with camera phones ready to capture the action.

Another Osheaga genre shift: Baby Keem then followed. Though his cousin Kendrick Lamar will be completing his hat trick of Osheaga performances on Sunday night, this was Keem’s first time in Montreal, and he made the most of it, launching into the head-nod necessary “Orange Soda” and his charisma was evident, throwing in his TikTok smash combination with Kanye West, “Praise God”, and reaching a climax with a pyrotechnic-laden performance of “Family Ties”.

The crowd then had to wait a few minutes for Billie Eilish – this was perhaps the first wait of the festival, given the usual perfect timing presented by the two-stage set up. But this just upped the anticipation and when Eilish appeared and started with “Bury A Friend”, everyone was at fever pitch. Much like Keem, Eilish was able to single handedly hold the audience in her thrall, engaging in bits of banter, encouraging people to keep their energy up and playing a little bit of Simon Says (or in this case Billie Says), asking for folks to jump up and down and wave their hands in the air. Armani White, who is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, was invited on stage to perform the soundtrack to a million Tiktok, with the titular singer, the show ending with a one-two punch of “Bad Guy” and the rousing crescendo of “Happier Than Ever”, she left the sell-out crowd feeling the very same way.

words by Erin MacLeod


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