Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Festival Season: Osheaga - Day 1

We sent our two most attractive writers to Montreal this past weekend to enjoy the riches that this year's Osheaga music festival had to offer. Also one of us had sex with Duffy, guess which one! Each band gets a letter grade for those of you with real lives too busy to read everything.

The Wooden Sky 2:00pm-2:30pm
Grade: A

The Toronto-based five piece shared their rich folk rock blend under the Scene des Arbres' tent with a natural charm and a shining ability to build a song to a climax. We were especially impressed with the Wooden Sky's unique backing vocals which provided a fullness and passion that made this set one of the day's finest.

*Next, we were ready to enjoy one of our favourites of late, Foals. However, the band canceled last minute due to 'scheduling problems'. We call bullshit. However, the disappointment was curbed quickly, as Texas' Sleepercar were playing a surprise performance on the Mountain stage.

Sleepercar 2:45-3:30
Grade: B

We were set to check out a set from Eddy Grant, who neither of us knew or had heard before. I knew only that he was a reggae artist, but some research after the fact makes me wish he had been there. Grant’s a pretty prolific figure, and did “Electric Avenue,” but I digress…In his place were Sleepercar from West Texas, a side-project of Jim Ward (Sparta, At the Drive-In). The band’s alt-country and rockier tunes were well balanced throughout the set, as Ward showed that his bread and butter yell can be toned down to a blue collar croon when appropriate, well suited to his slow-burning songs about West Texas and everyday obstacles. Highlights were “Wednesday Nights” and “A Broken Promise,” stretched out to incorporate lap-steel solos and singalong builds. Fine set, though a tad slow to get the crowd pumped for Pharrell and co.

N.E.R.D 3:30-4:30
Grade: C

This set was eagerly anticipated by BTA writer mca. He has macked hard on Seeing Sounds this summer, and was anxious to hear the new shit live. However, BTA's shortest contributor was disappointed with set that Pharrell Williams and friends shared. The band started 20 minutes late (a festival faux-pas), the set was marred by pour sound production and a desperation to force the crowd's energy level higher. "Anti-Matter" and "Spaz" came off weak and empty. After a decent rendition of "Rock Star", the BTA team left N.E.R.D's set early to be wowed by Plants & Animals.

Plant & Animals 4:00-4:45
Grade: B-

Playing the remote and rearmost Meg Stage, hometown natives and Polaris nominees Plants & Animals played the majority of their stellar album Parc Avenue. Their set was great, however we couldn’t help notice the 3-piece was going for a faster, much less cinematic version of many grandiose songs including “Bye Bye Bye.” Either for their limited personnel and backing instruments or because they wanted to keep people moving, these uptempo versions weren’t better or worse, just different from what we had expected. Still, the timing and cohesion of the three neon-shaded dudes was tight and they never let any one song become prolonged to the point of stagnation, a necessary tactic when other stages are just minutes away. “Good Friend” was probably the best executed song of the set; funny and lighthearted like the general vibe of the rest of the performance.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 5:45-6:45
Grade: A

After eating some soul food provided by Osheaga's popular poutine shack, we were anxious to check out the festival's Queen of Soul, Ms. Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings. The set began with the Dap Kings getting the crowd going, building anticipation for the entrance of the little soul diva. The beautiful, soulful, and very audible Sharon Jones dominated the stage for the entire performance. As she strutted from stage left to stage right in her Tina Turner dress (and high heeled shoes she would later remove), Sharon Jones showed the Osheaga faithful what Motown/soul should look and sound like. Passionate, natural, fun. Definitely a favourite of the day. And it's soul music! soul.

Devotchka 7:00-8:00
Grade: A

Denver, Colorado’s Devotchka were for me, the surprise of the day. Between east-European gypsy stylings to authentic Spanish mariachi numbers and lots of shit you could categorize at any point in between, these guys were righteous and amazing. Frontman Nick Urata definitely captivated those in attendance with a Morrissey-type swagger and croon, and with a little lady hoisting a massive white tuba to his left and a gent with an accordion to his right they could really do no wrong. Urata played the theremin on a couple tunes, the ancient Russian electronic antennae a performer plays with the proximity of his hands, or in Urata’s case, his guitar and entire body…pretty unreal if you’ve never seen it played by a professional. Recent single “Transliterator” was the most boisterous and well-received of the set, and plenty more aggressive than its recorded counterpart. No lows from this bunch, thoroughly impressive.

Iggy & The Stooges 8:00-9:00

Little did we know, but this would be the last time Iggy and the boys played their instruments (those specific instruments, to make it clearer, their truck got stolen Monday morning). Iggy made it quite clear during the high-energy set that he didn’t give a shit what anybody thought, which is what we all wanted to see. “Be Your Dog,” “No Fun,” and “Real Cool Time” from their eponymous debut sounded spastic and on the brink of collapse. At the point Iggy invited all his fellow freaks up on stage and kids were pouring over the barrier and up the stage wall, with the only thing coming between them and their idol was his purple-shirted bodyguard who boxed them out like Charles Barkley in his prime. A sight to see. Less of a sight to see was Iggy losing his belt and having his jeans ready to fall at any second, but they remained, keeping Iggy on the edge of the law for long enough to play “Search and Destroy” and some other gems. At 61 it’s not easy to explain how he keeps going, but the leatherbacked wonder keeps entertaining the punks and punks at heart as best he can.

Booka Shade 8:30-9:30
Grade: B-

Osheaga met its euro dance party quotient with this German twosome. Armed with a digital drum kit, headset microphones and an odd projection set up, Booka Shade provided a decently-sized audience with an enjoyable and sexually ambiguous 45 minute set. The tracks were solid, but nothing to write home about (sorry mom, one less telegram this week).

Sebastien Tellier 10:00-11:00
Grade: C+

Monsieur Tellier brought his chain-smoking, hobo-haired self and portions of his brilliant Sexuality to Osheaga to close the night as an alternative to those plugs in The Killers. What could have been a very promising, groovy set, especially given the darkness of the Meg Stage and the potential for a dance party dynamic, Tellier and crew played only “Divine” and “Kilometer” to get people moving, disregarding other cuts like “Sexual Sportswear” that would’ve done well with the crowd. One too many slow-burning piano numbers killed the momentum, and solace could only be taken at these moments by observing how incredibly awesome this Parisian is at smoking cigarettes. Like I don’t smoke or anything, but if anybody would get me started into deep, committed chain smoking, this would be the guy to idolize.

At the end of Day 1, we were excited for the talent-filled Day 2, and the prospect that our hostel beds weren't already filled by some gruff, oversized Peruvians.

- mca and BA



I'm surprised about the grades you've given some of these people! I would've thought they would've put on a better performance - anyway I think the people you went to see would be the same people as I would go and see which made it great reading!

lvc said...

sebastien tellier did play sexual was his last song. I agree that the show could have been a little more high energy/dancy, but the crowd didn't seem that into it at all. There were hardly any people left when the show ended.

Brad said...

thanks for the correction...we left right before that final cut...probably shouldn't have assumed anything haha