Just thought I’d update you folks halfway through our vacation week. We just got back from a wonderful time in our fave new city “a la francaise”–Montreal.
The Osheaga music festival went off Sunday without a hitch–the skies hinted a lack of cooperation, but no big storms came–just a bit of spitting rain here and there. We had our ponchos and umbrellas, and camped out on a towel on the ground-so we fared O.K.
Although the lineup was not as stellar as last year, the bands were still great. It was a very eclectic lineup-ranging from soul to hip-hop, punk to techno. I’ll put in a little review of each band we got the chance to see (4 bands were playing on 4 different stages). We rated them out of 5 stars.
Louis XIV- a rock in roll band with a real live rock and roll attitude. They put on a fun show, the lead singer reminded me of what Bob Dylan would sound like with a hard-core edge. (3 stars)
Beast–this group made a surprise performance because the band that was supposed to play in their place, Foals, cancelled at the very last minute. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because these guys ROCKED!! They were a “trip hop” band (kind of like Portishead with street attitude) and the lead singer was this cool woman with a shaved head. We were really surprised at what a cool band this was!! (4 stars)
N.E.R.D–These guys have been around the hip-hop scene for a while (Pharrell Williams is probably their most noted member). They disappointed us by taking way too long to set up (I mean, every other group took less than 10 minutes to set up because they were all on a tight schedule. These guys were getting WAY too picky about the sound and didn’t start until 1/2 hour later, putting everyone else behind). Aside from that, they put on a pretty engaging show. (3 stars)
Spiritualized–how to describe this guy? Trippy, chill-out music with angry lyrics. Like the Flaming Lips on sedatives, with soul backup singers. Not bad, but not up our alley either (2 stars)
Sleeper car--one word: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZz. (1.5 stars)
Metric: a born-in-Montreal group with a sound similar to last year’s Stars, a fun group with a cute female lead singer. Nothing too unique about them, but fun (3 stars)
Duchess Says: Little did we know, when hanging out at the MEG stage, that the innocent-looking redhead standing in front of us was the lead singer of this Montreal-based punk group. When she took the stage, she became a screaming banshee who jumped into the crowd and started slinging mud at people. CRAZY, but definitely entertaining to watch! (2.5 stars).
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: Sharon Jones has been a soul legend for years, and from seeing this performance we can understand why. This band has AMAZING talent, Sharon Jones has so much energy, she was like the female James Brown! Not a single person wasn’t dancing when she came on, and the crowd went wild. The whole band was vibrant and TIGHT. A pleasant surprise for us, and one of Osheaga’s best acts! (5 stars).
Cat Power: We got burned once before by Cat Power at Mass Moca years ago. She has been notorious for inconsistent live performances that run from spellbinding to sheer histrionics. Honestly Cat Power was more solid this time around, she appeared to have taken her medication this time (there was a writeup of her in Rolling Stone recently, chronicling her bad performance history and addiction recovery). She did however hide at one side of the stage while she performed, and near the end of the set she botched her songs so badly that they were barely recognizable. That said, at least she didn’t run off stage crying like at Mass Moca. I love her music, but seeing the girl live is not worth it. She is in her own world and nobody else can go there with her. (2 stars).
Devotchka: This band gives a whole new meaning to eclectic. Band members hail from Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania and they combine these influences with haunting melodies that range from polka, punk, dance hall and soul. What’s even more impressive is the fact that each band member can aptly play more than one instrument, and for the set they switched between such instruments as the cello and trumpet, the violin and accordion, the drums and the sousaphone. Oh, and they apparently did the soundtrack to little Miss Sunshine. A really impressive show that was hard to describe! (3.5 stars)
Iggy and the Stooges: When I first heard that Iggy Pop was going on a sort of “reunion tour” with his old buddies, I was excited but also skeptical. Judging from how some recent reunion tours have fallen short (Genesis to name a few), I was afraid I’d see a tired, old Iggy playing new stuff that just didn’t have the raw, visceral energy that the old Stooges emanated. Well I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised to see Iggy screaming and writhing around like he had been in the 70’s. The crowd went insane! It was hard to believe he had aged at all, which just goes to show–sometimes you can’t take the rock and roll out of the person. I was happy to hear that he didn’t perform much from his new album, but instead chose to perform most of the tried and true punk anthems. He completed the set by letting everyone and anyone come up on stage and mosh into a crazy free-for-all (don’t worry I didn’t do that!) (I was amazed at how civil most people at Osheaga were. Not one single person tried to push or shove us at any of the performances. In fact only one person bumped into us and apologized profusely (gasp! using MANNERS?? What is THAT???). Canadians are just so nice…)
Oh, and of all the performances, which one do you think the baby got excited about? Did she kick for Metric? NERD? Cat Power? Sharon Jones? (well, a little bit for her). No, the music that our kid kicked up a storm for was Iggy and the Stooges! That’s right; our kids gonna be a hardcore punk…
Booka Shade: It was pretty magical stuff to see this techno group perfoming in the MEG stage, tucked away in a little corner of the forest, the stage lit up by the glow of their audiovisual screen and glow-stick enamored turntable. Booka had incredible energy that got everyone jumping. It felt like a rave. These two German guys know how to get a party going! (4 stars).
The Killers: these guys were the big headliners, and they didn’t dissapoint. We were happy to hear a few faves, but to be honest, at this point our legs were killing us from standing for over 9 hours and we were starting to get tired and cranky. (God, we’re getting old!). So we didn’t stay for the whole set, but we were happy with what we saw (3.5 stars).
All in all, Osheaga was again an amazing event! We were so happy to have gone. Everyone was extremely cool and nice there, and we felt like we belonged. Even though there was a lot of drinking and pot-smoking going on, no one was acting out of control and it felt pretty safe. Only one person that we saw started acting out, at which point security immediately booted him out (and held him down!) before he disturbed anyone or anything. There were actually quite a few people this year with small children; they came well-prepared with special headphones to block out the noise for their kids and they seemed to be pretty darn content. Which gives us hope for next year, maybe??
Everytime we go to Montreal we find more reasons to love it. This time of year is festival mania, with hundreds of festivals going on all summer long. To name a few, our visit there was sandwiched between such festivals as the DiversCite LGBT festival (which we were sorry to miss; after realizing THAT’s why many of the streets were blocked and it was impossible to get to our hotel-we missed the drag queen parade!), the Anime Festival, The International Film festival, The International Gourmet Festival, Fetish Weekend (which Chris was sad to miss, lol), The International Graffiti festival and the Montreal Blues Fest. Wow, and that was only in the first two weeks of August!
We ate at an Asian vegetarian restaurant which had some pretty unique faux meat options, such as veggie goat and eel. I tried veggie sweet and sour chicken, and Chris had veggie herb-encrusted “fish”. Both were actually quite good! I’m not sure what veggie eel would’ve been like…slimy?? We also grabbed dinner one night at our fave veg. buffet place, Le Commensal. Each morning, courtesy of our hotel (Hotel St. Denis again–can’t beat the location or price),we had breakfast at Pacini. The waitstaff there were very nice.
On Monday we wandered around Vieux Montreal (aka Old Port Montreal). The cobblestone streets, narrow passageways and decorated verandas elicited the charm of Old-World France. It was lovely to walk with Chris and explore all of the little patisseries and sundries shops, and watch the flower sellers and street performers. We stopped and ate at a gelateria that sweetened everything with maple syrup. Later on in the day we attempted to visit Parc du Mont Royal, the extinct volcano park from which Montreal got its namesake. Little did we know what a far walk it was from the metro stop, so we decided to head back. We wanted to see Hellboy II but it was only playing in French (with French dubbing, not subtitles), and the Cine Roboteque was closed on Mondays, so we had to settle for playing rummy at a little cafe called Second Cup.
Sigh….je’aime beacoup visiter Montreal! I certainly hope we can return again someday soon, even with a little Renee in tow (she does afterall have to get in touch with her French Canadian heritage).
Later on this week we are heading to New Jersey for the All Points West Music festival and to spend time with the sis and nephews.
More updates and pics to come within the next week or so!