Thursday, August 9, 2012

Osheaga Music Festival: the music - Friday

Continued from yesterday's post: I went to Osheaga Music Festival on the island of Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal. Today, I attempt to review the bands I saw on Day 1.

Radio Radio
I arrived at the festival just in time to see these rappers from Nova Scotia who rap in Acadian French. Yep. You heard me right. I love Radio Radio. One of the items on my bucket list may or may not be to rap in Acadian French one day. I particularly love their song Jacuzzi, which more or less has every line ending with "dans mon Jacuzzi".  Sometimes I find myself narrating every detail of my every day life to the tune and format of the song under my breath:

j'achète du thé dans mon Jacuzzi
je lis des documents dans mon Jacuzzi
j'attends l'autobus dans mon Jacuzzi
(and then inevitably I switch to English)
I fight with Rogers dans mon Jacuzzi
I notarize copies dans mon Jacuzzi

And so on. Voulez-vous venir dans mon Jacuzzi?

Dum Dum Girls
I love watching girl bands, due to the fact that I was completely deprived of female rock role models as a child. It was not cool for girls to be in bands when I was a kid. Girls wanted to be pop stars like the Spice Girls so they weren't interested in starting a band with you, and boys didn't want to be in a band with you because, they would patiently explain, nobody likes the sound of a female voice in rock because girls are pop stars like the Spice Girls. My adolescence would have been a completely different experience if this noisy dream pop girl band from Los Angeles had been big in my time. It was great to see the Dum Dum Girls play, even if their set was devastatingly short due to them starting late because of technical complications.  Please come back to Canada. Please perform in Ottawa and show a new generation of little girls how women can rock out awesomely.  And please play your Smiths cover of "There is a Light That Never Goes Out."

Franz Ferdinand
I can only name one song by Franz Ferdinand, albeit one really awesome song, so I hadn't intended on catching these guys. But I was hungry for dinner and the lines to the food vendors were so long they took me right into the stage areas where I could have a pretty good view of the band while waiting in line.  I ran into my friend Dean, a guy that despite us never making plans to party together, always seems to be in the mood to spontaneously party with me.  We waited in line for pizza cones together while listening to Franz Ferdinand.  They played Take Me Out, the only song of theirs that I knew because it was an anthem from my undergrad years.  Dean and I danced.   Then Franz Ferdinand played a Donna Summers cover.  Dean and I danced a memorial dance.  Franz Ferdinand made for an excellent dance soundtrack while we waited in line for dinner.

Random note: I went to middle school with a guy whose great-uncle was rumoured to have shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The pizza cones were delicious, although almost too much cheese, and I never complain about too much cheese.

Florence + the Machine
Florence was inexplicably dressed like a witch.  She was not, however, acting like one, as she was running around the stage urging everybody to hug each other and express themselves with love.  I thought that was nice.  It was at that point that I realized that the band was British.  I'm slow. I just realized last week that Call Me Maybe is a pop song and that is why people keep making references to "And this is crazy...". I thought everyone was just being weird.

I was exhausted, and while the band played, I fell asleep under a tree, a tree that incidentally turned out to be where all the gay men were sleeping. Perhaps they too wanted to save their energy for the next act: Sigur Rós.

Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós! My teenage dream come true. I was annoyed that I had to choose between seeing MGMT and Sigur Rós, but, like I said, seeing this Icelandic band live was something that I'd dreamed of since I was a teenager. In high school, while everyone else was listening to Korn and Rage Against the Machine and all sorts of high-energy loud rock stuff, I listened to quiet disturbingly mellow music that took at least six minutes just to build up, often based on a single phrase that swelled up into something huge and momentous. This was before Broken Social Scene came and popularized the big sound and brought a catchy pop feel to it.   You can't sing along to any Sigur Rós song, not just because you don't speak Jonsi's imaginary language, but because they weren't meant to be sung along to or danced to. They are meant to haunt you, to sink into your subconscious and profoundly unsettle you.

Sigur Rós performs with a full horns and strings section, bass, drums, organ, and Jonsi playing an electric guitar with a violin bow. It's not exactly a pleasant sound - electric guitars were not built to be played with violin bows, but it is a distinctive sound, a haunting drone that adds to the dream-like quality of the music. The music is weird, and many people don't like it because it's too long, too slow, too weird. I'd say it's an acquired taste, but really, you either love it or you make the trek to catch MGMT. It was strange for me to be able to see this band for the first time, in the bizarre lighting of the stage against the bizarre wall of dreamscape sounds, Jonsi casting giant shadows up against the back of the stage, like the childhood imagery of the monster you've believed lurked in your closet. Or maybe like aliens from the sky, or from the mythical land of Iceland.

The music was so moving that a girl passed out in front of me. Probably from standing in the sun all day long, but maybe she was overcome by the music like me.  I found myself giving away the water bottle I'd so carefully been saving all day - stupid mist tent.

Jonsi asked as how we were doing, possibly the only English he speaks, before switching back to his pseudo-Icelandic made-up language that become words I heard in my sleep sometimes.  There was no asking the crowd to hug their neighbour, or express themselves like Florence + the Machine.  Instead, they left us with an overwhelmingly fantastic finale that climaxed into something that was somehow both terrifying and orgasmic, punctuated with totally random fireworks that apparently were not planned for the show but were for a different event elsewhere in Montreal, being synched to Queen. It was incredible. It was the reason why I had come to this music festival and endured long lines, hot heat, and expensive food prices all day.

Despite being in the city, I could see the Big Dipper in the sky.


Justice, in contrast, gave us a dance party. The two deejays, looking like a superhero and his skinny little sidekick, set up their deejay booth behind of a bright fluorescent cross, and in front of a literal wall of Marshall stacks (eighteen of them, I counted), which lit up like coordinated pixels of joy. The crowd danced in a wild frenzy while the deejays, dressed in matching jumpsuits, coolly lit a cigarette on stage.  It was quite the show.

Les Breastfeeders

The surprise highlight of the night for me was Les Breastfeeders, an old school rock and roll band from Quebec, with an excessive number of guitars all playing the same thing, as a good rock and roll band should.

To be precise, however, what made the night for me was the creature Johnny Maldoror, who apparently is a real member of the band and not some crazy figure that they picked up off the street for fun.  Picture a petite sized man, pale and slightly balding, dressed inexplicably as a zombie in a suit jacket and skinny jeans with heavy eyeshadow, moving like he was strung out on several layers of heroin.  He was, in theory, the tambourine player, but every once in a while he seemed to slip into uncontrollable seizures, flailing around the stage, throwing up the tambourine and forgetting to catch it, and after buzzing around and jumping off stages, would invariably end up passed out on the ground for a few bars, before jumping back up and starting up the whole sweaty routine again.  It was a surreal sight.

It is also always a pleasure to watch a mosh pit start up.  The organic spontaneous manner in which a mosh pit begins is somewhat like making out with a new date, but amongst a group of young men.  The evening has gone well. You’re feeling the mood. You’re wondering if the other person(s) feels it too. The moment seems right.  Should I? Should I? Should you make the first move and hope the other(s) respond with the same enthusiasm? Or will you just end up looking like a callous idiot?

Eventually somebody goes for it and dives in, and all of a sudden everybody’s doing it, bashing each other in the shoulder with their shoulders and whooping with all the youthful energy that these people have, because everybody knows that scientifically you can’t physically feel pain in a mosh pit.  I was particularly impressed by the relatively equal gender representation in this mosh pit.  Apparently the fans of Les Breastfeeders believe in equal opportunity in moshing. In retrospect though, I probably should not have jumped in wearing flipflops.