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Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Osheaga 2012 Day One

Florence & The Machine, Sigur Rós, The Weeknd, and more at Osheaga

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI had decided a little while ago that I was done with big, outdoor music festivals. My last go-around was Pitchfork 2010 – not even what could be considered a “big” festival in the grand scheme of things – and even then, I was really feeling the “I am too old for this”-ness of the experience. But two years is a long time, or at least long enough to forget those aches and pains, and so when the opportunity arose at the last minute to hit Montrél’s Osheaga – Canada’ biggest and last multi-day, all-day outdoor music fest – I said, “why not”. After all, I’ve done fests all over the US and even in Europe – to not have been to the one closest to home (aside from the late Toronto V’s) seemed silly, and this year they’d assembled a pretty impressive lineup by drafting off of Lollapalooza. And so I went.

When I first saw Londoner Charli XCX back at SXSW, the buzz around here was very much in the embryonic stage – people were talking about her but with very little actual music released, it wasn’t entirely clear why they were talking about her. Her short, low-key, afternoon set in the front room of Red Eyed Fly didn’t do much to clarify that either though to be fair, it clearly wasn’t her ideal setting. Which isn’t to say that opening up a festival under the blazing sun and smothering humidity was her element, but it was certainly closer. With a drummer, keyboardist, and no shortage of backing tracks behind her, she led things off with an energized set of clubby electro-pop that went over well with the smattering of early birds gathering in front of the Parc Jean-Drapeau mainstage. Sometimes said backing tracks were more audible than the live instrumentation, but the balance of things eventually settled down and that Charli XCX had a strong voice, capable of conveying both playfulness and drama, was evident – she was no ingenue up there, and though her sound is very much for the kids, her respectable cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” went some way to endearing her to the oldsters in the audience.

Digital Spy and Paper have interviews with Charli XCX.

Photos: Charli XCX @ Scène de la montagne – August 3, 2012
MP3: Charli XCX – “I’ll Never Know”
MP3: Charli XCX – “Valentine”
MP3: Charli XCX – “Nuclear Seasons”
Video: Charli XCX – “Nuclear Seasons”
Video: Charli XCX – “You’re The One”

Typically, bands playing festivals have to agree to a radius clause that prevents them from playing any other local shows for a certain amount of time. Australia’s Jezabels, on the other hand, were playing their second Montrél show in less than 24 hours having played a club show the night before for MMOI, an event running parallel/in conjunction with Osheaga tasked with putting a spotlight on specific acts from around the world. But if they were feeling the effects of the hectic schedule, it didn’t show. Already rising stars down under, they’ve been working hard at making a similar dent in North America on the back of their debut album Prisoner and though their set started over 10 minutes late due to soundchecking issues, they used the remaining time to showcase their stadium rock ambitions with frontwoman Hayley Mary’s soaring vocals and arm-waving choruses.

Zimbio has a feature interview with the band, and they’ve just announced a date at The Mod Club on October 24.

Photos: The Jezabels @ Scène des arbes – August 3, 2012
MP3: The Jezabels – “Try Colour”
MP3: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”
MP3: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Rosebud”
Video: The Jezabels – “Try Colour”
Video: The Jezabels – “Endless Summer”
Video: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”
Video: The Jezabels – “Easy To Love”
Video: The Jezabels – “Hurt Me”

Following up on the same stage were California’s Dum Dum Girls, who were also plagued with technical problems – the first big cheer of the day went not for their retro garage pop, but when they were finally able to get bassist Malia James’ mic working. Still on the road for last year’s Only In Dreams but also in advance of their new EP End Of Daze, out September 25, they put on an energetic set that wasn’t too different from the times I saw them last year at NXNE and at SXSW – right down to the sweltering heat making their make-up run – but their harmonies sounded more up front this time and, oh – both Dee Dee and Malia changed their hair colours, if that’s the sort of thing you’re keeping track of. Though the myriad technical issues persisted through their set – at times there were as many techs on stage as band members – they soldiered through for a solid set.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ Scène des arbes – August 3, 2012
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Lord Knows”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “D.A.L.”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

It seems I only see Franz Ferdinand at festivals – the last time being Toronto’s final V Fest in 2009 – but that’s okay, as they’re a fantastic festival band. The timing was a bit odd as there’s been no official word on a follow-up to 2009′s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, though a release sometime this year has been promised for a while and new songs have been trickling out in live sets. In any case, it’s probably safe to say that no one cared that there wasn’t a new record out because they wanted to hear the old stuff, which Franz delivered with gusto. Opening with “Dark Of The Matinée” and powering through basically non-stop disco-rock anthems before closing with, “This Fire”, theirs was the first set that made the day feel like it was entering prime time. There was one new song, thrown in for good measure and sounding for lack of a better description very Franz. Also new was Alex Kapranos’ moustache which, even with his formidable swagger, I don’t think he pulled off. Can’t win ‘em all, guys.

Photos: Franz Ferdinand @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Can’t Stop Feeling”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “No You Girls”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Ulysses”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Eleanor Put Your Boots On”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Jeremy Fraser”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Wine In The Afternoon”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “L. Wells”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Fallen”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Walk Away”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “This Fire”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Michael”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “The Dark Of The Matinee”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
Video: Franz Ferdinand – “Darts Of Pleasure”

Abel Tesfaye – the Toronto-based R&B singer known professionally as The Weeknd – spent most of 2011 shrouded in mystery, eschewing interviews and overt publicity and riding his trilogy of mixtapes – House Of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes Of Silence – to huge acclaim and a place on that year’s Polaris Prize shortlist. But seeing as how internet acclaim doesn’t put food on the table, it was only a matter of time before Tesfaye stepped out of the shadows and onto the stage. Specifically, big festival stages like at Osheaga. Fronting a five-piece band and facing a massive crowd of enthusiastic fans, Tesfaye certainly didn’t come across as someone who would shy away from attention. Though he wasn’t a showy performer, he was charismatic and in great voice. It was interesting to see how big a smile he wore considering how dark a perspective he frequently writes from, but I suppose it’s hard to be glum when you’ve got thousands of people – many of them young women – screaming for you. His set went overtime with a drawn-out, vocally acrobatic version of “Wicked Games” and was one of the many points in the weekend when the tag-team setup of the Osheaga mainstages made for an interesting contrast, with half the crowd swooning and the other half, waiting for Florence & The Machine’s set to begin, stewing.

Photos: The Weeknd @ Scène de la montagnes – August 3, 2012
MP3: The Weeknd – “Loft Music”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Life Of The Party”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Zone”
MP3: The Weeknd – “House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls”
MP3: The Weeknd – “What Do You Need”
MP3: The Weeknd – “D.D.”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Fall”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Birds (Part 1)”
MP3: The Weeknd – “High For This”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Initiation”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Montreal”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Outside”
MP3: The Weeknd – “XO/The Host”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Same Old Song”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Morning”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Rolling Stone”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Birds (Part 2)”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Heaven Or Las Vegas”
MP3: The Weeknd – “The Knowing”
MP3: The Weeknd – “Coming Down”
Video: The Weeknd – “The Knowing”

Florence & The Machine could only been delayed, however, not denied. I regard it as a statement of fact rather than boast that I was on board with Florence Welch way early on, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Her first releases painted her as a sort of crazy art-rock eccentric with prodigious vocal gifts but seemingly no inclination to use them conventionally or consistently – which may and well have been the plan at first, but at some point it became evident that big, roof-rattling anthems would be better use for her talents to say nothing of more marketable. Her debut Lungs somewhat split the difference between the two directions, albeit with the older material polished up so as to not embarrass their siblings, but her second album Ceremonials was all bombastic singles with little use for variety or restraint, and it’s hard to argue with the success of that direction – fully half the album has been released as singles and she’s a massive star worldwide, as her marquee billing at festivals like this testified.

Though not the Friday closer, Florence certainly drew the largest crowd of the day and taking the ornately-decorated stage in a billowing blue dress, she was certainly up for the occasion. Sweeping from one side of the stage to other so as to not neglect anyone, the dramatic flourishes and stage moves I commented on at her Toronto debut in November 2009 have only gotten bigger in the interim (I’ve missed all her local shows since) but she tempers the grandiosity of the presentation with appreciation and affection for her fans and playful moves like leaping up and down onstage, heels be damned. It’s possible that it’s all rehearsed and routine, but from my vantage point up front, her huge smile was genuine. It was nice. And it may seem odd to say, but losing her voice as she did a couple weeks ago may have been good for Welch – a complaint I’ve had about her live performance before was that her vocal power would come at the expense of pitch – read: she was flat a lot – but this time out, she was demonstrating more restraint in her delivery, perhaps intending to save her voice but reaping the benefits of being more controlled, more in key, and more dynamic as a result. Whatever it was, even though I don’t necessarily count myself a big fan anymore, I thoroughly enjoyed her set. Some artists are made for festivals.

The National Post, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and The Globe & Mail have interviews with Welch.

Photos: Florence & The Machine @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Breaking Down”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Spectrum (Say My Name)”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Breath Of Life”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Never Let Me Go”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “No Light, No Light”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Shake It Out”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “What The Water Gave Me”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Heavy In Your Arms”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Cosmic Love”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Drumming Song”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”

To paraphrase Winston Zeddemore, when someone asks you if you want to see Sigur Rós twice in 72 hours, you say YES. So a couple days after seeing their blissful set at Echo Beach in Toronto, I was lucky enough to see Iceland’s finest once again. And as great as their Osheaga set was, it really made me thankful that I saw that Toronto show as it was nearly twice as long and far better-paced to allow the beauty of what they do to come through. In a festival setting and limited to a set time of just an hour, they had to dispense with most of the slower, more ambient parts of their show in favour of a more compressed, impactful set list. I appreciated that it wasn’t necessarily their own audience they were playing in front of – I’m sure many didn’t even know who they were – but I did hope that for those unfamiliar, their set would be a gateway of sorts to something magical and otherworldly. Judging from the chants of, “Justice! Justice” that grew from the other half of the mainstage area as their set drew to a close, that probably wasn’t the case. Alas.

The National Post has an interview.

Photos: Sigur Rós @ Scène de la montagne – August 3, 2012
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Popplagio / The Pop Song”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Staralfur”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”
MP3: Sigur Rós – “Nýja lagið”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Rembihnútur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Fjögur Píanó”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Varúð” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version two)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ég anda” (version one)
Video: Sigur Rós – “Ekki Múkk”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Við Spilum Endalaust “
Video: Sigur Rós – “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Sæglópur”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Hoppípolla”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Glósóli”
Video: Sigur Rós – “(Vaka)”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Viðrar vel til loftárása”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Svefn-G-Englar”

And finally, there was Justice for all. At least all who were left. Though the ostensible headliners, the French disco-rock duo had a markedly smaller audience than Florence did but they were still legion and really, that just meant more room to dance. The pair set up atop/behind their signature wall of electronic consoles and wings of Marshall stacks – and giant glowing cross, yes – but from the angle up close it looked more ridiculous than impressive, with Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay looking like little more than severed heads sitting atop their setup. Certainly there was no way to see what they were actually doing up there, whether DJing records or playing Pac-Man, but no one seemed to care. They had a raging dance party to engage in, and rage they did. Justice provided an excellent soundtrack to ending a long, hot day of great music and also for walking to the subway.

The Montreal Gazette and NOW have interviews.

Photos: Justice @ Scène de la rivière – August 3, 2012
MP3: Justice – “On’N'On”
Video: Justice – “New Lands”
Video: Justice – “On’N'On”
Video: Justice – “Audio, Video, Disco”
Video: Justice – “Civilization”
Video: Justice – “Phantom Pt. II”
Video: Justice – “Stress”
Video: Justice – “DVNO”
Video: Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.”

And a few concert announcements that may be relevant to your interests. Just here in May, LA’s Grouplove are back in support of Never Trust A Happy Song for a show at The Phoenix on November 5, tickets $24 in advance.

Video: Grouplove – “Colours”

Aimee Mann has announced a Fall tour behind her new album Charmer, out September 18, and is bringing an expected tourmate with her – Ted Leo. I assume he’s leaving the Pharmacists at home for this outing and will be dialing down the punk a bit so as to not scare Mann’s audience, but it’s an interesting pairing. The Toronto show is November 6 at the Danforth Music Hall, tickets $27.50 and $32.50.

MP3: Aimee Mann – “Charmer”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bottled In Cork”

After expressing surprise that Yeasayer were big enough to play the Sound Academy, as they were meant to on August 21, it appears that they in fact aren’t. On either count. Their new album Fragrant World is still out that day, but they’ll not be in Toronto until November 9 and it will be at the markedly smaller Danforth Music Hall. Anyone who says they are upset about the change in venue is lying and should not be allowed near small children.

Rachael Yamagata has made a date at The Mod Club for December 1, tickets $15. Her latest album Chesapeake came out last Fall.

Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Even If I Don’t”

By : Frank Yang at 8:35 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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