Frank YangYou may have noticed my first two dispatches from Osheaga dwelled a bit on the hot, humid weather – this was partly because it was one of the defining factors of the weekend and certainly affected mine and everyone else’s experience, but also for some context. Because for the third and final day of the festival, things went from just hot to hot and wet – great adjectives for search engine optimization, not so great for spending the day outside. Indeed, the same storm system that shut down Lollapalooza the day before looked like it was aiming to put another notch in its belt and wallop Montréal and while it wasn’t sever enough to consider cancelling anything pre-emptively – the forecast was mainly for scattered thundershowers – it certainly had people keeping an eye on the sky as well as on the stages.
The stage manager at the Forest stage certainly was, and though Nika Danilova of Zola Jesus was certainly taking the weather in stride – soundchecking with a bit of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was cute – but just two songs in and under a steady but not excessive rainfall, the stage lights went off and they declared the set over even though at that point the sky was actually beginning to clear. Danilova pleaded her case but for naught, and much to the vocal dismay of the audience, the show was over. Now I can appreciate wanting to err on the side of caution, particularly in light of the rash of stage collapses at festivals in the last couple years, but this seemed excessively paranoid and raised the question of what the festival’s “rain or shine” policy actually meant – people couldn’t get their money back, but they weren’t necessarily entitled to any of the performances they paid for? Troubling. If there was any silver lining to these rain clouds, it’s that in the 10 minutes that Zola Jesus performed – I’d never heard her save her contribution to the last M83 record – I quite liked what I heard of her operatic goth-pop and would be seeking some more out. So there was that.
DIY and The Moscow News have feature interviews with Danilova.
Photos: Zola Jesus @ Scène des arbes- August 5, 2012
MP3: Zola Jesus – “Vessel”
MP3: Zola Jesus – “Sea Talk”
Video: Zola Jesus – “Seekir”
Video: Zola Jesus – “Vessel”
Video: Zola Jesus – “Sea Talk”
Video: Zola Jesus – “Night”
Video: Zola Jesus – “Clay Bodies”
Also in them “I’d never really heard them or paid much attention but I’ll go see them anyways” category was Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Passion Pit, though I’ll admit that my curiosity was more due to the drama that had surrounded frontman Michael Angelakos as they released their second album Gossamer a couple weeks earlier – specifically the announcement that he was battling a bipolar disorder and cancelling a swath of tour dates as a result. Not that I went to gawk – I just found it interesting that this date, along with a few other festival dates, were still on and even though what I had heard of their first record Manners was at best annoying – Angelakos’ falsetto and I did not get along – most accounts were that this new record was much better.
Not that I know what a bipolar condition looks like – probably nothing overt – but Angelakos looked pretty hale and hearty on stage, and certainly energetic. As his bandmates pounded out declarative synth-rock riffs, he was leaping on monitors, waving around mic stands, and generally working the crowd like a pro. And happily, there was minimal to no falsetto to be heard, or at least I didn’t notice it. The guy’s got a reasonably soulful voice in its normal range, it was nice to hear him use it instead of resorting to gimmickry. And though I’m sure it was just coincidence, there was something fitting about how the weather went from overcast to a downpour to sunshine in the first 15 minutes of their set. Because it stayed sunny.
Rolling Stone has an in depth interview with Angelkos about his mental health issues.
Photos: Passion Pit @ Scène de la montagne – August 5, 2012
Video: Passion Pit – “Take A Walk”
Video: Passion Pit – “Constant Conversations”
Video: Passion Pit – “Little Secrets”
Video: Passion Pit – “To Kingdom Come”
Video: Passion Pit – “The Reeling”
Video: Passion Pit – “Sleepyhead”
One of the festival’s bleach-blonde witch-pop artists had already been taken down by the weather; what were the odds that both would? Thankfully, pretty bad. I had thought that the otherworldly environs of Iceland, where I last saw them, was the perfect setting for Toronto’s Austra but it turns out a suddenly sunny Montréal Summer afternoon worked pretty well, too. Dressed for the season in brightly-coloured dresses, Katie Stelmanis and her bandmates successfully got those assembled at the Green stage to ignore the burgeoning mud pit at their feet and dance. There was one new song in her set which from a single cursory listen shouldn’t alienate any fans, and I want to say that some of the lyrics were sung in French, but honestly with Stelmanis’ operatic delivery it was hard to say for sure.
Exclaim has a video session with the band where they perform the aforementioned new song “Painful Like” and Spinner has an interview. And to the surprise of absolutely no one, Austra have been announced as the special guest for the Saturday, September 29 lineup at Paper Bag Records’ 10th anniversary show at The Great Hall.
Photos: Austra @ Scène vertes – August 5, 2012
MP3: Austra – “Lose It”
MP3: Austra – “Beat & The Pulse”
Video: Austra – “Spellwork”
Video: Austra – “Lose It”
Video: Austra – “Beat & The Pulse”
I like Australia’s Tame Impala alright – their 2010 debut Innerspeaker was a nice bit of psychedelic space-rock – but that they were not only popular enough to be playing a late afternoon mainstage slot at a festival of this size but draw a pretty big and enthusiastic audience genuinely surprised me. Their fans clearly knew and liked their prog rock and they like it chilled out and spacey, seemingly cheering every key and tempo change and certainly every extended guitar solo. They’ve a big sound, but not an aggressive one, and their stage presence is similarly subdued. I wouldn’t say they’re much to look at or watch up there, but you’d have to open your eyes from you reverie to notice, and not many of those listening were prepared to do that. Enjoyable overall, but not quite able to keep my festival-ADD interest for the duration. And considering that the last time I saw them in May 2011, frontman Kevin Parker felt obliged to inform us all that Osama Bin Laden had been killed – the least he could have done this time out was announce the official fall of the al-Assad regime. Alas, no dice, but at least there was that evening’s episode of The Newsroom ready to indulge my nostalgia.
Stereogum and Spin talk to Parker about their new record Lonerism, due out October 9.
Photos: Tame Impala @ Scène de la rivière – August 5, 2012
MP3: Tame Impala – “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”
Video: Tame Impala – “Expectation”
Video: Tame Impala – “Lucidity”
Video: Tame Impala – “Solitude Is Bliss”
When James Mercer and his reconstituted Shins came through Toronto last September – fully six months before their new record Port Of Morrow would be released – there were a lot of questions, not least of which being that it had almost been a half-decade since their last album came out; did anyone still care? The success of that record and the fact that the band were playing as large stages as they did before they went on hiatus proved quite unequivocally that they still did, and was a testament to the power of a good pop song. And if there’s one thing The Shins have, it’s good pop songs.
They also had some bad luck with the weather. Though the skies stayed fairly clear through Tame Impala’s set, they darkened in a hurry as soon as The Shins took the stage and as opener “Kissing The Lipless” built to the first big chorus, they opened up and utterly drenched everyone and everything. Everything save their spirits – the fans seemed to love it and if the band were concerned about little details like electrocution, it didn’t show. Mercer was as animated and energized up there as I’d ever seen him, and certainly seemed more integrated with his bandmates than in the Fall where they looked very much like hired hands. I stuck around for a while, savouring all the old, familiar tunes, but my tolerance for getting soaked was apparently lower than everyone elses.
The Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly have conversations with James Mercer.
Photos: The Shins @ Scène de la montagne – August 5, 2012
MP3: The Shins – “Australia”
MP3: The Shins – “Phantom Limb”
MP3: The Shins – “Kissing The Lipless”
MP3: The Shins – “So Says I”
MP3: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”
Video: The Shins – “It’s Only Life”
Video: The Shins – “No Way Down”
Video: The Shins – “The Rifle’s Spiral”
Video: The Shins – “Simple Song”
Video: The Shins – “Bait & Switch”
Video: The Shins – “Australia”
Video: The Shins – “Phantom Limb”
Video: The Shins – “So Says I”
Video: The Shins – “Turn On Me”
Video: The Shins – “The Past & Pending”
Video: The Shins – “New Slang”
Video: The Shins – “Kissing The Lipless”
Video: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”
With my obsessions with the weather pretty much established, I’ve no problem admitting that I’d spent much of the day tracking the incoming storm via satellite radar maps. Based on the accumulated data, I figured that I would be able to take in Bloc Party relatively unscathed and then skip out on mainstage headliners Metric and The Black Keys just when the brunt of the storm hit. Science! That it was already raining moderately to heavily by the time I got to the Green stage certainly didn’t fit the plan, but it was good to see that the conservative attitude towards the weather that opened the day had seemingly been replaced with a sturdy, “the show must go on” attitude – the roadies were wrapping just about everything electronic on stage in plastic sheeting, but showed no signs that they weren’t going to go ahead with the set.
Kele Okereke was certainly up for it. Clad in a colourful shirt louder than some of the PAs at the festival and sans guitar, the Bloc Party frontman was all party, rain be damned, and led the London quartet through a ripping reading of “Octopus”, the lead single from their forthcoming album Four. It was – and is – an odd song, with its stuttering riff and loopy vocals, and taken as a representative of the new material does indicate that the random and experimental (and polarizing) direction of 2008′s Intimacy was more a signpost than a detour. Live, however, it was delivered with enough energy and conviction to persuade even the hardest skeptic that it was a winner.
Only one other track from Four made the set – the power chord-heavy “Kettling” – with the rest dedicated to older material and rewarding the audience for their willingness to wait in the weather by soundtracking their collective decision to ignore the “no crowd surfing” signs with gusto – Okereke thanked security for their diligence in making sure no one got hurt by dedicating “This Modern Love” to them; I’m sure they appreciated the gesture. It was certainly the most raucous audience I’d seen all weekend, with no one caring about the rain but instead revelling in it and the mud, both figuratively and literally. Though allotted a full hour for their set, Bloc Party wrapped their set at 45 minutes with a thundering and exhausting “Helicopter”; I would have liked for them to keep playing, sure, but that was also as perfect a place to wrap the set as any. And the fest. Though the rain had let up by this point – apparently the storm that I’d expected to hit the headliners had gotten there early and instead soaked me – I was tired, hungry, wet, and just done. Osheaga was the first big outdoor fest I’d done in over two years, and as much fun as it was, I’ve got a feeling it might have been my last.
Four is out August 21, and in addition to their September 10 show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, Bloc Party have added a second show on September 11 – tickets $25 and $35 in advance. BBC and The Fly talk to them about their new record. Their set from New York earlier this week will be available to stream on demand today – sometime – at YouTube.
Photos: Bloc Party @ Scène vertes – August 5, 2012
MP3: Bloc Party – “Banquet”
Video: Bloc Party – “Octopus”
Video: Bloc Party – “One More Chance”
Video: Bloc Party – “One Month Off”
Video: Bloc Party – “Talons”
Video: Bloc Party – “Mercury”
Video: Bloc Party – “Flux”
Video: Bloc Party – “Hunting For Witches”
Video: Bloc Party – “I Still Remember”
Video: Bloc Party – “The Prayer”
Video: Bloc Party – “Helicopter”
Video: Bloc Party – “Two More Years”
Video: Bloc Party – “Pioneers”
Video: Bloc Party – “Banquet”
Video: Bloc Party – “So Here We Are”
Video: Bloc Party – “Tulips”
Video: Bloc Party – “Little Thoughts”
The Quietus has details on the next album from Patrick Wolf. A double album entitled Sundark & Riverlight, it doesn’t feature new songs but completely acoustic re-recordings of selections from throughout his recording career, all of which makes the intimate and acoustic setup of his upcoming Fall tour so much more logical. The album comes out on September 25, which just happens to be the day that Wolf is in Toronto at the Music Gallery, and support on this tour comes from Canada’s own Woodpigeon. More special than you can shake a stick at. Same Same and Q News both have interviews with Wolf.
MP3: Woodpigeon – “For Paolo”
Ladyhawke has made a date at The Hoxton on September 15 as part of a North American tour in support of her second album Anxiety.
Video: Ladyhawke – “Blue Eyes”