Day 1 - Friday, August 3
Deerhunter lead singer Bradford Cox took the Tree stage Friday afternoon as his folk-tronic alter ego Atlas Sound and announced that his equipment hadn’t made it to the venue. Anyone familiar with Cox’s admittedly “unhinged” stage presence and the recent “Sharona-Gate” episode back in March when Cox donned a ski mask and launched into an hour-long cover of the Knack’s “My Sharona” shuddered at the thought of another meltdown but Cox graciously spared us the agony and played a whimsical improvised set. He invited a local drummer onstage for a song, wrote a song on the fly (“Improvisational blues will get you down”) and played a darkly wistful cover of the 1930’s classic Moonshiner.
Florence and the Machine
As one festival goer opined, “Florence is creepy, like mother nature, or a cult leader, but of a fun cult, not one of the psychotic, brainwashing ones.” Whirling and jumping on stage, Florence Welsh didn’t do herself any favors when she said that she could see a vision of herself floating above the audience like a hologram. Insane, hallucinating or hamming it up for the audience, Florence and the Machine know exactly how to build up to a big break. Despite almost bringing down the entire reserved seating bleachers when she asked everyone to jump up and down simultaneously, we would definitely join her cult.
When the French DJ duo Justice reappeared on the scene last October at the Creator’s Project in Brooklyn with their second album Audio, Video, Disco, the cops shut them down citing a curfew. The Osheaga Festival, located on Saint Helen's Island in the St. Lawrence River alongside Montreal had no such qualms and Justice closed the night out with a big, dramatic, orchestral set like two disco zombies doing the knob turn of the undead Thriller-style on stage behind the decks and their enigmatic glowing cross.
Day 2 - Saturday, August 4
Though relatively new on the scene, riding the success of the LiveLoveA$AP mixtape, A$AP Rocky played the crowd like an old pro, leading the mixed Anglo/French Canadian audience in chants of “A-mutha-f*ckin-SAP” and “I’ve been thuggin’ with my team, ho” to everybody’s demented delight. During a lull in the action, Rocky asked, somewhat unsure, if the crowd was having a good time. It was one of the best moments of the day watching him go from confused to smiling when the crowd started chanting A-SAP.
Little Dragon’s third album Ritual Union
and the band’s collaboration with SBTRKT on “Wildfire” were two of last year’s most pleasant surprises and the band didn’t disappoint live. As darkness set in, dreamy visuals and swooping lights at the Electronic stage set the perfect backdrop for Yukimi Nagano’s playful vocals and Little Dragon’s weird groove.
I can now scratch hearing Snoop Dogg do “Ain’t Nuthin but a G Thang,” “Gin and Juice” and “What’s My Name” live off my bucket list. An hour late in true hip hop fashion, Snoop actually entered to Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” before seguing into medleys of his most popular hits, often framed by two strippers and smoking blunts. He performed his new reggae single “Reincarnated” and ended the show with a crowd sing-a-long of “Young, Wild and Free.” 100% P-I-M-P.
Day 3 - Sunday, August 5
Fans of Santigold’s 2008 debut needn’t worry about her sophomore record Master of My Make Believe. The album's poly-rhythms and big beats aren’t the hipster crack of “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Lights Out” but they had no trouble rocking a 25,000+ person crowd. She’s still touring with her signature stage girls but she’s replaced her DJ with a full band and now there’s a dancing horse in the mix.
Day 3 featured flash rain storms that appeared out of nowhere but were a welcome respite after two days of brutal heat and humidity. The freak weather had the added effect of amping up the crowd for Bloc Party’s set which arguably had the best energy of the weekend. Crowd surfers, beach balls and a blow up shark flew through the air while Bloc Party performed a blistering set of songs from their back catalog and their new album Four.
The Black Keys
This is what we’d all been waiting for, Nirvana in a six string, the Ish. The Black Keys may be the closest thing we have to Led Zepplin in 2012 and they delivered. You almost forget that there are two flesh and blood human beings playing up there except for the moments when drummer Patrick Carney changes the beat and you can see his sweaty face on the big screen trucking away. He may actually be the hardest working individual in the music industry. Dan Auerbach sounds like the baddest man alive growling about witchy women. Together they make the biggest racket and it’s hard to believe that they went rehearsing in a small basement in Ohio to absolutely murdering sets in front of 25,000 people. “Operator please pass me back to my mind” indeed.