An intense start to the first day of Osheaga in Montreal’s scenic and sunshiney Parc Jean-Drapeau came via locals Majical Cloudz, who lined six of their friends on the Verte stage during a melancholic performance. Quebec City’s Ponctuation rocked the Francofans on the small Arbres stage next door, then it was back to Verte to catch up with Guards‘ Kaylie Church before their awesome set. Then Daughter‘s Elena Tonra beamed a proud, still-shy smile in front of thousands of excitable fans on one of the two main stages, seemingly surprised by the outpouring of love in Montreal. Alt-J followed, their harmonies and note-perfect recreations of the songs on their debut impressed newbies, and were as consistent as the other 3 gigs I’ve seen of them this past year.
Then it was back to the Arbres, to listen to a bit of The Head and the Heart before having a chat with Palma Violets‘ Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson, who was suitably “refreshed”. “Did you see the piece I did on you about the Vancouver show?” I asked. “Of course, I did,” he said, grinning. “Why else would I be talking to you?” The London band then played a sloppy but enormous set on the little stage, with Jesson drunkenly bounding about, jumping into the grassy pit, grinning like a loon, pointing his guitar like a gun and getting the and curious group gathered to raise their hands to the sky. Meanwhile, over on Montagne, Ellie Goulding was instructing a field full of frothing pop fans on the fact that she needed their love. They seemed to give it.
Somewhat twee but rather quite enjoyable, Vampire Weekend took over the largest stage, Rivière, and started with “Diane Young”, ending 14 upbeat songs later with “Walcott” – appeasing the preppy pretty kids who’d brought signs and stayed all day hoping to get close to Ezra and Co. After the Vampires rose Phoenix, who played their by-numbers, pop anthems with Thomas Mars getting close and personal with the first few rows. Reliable festival pleasers, those Parisians.
But all this, all this wealth of alt and pop and sunshine and beer and food truck food was leading up to a rare event: the return of goth-rock legends The Cure to Canada for the first time in 5 years. Robert Smith – looking like a crazy old cat lady wearing a sparkling hoodie with his head of hair clumped and ratted – still managed to put, oh, 90% of the day’s lineup to shame from the moment he opened his mouth and his songs’ minor chords spilled across the night.
“‘I think it’s dark and it looks like rain, you said”, he sang to start “Plainsong” and thousands of us goths swooned. And while some of the pop kids looked quizzically at each other before heading home early, the Cure filled acres of sky with songs refined over so much history. The 29-track list ran through everything from uglygreat “Banafishbones” and “One Hundred Years” through “Disintegration”, “Lovesong”, “Fascination Street”, to all the poppier hits (“Lovecats”, “Close to Me” “Hot Hot Hot” “Why Can’t I Be You? “Boys Don’t Cry” et al) primarily wedged into a seven-song encore. And while the band were literally swarmed by locust-y bugs (“If I were a spider-man, I’d be having a fucking ball up here” Smith joked before “Lullaby”), even those somehow seemed fitting. It was like the dead had arisen, reanimated to perform a soundtrack of some of our lives . Which is exactly what you want from a festival, right? Maybe not, said everyone who was there for Ellie Goulding or Two Door Cinema Club.
But for those 29 moments, nobody else on that field mattered. This was Cure gig number 10 in my lifetime, and it was perfect. \m/
OSHEAGA Day 2: BECK, BOB MOULD, BREEDERS, TRICKY, STARS, GROENLAND, HUMANS
OSHEAGA Day 3: NEW ORDER, HOT CHIP, FATHER JOHN MISTY, ICONA POP, JESSIE WARE, HOLY GHOST
<Click on all photos to embiggen>