The Last Day: Being a Crybaby at Osheaga

Melanie Martinez, St. Lucia, and How I Didn’t See Radiohead

  • Osheaga attracts about 40,000 people each day. At night, there is virtually no space to sit on this hill—or anywhere, really. Photo Edmond Chung

  • He wants more Coors Light! Photo Edmond Chung

Boy, do I ever love music festivals, but oh my god, are they ever an emotional roller-coaster.

The cash, the time, the effort can be overwhelmingly excessive for a weekend long event. How much energy is justifiable to put into something that only lasts three days?

If you’re really dedicated, you might have planned six months to a year in advance.

While young people everywhere wait eagerly in anticipation for one of Canada’s most renowned music festivals, one might feel a lot of pressure when the day finally comes.

So what happens if you get there and suddenly find that you’re not having the time of your life?

You’re going to feel like shit. Then, the mental list of things you could have done with that money starts to grow. You start to wonder why you put so much into something so insignificant.

Guess they forgot to mention that climbing trees wasn’t allowed? Not solid. Photo Edmond Chung.

Okay, maybe I’m biased. Perhaps I’ve gone to one too many festivals this year; dealt with too many people fucked up on Coors Light and/or shitty MDMA. Gotten lost on massive grounds only to be unable to find my friends—the pile of things that can go wrong at a music festival is endless.

So while trying to enjoy Osheaga, I found myself stressed out in a sea of people who were too fucked up having the time of their lives. My discomfort grew increasingly strong until my anxiety had reached a breaking point, swelling to such a capacity that once it boiled over, I became numb to everything going on around me.

But hey—at least there were some decent shows.

Melanie Martinez

Starting off the lazy Sunday was the ever-adorable breakout artist, Melanie Martinez. As someone who listened to her album Cry Baby on repeat for at least a month and a half, I ensured to get as close as possible, squeezing right in there with die-hard fangirls and sweaty parents alike.

With more props than most of the festival’s concerts, Martinez’s stage featured a soft pink-purple backdrop with images of mangled mammals oozing with blood—or ice cream? I don’t know—along with super-sized building blocks that spelled—what else—”CRY BABY” on either side of the stage.

Finally, at 1 p.m., two stage crew dudes rolled out a massive wooden crib complete with a mobile dangling over the top. There was no question about who was inside as Martinez’s signature music-box melodies started to play.

Big baby, big bass; Melanie Martinez’s show was as sugary sweet as we had hoped for. Photo courtesy Pat Beaudry.

Donning a poofy white chiffon dress and only socks on her feet, Martinez suddenly popped out of the crib and sprang into action.

Opening with the album namesake, I sang along with the mass of ecstatic teenagers. My friend, a non-Melanie fan, looked at me with an expression that balanced both bewilderment and understanding. “He just doesn’t get it,” I thought to myself. “He’s not a crybaby.”

I’ve gotta say, the nice thing about a crowd majorly made up of teenage girls—and their confused parentals—is their lack of height. Despite the screaming and waving and general over-the-top affection they had for Martinez, at least I found myself able to see for the first time all weekend.

Martinez’s set had a booming bass. Closing her set with one of my favourite tracks, “Mad Hatter,” she danced all over the stage in her shoeless feet, prancing from one side of the stage to the other between bassy thumps, contorting her upper body to the whomping of the music.

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It was around midday when I started to feel off. I wasn’t getting along with my friend, and the other people I knew there—I just couldn’t find them. So I digressed, returning to VIP to nurse on a reasonably-priced double gin and tonic while I figured out what to do with myself.

In the time it took me to knock back a drink and get some work done, I managed to make new friends, Karl and Adam, some lovely American folk who work for a record label in the states. Neat. Later, I would tell security that they were actually my dads, but that’s for later.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia’s summery vibes were enjoyed by many. Photo courtesy Tim Snow

Despite my awful mood, I headed to the Verte Sonnet Stage to check out St. Lucia, a multinational quintet with roots from South Africa all the way to the UK.

The band had one of the danciest crowds I saw all weekend. There were many people with their hands in the air, dancing like they just didn’t care—Montreal really seemed to get off on St. Lucia’s summery sweet, 80’s synth-pop vibe.

Watching from a small balcony at the back, festival goers pranced through the fountains—spurting water to the beat of the music, no less. I also ran through the water, revelling in the coolness as the five-person band played tracks from their latest album, Matter.

The Legends Themselves

Full disclosure: I didn’t actually see Radiohead.

I heard them, even danced to Thom Yorke’s magical voice on the VIP balcony. But did I see them with my own eyes? Absolutely not.

At one point, my dads and I had a lovely view of the legendary band from the balcony stairs, but we were quickly told to move along and that we were blocking the way. It became apparent that we would not be getting so much as a peek at the stage.

Despite my adoptive parents’ frustration with not being able to see, I found myself harbouring no more resentment towards the festival. Instead, I soaked in the sweet sound of Yorke’s voice, closing my eyes and imagining that he was serenading me on the overpacked balcony.

Full disclosure: I didn’t actually see Radiohead.

Like anyone who had been drinking Molson Canadian and gin all day, I had the sudden urge to pee in the middle of the set. I left my laptop and bag with Adam and Karl, and skipped over to the disgusting port-a-potties. I even asked the nice security lady if I would have trouble getting back up. She offered little advice but that it “might take five minutes.”

Radiohead, not that I seen them or anything. Photo Brandon Johnston

After my pee, I hopped back up the stairs, feeling good and refreshed. But alas, the nice security lady had lied to me. When I arrived at the top of the balcony, I was greeted by the chaotic sight of jacked-up security guards physically shoving people away from the entrance. “It’s over-capacity!” they shouted, pushing people back as they formed a wall around the opening in the fence.

Radiohead played in the background as fans complained. “I was just in there,” one guy said to the guard.

“I don’t care,” he replied.

Not sure what to do, and too afraid to try to run past the overly-aggressive meatheads, I began to cry like any normal girl would do. Getting right up close to the guards, and with tears streaming down my face, I wailed: “I need to get back to my parents!”

The main, most unruly guard looked at me, sloughing off my crisis-face as though nothing was wrong. The rest of the guards—mostly twenty-somethings who seemed to feel bad for not allowing people back in—looked at me with concern.

Believing in myself for the first time all day, I stood my ground. I cried and cried until finally Big Guy got fed up of my whining and demanded that one of the female guards escort me back in. Win!

She took me back in, asking me where my parents were. I hadn’t really thought this far ahead, hoping that they would just let me back in to find my “family” independently.

“I see them! I see my dads!” I told her, pointing to the dudes I had met earlier that day. My bag rested next to their legs. The security chick looked confused but lifted me over a couch anyways. “You’re okay now,” she said firmly. Yes, I was.

We carried out the rest of the set dancing in the middle of the balcony, as I wiped my tears away and my dads congratulated me on the success of my waterworks.

I guess it pays off to be a crybaby.

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I always leave music festivals feeling like I’ve learned something. This year, I realized that not everything will turn out the way you expect it to, no matter how much energy you put into making sure things are perfect.

Would I recommend Osheaga to a friend? Sure, if they’re into good music, overpriced beer and sweltering heat. But it’s really not that bad. Just make sure you don’t go into it with high expectations.

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