Osheaga’s Back with a Bang: Run The Jewels, Chet Faker and A Tribe Called Red Highlight the Day

Scene Verte, ~15:20:

A throng of hip hop heads waited, baking in the glaring sun, ready to pop like corn in a kettle. Staring back at the crowd, a roadie shouted words in a microphone, testing the equipment. Sleek, sweaty muscles tensed up as onlookers roared back. Audience members jawed at each other; some pushing for breathing room, others looking to share. Beach balls soared in the air acting like appetizers for the hungry crowd. But toys wouldn’t keep the throng sated for long.

A mosh pit formed as soon as Run the Jewels came on stage.

The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival kicked off Friday at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For its 10th anniversary, the organizers invited some of the biggest names in today’s music business. 119 acts shared six stages spread across the park.

At 3:25 p.m., American hip hop duo Run the Jewels lit up the Scene Verte for 45 minutes.

The throng surged as the group began their set with the eponymous track “Run the Jewels.”

In the audience, 15 to 20 people shoved and slammed into each other. The veteran duo watched in amusement as the mosh pit grew, attracting more people and trapping an eager photographer inside its body-crunching jaws.

The wild thumping production and rapid fire flow professed by El-P and Killer Mike evoked the grittiness of hardcore 90s rap, but beefed up with lethal injections of EDM and Trap music. Their musical themes are reminiscent of 80s horror movie soundtracks—down to their mummified “fist and gun” logo. Together, Killer Mike and El-P are the new boogeymen of rap surfing on a wicked wave of sound.

As the group played their tracks from their second record Run The Jewels 2, a technician sprayed the bouncing crowd with a large hose. The hyped moshers’ mutually assured destruction resumed as the speakers blared “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” They played like puppets to the duo’s electric performance.

The no-holds-barred duo never relented its hold, unleashing “Blockbuster Part 1,” “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” from their first LP.

When Run the Jewels’ set ended, the audience was begging for more.

Scene Verte, ~18:20:

Beach balls flew again before Chet Faker’s set but, this time, nobody volleyball spiked anyone in the face. This set promised a mellowed out atmosphere. The crowd screamed as they caught a glimpse of the Australian electronica musician taking a peek from backstage.

At 6:25, Faker set hearts afire, and he would do so for the next 45 minutes. The whole audience let loose when he took the stage with “Cigarettes and Chocolate” from his Thinking in Textures EP. Also a DJ, he showed his creativity, spinning the song live to an even bouncier version.

Dewy eyes grew wider as he followed up with “Melt” from his debut studio album Built on Glass. Faker squirmed on stage. It felt as if his body itself was an instrument performing jerky dance moves to the beats of his music—all while hitting notes on a keyboard.

Then he took a quick break, teasing the Scene Verte crowd like a bedside lover—speaking in hushed tones into the mic—referring to a fan favorite as “some old song.” Moments later, the kids were all singing along to his downtempo version of the 90s R&B hit “No Diggity”—the viral success that brought him fame.

And it’s no wonder the electronica virtuoso borrowed a song from two decades ago. From his sartorial taste—he wore a loose-fitting black floral-patterned shirt— to the electronic drum kit and synth, his musical style reverberates fusions of 90s soul and British trip hop.

His small following was still singing for “Drop the Game” and cheered even louder when he announced the title of his next song. Hundreds of hands clapped in unison to the loungey “Gold”—a sirupy ode to love.

His jazzy sound has an intimate quality to it. His raspy falsetto—as advertised on “Gold”—dares to push back the threshold of aural orgasm only to pull back for a later charge.

Faker ended his set with “Talk Is Cheap,” an electronic ballad about a man who informs his darling of his need for more action.

Scene Piknik Electronik Honda, ~22:15:

A Tribe Called Red’s sound has a rich melange of hip hop, dancehall, First Nations sounds, dance music, and a ton mixed in between. The result was hypnotic and made the audience groove to the beat like headless drones.

The Ottawa-based First Nations DJ crew—Bear Witness, 2oolman and NDN—lined up against their turntables, spinning their intricate hits with the casual looks of journeymen tour musicians.

Behind the trio, a giant screen big enough to make a millionaire couch potato jealous displayed looping psychedelic images of cartoon Aboriginal warriors and Kool-Aid coloured footage of stampeding buffaloes and candy-colored scenes of old Westerns.

The concertgoers danced like it was the last night of their lives. Feet shuffled to the rhythmical drums; heads bobbed to the tribal chants. ATCR played some of their songs—including “Electric Pow Wow Drum,” “Sisters” and “Indians From All Directions”—while their tribal hoop dancer showed off his best moves.

One fan climbed a tree, shaking a branch larger than his leg. Security guards threw empty beer cans at him hoping to reel him in on his own volition. To his great dismay, he was eventually led away, never to be seen again.

In the middle of their set, Canadian rapper Narcy crashed the stage and performed with the First Nations trio.

Moments later, Yasiin Bey—still better known by his former stage name Mos Def—took the mic, compelling the crowd to reach for the cloudy skies. The American rapper was not scheduled to appear at the festival; he took ticket holders by complete surprise.

Even the stoney-eyed DJs had to let a passing smile etch their faces as Bey and Narcy electroshocked an already pumped up crowd.

Then the music ended. Everybody looked at each other as if they had just been roused from bed.

Saturday at Osheaga: A Lot of Shout-Outs, a Lot of Guest Appearances, and a Lot of People »

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