Saturday at Osheaga: A Lot of Shout-Outs, a Lot of Guest Appearances, and a Lot of People
Saturday was the first of three days to sell out Parc Jean-Drapeau this year, and I know why. With openers like St. Vincent and a killer closing set by Kendrick Lamar, music fans from everywhere knew what they wanted. And they got it.
Narcy, Mos Def, Meryem of Nomadic Massive
I started the afternoon down at the quieter Scene Verte, where Narcy and Yasiin Bey (previously Mos Def) were scheduled to replace Action Bronson. Up until noon that day, Bronson had been on the bill, but Evenko tweeted out that Bronson had experienced “last minute travel issues”, and couldn’t make it.
Bronson, however, had a different explanation. Half an hour after Evenko tweeted, he sent out a tweet saying he “hopes one day to be let into Canada, (because [he] did no wrong).” But with a track out called “Consensual Rape,” he may have had it coming.
No one in the audience was disappointed to see Narcy take the stage. Accompanied by Meryem of Nomadic Massive, the set was a beautiful commemoration of Sandra Bland, whose shoutout was followed by a chilling a cappella version of “A Change is Gonna Come.” And with grace, Narcy handed it over to Bey, who had no problem lifting spirits.
Freestyling over Drake’s “The Motto,” Bey wasn’t afraid to have fun with the set while keeping it political. And after calling out white supremacy— “white supremacy, ya I said it” — Bey paid an unexpected tribute to Australian indie band Tame Impala.
“Listen to the message,” he urged, as he mouthed the words to the band’s song “Alter Ego”: “don’t you know, it doesn’t have to be so hard?”
Down at the Piknic stage, Dan Snaith, solo-artist behind Daphni, and also frontman of Caribou, was spinning his album JIAOLONG. Daphni is Snaith’s dance alter ego: a less serious, more experimental DJ who can afford to be more playful than the Juno-winning Caribou. Either way, Snaith isn’t afraid to mess with all kinds of genres, sampling “When the Going is Smooth and Good” by William Onyeabor on his album. He started off softer as people gathered, killing it at the end with thumping tracks like “Ye Ye”. Snaith gave a little grin every time he dropped the bass, and I like to think he enjoys the intimacy of performing under an alias.
After Daphni, it was back to the Scene Verte for NAS. But the torrential downpour didn’t stop loyal hip-hop fans from sticking it out. After some new material, NAS dropped crowd favorites from his 1994 album Illimatic, getting everyone to sing along to “Hate Me Now,” “N.Y. State of Mind” and “Hip Hop is Dead,” which NAS followed up by asking, “Is hip hop dead MTL?” NAS finished by handing it over to Mos Def whose energy was—once again—contagious. I even spotted Narcy jamming in the VIP section.
I’m not sure if Osheaga planned it this way, but the Weezer/Kendrick succession was quite a contrast. Both from L.A., Rivers Cuomo is known for his—arguably—ironic 90s rock ballads about Living The Dream in the cheesiest Beverly Hills kind of way. Kendrick raps about getting his friends out of Compton, the struggles of staying out of Lucy (Lucifer’s) temptations and the survivor’s guilt of having made it.
To watch one after the other offered insight into how two separate musicians, one black and one white, define success. And how both have undeniably made it with their music about Orange County-just from vastly opposite ends of it.
Weezer, with too many hits to count, was happy to be playing in “the best part of Canada” which they later specified as “the French…part.” The band pleased by opening with “My Name is Jonas,” following through with hits like “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills,” and closing with “Buddy Holly.” Cuomo also welcomed his daughter Mia on stage, who played keyboard to “Perfect Situation.” His son Leo came on too, and shredded the solo in “Back to the Shack” with an orange inflatable guitar.
After Weezer, Kendrick drew a huge crowd for his second Osheaga performance, shouting out his “day ones” and claiming to see “a lot of familiar faces”. If anyone loves his fans, it’s Kendrick. He started out with favorites from good Kid, m.A.A.d city, killed it on “Backseat Freestyle,” and after chants from the audience, satisfied with “Alright” off the new album To Pimp a Butterfly. Once again, Lamar gave it up to—you guessed it—Mos Def, who came on his third stage of the day with the same energy and smiles he had at his 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. sets.
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