There are two kinds of people at festivals. Those who just come as they are, or shall I say in there sexiest, tiniest outfits. And those who come prepared, survival kit and all, and who strategize about how to miss the least songs while peeing or buying a hotdog.
Even if you are part of the second category, you’d have to have superpowers to be able to see everything. You might manage to hear most of it, sure. But it’s just impossible to see it all. If, somehow, you are able to do it (and keep doing it for three days of said festival,) well then you’re pretty much fit for the Party spinoff of the Ironman triathlon. If you’re human like the rest of us, that means most of the time you have no choice but to opt out of the tight crowds at the bigger stages in lieu of having a running chance at getting to the next show on time. That is, unless you can magically teleport yourself to the front row without pissing anyone off.
Good luck with that.
So let’s talk strategy then. You could choose a Woodstock-style concert strategy. This means choosing your spot in the grass and lying there with your gang, giving in to the occasional urge to strike a dance move or sing along to what you think you can hear from the stage.
But couldn’t you just do that in your backyard?
The atmosphere just wouldn’t be the same. However, I tend to treat festival sets like I treat concerts. The smaller the stage, the most likely you are to see what brand is used by the guitarist, what shoes the singer is wearing, and their facial expressions. You might even get to hang out with them afterwards. To me, that’s a priceless experience. The sound is way better too.
That being said, this year’s Osheaga had A LOT to offer to say the least. I had the souvenir of the festival’s smaller scenes during its first year. Discovering Final Fantasy at the scène des arbres in the older set-up was a blessing of unpretentiously good music. Nothing you could blast out on huge speakers and project on giant TVs. And that’s the thing. Like going to Il Motore on a Thursday night for example. You can be sure that you’re adding a hit to your list of emerging artists when you get home from the music haven that was the triad of those three isolated stages.
With the new set-up, the “smaller stages” are no longer even that small. The scène verte would not even crowd out with all the glowstick-bearing M-83 fans. What’s more, it’s got the best food thanks to the new and gourmet food trucks like Grumman 78 and Nouveau Palais. Which brings me to a key piece of festival information: when you get sick of the chemical boxes otherwise known as port-o-potty (that you probably want to avoid anyway,) that is where real washrooms can be found.
Still, while I knew all the lesser fans would be funnelled out in the really narrow lane that linked the “haven” to the main stages, I needed to prioritize my time if I was going to make it to my two must-see shows. I would die before missing out on beeing glued to the pit ramp from the first note to the very last. The bands in question, Austra and Black Angels, are both upcoming bands of two different musical scenes and have each been producing very influential sounds throughout North America. One is a group of electronic nymphets, the other an Austin-bred psychedelic rock band.
I managed to arrive 30 minutes early for both shows. That meant I was early enough for sound-check, early enough to see the pre-show outfits, and early enough to hear the stage manager complain. Watching the Black Angels and their roadie trying to dry-up the stage with squeegees and towels, I felt like a journalist that had been following the band around on their tour. I admit it’s cheesy, but it casts them in a more human light, while allowing me to feel a little less like I was one of many cattle in the field at Jean Drapeau.
Picnic Electronic’s own stage is also part of the isolated cluster of the smaller stages at Osheaga. While this might sound like a pretty hipster-dense situation, it’s worth making the detour on your way to the main stages if only for the chance to stretch your legs to some good beats and maybe releas some of that tension you worked up whilst stuck between a sweaty teenager and a huge lady in a bikini.
Last but not least, a piece of advice for the ladies: lest you not be stuck in the toilet while YOUR song is blasting outside, forget about wearing a one-piece at any festival, ever, if you know what I mean…