Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make. Osheaga(Friday) and the Journey to get there. +PHOTOS
As previously stated I had travelled to the city Hub Montréal for the OSHEAGA Arts and Music Festival which took place August 3rd-5th 2012. My space/time traveller partner Sweater Eyes and I had initially planned to go all three days but occurrences change in the flux of life.
My trip actually began Wednesday August 1st, 2012. I recall the panic a week before as my partner and I had not acquired transit to the Hub Toronto-our tickets to Montréal began the trip in this city, not our current dwellings in SW Ontario.
A relative had stepped in the last-minute with a much-needed point & shoot, as OSHEAGA had a strict policy of no SLR’s(all our cameras were film or digital SLR’s, Polaroids and completely worn out/destroyed digital point-&-shoots). Unfortunately the happiness was short-lived as the camera was forgotten at the residence(over 45 minutes away[and the trip was off to a late start]). As such we had to deal with a smaller megapixel count(under two megapixels) than the forgotten camera. As well, previously stated video features on the camera turned out to have no audio capabilities. This was a problem on the first day of OSHEAGA-later explained.
Our trip into Hub Toronto is a wreck of intercity driving and an hour-long slew of red lights. We reached our destination with much post-driving anxiety, The Pour House Irish Pub at 182 Dupont Ave. There we met with a longtime friend for catch-up (he’d been studying vigorously at U of T and pursuing greater life ambitions) and partook in an enjoyable meal consisting of drinks and sweet potato fries. After finishing our meeting we had to be off, as our bus out to Hub Montréal had been known to line-up quickly. Goodbyes and we were off for a three hour wait in the bus terminal.
THE ACTUAL TRIP BEGINS COMMENCING NOW.
Waiting for three hours, and we were still 11th/12th in line. We travelled with Greyhound, a mistake I always make, as certain companies in Canada have monopolies and outrageous prices holding people back from serious bus & train travels across the various region.
The first bus pulls up ten minutes after its departure time, the best bus I’ve ever seen-free wi-fi, extended leg room, charging outlets, the works. Five minutes later another bus-the opposite end, a total wreck, cramped seating, hard rocky backs,terrible smells.
The bus operators begin separating passengers as those travelling to Montréal(the ultimate destination), and Ottawa(the intermediate stopover). The passengers going farther are a majority, but slight-think two passengers.
The bus going to Montréal is the shit-tier bus. This trip will take us from Hub Toronto to Hub Ottawa, to Hub Montréal, starting 12:50am(20 minutes late) & finishing 9:00am. So the bus we took was pretty treacherous, as the road north became progressively crack-filled.
About two hours outside of Toronto the bus travelling tandem begins to slow, so does our own. Pulling off to the side our driver exits the bus-with no explanation-for several minutes. After re-entering no explanation is given and we proceed on towards the intended 3:00am rest stop.
The rest stop invigorates us and before entering the bus we sing Sprawl II by The Arcade Fire. The city lay behind us, but its glow crept along our shadowy trail. No sleep and Hub Ottawa is upon us.
The layover is short and thankfully we leave Hub Ottawa on schedule. Before us lay two hours of nerve-wracking driving and sheer beauty. Through the final leg of our trip a thick sheet of fog blanketed our travel way. First creeping across fields, through the criss-cross of irrigation and natural ditches. Then-faster-it swarmed entire forested regions, easily become a wall of dark clouds over 50 feet tall.The bus continued on its usual speed but out the windows even trees beside the road had become wrapped in the grey-white velvety cloak.
Suddenly we burst above the soup, and from it came the rising sun, gleaming it’s rays across the surface of the St. Lawrence River. A sight I will never forget, even in my sleep-deprived memories-the fog would not penetrate that far yet. Blues and tumultuous greens clashed with the shattered oranges now dancing their fingers across the seaway.
It is the morning of Thursday August 2nd, 2012. We enter Hub Montréal and graffiti covers every surface. An abandoned motel shows it’s hundreds of temporary occupants, all bright sharp lined tags, filling entire walls. We travel through the churches and sprawl, ending our journey at the bus terminal in Hub Montréal. It’s free wi-fi does not like to work on our two different internet-capable devices. Luckily the beautiful Quebec National Library greeted our exit from the bus terminal. We cross the street-which we immediately notice has a concrete barrier protecting cyclists from traffic. I use cycling as exercise, transit and recreation back home, so to see designated lanes is always a nice sight.
The Library interior is stunning, a massive multistory lobby, which descended into a children section/movie viewing area and an art gallery (now featuring an exhibit on Japanese Manga & Animé). A large, wide staircase emerged from the wall opposite entrance doors and marked its way upwards to the four stories above. We explore all the little alcoves, final emerging to the help desk which gives us both a free guest pass for the Library Computer Network. After 20 minutes of map searching we exit the beautiful archives and take the subways to our accommodations-a shared house with our apartment exiting to a second story balcony looking into a well-kept view of the mountains.
We leave our belongings and explore the area, finding out our residence is close to bakeries and some interesting geeky stores including Komico (a comic book shop which seemed to specialize in high quality miniseries collections and more adult themed issues, quite a nice atmosphere too!) and Gamers’ Vault (a tabletop games store that holds tournaments & free days for games such as HeroClix, WarMachine[very cool], Dungeons & Dragons, etc…). I suggest anyone check them out if they get the chance as both stores were friendly and bilingual.
After exploring the neighbourhood until dusk, we return to the apartment and settle in for an evening of music, drinks, good food(our house had a kitchen!), preparing for the next day, and resting on the balcony to look at the night sky.
Awakening to cicadas hissing we find the alarm. It’s the first day of OSHEAGA, Friday August 2nd, 2012. Preparing all our clothes the previous evening , we stumble out of bed, reeling from the first sleep in 48 hours. We force ourselves to the local eateries and prepare toward the core for the festival. As none of the opening bands we cared for, we decide to wait about an hour before going to the island, hoping thr initial crowds would sort themselves out. A good choice too, as when we reached the only subway line to Jean-Drapeau island there was still around 1200 people waiting to get on. I am not a slow person and so weaving through the crowd we emerged in the subway terminal itself. All the while I notice it getting hotter the deeper we go into the system of networking tunnels. A quick heat though, as the subway car only takes a few minutes to reach us. The ride under St. Lawrence river is about seven minutes but feels longer(under the raging St. Lawrence), and we quickly exit the terminal to breathe fresh air.
We had decided that there weren’t enough bands that we wanted to see on the Saturday so when leaving the metro station we sold our tickets to the first person who gave us the price we initially paid. It was nice because then we could spend a day in Hub Montréal and relax. During the sale I was swarmed by people looking for Friday tickets but shooed them all away, including a burly man who was willing to give me 300 dollars for one ticket.
Entering the festival is easy, a simple bag check and we’re through. The day is hazy here for a couple of hours, as Franz Ferdinand was the first band we wanted to see specifically and they started at 5:30. So we explored the festival, listening to music from all stages. Climbing the mobile bridge to reach the Green & Tree stages, we found beautiful views of Hub Montréal and cool forested areas free of crowds. We stopped off at the Electronic stage and danced around during Prison Garde and Mac 10 & Hyper MC. After that it was back over to the main stages as there was a pavilion featuring the new Chevy Spark in a visuals filled “car ride”. We wait for about 15 minutes until they explain how the legalities and process of the “experience” will work. It all checked out so Sweater Eyes and myself began.
First we were handed an i-Pad that would let you swivel the car around on its stand, then allowing for a light show to cover the car in several choices of covers, each peeling away blocky pixel by pixel. We are then told to enter the car and so begins the ride. The car moves slightly on its pad as the trip takes you through parts of Hub Montréal and into a digitized version of the trip across St.Lawrence River to the island. It looks like Tron. It was very bright and neon veins covered the surfaces, quite spiffy. The whole viewing lasts about three minutes and is well worth it. For helping make a festival video we are treated to entering the VIP lounge 30 feet above the ground for free drinks and snacks. So we head up the stairs into a nicely covered patio featuring fake sod and comfortable seating.
During our time on the VIP patio we listened to the group Radio Radio, as well as watching the pair Amadou & Mariam performing on the main stages. An amazing performance as they had a good level of harmonizing and I enjoy listening to the blues guitar. Franz Ferdinand is up next so we leave the patio and go to sit on the grassy hill, as we had decided that this would be our “festival show” to watch, relaxing cheerfully and singing to some old favourites. The band is stellar, performing with a great amount of energy even while dressed in long-sleeved pants and shirts(temperatures the first day were sweltering).
Next we had a little break until Florence and the Machine came on. Our plan was to go stand at the Stage Sigur Rós was playing(they performed immediately after Florence on the stage beside her). Our plan worked and as the crowds surged towards her we achieved a spot not 20 feet from the stage, in a position where we could still see Florence perform.
A few friends have told me if I ever had the opportunity, see Florence and the Machine live as they were a sight beyond all. I am definitely happy I heeded this advice and strongly suggest everyone do the same. Her voice was ethereal and she danced across the stage like a flowing spectre. Her stage presence was phenomenal and I loved every song-turning me into a fan for sure.
Then came the main event for us. This was THE band we came to see on Friday. Sigur Rós. The hauntingly beautiful Icelandic post-rock quartet, and it was the most rewarding experience of my life. Hands down. The set-list-
2- Ný Batterí
4- Hoppípolla + Með Blódnasir
5- Olsen Olsen
It was spectacular, with songs from all over their careers. No other event will capture the sheer raw power and emotion conveyed in that short hour. Anything else I can say would do their set an injustice, as such I offer this link to the photolog that Sweater Eyes and myself recorded that evening here.
After the most amazing thing I’ve experienced we still had bands to see. A very fast run over to the farthest possible stage to see MGMT perform. Remember the camera issue? I had recorded two songs by Sigur Rós and a new song by MGMT called Alien Conquest(or Alien Days, I’ve found it labelled under this also). Well, the camera we had? No audio, so our video for the first day was scrapped, but we only found this out after coming home. Nonetheless, we were able to see MGMT perform 5 songs which was more than we initially thought possible. A solid performance, easily a high of the weekend being able to see MGMT perform Siberian Breaks, Electric Feel, The Handshake, and Congratulations, all being topped off with a new song.
The problem was that Sigur Rós had overlapped with MGMT by 45 minutes. Then, MGMT and Justice overlapped by another 30 minutes. All the bands that I wanted to see on the first day, nicely packed into a two-hour bundle. As MGMT finished their unreleased song we sped back to the main stages for Justice.
Dancing like madmen we careened towards the open fields, we jumped, kicked and twirled our way around the throbbing notes. They glowed, for around them lay dozens of oddly stacked speakers and amps, conjoined by a shining white cross in the center. We had run back through our fellow Osheagites and managed to see the final 6 songs, including Stress.
We left the festival to see that the Metro tunnels were clogged-possibly for hours. Not finding any maps to see what kind of trip getting off the island is, we walk. Yes, walk off the island, never do it, it is foolish and enduring. Walking to a smaller island we stride past several apartment complexes that resembled stacked cardboard boxes slightly pushed or pulled from their uniform wall. Some spaces were empty where a block should have been, and these were amazing to see as we left OSHEAGA. During our travels we had run out of water and were quite thirsty. Luckily there were two construction workers for the city filling a water tank from the closest fire hydrant. We asked if they can help fill our water bottles, they agree and are thanked mercilessly by us, but our journey doesn’t cease. After a two-hour walk covering between 7-10 kilometers, we arrived on the mainland and collapse. Do we use transit or a taxi? We decide taxi and it was the worst choice made in Montreal during our trip. The driver doesn’t know where our destination is or the neighbourhood it resides in. So he decides that entering a freeway with night construction going on is the best option. We enter the taxi at around 12:30 am, thinking we’ll be home by the coming hour and it would be a $25 trip. Not so, as we become stuck on the highway for almost 45 minutes. The ride has moved no more than 500 meters and we decide to find our own way off the highway.The highway we walked on had a ledge that could be traversed(a two meter gap, which fell to become a steep several hundred foot tall hill) to reach a fence, this fence was broken and could be accessed but it entered a construction company lot and we didn’t want a trespassing charge in this city over getting home.
So we ran down the high way to the closest off ramp being reconstructed. As such, there was a dirt hill almost 300 feet that needed to be climbed down before even getting back to city streets. We descend to the city level and begin walking back to a street we don’t know, in a city we don’t know, at 1:30 in the morning. After walking 15 minutes we ask a taxi passing by where the nearest metro is, we are told it’s 15 minute walk. I think we looked completely lost and on the verge of crying because(despite our protests) this man drove us to the nearest Metro station free of charge, he told us it was on his way. This man saved us as we had no idea where we were until he helped us. We left the taxi to run for the Metro, only to see it closing. We had missed the last subway train of the night.
We leave the station and start walking, only to stop after five minutes. It will be too far and it is too late in a city that is alien to us. We catch another taxi and the driver knows exactly where to go, this man was getting a tip tonight. He had us back in our neighbourhood within 15 minutes, with a ride only costing $20 including tip. We arrive home around 2:30 am and promptly shower(we had a second skin of dirt & grime) before heading off to sleep.