16 years and counting; Montréal’s OSHEAGA Music and Arts Festival delivers peak summer bliss
by: Natalie Pereira
Aug 26, 2023
In the weeks leading up to August, a simmering feeling of anticipation starts to descend over the city of Montréal. Buzzing off the excitement of a jam-packed July, residents and wanderers alike know all too well of the fast-approaching annual recurrence of OSHEAGA Music and Arts Festival. Over the August 4–6 weekend, an unexplainable enchantment settled over the city, painting “la ville des festivals” with magic.
For its sixteenth year, Montréalers have again shared their home with out-of-towners hoarding to the city for three days of music performances on the Parc Jean Drapeau island, marking a magical co-existence between the two. A colossal 155,000 people attended the sold-out three-day event, traveling from across the globe in packs; some to see their favorite artists for the umpteenth time appear on stage, and others to chart new territories in their musical discovery.
It’s akin to navigating a treasure map, each stage a distinct X that may lead you to discover a new favorite act or uncover hidden gems along the journey. With the iconic ferris wheel, a landmark of OSHEAGA’s legacy, affording breathtaking views of the River and Mountain stages, to the camaraderie-forging pilgrimages to the Green and Chevrolet Valley stages – every touch of the festival added to the resounding success of this year’s experience.
Local festival organizers, evenko, struck magic once again with their all-star booking efforts, sporting a well-rounded out lineup represented by major headliners RÜFÜS DU SOL, Billie Eilish, and Kendrick Lamar in their respective genres. But the well-deserved recognition shines on the representation of electronic music on the lineup, wooing attendees with dusky sunset performances from the genre’s most coveted names.
Day one attendees were treated to a diverse range of dance music bookings across three stages (with little overlap between one another), ensuring fans didn’t need to split up their friend groups to catch their most desired act. The Coca Cola stage staked claim on the largest volume of electronic music, where artists like Hayden James, DJ Seinfeld, PAWSA, Kasablanca, Nostalgix, and Tinlicker held down the decks for high-energy afternoon time slots.
Of other notable weekend moments, Bicep debuted their live performance to the Montréal crowd, after five years since gracing the city with their presence. Day one witnessed a magical closing performance from Australian darlings RÜFÜS DU SOL serenading the enraptured crowd with anthems like “Underwater” and “You Were Right”, with the dim of the Montréal skyline glowing in the background.
Amidst the Sunday dancefloor ruckus, a surprise that will reverberate in Canadian festival lore emerged: Dom Dolla summoned Canadian icon Nelly Furtado to join him onstage, unleashing their debut collaboration “Eat Your Man.” In all of the weekend’s extraordinary moments, Fred Again’s highly awaited debut took the cake with sixty-ish minutes of pure, unadulterated joy.
The British artist has stealthily found a home in countless hearts of many since the release of “Marea (we’ve lost dancing)”, an ode to the pandemic effect of losing connection with others across the dance floor. OSHEAGA was his sole Canadian festival appearance for 2023, a pilgrimage that drew fervent fans from every corner of the country, a testament to how quickly Sunday tickets sold-out.
In its sixteen-year history, OSHEAGA – the experience and the lineups – have consistently embodied the vibrant charm and cultural appetites of Montréal. As attendees depart and the stages clear, they carry with them not just memories of the music but the energy and magic of Montréal in the peak of summer.
Featured images: Tim Snow, Benoit Rousseau, Susan Moss