The sixth annual Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is expanding to three full days of programming, with big name headliners like Eminem, Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello and Tragically Hip.
I attended the first gathering at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène back in the summer of 2006 and immediately fell in love with this festival. Given that it was the inaugural dates, I didn't know what quite to expect but I typically dig outdoor venues over stadium shows. It was well organized, people were friendly, security was minimal, beverages and snacks were abundant, free water, clean facilities, and the entertainment was fantastic. That year I recall headliners Sonic Youth and Damian Marley, along with then emerging artists such as Wolf Parade, Think About Life, Tokyo Police Club, and Duchess Says.
Bonus for those from Ontario is that if fell on our Civic holiday the first weekend of August. It was worth the five hour drive from Toronto, and I've been hooked ever since. The second year the dates were changed to the second weekend in September coinciding with the Virgin Festival in Toronto, allowing the organizers to save on travel expenses, but at a loss of originality. Basically it was the same line up, and many from Toronto chose to avoid the drive that year. Highlights were Smashing Pumpkins, Bloc Party, Thunderheist, Dragonette, and Fucked Up.
In 2008, the event moved back to the original dates, Virgin Festival died, and things were back on track for Osheaga. The other brilliant concept that works is having two full headlining stages side by side, so as one act ends another starts immediately, allowing the stage hands ample time to get things ready for the next act. There's also a gigantic HD screen so those lounged out on the grassy hillside can still catch everything.
Perhaps the most fun I had was roaming the site and taking in the two smaller stages nestled among the trees. This is where all the newer acts can be found, and you never know what to expect. One year I walked by and Sebastian Grainger was wailing away on one stage, while the lead singer from Duchess Says mud wrestled with the crowd at the other. There's also a visual arts display, a community organization area, and DJ tents.
This year the event is being programmed for three full days, July 29th to 31st, and features a similarly diverse line up with big name headliners performing alongside the next big thing. I'd definitely suggest getting your tickets now, and securing accommodations.
For those who prefer not to drive,VIA Rail terminates right downtown within walking distance of many hotels, and a short ride on the Metro away. Porter Airlines also conveniently flies out of Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto.
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