Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Osheaga Music Festival: the experience

Last weekend, I went to Osheaga Music Festival, a three day indie music festival held in on Jean-Drapeau island in Montreal, featuring over a hundred bands and something like thirty thousand festival participants. As you can imagine, it was exciting and chaotic. People everywhere. Hour long lineups for everything, including for water, washrooms, and food.

 And it was hot. There were a lot of poor white guys getting sunburned. It got to the point where people were standing under the mist tent, trying to fill their water bottles with the water drops - as you might imagine, that took a while. It got to the point where people were filling up their water bottles from rubber hoses on the ground. It got to the point where I was jumping into the creek on the island, with no idea as to the source of the water.
filling up on water at the mist tent

filling up on water from the ground

A lot of us spent the time between band sets lying under the shade of trees to recover.

It was an interesting setting. Vendors were all over the place giving away free stuff. I like free stuff.  Out of my desperate thirst, I get some free Budweiser. Some free Vitamin Water, the vitamin drink mysteriously lacking in vitamins.   These are all things you generally couldnt' even pay me to consume, but festivals are different settings. Incidentally, the line for free booze was shorter than the line for free water. This is why I love Montreal.

The food was surprising, and not in a good way. There was poutine. Lots of poutine. And hot dogs and hamburgers. The Osheaga website also promised exotic ethnic food, but all I could find remotely ethnic was pizza and burritoes. So I went for poutine.

What I also found interesting was the lack of cell phone coverage. The entire island has only one cell phone tower, which is usually enough, but not for a festival this side, so people basically could not use their cell phones the entire time.  It was like we had somehow shifted back in time, to a time when people carried cash to pay for things, a time when it was normal to have only hamburgers as your dinner options because nobody had heard of pad thai or butter chicken, a time when people learned to function without cell phones, arranging plans in advance to meet with friends at a certain time and place, when time when you made friends with the people next to you to pas the time, rather than instagramming and tweeting and facebooking everything   Actually, that's what my teenage years was like, so it should have all felt nostalgically familiar, but instead it felt strange and scarily disconnected.  Also, I've discovered that 98% of other people's conversations are incredibly boring.

At one point, the sky broke loose and it began pouring. The ice cream man was suddenly no longer popular.  Some people screamed and tried to find cover. Some people cheered and started to dance in the rain. I decided it was a good time to find something to eat, while the lines were shorter. The heat remained; the festival ground just became dirtier, with mud splatters making curious patterns on the back of my calves like tattoos.

Getting off the island to go home after the festival was even more chaotic.  Despite the police officers guiding the crowd through the metro, you were quickly separated from your friends in the crowd.  Guys ran up the down escalators to get past the crowd. Every once in a while, the crowds would burst into spontaneous song and cheers, excited by the music they had experienced earlier that day.  Despite the heat, the exhaustion, and the thirst, you could feel the energy in the crowd, thicker than anything else.

Until the power went out in the only metro route off the island. I had to admit I started to panic a bit, predicting who on the metro would become the crazy one first, who would unexpectedly become my best friend, and who would we consider eating first.

But it still remained an amazing time.

Also see Oshagea Music Festival: the music - Day 1