With the massive flux of homegrown festivals seemingly inbreeding with one another throughout the Northeast‚ it seems everybody's brother-in-law is throwing some type of jamboree where they hope their cousin Louie will get a chance to play mouth-harp with somebody else's cousin you've never heard of. In other words‚ the meaning of the word "festival" has been slightly dampened. Enough so that you might have forgotten about the real‚ massive festival happening this weekend across the border in Montreal. If you're not aroused by the extra 6 cents to the dollar‚ the slight change in temperature as you draw nearer the Arctic Circle‚ or the fact that a whole other universe exists 45 minutes past the border‚ then Osheaga's 2011 lineup might be the thing to perk your fancy. And yes‚ there are still day tickets available‚ so if you don't want to see Eminem‚ then don't go see Eminem.
Set upon 5 stages‚ there are plenty of random acts to check out Friday afternoon. If you get there when the doors open‚ Lights bring their astral swooning to a much bigger stage then they're used to and should be worth the scope. But make sure you leave their set early to get to The Knux on the Budweiser Main Stage. It's big-beat party-soul hip-hop‚ and they should get the weekend in full groove. The Canadian pride starts ringing true with Broken Social Scene -- I'm pretty sure they hand out free Yukon citizenship to any American who has seen the band more than 10 times. Kid CuDi starts directly after that‚ and as long as he holds onto the groove that his boys‚ The Knux‚ will have set before him‚ he should have no problem keeping the pocket deep for those just there for the hip-hop acts. Audiophiles‚ rap-kids‚ and Canadian nationalists alike should all get as close to the stage as they can for Janelle Monae though. Like a young‚ sexy‚ better-dressed‚ female James Brown‚ this girl will have the masses eating out of her hand‚ and there's due reason to try and get a piece. Still slightly out of the mainstream view as the public has been absorbed by a calmer soul groove as of late‚ Monae is quietly tromping the masses with her smooth punch. Go to Youtube and watch "Tightrope" right now if you haven't before. Then comes the boy from Detroit -- with Eminem playing an hour and a half set‚ it's well worth missing the first half hour to watch The Barr Brothers. He's still gonna be plenty hyped and angry by the time you get over there‚ so do yourself a favor and watch The Slip's Barr Bros. channel the strumming of the ageless. And then yes‚ it doesn't matter if you have never heard Eminem or if you can't stand the guy‚ he's a legend and he demands your attention.
Things start earlier on Saturday and there's a lot of bouncing around worth your time. Manchester Orchestra are writing really good tunes these days‚ and are worth seeing if you like Death Cab. That is unless you hate bands that try to sound like Death Cab because you love Death Cab so much… whatever‚ check em' out. Tokyo Police Club are amazing‚ and nail their post-millennium indie-attack-rock better than 95% of their peers -- they should have the grounds' full focus in the afternoon. Then comes the 3-way toss-up of either seeing the mesmerizing‚ folk-guitar of the John Butler Trio‚ the mellow in-the-woods vibe of The Mountain Goats‚ or the modern Joy Division feel of Twin Shadow. Who am I kidding actually? Go to Twin Shadow -- they're awesome‚ as long as you don't have one of those friends who hates 80's revisionings. Again‚ Youtube "Slow" now. Do it before you watch the Janelle Monae video actually. Lupe Fiasco is your next bet -- the kid's still got some of the best lyrics in the game‚ and he puts on a killer show. Then comes one of the biggest "don't-miss" bands of the weekend: the freshly reunited Death From Above 1979. The drum and guitar duo are huge‚ and loud‚ and noisy‚ and downright beautiful. A sweaty lead-singing drummer with a voice reminiscent of Faith No More's Mike Patton‚ and tunes that always feel like they're right on the edge of completely falling apart -- these guys will definitely be the highlight of the weekend for some. Next you have to choose between the safety of Bright Eyes‚ and the head-nodding space-pockets crafted by Ratatat. If you're asking me‚ Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes is gonna be doing his thing for a long time‚ but now is the time to see a band like Ratatat in their prime. And again‚ they're just two dudes. The legendary Elvis Costello follows up‚ and you shouldn't leave his set early to go see Bassnectar‚ even if your girlfriend really wants to go. Instead you should leave Costello's set early to see Fucked Up. The possibilities of epically soulful modern punk touch upon all limits with this band‚ and this Saturday night closing slot should be the ideal time to see them and completely let go of yourself. And while I won't go into detail about the constant music coming from the Electronik Stage‚ the big-time hip-hop beats of Girl Unit will also be playing until they cut em off on Saturday‚ and if there weren't so much other amazing music happening at the same time‚ it would be the party to be at.
The absurd back-to-back lineups keep coming -- the interwoven placement of different Canadian bands really takes things all over the place. In the early day‚ the sound of the gentle fellas in Frightened Rabbit is a great place to start. Then you have to choose between the reclaimed sound of 90's alt-rockers‚ Eels‚ or the Wilco-ish rock-Americana of Smith Westerns. If you've never seen Cypress Hill -- well‚ everybody's gotta smoke a joint at a Cypress Hill show at some point in their life -- but if you've already done that‚ then you should be locked in front of the brilliant indie-pop of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Some even mellower acts follow‚ highlighted by the brilliant roots of The Low Anthem. Then of course comes The Tragically Hip‚ who again will be handing out Canadian green-cards to die-hard aliens. Crystal Castles then bring their off-kilter future-vamp dance-party to the approaching sunset‚ but will most likely lose their crowd to the ultimate sunset band‚ Death Cab for Cutie. If you think the band is soft‚ if you think it's too poppy for you‚ if you think you may hate them -- go see their set‚ it just might completely change your opinion of the Northwest pop-lamenters -- it did for me. They are beyond all they're cracked up to be. And then comes the epic festy-closer of The Flaming Lips. Except not only are the Lips bringing their epic production dream-show of norm‚ they'll be performing all of The Soft Bulletin -- which despite much argument is my favorite Lips album of all time‚ and probably one of my Top 10 favorite albums from the 90's. Anybody who goes over to see the DJ stylings of MSTRKRFT during the Flaming Lips is completely out of their mind‚ but that's what those guys are there for. Grab your passport and head north this weekend‚ there's at least a handful of acts for everyone to adore.