The Come Up Show is a hip-hop website, and admittedly OSHEAGA isn’t a hip-hop festival. It’s more like a dog’s breakfast for genre benders, for people who like to try on all sorts of sounds and behaviours, but given the TCUS readership I’ve collected a series of beat-centric acts from Day 2 to review here, namely Dam-Funk, Lupe Fiasco, Ratatat, and Bassnectar.
Before I get into the thick of it, I should quickly disclose a bias or two which spring from the fact that festivals, like OSHEAGA, are uniquely dis-isolated listening environments. In other words, the average attendee’s experiences, moods, and are not primarily controlled by a sole artist, but rather a collective of artists that may, but more likely may not be, musically related. A Hardcore Punk band plays next to an Electro/Dub tent, a Rap-Rock band plays next to an World Indie duo. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that all sorts of music fans are jam packed into one huge space at these types of venues, which is different than say going to, say, a Foreign Exchange show where everyone knows Phonte’s history with Lil Brother, the 9th Wonder beef and what Nicolay has to do with Okay Player, not to mention that you and everyone else in the crowd likely wore Triple 5 Soul in 2003 and have been to Future Shop to price BASSSSSSSSS woofers and Dr. Dre headsets. Naw, OSHEAGA is not a music bubble laden with comfort music. It’s a festival of mingling where you can try other sound worlds and cultures you may not be so familiar with, musics you may not necessarily go out of your way to pay for otherwise.
So while I limit my review to these beat-hop acts, I do it only out of the sake of economics and the fact that the next show starts in 2 hours and I still need to get this shit written and hop on the overpacked (and underwater) metro to get down to the island, because to block out everything but one kind of music at a festival like this misses the point of festivals like this altogether. The point, is to intermingle. The point is to exercise the lazy, flabby synapses in your brain that double kicks, glitch stops, light shows, funk vamps, and ELECTRIC GUITARS will ignite and the samples and screws and chops and truncations of hip-hop will not. We all know but sometimes don’t like to admit that there is nutritious music beyond that made from turntables and microphones. I guess all this is a long way of explaining what a more succinct musical doctor could have put in a sentence: Remember to eat your vegetables, kids.
I may have been kinda far away from the stage since I got there a bit late after the Dam Funk madness, but it took a couple minutes for it to soak in that this was actually Lupe up on stage. Not because I was struck by a lightning bolt of fandom, but because in his army pants and V neck tank and the Coolio hair, he looked not like the Lupe I knew but more like a cross between Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz and ODB, and the rock band playing behind him made the sound scene even more confusing. By the time he started shouting “Lasssssssers” though, my fun little “is this he?!?!?!” game came to an abrupt end and I started to parse what exactly I was hearing. It was Rap Rock.
Lasers, Lupe’s latest, isn’t a very good album even though it is a successful one. Pop/Rock oriented people don’t usually like going to hip-hop shows because the show is boring, so maybe he tried to make up for both by hiring a huge live band, electric guitar, keys and everything, and turn it into a stadium show. Eh, it seems to be working though, because the girls I bought my hot dog from were practically spazzing out and unable to calculate my change when “Superstar” came on. “You may all think we’re big stars,” he said, “But you guys are the real superstars. Don’t forget to look into the mirror.” Always positive, Lupe! Always a charmer.
Dâm-Funk was hands down the highlight of Day 2. Parc Jean-Drapeau is situated on an island on the south side of Montreal, and on the North side of the Isle, where Dam was playing on the electronik picnik stage, there is a beautiful view that looks back across the sparkling St Lawrence at the city skyline. So the day was gorgeous, Dâm was jolly, hovering over his turntable for the first part of the set while sucking back a few cigarettes between records and, my favourite part, telling us the specs on whatever he was spinning like a generous, informative, sharing DJ. In the flesh he really is the ambassador of Funk people so often affectionally refer to him as.
Then he played few a few new tracks “because ya’ll all keep up with what I’m doin’ … beautiful music for beautiful people …” including his recent Ariel Pink remix (“This is my Pitchfork song … ya’ll are supposed to laugh when I say that!”), and whipped out his bright red keytar, abandoned the turntables, and came out infront of the deck where he started to sing a la disco-funk: “Montreal, we came to kill this motha fucka!” but in the most soulful, stunning, meaningful vocals you can imagine, white teeth gleaming, eyes squinted, body twisted. The stage was also small enough that he jumped down into the pit during his extended keytar solo and pressed the board onto the bodies of the crowd while playing.
Ratatat is an instrumental group that plays real instruments realtime during their performances over a pre-recorded electro track. They bounced around the stage infront of an incredible visual show (a la Drugs and looped gif-style video clips) playing sickly catchy guitar riffs, melodica riffs, synth riffs, glockenspeil riffs, you get the idea. There were a lot of riffs. Conversational ones. It was like listening to a language called Riff.
Okay. Honesty. I didn’t go to Bassnectar because I have a huge thing for Fucked Up and I had to go watch Damian strip his clothes and body surf off the smallest stage in the parc. But I feel comfortable giving a nod on this one because the bass frequencies I literally felt through my feet from the FU stage felt good (imagine if you felt them in your heart… mmm) and everyone I’ve talked to who went said it put them on another planet. Unfortunately we can’t be in two places at once in the flesh. Yet.
Look at Darryl and this cute baby.
Words: Kara-Lis Coverdale
Photos: Kara-Lis Coverdale and Evenko.