10 years of Osheaga

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Osheaga, Montreal’s huge festival of music and art. Over the past decade, Osheaga has been steadily growing into one of North America’s top destination festivals.  Scheduled July 31- Aug. 2 at Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau, the event boasts a lineup that includes Alt-J, Kendrick Lamar, The Black Keys and many others. Its a completely immersive experience for Osheaga’s fans, many of which have been attending the festival since the beginning.

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The crowd at one of the main stages at Osheaga 2014.

Last year’s festival drew a record 135 000 attendees, and this year is already completely sold out. Up to 70% of the festival goers aren’t from the Quebec area and make their way to the Montreal island every summer, creating a huge boom for Montreal’s art and nightlife scenes.

“It definitely did not start out that way,” explains Nick Farkas, VP of Programming at Evenko and one of the organizers of Osheaga. “When we created Osheaga we knew it would be tough sledding if we just relied on Montreal and Quebec, and everybody close by, to make it work.The population base isn’t really that large. We had hoped from the start it would turn out to be a destination festival.  Fortunately, for the survival of the festival, it has.”

“In the late ’80s, one of my buddies and I were very into punk rock and none of the bands that we liked were playing here.  So one of my buddies started randomly calling the bands that were booking themselves, or figuring out ways to reach those bands and started bringing them to Montreal.  We started partnering on shows,” reminisces Nick. “I was in college and was a bike manager.  I never, ever, ever thought I’d make a living at this.  So we started at very grass-roots humble beginnings and have progressed to booking huge festivals and arena acts and such.  It’s been a fun journey, that’s for sure.”

Over the last ten years Osheaga has boomed becoming one of the biggest music festivals in Canada. The lineup is packed with a variety of major stars and alternative indie acts. Additionally, the organizers want to create a combination of popular contemporary acts as well as giving older, classic acts time to shine.

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Imagine Dragons performing at Osheaga, 2013.

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Macklemore performing at Osheaga, 2013.

“We had Sonic Youth and Ben Harper headline our first year.  Back then, it was a different world in terms of how people were discovering music.  Our crowd was a bit older and trying to turn the older fans – the Sonic Youth and Ben Harper fans – onto newer bands was a big challenge,” explains Nick. “Now, one of the biggest challenges is with the more established rock acts. The younger demo that’s coming to our festivals now doesn’t know Nick Cave, The Replacements, all these phenomenal bands.  We try trying to make sure that the kids that are super-stoked for the lineup based on the newer artists, also play attention to the acts that were there before and are amazing.  In terms of educating the older people to learn about the new bands and the new kids learning about the older bands, it’s been a complete shift.”

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This year’s lineup won’t disappoint festival goers used to this wide selection Osheaga is known for. A combination of rock, EDM, hip-hop, and alternative artists are set to play this weekend. To learn more about Osheaga, please visit their website.

Stay tuned for live updates from the festival this weekend on zeeBigBang’s twitter.

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