I was hoping to ride out the last Osheaga on the cramped temporary site on Ile Notre Dame on the sidelines, but the lure of a major rap headliner proved too much, and out of curiosity I found myself deep in the pit on a hot, sweaty Friday night, waiting impatiently for the man of the hour with tens of thousands of his hardcore fans.
How hot and cramped, you ask? It was so uncomfortable waiting for Houston-born rapper Travis Scott that a kid next to me passed out and no one was really sure who to call. The floor was so packed it wasn’t even realistic to signal for help or carry him out. He got a spritz of water from his girlfriend and appeared good to go afterwards.
I’ve now covered GQ power couple Scott and Kylie Jenner in separate instances, and can say they’ve left me waiting about a combined six hours in the heat. Jenner was at her Beachclub bday fiasco a few years back, and with a mere 90 minute delay, Scott was downright prompt compared to the mother of his child.
It’s also amazing how a rapper can reduce a well-oiled machine like Osheaga, where hundreds of acts go on and off efficiently, to typing out hopeful updates on the big screen with the whereabouts of their lost headliner, such as “he’s past the Turcot yards” and “he’s on the island!”
Despite waiting in the heat surrounded by drunk, sweaty dudes, Scott’s 50-minute set somehow made it all worth it. With his DJ atop a cubed structure and a videographer trained on him like a sniper, Scott premiered cuts off Astroworld with his trademark autotuned warble. I whipped out my phone to grab some video of the pyro and my hand shook no matter how hard I tried to keep it in place. I let myself go and certainly got caught up in the moment. Maybe it’s because the last few years at Osheaga have really felt like work, but Scott’s set will go down as a top-five all-time festival moment for me, which I consider high-praise since I’ve been to the last 12 editions.
Which brings me to another point: this Osheaga was unlike any of the others I’ve been to. Not only was it beyond packed and claustrophobic in a way it hasn’t been before, but the crowd skewed younger — a lot younger. I’m 34, and it’s not inconceivable that a large percentage of kids there were little more than half my age. That means different tastes and altogether different expectations when it comes to a quality festival experience.
And it’s not that I didn’t dig the music. I love Rae Sremmurd as much as anyone, but I found it hard to get anywhere near the stages and mostly had to settle for squinting at proceedings from afar. Then there were sets like Smokepurrp’s, who represent an even newer wave of rap acts that I’m barely catching up to. Everyone there knew the words and lit up for their 21-year-old hero, even if I didn’t and had trouble finding the appeal. I think I’ve officially reached the age where I’ll wait to catch my favourite act at a club or venue and let the youth have their fun catching 50 bands at once in a chaotic setting.
At the very least, Travis Scott’s massive headlining set was confirmation that there’s still a certain charm in the sweaty, outdoor experience, and that perhaps he’s got more lasting power as a popular music figure than previously thought. Next time he plays Montreal, which at present won’t be on his upcoming tour, I’ll pick up the phone.