Osheaga is one of Canada’s biggest multi-day music festivals and takes place at Parc Jean Drapeau which is located on Île Sainte Hélène in central Montreal. Overall attendance for the three days is 160,000 and you can choose to attend all three days or any single individual day.
Getting to Osheaga
The great thing about Osheaga is its accessibility. Thanks to Montreal’s extensive Metro, you can get to the festival quickly and without the need of a car. The yellow Metro line stops directly at the gate for the festival so just walk off the subway, head up a couple flights of stairs and you’re there!
Gates open at noon and the first performances start at 1pm. Be prepared for 30-45 minute lineups to make your way through security (sorry Glasto goers, no alcohol is allowed to be brought on site). My experience was a bit inconsistent with regards to security. Saturday for example, I arrived on site at noon and was inside the festival area within 10 minutes. On Sunday, however, it took 45 minutes to get through security as security personnel were extensively checking all bags. One addition I’d like to see is a ‘no bags’ line which would allow quicker movement for a good percentage of festival goers.
There are 6 main stages at Osheaga (which includes the twined main stages). The site is fairly compact so the longest distance you will walk between stages will take approximately 15 minutes (at peak capacity)
The twinned main stages see performances alternate all day ending with the day’s headliner at approximately 930pm. Sight lines are very good anywhere in the main stage area. Three large video screens project the performances and the sound quality is excellent. Take note: there is little shade here so if you’re spending most of your day taking in the bigger acts, be prepared to bake in the sun! On the far left of the main stage area, is the elevated terrace which is reserved for Gold and VIP passes. There is dedicated food and drink service, and slightly elevated sight lines, but from my vantage point, this wouldn’t be enough to pay for a Gold wristband. As one act is performing on one stage, another is sound checking on the other so you many get a bit of sound bleeding over for a few minutes. There is a low (3 foot) barrier between the two main stages leading up to the sound/light tower so to move between the main stages you’ll have to move up past the sound/light tower and walk around. Having said that, if you’re down within 50-60 feet of the main stage barrier, you’ll have excellent sight lines to either stage.
Further back of the main stage area is a hill that can accommodate perhaps 2000 people. You will have an excellent view of both stages although you’ll be a bit disconnected from the action.
The 3rd largest stage is the Green Stage or Scène Verte and it is located through a wonderful wooded area and down a small incline. This stage by my guess could hold up to 5000 although none of the acts I saw drew that many here. Scene de le Vallée is also in this area and tucked in the lower left corner complete with two bleacher style sitting areas on either side of the stage. Scène de le Vallée is the second smallest stage at Osheaga
Just up the hill from Scene Verte is Scéne Stingray Music and is surrounded by trees for amazing intimate performances. Maximum capacity here is only 400-500 and is fantastic setting to catch a show.
If you balance your day right, you’ll spend equal parts between the two main stages and the 4 smaller ones. The final stage which I haven’t mentioned is the Scène Piknik Electronik which is a 5 minute walk from Scène Verte. Here you’ll see mostly electronic and dance acts. Food vendors and bars are close by so you if you plan on getting your dance on you won’t have to leave here for hours.
Sprinkled through the Osheaga grounds are several free water stations. Each water station has 6 taps, so lines, although they can get long, move quickly. Take advantage of the free water! You’ll be in the sun for long periods of time and your body will thank you later. Water is also sold at food vendors but it will set you back $2.50 for 600ml.
If you plan on drinking, prepare to shell out some serious money. The only beer on site I saw all weekend was Molson Canadian (no surprise as they’re a major sponsor) and one tall can (500ml) will set you back $8.50. Beer can be purchased at dedicated beer tents or during live performance directly from vendors. There were also several Smirnoff vodka, and rum and lemonade vendors sprinkled through the venue (and walking through the crowd) prepare to pay $10 for any drink with a shot of alcohol). Fresh pressed lemonade without rum is available for $5 for a 14oz cup
After all that drinking you’re going to eventually need to go to the washroom. Festival ‘facilities’ are what they are. Get in and get out quickly. Good news though, Osheaga is well equipped with hundreds of porta-potties throughout the site so you’ll never be too far away from one.
Now that you’ve got your drink in hand and have gone to the washroom, you’re going to need some food! Not surprising for a festival in Montreal, poutine is readily available at a number of locations. A poutine meal (with available pulled pork) will set you back $10-$13. Jumbo hotdogs will cost you $5.75. Beside all the poutine, hot dogs, and fish and chip vendors, Osheaga is also home to many food trucks. They are located in a circular pavilion compete with 16-20 picnic tables straight down the main walkway as you enter approximately 300m from the front gate. Here you can get vegetarian options as well as tacos, lobster rolls, and yes, even more poutine. You’ll pay $8-14 for a meal here, plus any additional drink you decide to buy.
Having been to Glastonbury, Osheaga certainly has a more commercial feel, thanks in part I guess to Molson’s dominate presence here. There is also a Perrier enclosed ‘club’ with DJ and of course Perrier water for guests. Coca Cola is also on site handing out free 222ml cans. In addition, there is an H&M (a Canadian clothing retailer catering to the 18-24 demongraphic) club playing music and I’m sure offering up free goodies. I saw Best Buy (an electronics retailer) and KLM airlines kiosks as well both providing an interactive experience. So clearly, Osheaga knows its target demographic and is offering products that would appeal to the late teen/early 20’s market.