The scaled-down version of the Osheaga festival kicks off, and music lovers will take what they can get
After a long absence, the Osheaga Music Festival kicked off on Friday, but it’s a much more subtle affair this year due to pandemic restrictions.
The annual festival, which is normally held in August, was canceled in 2020 and postponed this year. The three-day event, which ends on Sunday, is called Osheaga Get Together.
With a much smaller crowd and cooler-than-usual weather, the vibe at Parc Jean-Drapeau is sure to pale in comparison to the pre-COVID editions.
But fans in attendance are just happy the event is back, even if it means dealing with public health restrictions.
To begin with, there cannot be more than 15,000 people on the site. The space generally accommodates up to 65,000 festival-goers.
This year, people from different households must maintain a distance of one meter from each other, and when this is not possible, masks are mandatory.
And of course, vaccination passports are mandatory for entry.
“I think it’s good, I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Yihong Yu, a Montrealer studying in Quebec City and participating in her first Osheaga event.
“I think it’s safer for everyone so I feel like it’s fine and I’d rather go to a festival with a mask on than not have a festival at all.”
For Pierre Rivoire, who is also attending an Osheaga event for the first time, the chance to experience live performances with people around him, instead of being alone watching a screen, is priceless.
âI like to feel that the people around me are having fun, even with the masks on,â he said. “It’s the fact that you get together with people and feel the same vibrations at the same time.”
Restrictions needed to keep COVID-19 under control: expert
According to epidemiologist Gaston De Serres, the restrictions are helping control the spread of COVID-19 at a time when many young people in the province are not being vaccinated.
“There are almost 800,000 people over the age of 12 who are not vaccinated,” De Serres said.
“What needs to be done is maintain the measures so that the infection eventually reaches them, but it will be at a rate that could be tolerable or supported by the health care system.”
On Thursday, the Quebec government announced a plan to reverse capacity restrictions for indoor and outdoor events.
Places such as cinemas, theaters and arenas like the Bell Center will be allowed to operate at full capacity as of Friday.
However, these changes only apply to venues with assigned seats, which is sure to frustrate event planners like Osheaga, where crowds turn up during performances.
In a statement, a representative from Evenko, the event company behind Osheaga, told CBC News he was disappointed the government had not addressed capacity restrictions for venues with a permanent audience.
“Shows at MTELUS, Club Soda, Imperial in Quebec and in hundreds of other venues across the province are still forced to do shows with restricted capabilities that make it incredibly difficult to keep the lights on,” said Nick Farkas, vice president of Evenko. chair for reservations, concerts and events.
“Small venues are the lifeblood of the concert industry. Without news, we will soon be forced to continue canceling and rescheduling licensed shows across the United States.”
Local talents on display
Before being canceled, the 2020 edition of the Osheaga Music Festival was scheduled to feature American superstars such as Foo Fighters, Kendrick Lamar and Lizzo.
This year’s scaled-down event focuses on artists from Quebec and the rest of Canada, such as Montreal artists Charlotte Cardin and Half Moon Run and Jessie Reyez from Toronto.
âI really like the change because I followed Quebec artists,â said Gillian Truong, who last attended an Osheaga event in 2018.
âIt’s fun to discover them and present them to the people of Quebec.