Osheaga has become North America’s go-to festival. Not only is Montreal a laid-back, artsy party town, but it is friendly, culturally and ethnically diverse, safe, and an experience even without three days of ear bliss.
Every year, we update our survival guide for the festival. We’ve got info on getting tickets, where to stay, how to get there, what to wear, and which bands to see.
Osheaga has a website to purchase tickets. The most popular three-day pass is $310 (CDN) and offers general admission to the park from July 29 through Sunday July 31. The Gold and Platinum passes add on special viewing platforms and access to private washrooms. If you can afford these passes, they give you a bit of space in the crowd, a good view of the stage, and shorter toilet lines. These amenities, although not necessary, are generally appreciated by those who opt in (older folks who get a little bit annoyed with the younger folks basically). At the time of writing, single-day passes are not yet available and bad news, gold and platinum passes are sold out. Admission is open to all, and children under age 10 can go for free if they are accompanied by an adult. With the pass, you will be free to enter and leave the site.
How do you get your passes? Mail. There are no electronic tickets. The passes ordered prior to June 15 are sent out on July 1. Those purchased after June 15 will be delivered in a way that is tbd.
Where to Stay
While purchasing tickets, Osheaga housing options are offered. The famed “Hotel Osheaga” are several large student residences. These include Maison Molson Canadian (Carrefour Sherbrooke at 410 Sherbrooke W) at $740 for four nights/two people or $820 for four nights/four people, Royal Victoria College at McGill (3425 Rue McGill) at $280 for four nights /one person; UQAM Résidences (2100 St Urbain) at $420 for three nights/two people shared or $480 for three nights/private room; the New Residence Hall (3625 Parc) at $740 for four nights/two people or $820 for four nights/four people, La Citadelle (410 Sherbrooke W) at $800 for four nights/two people or $900 for four nights/four people. All locations are conveniently located in the city, easily within a 15 minute metro ride to the festival site. This choice is perfect for those who like big hotels/ hostels and want to stay with hundreds of other Osheaga-goers. On the Osheaga website, you can check out their hotel deals here. These packages are available for people who are 18 and up only, so if you’re under, you should look into some of the other options.
What if you are under 18, looking for a different housing experience, or even broke ass poor after buying your Platinum Pass? You can rent on Air BNB for less than the average hotel room. Since Montreal’s metro is easy to use and not that big, almost anything within walking distance of a metro station is a fine choice. With Bixi bikes and the bus system, you can even extend the range of potential places even further. You can also try staying at a hostel. These are more affordable options, starting at $20 a night in a dorm room. The m hostel (1245 Rue St-Andre) is well-regarded as the best (our article is HERE and it looked pretty awesome), but there are many others of all sizes. The Auberge HI is also extremely popular. Motels like the Days Inn (215 Rene Levesque E) are of course an option. For those of you who are even more daring, you can always try couch surfing but you need to make an account and hope that your couch doesn’t bail on you.
Note that there is no camping on Parc Jean Drapeau.
How to Get To The Site and Around Montreal
Take your bike or ride the metro to Parc Jean Drapeau on the yellow line (off either the orange or green lines at Berri-UQAM station). The metro in Montreal is clean and safe and runs regularly while open. The downside of the metro is that it only runs until 1 a.m. weekdays and Sundays, 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays. From one end of the orange line to the other (Montmorency to Cote Vertu), the trip is around 45 minutes. From one end of the green line to the other (Angrignon to Henri Bourassa), the trip is around 36 minutes. The idea of an unsafe subway (or a neighbourhood for that matter) is outside the comprehension of most locals.
One point that many Osheaga goers make is that getting on the subway at the end of the night is tough. It’s crowded. Recommendations are to leave before the headliner encores or get ready to wait… Or walk over the bridge. What a view of the city you get!
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of fare you can purchase (see HERE). A single trip costs $3.25, 10 trips cost $26.50, a three-day pass costs $18, and a weekend pass — the pass you’ll likely want — costs $13 (valid Friday 6 p.m. to Monday 5 a.m.). The single trip fare allows transfers between bus and metro for 120 minutes once activated by use, with some restrictions on transfers (you can’t use the same station twice or backtrack). The three-day metro pass begins once it is activated. You can also purchase a week-long pass. Note that the 747 Shuttle Bus to and from the Airport does not run on regular one-way metro tickets. You need to purchase the all day pass ($10) or the three day pass at the airport (those weird STM kiosks near where you catch the bus in the terminal) or inside Berri UQAM station to use the shuttle. The 747 bus runs 24 hours a day, though in the wee hours of the night, it runs infrequently.
If staying out late, you might want to combine your metro pass with a Bixi bike late at night. Bixi bikes are a great way to get around the city and there are three stations set up at Parc Jean Drapeau during the summer — one near the metro stop, another near La Ronde, and a third near the beach. It costs $2.75 for a one way trip, $5 for access to the Bixi system for the day or $12 for 72-hour access. Bixi bikes allow you to ride for up to 45 minutes for free. After that, you need to change bikes. So if you opt for the full day or 72-hour access, you can change bikes every 45 minutes, you never get charged more than the initial amount spent! As a warning, though, the bikes cost $7 for each half hour if you run over that free 45 minute period without switching your bike. If the stations at Parc Jean Drapeau are full, agony will follow if you can’t dock the bike on the island. It might be necessary to locate an empty Bixi space off the island, which is quite the ride! One hopes the Bixi people have figured this out and are dealing with it. Check docking availability using the Bixi application on a smartphone or their website.
If you have your own bike, there is a Terminus where you can valet park your bike for the day and even have it serviced.
There is parking at Parc Jean Drapeau for $18 per day in the islands’ 15 lots. Osheaga emphasizes the use of bikes or metro rather than driving.
For Toronto folk, Osheaga also offers a train package from Toronto for a reasonable $165 round trip. If you are using the train package (now sold out, sadly), when you get deposited in Gare Centrale in Montreal, Bonaventure and Square Victoria stations on the orange line are very easily accessible through the tunnels. Look for the signs. You can also walk a little longer for the green line station McGill, but this is a bit of a hike through the tunnels. For people coming from Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, and Burlington, you can try Sharethebus as a way to get to Osheaga.
What to wear
Osheaga goes on rain or shine, so begin by checking the weather. Then, check the weather AGAIN. July-August is generally hot and sunny in Montreal, but things can and do change. Be prepared for sun, rain, heat or cold in your luggage. You don’t want to be running out to buy needed clothing during the festival, unless shopping was part of your trip anyway. A poncho or raincoat if useful if rainy weather threatens, and the good old hoodie will be much welcomed if the weather is cool.
Whatever your outfit, be sure that you will be comfortable for the day, especially your SHOES. You’ll be doing a lot of standing and this will probably be in close proximity to other people. The most important thing to consider about your outfit is which shoes to wear. The Osheaga ground gets muddy and grimy, so closed-toe shoes beat open-toe ones. There’s also a good chance your feet will get stepped on. Our tip: avoid sandals and flip flops. Another point to consider is that the stages at Osheaga are spread far apart – and if you want to run from stage to stage, pick shoes that will get you there.
You can dress as you like, short shorts or pants with the crotch between your knees, but generally a pair of sunglasses or a hat is needed. Listen to your momma and slather on the sunblock and drink lots of water.
Finally, consider what kind of bag you want to bring. You’ll want to bring something that will get through bag check quickly and can hold essentials like a water bottle (1 plastic water bottle allowed), sun screen, and a snack or three. People recommend bringing those $.99 ponchos in case of rain or just to sit on. Osheaga offers storage lockers for $18 a day/$54 for three days to rent with all-day access and the option to leave things overnight for a multi-day locker. There is also a coat check just outside the festival gates at $3 per item. Toilets? Expect port-a-potties. The lines are long. They don’t get high marks even though there are claims to many of them. Stick some extra toilet paper in the bag.
Things you can’t bring — selfie sticks, professional audio/video recording equipment (so your little point and shoot digital camera is fine, but the one with six different lenses might get stopped at the gate), drones, skateboards, frisbees, musical instruments, hard coolers, tents, animals (except service dogs), hard sided coolers, glass bottles and cans. Osheaga has a policy against wearing the Indian/First Nations headdress. See here for a full list.
There is a lost and found and there are medical staff on site. They won’t judge you, honest.
Water refill stations are available at the site, so you can bring your own empty plastic water bottle to refill. Drink, drink, drink water. Food can be purchased at the site via YUL EAT, or you can bring your own sandwich, drinks, and snacks (no coolers or bbqs though).They offer delicious, gourmet-ish variety at around $8-20 for a good-sized meal. If you want to eat like a local, try POUTINE!
Of course, alcoholic beverages are available for those who are 18+, but you can’t bring your own in. Bring two pieces of ID.
Which Bands to See
The festival line up is announced, and headliners generally take the stage between 9 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Most artists perform between 30 minutes and 90 minute sets. Osheaga has a solid app (itunes, android) that will guide you towards what/who/when, so download for your phone ahead of time. It has been known to crash on both platforms, though.
There are many amazing acts performing at this year’s festival, so it can be very hard to choose who to see. This is made even more difficult when two artists you like equally are playing at the same time. One way I tend to decide about this is considering the location of the stage and the performance I want to see afterwards. You can even use Osheaga’s Artist Recommender that uses your facebook likes to pick bands to see.
For a few picks from us based on the most recent list.
For Friday: Caveboy, Half Moon Run, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wolf Parade, Cypress Hill, Beiruit.
For Saturday: Busty and the Bass, Death Cab for Cutie, HAIM, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Lana del Rey, Aurora.
For Sunday: Dead Obies, Grimes, M83, MO, Radiohead (who I partied with in the 90s), The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas.
How to Pre and After Party
Before Osheaga starts, they get the party moving with pre-parties (dj nights, to most of us), and during the festival, there are also after-parties (again, dj nights, usually with bands playing at the festival).
Osheaga usually has two official afterparties each night, and there are sure to be plenty of unofficial ones. If you can’t make it to the big festival of Osheaga for financial reasons (or work reasons or other reasons), this is your chance to jump into the music madness.
The pre-parties take place July 28 and this year are Elephant Stone, Walrus, and Pif Paf at Divan Orange, Tibe, Ryan Playground, and WYLN at Belmont, Sophie, Thomas White, Ativan Halen at Newspeak, and Shaydakiss at the Casino de Montreal. This year’s after parties are Dragonette at Casino de Montreal, Snake Hips/Goldlink at the Theatre Fairmount, Boris Brejcha and Ann Clue at Newspeak all on July 29. Synapson and Sofi Tukker are at Newspeak on July 31. So far, some of the afterparties are the ones at Theatre Corona (2490 Notre Dame W) at 11 p.m. These are Wolf Parade with the Freak Heat Waves on July 29, The Cat Empire on July 30, and The Strumbellas on July 31.
Keep an eye on twitter to follow the unofficial parties — subscribe to your favorite artists and venues for this sort of information. The Corona Theatre, The Fairmount Theatre, and the SAT are typical venues to find afterparties.
The official afterparties turn artists and bands who performed during the day into DJs and their sets last well into the Montreal night (which means, until 3 a.m.). After spending all that money on your festival ticket, take a moment and think if you want to shell out more money to keep the party going. If you do, keep the fluids coming, and make sure a quantity of it is non-alcoholic. Otherwise, you might spend half the festival asleep the next day. That may not be a bad thing, but you did throw down about $310 on that pass.
If you have any Osheaga tips or pictures, please leave them in the comments below. We love your input and pictures! you can tag them #mtrlrampage or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org