As a Guelph, Ont., resident, people might assume I’m biased in my love for the Hillside Festival. Sure, I can ride my bike to one of the best programmed musical gatherings in the country, which is completely void of major corporate sponsorships, ecologically minded, stocked with amazing foods of the world and is all about local workers and volunteers, but—
You're right; I’m biased. Hillside is really amazing though. Ask anyone who's been.
From Friday, July 27, to Sunday July 29, Hillside takes over Guelph Lake and, while some of you are well aware of headlining performers like Kathleen Edwards, Mickey Hart Band and the Joel Plaskett Emergency, here are some hot tips for shows that might otherwise fly under the radar.
Friday, July 27
Toronto’s gifted singer/songwriter/dancer/aerobics instructor is a powerful dynamo live, and she and her band will just wow you with their futuristic take on pop-infused soul and R&B.
Bombay Bicycle Club
There’s a lot of buzz about this quirky British band’s Hillside set, as they’ve been praised the world over for their energetic, impassioned, electronically bolstered indie-rock.
Workshop: Everything is Broken (Well, not Quite!)
Hillside is renowned for its inclusive workshops, which, at their best, find artists collaborating and improvising together, perhaps only moments after first meeting each other. This one is at least riffing on a Bob Dylan song title, but with Joel Plaskett, Chad VanGaalen, Geoff Berner, Joe Pug and Birds of Chicago involved, there’s no telling where it will end up. A must see.
Saturday, July 28
A local favourite with a growing following, Esther Grey features the dynamic, powerful voice and surf-y guitar of Steph Yates, with accompaniment from Tyson Brinacombe. Fans of Julie Doiron’s plaintive emoting and Elevator’s dark psychedelia will discover their favourite new band in Esther Grey.
That Sandro Perri’s Impossible Spaces did not advance to the Polaris Music Prize short list this year is a travesty of music justice. I remain outraged. The prodigiously gifted multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter really made something beautifully ambitious with the finest record I heard all year. If Canada was ever asked to submit our answer to Sufjan Stevens, it would be Sandro Perri. His show is not to be missed.
Airick Woodhead made his bones in the frenetic pop and punk attitude of the now defunct Spiral Beach. Attending Hillside since he was literally a baby, the super talented Woodhead returns to the stage as Doldrums, a reconfigured outlet that enabled him to produce a good chunk of Cadence Weapon’s Polaris-nominated Hope in Dirt City and branch out into the world of noise-based electronica.
Sunday, July 28
In terms of a spectacle, Christine Fellows has put on the greatest show I’ve ever seen at Hillside. Accompanied by visual artist Shary Boyle, Fellows’s thoughtful folk-pop songs came to life thanks to real-time animation using an overhead projector and those transparency sheets I hadn’t encountered since high school. Here, Fellows might only be in her "all-female power trio" format, backed by cellists Alex McMaster and Leanne Zacharias, but no matter what, it’s sure to be captivating.
Bry Webb and the Providers
Provider is another fantastic record released over the past 12 months, and it’s the first musical statement by Bry Webb since he left Constantines in 2010. Few can match the power and soul that Webb possesses as a singer, which he channels even during the relatively gentle, yet intense songs he’s written with his backing band, the Providers.
Hillside’s rep for bringing in amazing African folk musicians continues with the addition of Malian singer Sidi Touré. His latest album is Koïma (out on influential Chicago label Thrill Jockey), an alluring collection of heartfelt songs. The matters therein may be heavy, but with its rustic instrumentation, one can practically feel the summer breeze blowing through this music.
The Hillside Festival is now sold out and takes place in Guelph from Friday, July 27, to Sunday, July 29.
Who are you most excited about seeing at this year's Hillside Festival? Have you ever been before? Do you have any highlights that you wanna share? Let us know below.
5 for 20: Bahamas
Zeus, The Great Lake Swimmers and Elliott Brood, Up Close at the 2012 Hillside Festival
Elliott Brood and Ohbijou: two Toronto bands go national
Why can't I ever get tickets to my favourite music festival?!?
Deadhead Samir Baijal: The Grateful Dead inspired Hillside Festival
on Jul 25, 2012