Hillside Festival falls in the category of music festivals, but is much more! Hillside is a 3 day, 5 stage community-based celebration of music, dance, drumming and the spoken word, in the beautiful Guelph Lake Conservation Area. As always, amid coolers, tents, lawn chairs, blankets and drum circles, Hillside offered a relaxed, respectful attitude and a uniquely communal and genteel vibe. The festival also boasted an eclectic line-up from celebrated singer songwriters and hip-hop heavyweights, to spoken word and art-rock elite.
Arcade Fire were promoted from the small stage they graced last year and put on an intense set on the Main Stage, and clearly moved the audience. Personally, I was most intrigued by their acoustic parade around the grounds as the finale for the evening.
I enjoyed Geoff Berner's energy and punk-y passion on the accordion, though with mixed feelings laughed at his joke about infidelity "remember fellas, if you don't move, it doesn't count."
On the other hand, it was comforting to see Canada's own Jason Mercer, performing in support of Crescent and Frost, a folk country bluegrass collective you would never guess is from New York. I loved Mary Fennimore's mesmerizing Alison-Kraus like voice!
Gentleman Reg presented a bold face, his wonderful voice and melodies filled out by a full band in behind his engaging electric guitar.
When I told Kelly Joe Phelps that I enjoyed his dynamite guitar, and such a smoky, sweetly raspy voice he asked me who the group was right then that had all the musicians dancing, I couldn't even specify! I could only report that it was the delightful Dave Clark hosting the synergistic workshop and the terrifically talented Michael Johnson giving away all the free hillside hugs.
Kate Schutt thrummed the bass and strummed the 8 string guitar simultaneously and made an unusual instrument look easy as well as interesting. I really liked her sincerity and fearlessness in presenting her unique full-bodied material.
Sarah Slean performed well and impressed fans but afterwards reported that something wasn't right with the universe or something. It sure didn't show!
Another surprise and highlight was the Shiftless Rounders, a talented musical duo that I understand make their own instruments and have been living out of a car for the past 3 years, with combined vocals that are especially powerful.
Best of all were the Supers, who were super in the children's tent as Sho, Mo & the Monkey Bunch, singing cb style about how trucks pollute and ponies are preferred.
I am happy to conclude that I happily wore my hillside hat for the third year in a row. But even floppy orange couldn't cap a runner up in Soul Shine's own crazy hats of hillside competition. Look who came in third! (See photo to the top right).
Next year I hope to buy an early bird hillside lifetime membership pass. And you should too!
Writer: Kim Logue