Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2009


With thanks to Trina and Wade

This weekend, July 24 through 26, is the 2009 edition of the Hillside Music Festival, taking place at Guelph Lake Island. Tickets are very nearly sold out, with only Friday night tix still available. Hillside boasts an impressive lineup of mostly Canadian music acts, alongside a spoken word stage and a lengthy workshop schedule.

If you’re not going, Panic Manual has you covered, as Hillside was nice enough to give us a couple of media passes. I’ll have some writing and reviews from Guelph all three days, and I might even provide some Twitter updates from the grounds if anyone’s interested (I’m @brianjpike).

And if you are going, no, I’m not camping, and no, you can’t crash in my hotel room.

You may have  looked at the three-day schedule or the list of performers and thought “I sure wish somebody could give me some ideas about who to see. I don’t know who a few/some/many/any of these bands are.” I was once like you. Then I consulted with my partner and lovely companion Trina, who’ll be joining me at the Festival, emailed our resident indie Canadian music expert Wade, and listened to many samples from MySpace and CBC Radio 3. As a result, we have some “official” Panic Manual recommendations for all three days of Hillside. We also have a playlist on Radio 3’s website where you can hear all our recommendations, in chronological order of when they’re playing too (nice work, Trina), which you can find by going to and do a User Playlist search for “PanicAtHillside”, or just use this handy dandy permalink straight to the playlist.


There’s 11 acts total on Friday night playing four time slots on the three music stages, not including the welcoming stuff that starts right at 6 PM.

Be sure to see: Coeur de Pirate, 8:00, Island Stage. She’s a pianist and vocalist from Montreal who impressed Wade quite a bit at NXNE. She’s 19, she’s pretty, and has some hype behind her right now. I’m interested to see if that hype is warranted.

Wade suggests: Rock Plaza Central, 9:00, Lake Stage. He says they have some catchy tunes. From samples I’ve heard, I tend to agree. Besides, what else are you going to do? See Divine Brown? C’mon.

Also: Donovan Woods, 6:40, Main Stage. He has one song I know and like, “My Cousin Has a Grey Cup Ring”. He’ll probably play other songs too. Songs that could also be good.

You’re on your own at: 10:00, choosing between Loreena McKennit (who actually starts at 9:40), USS and Josh Gabriel. We’ll likely check out USS, but McKennit or Gabriel could be equally fine choices.


Performances and workshops start at 11 AM, with the music and spoken word acts starting at noon. 30 or so bands will play the three music stages.

Be sure to see: Ohbijou, 3:00, Island Stage. A must-see for my partner, I’ve heard a couple of their heartstring-plucking tunes and liked them a lot.

Tokyo Police Club, 8:50, Main Stage. Another must-see for her; I know they’ve got some catchy tunes and are reasonably popular, but really, I’m just happy that seeing them means I don’t have to see Woodhands.

The Sunparlour Players, 10:00, Lake Stage. What can we say about this band that we haven’t said before? After admiring lead vocalist/guitarist/banjoist Andrew Penner’s recent theatre work, this will be the third time my partner and I have seen SPP play. I just hope there’s a merch table where I can buy their newest album. I can’t think of a band I’d rather see at the end of a long Hillside festival day.

Wade suggests: Bruce Peninsula, 1:00, Island Stage; Attack in Black, 6:00, Lake Stage; Library Voices, 8:00, Island Stage. He didn’t say why for Peninsula, and after listening to samples I think his time slot is a toss-up between him and Julie Doiron, but he just saw Library Voices at the Horseshoe a couple days ago and liked them a lot. He also says Attack in Black have some very enjoyable songs and he’s dying to see them live.

Also: Jayme Stone, 4:00, Main Stage. Stone is called a “banjo virtuoso” by several sources. What’s not to like?

Eccodek, 5:50, Main Stage. They list as influences Massive Attack, Portishead, Tosca, Thievery Corporation, Tricky, and Martina Topley-Bird, among others, and based on that and their MySpace samples they sound like my kinda people, even if they are playing opposite Attack in Black.

Hey Rosetta, 7:00, Island Stage. Patricia likes Hey Rosetta, and Wade doesn’t; it is a Panic Manual tie that I have taken upon myself to break, one way or the other.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, 7:45, Main Stage. I said the other day that I feel like I should know more Buffy Sainte-Marie tunes than I do (I think the only one I do is “Soulful Shade of Blue”, and I only know that ’cause Neko Case covered it on a live album), so I’m seeking to rectify that.

You’re on your own at: Noon, 2:00 and 5:00. I don’t know enough Green Go to recommend them, but they have a fun name, so that’s probably who we’ll see at noon, assuming we turn up in time. At 2:00 we’re planning to have lunch, and I don’t know anything about FRED, Bahamas or Treasa Levasseur. Timbre Timbre or Ladies of the Canyon at 5? If you have an opinion, tell me.

Notable Workshops: If you’re at all like me, you probably looked at the workshops schedule and had your eye immediately drawn to “Back-door Fun – Anal Play for Women” at the Women’s Tent at 6. If anyone’s going to that, we’ll obviously need a full report. Also fun sounding: “Faeries 101” at 1:00, “Afro-Brazilian Drumming” at 2:00, and “Learn to Knit” at 3:00. All these workshops run the next day too! Whee!


Performances, workshops and spoken word stage start at 11 AM, though it looks like the music doesn’t get going until 1:00. 23 bands and a few big ensemble things fill up the music stages.

Be sure to see: Great Lake Swimmers at 7:00, Patrick Watson at 8:00, and Final Fantasy at 9:00.

You might as well pick out a good spot in front of the Main Stage a bit before 7 and plonk yourself down there the rest of the night. Great Lake Swimmers and Final Fantasy are mainstays of Canadian music right now; it’ll be my first time seeing both, and I’m greatly looking forward to it. Meanwhile, my man-crush on Patrick Watson has already been well-documented. I hope he plays “Man Like You”! And “Luscious Life”! And “Big Bird in a Small Cage”! And…well, just see him.

Wade suggests: The Witchies, 2:00, Island Stage. He says he’s “been hearing good things about these guys lately.” Trust Wade’s instincts, they’re usually good.

Wade suggests you skip: Clues, 3:00, Island Stage. He says their CD bites.

Also: The Sunday Gospel Session, 11:00 AM, Island Stage. Spiritual fulfillment at a music festival? How can you go wrong? A lot of the artists playing later in the day on Sunday will be onstage for the Gospel Session, which runs two hours from 11 to 1.

Dave Bidini, 3:00, Lake Stage. Remember the Rheostatics? No? See Dave Bidini anyway and pay your respects, the man’s practically a legend in Canadian indie rock.

Rural Alberta Advantage, 6:00, Lake Stage. They play “indie-rock songs about hometowns and heartbreak, born out of images from growing up in Central and Northern Alberta,” according to their website. My partner and I both grew up in Central and/or Northern Alberta. Thus, we have to see them, but I guess you don’t if you didn’t grow up in Alberta. Gary liked their show back in December, though, so if you’re not from Alberta you can see them because of that.

You’re on your own at: 1:00, 4:00, 5:00, and 10:00. A friend of mine likes Dancehall Free for All, and they have horns, but then, so do Los Misioneros del Norte, both at 1. I haven’t decided yet and I probably won’t until the time comes. Similarly, at 4:00 I don’t know who we’ll see between Zaki Ibrahim or Winter Gloves, and will probably base it on what we feel more like doing: eclectic stuff or Montreal indie rock. At 5 I really have no idea, and we might even wander over to the spoken word stage to see what Patrick Watson’s doing there or channel the spirit of David Carradine at the “Five Elements of Kung-Fu” workshop (for a moment there when I mentioned Carradine you thought there was an auto-erotic asphyxiation workship, didn’t you? Eh? Eh? Too soon?). At 10:00, well, I’ve listened to some Skydiggers and I can’t work up much enthusiasm for them. Unless we get caught up at one of the “jams” going on at the other two stages, we might just try to beat the traffic back to Toronto.

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Hillside