Hillside Music Fest Day 1: Coeur de Pirate, RPC, and Pumpkin Ice Cream


My partner and co-press pass holder Trina contributes to this review. Her comments appear in italics.

Hillside has a lot of charm. I’ve never been before, but I gather it’s grown a lot in it’s 26 years of existence. And while a certain part of me would like to complain about the drive to Guelph from Toronto during the early evening traffic, the very long lineup for parking and access to the site, the incongruities of us having to get our parking pass at the ticket tent past the people taking parking money (something we got around by me hiking up ahead of the car to the ticket tent, then hoofing it back to the car), and our resulting 8:30 arrival time, I’m just too damned charmed by this muddy, hippy, indie festival to really get irritated about any of that.

We were promised complimentary mainland parking with our media passes, which comes with either a shuttle bus ride or a lengthy walk from the parking lot to the Guelph Lake “island,” but were given VIP parking right next to the entrance. A pleasant surprise that made up completely for traffic woes, so kudos to Hillside for that. Since we were too late to catch Donovan Woods (or any of the 7:00 starters, for that matter), first up was Coeur de Pirate.

We arrived later than we wanted, but in time to catch the last half of Coeur de Pirate’s show. We walked in as my favorite Coeur song was just starting: Comme des enfants (which you can hear on our Panic@Hillside Playlist on Radio 3’s website). Coeur was great. Her reason for success: the ability to be completely adorable in that kitten-on-youtube kinda way while being absolutely classically beautiful.  Lovely vocals. Show ended with a cover of Rhianna’s Umbrella-ella-ella, clearly a crowd pleaser.

Coeur de Pirate does seem to have some magical ability to be utterly adorable onstage and come across as genuine. I can’t help but think of Melody Gardot, likewise a singer and piano player, and compare her set from the TO Jazz fest a few weeks ago, where practically everything seemed contrived. Also, one of Gardot’s songs came on the radio during the drive to Guelph. And she was singing in French. No comparison, really: Coeur blows her away.


Next up was Rock Plaza Central, a seven-piece alt-country outfit from Toronto, featuring two drummers and a whack of multi-instrumentalists who played bass, guitar, violin, banjo, accordion, trumpet, trombone, and french horn. One of the drummers played the beer bottle too (which involved hitting it with a stick in front of a microphone, but hey, it sounded good). And they were terrific.

The Lake stage, where Rock Plaza Central played, is absolutely gorgeous. On one side – tent, stage, band.  On the other – lake, trees, sky. Very nature-y. (Note: we’ll most likely have a gallery of our best Hillside pics up next week, either here or on the Panic Manual Facebook page.)

Rock Plaza Central are as fun live as their upbeat, deeply layered folksy pop songs would have you expect. They have that extemely elusive ability to actually get white people to dance and sing out loud. Like, more than just the half-dozen or so uninhibited white-folk that show up at any concert and the obnoxiously drunk.  Also, twice the drummers = twice the fun.

Of course when a crowd’s like that, you usually end up with at least one person who’s really crazy, which Rock Plaza Central had in the form of a girl in the front row who asked the drummer to marry her, got on stage to kiss him at the band’s invitation, and made her presence known the rest of the set, whistling loudly and dancing onstage. I guess the lesson is “never give them an opening.” A very fun band, though, and ending their set with “My Children, Be Joyful,” a raucous, sing-along crowd-pleaser, was a good choice.

Next we were scheduled to see USS, but upon arriving at the Island Stage area found a very long lineup of people. Seems the side stages have a capacity limit. Odd for an outdoor festival, yes, but the upside is that Hillside is able to sell alcohol to people once they get through the security checkpoints, so instead of having to divert to a beer tent you can drink at the stage, which is all too rare these days. Still, unable to get into USS, even with our all-access passes (though we didn’t really try too hard) and not especially interested in Josh Gabriel or Loreena McKennitt, we decided to call it a night. But not before sampling some Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream on the way out.

I may eat only pumpkin ice cream for the rest of the weekend.  You get the feeling of warm, spicy pumpkin-based baking and cold, creamy ice cream at the same time.  Amazing.  It’s organic, so it’s probably good for me.

This, along with the delectable pulled-pork sandwich with kettle chips and baked beans (only $7) and dumplings ($6) we sampled earlier leads me to believe Hillside might be an unexpectedly good (and cheap) culinary event, on top of the music and all.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable, if brief, day one.  Follow me on twitter tomorrow and the rest of the weekend for updates during the day: @brianjpike.

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Hillside

6 Responses to Hillside Music Fest Day 1: Coeur de Pirate, RPC, and Pumpkin Ice Cream

  1. Trina

    Figured out the parking thing – according to the program book, there is temporary parking where you can stop until you get your parking passes, etc.

  2. Allison

    There you go “flogging” Melody Bardot again, Brian. Better hope her fans don’t put a hit out for you.

    Sounds like you guys are having a good time and now I am hungry, but I think organic ice cream is the biggest scam perpetrated on the public since organic chips, or those “additive free” Big Chief Cigarettes.

  3. Brian

    It’s Rich Terfry’s fault, he’s the one that played a Melody Gardot tune song on CBC Radio 2 while we were driving.

    I was just happy to have ice cream with, y’know, real incredients in it. And frankly, if it’s ‘organic’ but they’re not charging extra for it, I personally don’t much care…

  4. Allison

    Metropolitan is a great Fiesta-carried brand that only uses cream, sugar, and other good stuff you can pronounce but is not organic-labeled. It’s about $4.99 for a Ben and Jerry’s size pint.

  5. Blake

    Hello out there…

    I’m one of the drummers in the RPC and I wanted to say thanks for listening and making your positive outlook known…I also wanted to point out that the really crazy girl was Andy’s(the other drummer) girlfriend (the illustrious Tara S’appart don’t you know)and she had not seen him for three weeks…this doesn’t make your observation any less valid but it does give it some context!

    Keep poking holes in the known universe,


  6. Brian

    Thanks for the context, Blake, that makes a lot of sense. Good luck on the current tour, let us know when you guys are playing the GTA again.

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