Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2010

Guelph – The 2010 Hillside Festival is upon us, and just like last year, the Panic Manual will be there all weekend long taking photos, drinking inexpensive beer, and eating reasonably priced food. We’ll also be tweeting from the grounds again this year, and who knows, we might even find the time for a review or three.

Once again, I only know a handful of bands heading into the festival, but on the eve of my second Hillside, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite events of the year. Certainly it might be the best run festival I’ve been to, and I wasn’t kidding about the reasonably priced food and beer (Sausage Brothers are back as a vendor this year! Yay!). It’s the kind of festival where people take workshops on things like drum circles, hula hooping, and “pleasure skills,” all the dishes are hand washed by volunteers, and if it rains everyone walks in the mud in bare feet. That’s a festival vibe you won’t see at too many other places.

As far as the music goes, if you’re like me there’s a couple of bands in this lineup you like, there’s a few more who have names you recognize that you might like to check out for the first time, and the rest is just guesswork. Unlike last year, when I wrote this preview, I didn’t consult Wade on who to see and only got a couple of recommendations from Trina, my partner-in-coverage again this year. But if you’re among the lucky people who’ll be attending Hillside this year (by last count, weekend and Saturday passes were sold out, but Friday night and Sunday passes are still available), you may have come here looking for some ideas about who to see, and I’d hate to disappoint. So after the jump are my suggestions for who to go see at Hillside. Call them marginally-educated guesses.


If you’re there early, see Beardyman (6:15, Main Stage). His bio says he’s won a bunch of awards for beatboxing. It could be great, it could be awful, but either way it’ll be fun. You should probably see the Hidden Cameras (8:25, Main Stage), if only because frontman Joel Gibb once described their music as “gay church folk music” (though if you miss them, they’re doing two shows at Summerworks in August). Calexico (9:45, Main Stage) is one of those bands who’s name I know and I’ve probably heard at one time or another, but can’t place. Google tells me that their two main guys were part of Neko Case’s studio band for the album Blacklisted, so that’s in their favour. Check ‘em out, they should be good.

I realize that this is 3/4 of the main stage lineup for Friday, so this is probably not that helpful. But I…I have no idea who any of the other bands playing on Friday night are. I think I’ve heard the band name Brasstronaut (10:00, Island Stage) before. They were on the long list for the Polaris prize. They’re probably good too.


Trina is interested in seeing Royal Wood (1:00, Island Stage), so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he’s going to be great and you should start your Saturday there. I’ve heard the name Harry Manx (3:00, Main Stage) before, but I have no idea where. It says here that he’s “been called an ‘essential link’ between the music of East and West, creating musical short stories that wed the tradition of the Blues with the depth of classical Indian ragas.” So…yeah. At 5:00, we have our first conflict: Trina is quite excited for Canadian indie darlings The Acorn (Island Stage), while I have long been a fan of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings member and Canadian guitar hero Stephen Fearing (Lake Stage), but have never seen him live. After our tearful split for those shows, Trina and I will joyfully re-unite for the main stage lineup of Basia Bulat, Jason Collett, Sarah Harmer and Los Lobos (starting at 6, 7, 8, and 9:30, respectively), though I’ve been told Japandroids (10:00, Island Stage) are pretty good live. Plus, even though I know Los Lobos have been around forever, I couldn’t name even one of their tunes, and even if I tried I’d probably get them confused with the Gipsy Kings.


Be sure to arrive in time to catch Panic Manual favourites Zeus (2:00, Island Stage), especially if you haven’t seen them during the push they’ve been getting lately from record label Arts & Crafts that’s seen them play about a hundred shows in Toronto in the last six months. If you need some worldbeat, see Alex Cuba (3:00, Main Stage) with confidence, knowing that he’s one of Mark’s current favourites. Despite living in Edmonton for many years I only know The Smalls by reputation, but I have seen Corb Lund (4:00, Main Stage) before, and he’s worth a listen. He moved on from his membership in that legendary punk band to become a fairly successful roots-country artist. Go figure. Check out Shad (7:20, Main Stage) to fulfill your weekend’s hip-hop quotient; if you duck out of his set a little early to get a spot for Holy Fuck (8:00, Island Stage), we will forgive your profanity-loving ass. However, you may wish to get back to the main stage for Gord Downie and that Thing he’s Doing These Days that Isn’t the Tragically Hip, more commonly known as The Country of Miracles, at 8:30. But even if you don’t love Gord (and it’s ok if you don’t, you’re not obligated to unless you’re from Kingston), you’ll still want to get to the main stage early for Stars (9:50), who’ll wrap the weekend up in a neat little package. A package with bows. And flowers. And with candy inside, candy made of sweet, sweet music.

If we have time we’ll have Hillside updates throughout the weekend, and even if we don’t check back for our festival wrap-up early next week. And if you’re going to the festival, don’t miss out on the Mapleton’s Organic ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside

2 Responses to Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2010

  1. paul

    I’m gonna throw my two cents in and recommend a few acts:

    Laura Marling – great voice and she’s just recently been nominated for the Mercury prize

    Horse Feathers – indie folk-ish kinda stuff

    Easy Star All Stars – dub reggae versions of Radiohead and Pink Floyd. How can it not be great?

    Andy White – Irish singer-songwriter guy

    Also, the workshop/jam session things are usually pretty good – the one with los lobos and calexico looks promising

  2. Brian

    I caught part of Laura Marling’s set tonight, she was pretty good.

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