Hillside Festival Review Day 1: Kopecky Family Band, Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Dawn McCarthy, World Party, July 26, Guelph


Guelph’s Hillside Festival has been a longstanding tradition within the community, going on for 30 years to be exact. And so, to mark the occasion of the festival’s 30th edition, the organizers put together a rather strong lineup of performers both local and international to help bring about that certain Hillside vibe. Oh, and there were drum circles. Lots of drum circles. Also, shout out to whoever’s idea it was to serve mac and cheese with pulled pork on top of it in the food tent. That certainly hit the spot on Friday night.

Speaking of the Hillside vibe, attendees of the festival often find themselves looking for that special “Hillside moment,” something so memorable that it will stick with you. There would be a few of these over the course of the weekend, but the first of them came during the “Misfits” workshop session that started things off on the Island Stage. Daniel Romano, Bry Webb, Tamara Lindeman, and World Party had been brought together to collaborate alongside host Vish Khanna on a number of covers they had placed into a hat to be chosen by audience members.  At one point,  a man named Glen approached, convinced Khanna that they should play some Stones, and then bumrushed the stage to live out his live karaoke dreams. No matter what they thought about his performance, those in attendance will likely remember it.

Also memorable was San Francisco bluegrass band Poor Man’s Whiskey, who performed a full set of their Pink Floyd album tribute, Dark Side Of The Moonshine. Taking to the stage in costume as characters from The Wizard Of Oz, the band ran through a few cute reimaginings of classic Floyd tunes such as “Money,” slightly rewritten by the band as “Whiskey,” complete with opening of beer cans and clinking of bottles to replace the opening cash register sounds of the original. On opposite them on the main stage was Nashville’s Kopecky Family Band, who are not actually related, but are actually a band. And one of them is named Kopecky. Playing songs off their debut, Kids Raising Kids, the band put on a high energy set of indie-ish pop/rock tunes.


Following them on the mainstage was a rather unique show from some rather unique performers, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Dawn McCarthy. With the band gathered around one mic and sitting down as they played songs performed by The Everly Brothers over the course of their career, it made for something of an intimate experience. Or at least it did as long as you were close to the stage. The further one got from the stage, the less distinct the sound was, which was a shame for those who may have had to strain to hear things, because up close it sounded gorgeous.  Before seeing this concert, I had yet to delve into their album, What The Brothers Sang.  I will definitely be rectifying that soon.


Closing things out on the mainstage were London’s World Party, led by Karl Wallinger.  Running through a set of Beatlesque pop/alternative rock tunes like “Is It Like Today?” and “She’s The One” (a cover of which you may recall was a massive hit for Robbie Williams a few years back), the trio kept thing largely stripped down with a setup of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and fiddle, with Wallinger switching to piano for a couple of numbers, most notably the aforementioned “She’s The One.”    Wallinger addressed the crowd at one point, noting that it felt like he was just coming out of a dream.  “I dreamt I played a gig in a place called Guelph.  There was water and lots of people and it was a beautiful day.”  It certainly was.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Hillside

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