Hillside Review Day 2: Pokey LaFarge, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, AroarA, July 27, Guelph


“That’s some good time music, if I do say so myself.” So said Pokey LaFarge at the end of his song, “Central Time,” and while it may be a bit bold to praise one of your own songs, he was probably praising the abilities of his bandmates as much as the song itself, and furthermore, he wasn’t wrong. Hillside is all about good time music in whatever form it may take and LaFarge and his band certainly brought the good times. The St. Louis based musician seemed to be a crowd favourite, with many in attendance spotted hitting the merch tent to snatch up his album, some even before he had finished his set on the main stage. LaFarge plays a catchy brand of old timey music that blends together Western swing, ragtime and old time jazz.  With a top notch band that included clarinet, cornet, and washboard, and a voice that was at times reminiscent of Blind Willie McTell, LaFarge sounded great.  He’s a pretty snappy dresser too.

Preceding LaFarge on the mainstage were Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, who began playing just as the rain was starting to come down for the afternoon. And yes, in case you didn’t know, Sarah Lee is part of that Guthrie family, daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody. She and Irion took to the stage (along with another guitarist) to play songs off of their upcoming Jeff Tweedy/Pat Sansone produced album, Wassaic Way for a small but dedicated crowd up front. You’ve got to be dedicated to stand in the wind and rain. “If that setlist blows away, could someone just read the names off the list please?” joked Irion. While those up front braved the rainfall, the rest of us hung back from the stage watching from afar under the shelter of some tents. The duo didn’t let that faze them as they played a number of the new songs, some for the first time ever live.


Cutting out before the end of Guthrie & Irion’s set as the rain died down, I made my way to the Island stage to catch the tail end of Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s performance. Seeing a band like them in a tent at 2:00 in the afternoon seemed somewhat incongruous, but I will admit that this was also part of the appeal. Though a darkened club late at night might seem more appropriate, the band still managed to impress, especially when Ange Loft invaded the crowd and walked around, completely straight-faced, playing the tambourine. And while I didn’t see much of their main set, I was lucky enough to witness their workshop later that afternoon. Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska B collaborated with Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle  of AroarA, and while it was a bit odd seeing them without their makeup (I imagine KISS fans must have felt the same way back in the day), it was great to hear the fruits of their collaboration. As they prepared to jam on a YT//ST number, Whiteman asked drummer Alaska B, “So, heavy?”

“Yeah, heavy … druggy,” she replied. The noises Whitman then went on to produce proved that the man is probably capable of playing just about anything and making it sound like gold. Heavy, druggy gold.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Hillside

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