Festival Review: Hillside 2010, July 23-25

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside | 7 Comments

Guelph – The 27th annual Hillside Festival is in the books, and for the second year in a row the Panic Manual was there amidst the natural beauty of Guelph Lake Island (pictured above), covering the fest from Friday night mainstage opener Beardyman to Sunday night closer Stars. Punctuated with pictures, here are our picks for best, worst, and everything in between from Hillside 2010.

Most Danceable: Alex Cuba

We were a bit lukewarm about seeing Alex Cuba just because it seems like he’s playing Toronto all the time (something not uncommon at the Hillside Festival, which has no exclusivity agreement preventing bands from playing the area around the fest dates like a lot of festivals do), but in the end we were glad we did. Alex Cuba makes me think of what I imagine Carlos Santana was like in the early 70’s, with Latin rhythms behind some great guitar work making for some eminently danceable rock music. With all due respect to the Tabla Guy, who was laying down some great dance tunes late on Sunday night that had the masses moving before switching to something a lot quieter, Cuba even had me doing some booty-shaking near the main stage, and that just doesn’t happen very often.

(after the jump: best country, best hip-hop, and more, with lots more pictures)

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Hillside 2010: Friday/Saturday Recap

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside | 1 Comment

As we get ready for the final day of Hillside 2010, here are some of the highlights of the festival so far, aside from the spectacular sunset on Friday night pictured above:

– On Friday night, my favourite set was from self-styled “acid folk” band Lee Harvey Osmond. Despite having looked them up online a month ago, by the time the festival rolled around I’d completely forgotten that this was Tom Wilson’s new band. Lee Harvey Osmond even played a rendition of Wilson’s old band’s big radio hit, the Junkhouse tune “Shine,” which brought me right back to high school. Wilson is also t had fellow Blackie and the Rodeo Kings member Stephen Fearing sit in on this set. The result was an energetic and loud set that will have me looking studiously for Lee Harvey Osmond’s name on concert listings from now on.

– Speaking of Stephen Fearing, his solo set on Saturday was one of the best I saw on that day. Comparatively quiet and contemplative, Fearing played alone with his guitar, accompanied on a few songs by Irish singer-songwriter Andy White. Fearing played tracks from his new best of album called The Man Who Married Music, including the title track, and was low-key and charming throughout. He strongly hinted that he’ll be sitting in on White’s set today, so we’ll likely check that out.

– Getting back to Friday, aside from Lee Harvey Osmond’s set I wandered the grounds quite a bit, hearing little bits of most of the performer’s sets until I left to drive back to Toronto a little after 9. Laura Marling impressed me a little; my intial impression was that she was something of a poor man’s Beth Orton, but her voice is distinctive enough and she’s a good songwriter. The Warped 45s were ok, and I really dug a couple of the Hidden Cameras tunes.

– And yes, I did arrive early enough to see Beardyman, who instantly became the best beatboxer I’ve ever seen live. However, once the novelty of “wow, he’s making all this music with just his own voice and a sampler” wears off, well, it turns into nondescript Eurobeat dance music pretty quickly. It’s fun to see for a little while, but I can’t imagine sitting through a whole set from this guy.

– Other than Fearing, some of my other Saturday highlights were My Son the Hurricane, Michou and Grand Analog. My Son the Hurricane sounds like what you’d get if Dancehall Free For All were the backing band for Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha, if de la Rocha were from Guelph. I think that’s kind of the idea. Lots of horns, lots of volume, and lots of fun. I was making Twitter jokes about the age of Michou’s band members, but they put together a solid set that was thoroughly enjoyable. And Grand Analog turned out to be a great ending to the night after I found both Los Lobos and Japandroids’ sets a bit lacking. Fronted by MC Odario Williams, Grand Analog had the whole Lake Stage tent moving to their brash hip hop.

– Meanwhile, Trina particularly enjoyed The Acorn and The Good Lovelies, sets I saw little or none of, and Basia Bulat. The Acorn had a few technical difficulties but recovered well, and like many bands they loudly proclaimed their love for and longtime patronage of the Hillside Festival. The Good Lovelies told some entertaining stories, both in song and through their between-song anecdotes, singing pretty harmonies and telling stories like playing with Fred Penner at another festival. Basia overcame a brief rain delay to really put on a beautiful, if slightly rushed, set. Her voice and charm quickly had the crowd swooning.

We’re minutes away from heading out for Hillside’s Sunday lineup, and hoping that the rain holds off today. Friday and Saturday were good, but Sunday should be even better.

Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2010

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside | 2 Comments

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.

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Hillside Music Festival 2009: Final Recap

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Hillside | 1 Comment

It’s been a couple of days now since Hillside. We’ve dried off, had some time to reflect, think about what we saw, and come to some conclusions. Here are the acts we enjoyed most (or least) in a number of categories we just made up.

Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Singing Face: The lead singer of Attack in Black.


Just look at that scowl! Top notch. Attack in Black were pretty good. They quite clearly listened to an unhealthy amount of grunge music at a young age, but have a pretty bright future ahead of them if they can catch a few breaks. Read more