Hillside Night 1: HYDRA, Alvvays & More

Friday, July 25, 2014

We’ve been going to Hillside Festival in Guelph for three years now, and while this weekend didn’t have the greatest ending (Sunday night’s schedule got rained out), it’s still a weekend we look forward to all year!

There are certain things about the festival that never change: the excitement felt getting onto the shuttle bus downtown that grows and grows as the bus winds to the edges of town towards the c, the elated feeling as all forms of stress melt away literally the moment you walk onto the festival grounds, the array of veggie-friendly food from local vendors you feel good about eating for three days – even if you end up having ice cream sandwiches for lunch one day. There’s music and spoken word and kids programming and workshops to teach you everything from dance to doing yoga to detoxing. and always a focus on the environment, sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. Yes, it’s a little bit hippie but all festivals can learn a thing or two from Hillside, and so can we.


Alvvays (Island Stage, 7:20PM)

We got to the festival in time to catch the last couple of songs of the “So Many Roads to Hillside” workshop while digging into Salsateria tacos, so our first real set of Hillside was Alvvays. Big crowds were out to catch the Toronto-via-East Coast band whose self-titled debut album was released just days prior (via Royal Mountain Records).

Led by Molly Rankin and heralding Alec O’Hanley (formerly of Two Hours Traffic), the quintet worked their still slightly awkward stage legs into something hazily dreamy as they offered up sparkly and space-agey summertime grooves with songs like “Party Police” and “Adult Diversion.” They ended their short set with single “Archie, Marry Me,” at which time it was likely that any guy or girl alike would have tripped over themselves to accept such a request from Rankin.

HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: Alvvays @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14


HYDRA (Island Stage, 8:35PM)

In Greek mythology, the many-headed serpent, hydra, was meant to be feared, to be conquered. On the Hillside stage however, the Island Stage packed in close to discover that in the case of supergroup HYDRA, sometimes, seven heads are better than one. Led by Leslie Feist and two husband-and-wife duos AroarA and Snowblink, plus Charles Spearin of Do Make Say Think (bass) and Don Kerr (drums), the ensemble embodied the spirit of Canadian folk festival workshops, taking on one another’s songs.

Boasting five guitars at times, the group frequently delved into epically grandiose extended jams. At the forefront of the dazzling spectacle however was always the pretty vocals coming from deep within three understated powerhouses including Ariel Engle (AroarA) and Daniela Gesundheit (Snowblink), who both more than held their own alongside Feist. Beefed up with jangly cigar box guitars, there was still something altogether spiritual and haunting to these versions of Feist’s “The Bad in Each Other” and “The Undiscovered First.” Another highlight was their enchanting, stripped down rendition of Antony and the Johnsons’ “Another World.” The group was allowed to grace the stage for an encore and surprised the packed tent by unleashing some Led Zeppelin with “Immigrant Song.”

HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14 HILLSIDE: HYDRA @ Guelph Lake Island, 26-07-14


Workshop: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been (Lake Stage, 10:00PM)

Rather than stick around the Island Stage for Light Fires or venture to the mainstage for headliners Tegan and Sara, we opted to venture over to the Lake Stage for a low-key end to the first night. This particular workshop brought together Winnipeg’s Red Moon Road and Colorado’s Elephant Revival for some foot stomping folk. Alternating back and forth between bands song by song, much of both bands’ performance often felt too quiet to compete with the late night rowdiness of the crowd, though some country flourishes and a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” (from which the title of the workshop is taken) did manage to capture our attention.

HILLSIDE: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been Workshop @ Guelph Lake Island, 25-07-14 HILLSIDE: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been Workshop @ Guelph Lake Island, 25-07-14 HILLSIDE: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been Workshop @ Guelph Lake Island, 25-07-14

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Categories: Hillside 2014

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