11 Hours of Music – Hillside Inside – Sat. Feb. 7, 2009

What do you call 11 hours of music? Amazing! Well most of it was amazing.
This past Saturday Firda and I attended the 2nd Hillside Inside Festival. The Hillside Festival is an annual music festival held in Guelph, Ontario. There outdoor version is held in the summer – typically runs all weekend – and has dozens of performances. It’s also been running for 26 years.
Hillside Inside is the indoor version of this festival. One day – 11 hours – 11 performers.
The following is a run-down of the performances and my take on them.
1) The D’Urbervilles – These guys are a band that started in and around Guelph, Ontario. I wasn’t too impressed with the music I heard on their website but discovered they are much better live. The crowds were small (since this was the first band of the day) but the people that were there were into them. Nice way to start off the day.
2) The Great Lake Swimmers – This band is the main reason we decided to get tickets for the festival. The Great Lake Swimmers are a Toronto band who spin beautiful yarns with there melancholic music. We were not disappointed with the set and were right at the front of the crowd. We still want to see a show where they are the headliners but we are appeased for now.
3) The Magic – Another local Guelph band who can only be described as flamboyant with a twist of disco added. The lead singer came out on stage wearing a faux fur vest and proceeded to add a little dance vibe to the early afternoon. Firda and I sat down for this one but were impressed with the energy the band created in the arena.
4) K’Naan – This performance was the secondary reason we bought tickets for the event. K’Naan spent the formative years (up to 13) living in Somalia, which is reflected in his words and lyrics. I’d describe K’Naan as a poet musician – he is the self appointed “Dusty Foot Philosopher”. He was also the nicest surprise of the festival. His energy, charisma and hard beats rose the crowd up and kept us going for the whole set. He even threw in a rendition of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” which was interesting, though not as good as his original stuff. Like the Great Lake Swimmers I really want to see him in concert again as the headliner.
5) Jay Malinowski – I don’t have much to say about Jay since I wasn’t paying attention to his set. The crowd seemed to be into it but I was checking out the facilities during his set. Sorry Jay 🙂
6) Bell Orchestre – Another band that was a beautiful surprise. The Bell Orchestra (pronounced Bell Orchest) is a Montreal based band which started as an ensemble troupe working with dance performers but once the performers left they kept right on playing. The music is almost all instrumental, with voices only used to accent the instruments. They are very reminiscent of bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, the Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire (which they coincidental share two members with). While the beats were two wild to dance along to I was enthralled (as I believe the rest of the crowd was) with the ethereal, but slightly disconcerting music. It’s really the type of music that fits sitting on the deck of a cottage on a moonlit night with all of the electric lights off.
7) Thunderheist – The only way I can describe Thunderheist is pure dance energy. An electro-rap duo who brought old school beats with new school sounds to the people! We sat out on this one but the crowd loved them – evident from the jumping, bumping and more than likely humping going on. The band even brought a couple dozen people up on stage with them for the final song (which I believe had to do with some form of oral pleasure – but I won’t get into that).
8) Bedouin Soundclash – I was expecting to like this band (even though I’ve only heard two or three of their songs before). I was sad to find out I’m not a fan. The crowd was massive for their set so I’m likely in the minority in this.
9) That 1 Guy – That 1 Guy is just that – 1 Guy. Though it’s 1 Guy with something he calls his “Magic Pipe”. With his magic pipe he creates music that runs the gambit from industrial to Primus-sounding to rave music to jazz! Just check out a couple of YouTube videos featuring him and you’ll see what I mean. Quite amazing.
10) Sam Roberts Band – Another band that I didn’t really want to see but didn’t feel like leaving the arena for an hour. I only know three of his songs and they were pretty good live but nothing to write home about. Again the crowd for Sam Roberts was enormous (probably the biggest all day) so I’m once again in the minority with my opinion. FYI Sam Roberts is the most mainstream act playing at this festival and the reason why most of the people attended – especially since half of the audience left following his performance.
11) Stars – The headline band of the evening and amazing at that. I know a few of their songs but wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got was an “end of the tour – I’m sleeping in until next year” style blowout! (NOTE: This was actually the Stars final show for their current 16 month tour and they were happy to be doing it with us). I honestly thought that the lead male singer was going to knell over and die from a heart attack during the show. He jumped, lunged, rearranged, throwed and went crazy with a crowd of adoring fans looking on. The energy was phenomenal – both from the band and from a crowd that had been watching bands play for close to 11 hours. A fantastic final band for a fantastic festival.
As an added bonus Buck 65 (aka Rich Terfry from CBC Radio 2) was one of the announcers inbetween bands. I was sad that he didn’t perform but it was really cool seeing him there.
Wrapping it up. It was a good day. We saw a boatload of amazing bands – discovered a couple new ones and reinforced a couple that we will likely never enjoy 🙂 Will we go again next year? We will have to wait and see who performs!

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