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My Full Hillside Festival 2008 Review


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Fri Aug 01 2008 03:23 PM - Post#545011

[blurb]Hillside 2008: July 25th-27th

Review by Scottie King


First of all, for the uninitiated, Hillside is a festival which has run for the last 25 years just north of Guelph on Guelph Lake. It is more than just great music, it is a shining example of how a

festival should be run in every way shape and form. From very little corporate sponsorship, to reusable year to year beer mugs, delicious world food served on reuseable plates, washed by volunteers, a festival indeed powered by volunteers (over a 1000) this is festival in workings like no other. [/blurb]There are ZERO HASSLES from anyone, leaving the festival with a palpable atmosphere of relaxation. There is a main stage, the Island, The Lake and The Sun, all within a three to five minute walk, surrounded on all sides by Guelph Lake.

Friday Night

Late start getting out and set up so we boogied ASAP into the site

Artists Seen


Hawksley Workman

Abrams Bros

We checked out Lights first. Cute little thing with Bjork-y overtones. Next was Hawksley Workman. Let me preface this by saying I’ve seen Hawksley four times and it has never been the same. This time would be no different. When you are going to start a show with a smoking cover of the Jackson 5's “Give Me One More Chance†and kill it, it wasn’t your average HW show. Over the course of the next hour, simply stating that this was the show he always wanted to play, Hawksley (with most of the Delisous Wolves) would pound through no less than 7 covers including Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Ocean, Under Pressure, Karma Chamelon, Riders on the Storm and one more to be mentioned later. The coverfest however, was giving my better half flashbacks of the Ryan Adams “Dead†Set at Lollapalooza 06 and so we went to check out the Abrams Bros. Aged 14, 15, and 17 they are ancient souled bluegrass champs straight out of the Smokeys. But they are Canadian. However, we would return to Hawksley to hear one of my festival highlights: Hawksley covered the Rheostatics “Record Body Countâ€. Soooo nice.


Author and Hawksley

Saturday Afternoon

Elliot Brood

The Burning Hell

Kelly Joe Phelps

Land Of Talk

Chris Brown and Kate Fenner

Andrew Whiteman and Dave Clark

Plants and Animals



Elliot Brood

Let’s start the day off with a bang. I love Elliot Brood and they did not dissapoint. Kickass that literally blew the big storm south. Ran into Hawksley as well which was fun. Next up, the need for beer pulled us to the Island Stage were the Burning Hell. They were everything I wanted in a Hillside band: original, energy, lots of instrumentation. Fun stuff. Time then for the 3 O’Clock wander. Kelly Joe Phelps was nice and light, Land of Talk was tight, and Chris Brown and Kate Fenner make beautiful music. Unforunately, Akron/Family got held at the border (more on Sunday) No problemo, as various artists took over. The most notable being a teamup of Andrew Whiteman and Dave Clark. Then it was time for something I was very excited about: Plants and Animals. It’s no secret to those who know me that this is my album of the year so far and while the live show could in few ways replicate the studio mastery, the pure energy and songmanship put these guys over the top for me.


Plants and Animals

Finally, still on a rush, we gave Thunderheist a shot. This was my “on top of the picnic table†dancing moment of the weekend. Lady MC with electro-funk backbeats, yes please. It was so good it overloaded Tungsten. Or maybe that was my fault. Tee hee.

Saturday Night

Jason Collett

The Sadies

Born Ruffians

Bourbon Tabernacle Choir


Jason Collett is a talented musician whose latest album gets a lot of play around here, but this guy is perma-drunk/stoned to the point where I can’t stand watching him live. Underwhelmed. The Sadies however, never disappoint , although it was tough seeing them on the main stage. It kinda felt like the fair. This would be a split set as I had to check out the Born Ruffians. They really impressed me last year at Wolfe Island and I really dig the new album. Once again, they do a great job and give 100%.

Side Note: Hillside is full of choices and you can’t be everywhere at once. You’ve got to take a few chances and sometimes it pays off, but you can lose. From what I understand and feel, I made 50% of the right choice on Saturday Night.


The Bourbons

To the main event then, the BOURBON TABERNACLE CHOIR reunion. Wowy wow wow. It honestly sounded like they had been practicing for the 13 years since their last full show. A high class of musicians having an obvious awesome time. Who says you can’t go back.

To finish, Islands. Talent, yes. Interesting. For sure. Full of themselves and their closing slot. Check. Hillside has very strict rules on 11pm ending and they missed timed their set which lead to a very poor ending to the whole affair. Should have went to Black Cabbage as I need to dance. Oh well.

Food and Friends - This is shoutout to all the delicious food and awesome people who always make the experience truly what it is. I ate rotis and sausage and samosas and drank heavenly microbrews. The site was almost completely free of garbage thanks to the dishwashers and free water (no bottled water) The over flow camping was a blast and it was nice to see folks from years past, a few Skanks and meet a couple of new friends as well.

Sunday Afternoon

Miracle Fortress

Think About Life

The Kramdens


Bell Orcheste


Stuart McLean w/Ron Sexsmith

Sunday it looked like it could rain all day but really only did for an hour. Here’s a little lesson in Hillside Math for you. You finish at the food tent at 1:10. Harry Manx is on stage but Miracle Fortress (who you love and really want to see) is on at 1:30. Do you risk it? Add thunder in the distance and the Island Stage being covered and the answer is no.

Miracle Fortress did well to pull off their Beach Boys-y fuzzy sound live. The same guy is in Think about Life which is a completely different vibe. I honestly don’t remember much about the The Kramdens and went for a wander. This would eventually lead us to the rescheduled Akron/Family.


Akron/Family and friends

Absolutely wonderful chaos and joy, they were joined by various members of the Born Ruffians and others to create the atmosphere very similar to last years Dave Clark/Slip set. Next up was Bell Orcheste. Two instruments I saw more of this year were the ukelule (Elliot Brood, Burning Hell) and lots of violin and french horn (Islands, Bell Orcheste) Nice playing but I wasn’t in the mood for this. Reminded me of Final Fantasy. The rain would eventually hit and sour my plans to see all of Stuart Mclean and Ron Sexsmith but I was introduced to the Manidibles who were fun.

Sunday Night

The Acorn


The Speakeasies

Broken Social Scene

Good for the Acorn. These guys had a tough slot and nailed it, creating lots of new fans and nailing a flawless set. Post that, we regrouped, hit the campsite, heard a lot of Hayden’s set, caught first part of the Speakeasies and the last of Mr Something Something but something (ha) was up with the bass. Too bad. However, for me, it was all about BSS.



Broken Social Scene’s live shows is like Bits and Bites. Never the same twice, but always grand, sweeping, loose but tight sound. In attendance where 3 of the Do Make Say Thinker, Whiteman, Colliett, Chris Brown on keys, the lead singer of Stars, but none of “the girlsâ€. The set was some old, some of the new Canning tunes (which really gained new merit for me live) , some Kevin Drew solo (if you can actually call it that) and one big ass It’s All Gonna Break to send us home. The crowd was the worst part. I swear, hipsters suck if not for anything but their inability to stop looking cool for two seconds and dance a bit. But fuÇk it, I still remembered how to dance.


Overall: Another huge success in my books. As I know I won’t be able to make it next year, I can only implore someone to pick up the torch and do it for me next year. You won’t regret it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I veinly commented on this that the Bourbons reunion was actually My Idea. Literally last year Sam Baijal (Artistic Director/brains behind whole thing) were chatting and I said 'you know what you've got to do for the 25th anniversary is get the Bourbons back together'. Maybe he'd had the same idea but still pretty cool foresight.

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