Hillside’s mixed bag of shows, experimentation and respect

CONSTANTINES, DANIEL LANOIS, THE WEATHER STATION, DOUG PAISLEY, GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS, HANGGAI and others at Hillside, Saturday and Sunday, July.


CONSTANTINES, DANIEL LANOIS, THE WEATHER STATION, DOUG PAISLEY, GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS, HANGGAI and others at Hillside, Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26. Rating: NNNN

Gotta love Hillside: its inventive programming, local MCs, culture of respect (for the enviro, for each other), easily walkable stages.

Guelphs Ever-Lovin Jug Band and San Franciscos Poor Mans Whiskey overcame sound issues and got acquainted over the course of a Grateful Dead-themed workshop on the Sun Stage. The jug bands members looked like nonchalant hipsters, though their love for old-time tunes was palpable. (A young girl was air-jugging along in the crowd.)

Doug Paisley and the Weather Stations sets, which spilled into each other, proved an awkward fit for the beery Lake Stage. Chatter threw off the Weather Stations Tamara Lindeman, even after she politely requested some quiet. That was a pity, because it marred an otherwise fantastic set that focused on her latest album, Loyalty, while also touching on 2011s All Of It Was Mine.

Later, Daniel Lanois baffled some of the crowd with his folk-free electronic ambient set. In the spirit of bringing the studio to the stage, he was joined by an entourage of studio buddies not fellow musicians, quite. More like roadies. They stood on stage vibing along with him when they werent helping out with gear. It made the set eccentrically fun they all looked like characters.

Later the Constantines pulled off a classic Hillside headlining set. On the mainstage, the hometown heroes rock anthems soared. The crowd was held (the crowd-surfers, literally), and Bry Webbs voice sounded bigger than ever. Thanks to an 11 pm island curfew, it was over too quickly. When MC Vish Khanna informed the crowd that, unlike the Cons song Time Can Be Overcome, time cannot be overcome, he was met with boos. Webb returned to remind folks of the respect necessary to keep Hillside afloat.

The next mornings Sunday Gospel Session, with Fred Penner, Terra Lightfoot, Lindeman and others, was as crowded as in earlier years. Folks of all ages sang along to spiritual tunes and sipped coffee while trying to find shade. A spirit of adventure caused me to walk over to the fests most unusual pairing: Torontos Great Lake Swimmers jamming out with Mongolia-by-way-of-Beijing trad-rock band Hanggai. What my companion described as the Swimmers getting their asses kicked sounded to me like sheer excitement and bravery, Erik Arnesens banjo, in particular, fitting in surprisingly well with Hanggais traditional instruments and throat singing.

Things got farther out-there for Nels Cline Singers, Clines distorted electric guitar holding up the dissonantly fluttering experimental jam. What music writer Michael Barclay suggested afterwards was apropos: that next year Penner should host a workshop for kids of all ages in which Clines percussionist goes through his trunk of unusual instruments and demonstrates what each does.

music@nowtoronto.com | @sarahegreene

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