Colossal Jam IV (ft. Daniel Lanois, Elaquent and Nels Cline Singers) Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 25

Colossal Jam IV (ft. Daniel Lanois, Elaquent and Nels Cline Singers) Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 25
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
Daniel Lanois led the afternoon jam session.
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Only the organizers of Guelph, ON's annual Hillside Festival could bring together three disparate acts and create such an otherworldly and intimate jam.
 
Rumour has it that Canadian legend (and area resident) Daniel Lanois, New York City avant-garde trio the Nels Cline Singers, and up-and-coming Guelph-based beatmaker Elaquent had no idea they were performing together on stage until the day before their afternoon performance. Whether that's true or not, it was hard to tell; all three parties performed like they had known each other for years, some ten minutes after they'd loosened up on Saturday afternoon.
 
With Lanois — alternating between an ancient Gibson with oxidized Bigsby and his pedal steel guitar — leading the charge, the band ploughed its way through his self-described (perhaps jokingly) "complex" chord progressions that found them flowing in an out of the realms of '70s art rock and ambient noise.
 
World-renowned six-stringer and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline took a backseat for most of the set, letting Lanois truly shred his way through their on-the-fly songs and providing twinkling leads and melodies that were bright as the day was hot. But Lanois, peering away from behind a worn-out trucker hat and shades, had a way of connecting with each performer on stage and giving them a moment to shine, even Elaquent, who initially seemed like the odd man out on the list, but found some space to call his own near the tail end of the set with some 808-style beats that held their loosely defined grooves firmly in place.
 
With only a few hundred people in attendance, this was clearly one of the festival's best-kept secrets, and one not soon to be forgotten by those in the know.