Hillside 2022 Warmed Hearts, Even During a Rainstorm

Artists like DJ Shub (pictured), Cadence Weapon, NOBRO and OMBIIGIZI made sure everyone had a happy Hillside

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Allie GregoryPublished Jul 26, 2022

Hillside returned to in-person programming for its 2022 edition with scorching, relentless heat and a festival-dismantling thunderstorm in tow, but spirits were high even as families, volunteers and performers huddled under tents to escape the sun and rain — just as the essence of Guelph's longest-running music festival dictates.

Led by an enticing mix of emerging local artists and a roster of international talent, plus a pack of Canadian heavyweights including Dan Mangan, Allison Russell, Donovan Woods and Anyway Gang (who, despite having their Sunday night set rained out, made their presence known throughout the weekend), the festivities were marked by a profound sense of belonging, collaboration and mutual support among artists and attendees.

Running July 22 to 24, thousands of fans and performers flocked — by foot, car, bus, boat or bike — to the secluded oasis of Guelph Lake Conservation Area to witness something magical. And not only was that magic delivered, it was created. From sessions to workshops to performances and everything in between, everyone involved proved that even a pandemic-induced break can't stop people from having a happy Hillside.

July 23

Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

Habibi's Saturday afternoon set began with timely quips about the horrendous state of air travel, and ended with the Brooklyn-based band — delighted by the sudden presence of an under-21 crowd — fawning over the front-row children whose eyes lit up at the sight of the "noir girl group" as they shuffled to the psych-inflected surf rock. Grooving through "Angel Eyes," the quartet went on to dedicate "Detroit Baby" to the titular city, from which bandmates Lenaya Lynch and Rahill Jamalifard hail.
Best of Intonations workshop (Bahamas, Dave Monks, Kyshona, Adrian Raso)
Photo: Matt Forsythe

Before Afie Jurvanen let loose his "Opening Act" shooby-doobies on the Main Stage late Saturday night, the Bahamas bandleader tested them out on the overflowing Sun Stage crowd, and he was in good company. Joined by Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club and Anyway Gang (who shared a silly ditty composed of inspirational quotes printed on the side of his water bottle, pictured above), Nashville singer-songwriter Kyshona Armstrong and her backing vocalists Maureen Murphy and Nickie Conley, and Guelph's own Adrian Raso, Jurvanen and the makeshift band swapped tunes, settled into a nice groove with his Earthtones track "Bad Boys Need Love Too," as Mr. Mist doused the crowd in some much-needed H2O.

Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

A masked trickster took to the Island Stage Saturday evening to reveal, using an umbrella, the madness of TEKE::TEKE, the Montreal psych rockers known for their Japanese balladry, surf rock influences and legendary dedication to multi-instrumentalism. Employing cacophonous flute and thunderous drums — as well as an assortment of bagpipes, tambourines, cowbells, light cackling, kooky outfits and a freaking gong — lent to a serious case of sensory overload in the best way.

Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

High-octane Montreal quartet NOBRO performed as the sun began to set Saturday night, bringing plenty of gnar-shredding, hair-whipping, cowbell-clanging and tambourine-flailing madness to the Lake Stage. The very freaky ladies dedicated Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar track "Julia" to the fellow freaky ladies in the crowd, whose front row was, as per tradition, mainly populated by children. Those children quickly became privy to NOBRO's PG-13 tendencies, as the band chanted the lyrics to "Let's Do Drugs," though parents didn't seem to mind. Set highlights included "Don't Wanna Talk About It," "Marianna" and the "Scarlet Begonias"-esque "Call the Doctor."

Cadence Weapon
Photo: Matt Forsythe

Cadence Weapon, the Bedroom Rapper himself, closed out Saturday night's Island Stage festivities with a strong message for Ontario leaders: "Fuck Tory" and "Fuck Ford." Once the tone had been set for "Skyline" — taken from his 2021 Polaris Music Prize-winning album Parallel World — the crowd got to jumping on the beat as the MC proceeded to absolutely tear the house down. He was visually hard to track, as he whipped his body across the stage and, at several points, into the crowd, despite clear objections from security. Mid-set highlights included the Jacques Greene-produced crowd-favourite "SENNA," which followed deep cut "Sharks."

July 24

Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

Playing through their Kevin Drew-produced debut album Sewn Back Together, Zoon's Daniel Monkman and Status/Non-Status's Adam Sturgeon — decked out in matching pink shirts — brought their '90s-influenced moccasin-gaze to Hillside's Island Stage Sunday afternoon. New fans were introduced to the band with a pronunciation lesson early on in the set (that's "om-BEE-ga-ZAY"), while the band delivered dreamy, sun-soaked renditions of "Residential Military," "Spirit in Me," "Birch Bark Paper Trails" and lovely harmonies on "Cherry Coke."

Le Ren
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa

Le Ren's life experiences helped her deftly navigate the afternoon heat of the Lake Stage: not only had the Montreal folk singer previously performed at Hillside in Tim Baker's band, but festivalgoing is in her blood courtesy of her mother. Joined by Cedric Noel and Fez Gielen, Le Ren indulged in her penchant for covering folk traditionals with Kitty Wells's "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" and George Jones's "The Day I Lose My Mind" before heading into her Leftovers cuts "Dyan," "May Hard Times Pass Us By," and the excellently weepy "Your Cup."

DJ Shub 
Photo: Matt Forsythe

Taking over the Main Stage at dusk, the former Tribe Called Red member played to a mixed crowd of tweens, cool aunts, the elderly, dancing pregnant women and god's most genderless soldiers. Joined onstage by special guests pHoenix Pagliacci, Boogát, dancer Kelli Marshall, partner Jules and daughter Lily, the War Club Live presentation was truly a family affair. Troublesome weather brewed at the audience's backs as Shub displayed his signature powwow-dub, delivering a particularly rousing rendition of "Fight for Your People" that had the crowd shouting along with "Fuck a pipeline!"

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