Karl Denson's Tiny Universe Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 23

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 23
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
Hillside is primarily known for booking folk, world music and politically conscious acts, as well as a smattering of Canadian indie rock and more experimental artists. But the festival and its festivalgoers have a secret: they love to dance.
As multi-instrumentalist Karl Denson — former member of Lenny Kravtiz's touring unit and, more recently, the Rolling Stones — and his band began to soundcheck for the final Saturday night slot on the main stage, the grass before them remained rather empty. That all changed once they hit their first notes.
Gasping could be heard from around the grounds as the band launched into their funky whirlwind of originals and covers, with people from neighbouring stages and passers-by sprinting onto the field to take part in Hillside's first real dance party of the weekend.
Throughout the set the band showcased some of their newest material ("Smart Boy" and "Monk Strap," both of which are set to appear on a new album next winter), as well as a couple groovy renditions (their soulful reworking of Cold War Kids' "Hang Me Up to Dry" is the way that song was meant to be heard), but the audience didn't seem to differentiate one track from the next, choosing to wiggle around and throw their hands in the air with the same exuberance throughout.