In the midst of what’s often a dark and dreary month, Hillside Inside hopes to add a little colour with this weekend’s musical offerings.
And they’ve got a full four-day lineup of musicians performing everywhere from bars to churches to storefronts in Guelph’s downtown.
“People love live music – it’s so different from sitting at home in your basement listening to your playlist. Live music is incredibly inspiring to people. It encourages them to create themselves and also to appreciate human creativity,” said Hillside Festival executive director Marie Zimmerman.
She says it’s more complicated to book performers this time of year because typically they tour in the spring and the summer, opting to spend the winter indoors creating new work.
New to the Hillside Inside lineup this year is BROS.
“In 2011 we showcased The Sheepdogs at the Hillside Summer Festival. Two of the brothers in The Sheepdogs, Shamus and Ewan Currie, are the brothers who formed BROS. They only recently formed this band, so we’re showcasing them up at the university in Peter Clark Hall on Thursday night. They’re pretty new and they do groovy tunes inspired by ’70s rock and roll, so there’s a lot of funk in there. It’s a very layered kind of music but it’s sort of classic rock and roll,” Zimmerman explained.
On Friday night folk singer-songwriter Steve Poltz takes the stage at St. George’s Anglican Church. She notes Poltz is a musician that audiences requested the festival bring back again this year.
“Some people refer to him as the circus because he’s an incredibly responsive artist to his audience. He often improvises songs according to who’s in the audience and the location where he’s performing. And he tells a lot of stories so there’s a lot of banter. He’s a great storyteller, so we’re looking forward to that,” Zimmerman said.
The opening band for that show is Murder Murder, which is a six-piece band from Sudbury, which – appropriately – writes murder ballads.
“Murder ballads are a really ancient tradition. Murder ballads in particular tell a story of how a murder came about,” she said.
Saturday gets started with Girls and Guitars at various venues from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a youth showcase with some of the jam school students from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Planet Bean.
Girls and Guitars is a tour of six venues where, every half-hour, a different female singer-songwriter plays storefronts across the downtown.
“Three of our students are going to be performing at the first show and then the second show is Lex and Sara. They’re a female duo and Lex is the daughter of Sandy Horne from The Spoons. She’s got a voice like her mom, so that’ll be neat. And that’s at Guelph Music,” she said.
Next is clothing and design store, Pod, where Evangeline Gentle, will perform. After that is On The Verge with Darlene Cuevas, whose stage name is Darling Cora. Doris Folkens is after that at Coriander. It finishes at Speed River Bicycle with three singer-songwriters from their songwriting course.
From 3:30-5 p.m., Le Trouble from Montreal will be performing at Royal Electric.
All day long at The Bookshelf they have a film running called The Short Apology of Albert Batch.
At 9 p.m., DJ Shub will headline St. George’s Anglican Church.
“He does a lot of dancey music. He’s an indigenous performer who used to be in A Tribe Called Red. He’s performing and the opening bands are HEAT, they’re from Montreal and Lido Pimienta from Toronto. That should be a crazy fun show, lots of dancing,” she said.
On Sunday morning they have a free African drumming workshop at 10 a.m. at Planet Bean. The workshop, as well as Girls and Guitars, the youth showcase and the film are all free.
Also on Sunday there will be a sound circle at Silence with Gary Diggins at 1:30 p.m. At 3:30 p.m. they have a bluegrass jam at Royal Electric with the Blurry Pickers from Stratford.
Zimmerman explains why it’s important to offer a winter music festival.
“It gives audiences touring opportunities in the off months. It also gives the community something to do when it’s really cold and dull out there. It’s a really slow time, it’s almost like a dormant time economically for most cities. There’s not a lot going on, so we thought it would be good because it fits our mandate to encourage creativity and to bring new music to people so that’s why we do it in these dark and stormy months.”
Hillside Inside starts today (Thursday) and runs until Feb. 12. Weekend passes and tickets for individual shows are available at www.hillsidefestival.ca, at The Bookshelf and The Beat Goes On in Guelph.