Guelph Tribune, Interview >>
Hillside has 'some catching up to do'
By: Doug Hallett
If not many big names jump out of the lineup for the 28th annual Hillside Festival, which takes place this coming weekend, that’s part of what makes the festival special in the eyes of its longtime artistic director.
“The thing that has built Hillside over the years is up-and-coming artists,” says Sam Baijal, noting how Arcade Fire played Hillside in 2004 when few people knew the band.
“People come to this festival to find out about new artists,” says Baijal, who has been Hillside’s artistic director since 1998.
However, “Hillside is not just an indie music festival,” he says.
“That’s just one facet of our programming. There’s all sorts of music.”
While this year’s lineup includes a bit more hip-hop and a bit more world music than usual, Baijal says it’s a well-balanced schedule that offers something for just about everyone.
The 4,000 weekend passes for the July 22-24 festival on Guelph Lake Island all went in a day this spring, he said, but it took until last week for all the Saturday day passes to be sold. As of Monday, day passes for Friday evening and Sunday were still available.
It’s important for Hillside to sell as many tickets as possible this year, while keeping in mind the island’s limited capacity, says Hillside executive director Marie Zimmerman.
“We have some catching up to do financially” to replenish the festival’s contingency fund, Zimmerman said. This fund was hit by a couple of years that Hillside Inside, the annual winter festival, “did not do very well” when it was held in the Sleeman Centre, she said. This past February, Hillside Inside moved out of the downtown arena and was held instead in other venues.
A substantial contingency fund is crucial for an organization like Hillside, because its main festival is outdoors and bad weather in any given year can have a big impact on its financial situation, she said.
Many people tend to assume the festival is sold out, even when single-day passes are still available, Baijal noted. “It’s one of the most common things I hear.”
Friday’s entertainment lineup this year will start and end with hip-hop on the main stage. Three hip-hop artists will share the stage at 6 p.m., and Friday’s closing main-stage show by Chali 2Na at 10 p.m. will offer “hip-hop with a full band,” he said.
Baijal said one of the highlights of this year’s festival for him is an appearance by the Nigerian group Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, on the main stage at 9 p.m. Sunday. “It’s world music, African music, Afro-beat music . . . we haven’t had much of that at Hillside” he said.
As it turns out, another Nigerian band also ended up being booked for this year’s festival, and Baijal said he’s also looking forward to that show by Etran Finatawa – on the main stage at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday’s main-stage closing act is Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, a U.S. band led by saxophone player Denson. “We’re talking state-of-the-art music, and they get into a pretty interesting groove,” Baijal said.
The closing main-stage act on Sunday is Sloan. Marking their 20th anniversary this year and playing Hillside for only the second time (they also played here in 1999), “they still have their indie creds,” Baijal said.
Sloan will also perform on the main stage at 4 p.m. Sunday along with other musicians in a collaborative show titled “Coast to Coast.”
Hillside, as always, will involve more than musical acts this weekend. There will be spoken word artists at the solar-powered Sun Stage on Saturday and Sunday, a small stage with children’s entertainers, various types of workshops in small tents, and plenty more.
New this year, Baijal said, is the showing of films in a darkened tent by the Guelph Festival of Moving Media, including one film submitted by the Guelph Jazz Festival. As well, the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival and the River Run Centre are presenting a dance theatre show at 5 p.m. Sunday. 07/19/11 >> go there