Hillside Festival continues to proves that they are here to stay with their 2021 Hillside Inside weekend off events kicking off this Friday. This year’s iteration takes the beloved festival’s winter counterpart to a digital community.
“Lots of things have changed, obviously, but our mission has not changed.” Says Hillside Festival’s executive director, Marie Zimmerman. “We still strive to inspire creativity. And we still have a mandate to engage our community, and to encourage peacemaking and education, and altruism, and equality, and environmentalism.” She says.
2021’s event is comprised of more than 60 videos, all of which are free to view on the festival’s YouTube channel beginning Friday. This year includes full concerts from DJ Shub, Iskwe and Tom Wilson, the Sam Roberts Band, Serena Ryder and Shred Kelly.
This year being virtual has allowed the fest to partner with other festivals and venues to provide the following collaborations: Benj Rowland (Peterborough Folk Festival), Black Leather (Peterborough Folk Festival), Cris Derksen (Silence), Drew Berry (Guelph Dance Festival), Olivia Shortt (International Institue for Critical Studies in Improvisation) and The Nunnery (Silence).
Comedy is also on the table for this year’s event with Chris Locke and Sean Cullen, Derek Seguin, Folk Lordz, Jasper Tey, Laurie Elliot, Martha Chabes and Mike Rita.
“We have a tribute to John Prine. So it’s called flies in the kitchen from one of his famous songs. And so we have six performers, each of whom I believe did about two songs.” says Zimmerman. Artists covering the folk icon who passed away from COVID-19 in 2020 include Courtney Marie Andrews (Mariposa Folk Festival), Jude Vadala, Ken Morris, Steve Poltz, The Slocan and Tre Burt.
Girls and Guitars is another staple continuing this year with Halley McKeown Lauryn Macfarlane, Missy Bauman, Moscow Apartment, Nicolette Hoang, Nyssa, Paige Rutledge, Saba, Yazdanpanah, Tania Joy and Tina St-John.
A new addition to the festival is ‘Now and Then.’ “[It’s] a documentary series that we’ve been doing where we interview a band from the past, a band that did a particularly powerful performance, for whatever reason, whether it was incredible music it was strange, it was… Anyway, I’m much less performance and DakhaBrakha was this Ukrainian band, who have roots in contemporary theatre, and also Ukrainian, folklore and music. And so, they did this wonderful performance that hillside inside in the past of 2016. And so, we interviewed them about that. And then they also do a set, or they just did a set and prerecorded it,” explains Zimmerman.
Another aspect of the festival is ‘The Sound of Light,’ a showcase of songs about rising up, some of the songs are gospel, some of them are work music, and others are travel songs. Performances for the showcase include Alexandra Delle Donne, Bedouine, Kevin Thomair and Solena Jade Williams, Ladan, Morgan-Paige Melbourne, Ramon Chicarron, Teria Lynn Garcia, The Laws, Twas Now and Yuli Cruz Roo.
Workshops are also still on-going this year, covering topics such as exercising outdoors in the winter, cooking/baking, Crocheting and Embroidery and conversations in Anishinabemowin.
The Youth Showcase is also continuing with performances by Auri Fell, DOINK!, Emmajane Bell Woodward, Forward Motion JamSchool House Band, Pleasantly Strange and Skylar Evertt.
Shred Kelly and Patrick Watson’s performances are ticketed this year, in the case of the latter, the festival has partnered with Guelph restaurants. “if people purchase $15 or more of food at one of the neighborhood groups restaurants in Guelph, so that would be Borealis… the wooly pub. They will get access to the Patrick Watson video for a $5 or more donation to hillside.” says Zimmerman.
On the topic of being able to pull this year’s event off, Zimmerman says, “it feels really good to be fulfilling our mission and to be offering people something to lift up their spirits while they’re at home. Because you can still dance in your kitchen. And imagine what it would be like to have your friends by your side. And yeah, I think I think a lot of people are tapping into their creativity. So this particular festival will be a spur to that, and also a constellation and a way of I don’t know, cajoling, challenging people and giving them a reminder of how much live art means to them.”
The festival is taking donations on their website, where more information about this year’s event can be found.
Zimmerman encourages those interested in tuning in this weekend and to support the fest, “we are going into our 38 year. And we have no intention of going dormant. We want stay giving to our community, everything that we’ve given them in the past. And we are thrilled that people have been so responsive. so grateful for our presentation of art. And we want to thank them for their generosity of spirit.”