Born in 1984, Guelph, Ontario’s Hillside Festival is a leave-no-trace, not-for-profit festival that champions homegrown musical talent alongside performers from around the world, hosting 60-plus bands and spoken word artists every year at Guelph Lake Conservation Area. What began as a one-day affair — the first program was a single, photocopied sheet promising an “11-hour music celebration for all ages – noon -11pm” — is now a three-day weekend bonanza in late July, blending fresh talent and sounds across five stages with full access to the gorgeous beaches and campgrounds offered by Guelph Lake.
Hillside has consistently offered the crème de la crème of Canadian artists, with new favourites like Ought (2014), Majical Cloudz (2014) and BRAIDS (2015) mixed with pillars of Canadian singer-songwriting like Buffy Sainte-Marie, who shared the stage with the Sadies in 2016. Alvvays blissed out Hillside 2014, a performance that coincided with the release of their debut self-titled album, which included singles “Archie, Marry Me” and “Adult Diversion.” The festival has also famously given top spots to emerging prospects, including heavyweights like Arcade Fire and Feist, long before their respective rises in fame.
Hillside’s 20th anniversary saw festival veterans the Barenaked Ladies swoop in to help fundraise to build new stages for the growing festival, including a Rainbow Stage for Hillside tots, and a Sun Stage for spoken word performances.
Hillside Festival provides guests 100% accessibility; with one-to-one support travelling around the grounds, sign language interpreters and the Access Support Krew (ASK), show organizers work hard to ensure the festival is enjoyable for everyone.
As of 2008, Hillside’s younger sibling, Hillside Inside, began to take shape in Guelph’s downtown core. In the quiet month of February, Hillside Inside pops performers into storefront nooks and other eclectic indoor spaces to bring audiences out of hibernation and back into the music. Previous Hillside Inside performers have included A Tribe Called Red, July Talk and Owen Pallett, among others.