24th Annual Hillside Music Festival (7/27-7/29/2007)
You have to love a folk festival that offers sweatshop-free clothing; gives away free, safe, non-bottled water; serves an ethnically diverse array of foods with many vegan options on reusable dinnerware; and uses a printing company powered by 100% green electricity to print concert programs. Currently in its 24th year, the Hillside Music Festival at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area in Ontario, Canada hosts performers of folk, gospel and many other traditional forms of music on four stages over three days, as well as more popular folk, rock and pop music options. Drumming, informational workshops and spoken word performances are also incorporated into the festival, which is easily accessible by car, bicycle and public transit. The Hillside non-profit organization even plants trees at the festival site annually. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that both Ani DiFranco and Melissa Ferrick performed there, too, on the same day.
For me, Sunday at the Hillside Music Festival was a great opportunity to see two great, feminist folkies, with two distinct styles. Melissa Ferrick’s brief but powerful, positive, introspective and critical set was delivered in the late afternoon. Rocking right from the start, she immediately connected with the crowd, performing songs from her latest album In the Eyes of Strangers _as well as “Moses,” a Patty Griffin cover, from _Valentine Heartache. Her playful banter between songs, the 30th wedding anniversary congratulations delivered to a couple in the audience and open invitation for children to accompany her on the stage for the last part of her set made me wish she had twice the time to perform. Her enthusiasm and energy left me smiling and pumped long after her songs were over.
Ani DiFranco’s set, though longer, was a more muted and intimate affair, with spoken word, older favorites like “Everest” and “32 Flavors” and some of the more accessible songs, such as “Half-Assed” from her most recent album, Reprieve. Though slow to start, her set was an appropriate close to the evening’s performances and the festival, with the sounds of her performance accompanied by fans' voices and excited discussions about the songs she had chosen for her set.
Both performers commented on the relaxed atmosphere and earth-friendly principles of the festival, as well as the great treatment they received at Hillside. Hopefully this means that they will be back regularly in the years to come.