Mt. Joy, Lindy Vopnfjörð, The Franklin Electric, The Barr Brothers, Big ‡ Brave, Murder Murder, Century Egg, Weaves @ Hillside Festival 7/15/2017

Saturday at Hillside brought clear skies, a beaming sun and the weekend’s largest crowds across both the main stage and two tents. The festival’s second day was definitely geared towards a younger crowd with familiar Canadian acts like The Franklin Electric, Charlotte Day Wilson and Weaves playing throughout the day.

Let’s begin!

My afternoon started at the Island Stage with Mt. Joy providing a light, upbeat soundtrack to Guelph Lake’s beautiful scenery. Playing to a packed tent, the band’s punchy synchronized guitar lines and sing-along choruses perfectly matched the mellow, sunny mood. Set highlights were a very laidback cover of Broken Social Scene’s “Fire Eye’d Boy” and crowd-pleaser “Sheep” (their most well-known tune), both of which brought a nice change of page to the band’s more consistent indie folk sound.

On my way to the Lake Stage, I caught the first half of Lindy Vopnfjörð. Similar to Mt. Joy, the blue skies and greenery paired well with his pleasing alt-country set. Better suited for a smaller stage, Lindy and band played to a sparse, older crowd, but filled these pockets with beautiful vibraphone, lap steel and violin arrangements.

Coming to the end of the afternoon at the Lake Stage, Montreal’s The Franklin Electric blasted through a tight, energetic blend of driving indie pop and rock tunes with softer, piano-led ballads. Adding extra sonic layers, the group impressed by showing off some trumpet chops and swapping instruments for a solid late afternoon performance, bringing the large crowd to their feet.

One of two Saturday highlights was The Barr Brothers on the Main Stage. Simply put, the brothers and fellow band members are a powerhouse. Led by Andrew’s muscular drumming and Brad’s virtuosic guitar leads that incorporate tapping and slide, this was some of the finest musicianship on display this weekend. Playing a number of cuts from both albums, their lively, rustic style of Americana showcased plenty of energy and gusto, often extending instrumental passages and solos between drums, harp and guitar. The whole set was a stunner.

As the sun went down, an eclectic, mismatched trio of bands went up at the Lake Stage: (Montreal), Murder Murder (Sudbury) and Century Egg (Halifax).

Having seen Big ‡ Brave play before in a DIY space, I knew they wouldn’t necessarily fit the Hillside atmosphere with such a singular style of monolithic riffs and distortion-heavy drones, but I went in with an open mind. However, the trio was unable to make up for their seeming misplacement through a severe lack of energy and overall hesitation as they kept apologizing in between songs to acknowledge how noisy they were, which was a letdown.

Murder Murder then took the stage for a fiery, fun blast of alternative bluegrass. Featuring plenty of attitude and aggression, their songs of violence, outlaws and guns ironically brought folks of all ages together. A large, engaged crowd full of adults and children alike stomped and clapped their way through every raucous number, while cheering between each lightning fast fiddle and banjo solo.

If all the blood and revenge of Murder Murder was too intense, then Century Egg served as a sugary palette cleanser. Imagine a more straightforward Deerhoof scored a 90s cartoon or an educational children’s program (think Zoom) and you end up somewhere close to the band’s quirky sound that mixes twee pop, math rock and Mandarin pop. Zany guitar lines, bouncy bass and busy drums made for a manic but fitting and super fun match for the vocals sung in both Chinese and English.

At the Island Stage, Weaves closed off the night for my second Saturday highlight. This was my first time seeing the Toronto band, which I know I’m in the minority for, so I won’t reiterate how wild their sets are, but man, it was insane. In between each song, raised arms propped up shoes lost in the moshing chaos; during songs, the same shoeless moshers crowd surfed across the tent. In contrast to the lighter vibes throughout the day, it was a great chaotic musical explosion to end my Hillside Saturday.