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Incline Decline festival founders Brian Schirk (left) and John Pritchard will perform during the festival as metal band Stüka.

Fest zest: Hillside not only show in town

By Jessica Lovell
Guelph Tribune

Just because it’s Hillside weekend and thousands of people will be taking in the live shows at Guelph Lake Island doesn’t mean there should be nothing to do in downtown Guelph.

At least, that was what Brian Schirk was thinking when he and his friend and bandmate John Pritchard decided to start the Incline Decline music festival on Hillside weekend.

“There are people in Guelph who don’t go to Hillside,” but typically during that weekend there isn’t much going on in the city’s core, said Schirk.
He preferred to leave the meaning behind the festival’s name a mystery, but said the festival will offer some alternative entertainment to those not taking in the iconic Guelphish festival at Guelph Lake.

“Our programming is considerably different from the programming they have on the island,” said Schirk.

The festival actually starts a little earlier than Hillside – on July 24 – and runs until July 27. The bands, mainly talents from southern Ontario, can be expected to be louder than those that people have come to expect to hear at Hillside, Schirk said.

He’s most excited about Saturday’s show at the Jimmy Jazz nightclub, featuring HSY and the Soupcans, “who are my personal favourite band in Canada,” he said.

The Toronto-based band’s sound might be best described as noise punk.

Schirk and Pritchard will also be playing the festival with their metal band, Stüka, named for a German Second World War aircraft. There is no political affiliation to the band, said Schirk. Rather, the name reflects the bandmates’ interest in history, he said.

Their show is “very much performance art” and will include instruments made out of historical artifacts, he said.

The festival will make use of a variety of local venues, starting with a show tonight (July 24) at Silence on Essex Street, featuring Toronto-based psychedelic garage punk rock band The Ketamines, with Vancouver’s Jay Arner and Toronto’s Bile Sister opening the show.

Another gig at Silence follows on Friday night with new Guelph band Badminton Racquet headlining. When that show wraps up, there will be time for concert-goers to make their way over the Van Gogh’s Ear for the next gig, featuring Hamilton’s TV Freaks, among others.

“It will be a crawl-style,” said Schirk, explaining the festival’s organization.

If they want to, people will be able to take in all the bands, moving from one festival location to another, he said.

Most shows will take place at Silence, Van Gogh’s and the Jimmy Jazz, but there will also be a matinee show on Saturday at a private residence, he said.

The festival continues that night with gigs at Van Gogh’s and the Jimmy Jazz.

Sunday’s shows will include one headlined by Toronto’s Doomsquad at Van Gogh’s, followed by a show featuring local performers Noah 23, Mad Adam & Skweezy, and eSEm at Atmosphere Café.

Schirk promises that Incline Decline will be offering up something that music lovers aren’t getting from Hillside, but he stressed it does not aim to compete with the well-established music festival.

“There’s really no competition involved because we draw different crowds,” he said.

At the same time, if Hillside patrons want to check out Incline Decline, they will have that opportunity.

For example, “the last shuttle (from Guelph Lake) will arrive downtown just as the HSY and Soupcans show is starting at the Jimmy Jazz,” Schirk noted.

He hopes the festival will become an annual event, and right now he doesn’t foresee moving it to another weekend. In face, Schirk thinks it makes sense to hold it Hillside weekend.

“Mostly just because there’s going to be a lot of people in town who are extremely enthusiastic about the music scene here,” he said of his reasoning.

“It makes Guelph look like the arts and culture destination that it really is.”

For the full Incline Decline schedule, visit

Tickets to individual shows or weekend passes are available at Thomas Video, The Beat Goes On or online at

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