Archive for October, 2008

My Halifax Pop Explosion Experience

October 31st, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

In case you don’t know, the Halifax Pop Explosion was a music festival that took place last week in my current hometown of Halifax. Over 140 bands played at 12 different venues across the city between Monday the 21st and Saturday the 26th, including Jay Reatard, Laura Barrett, Holy Fuck, Islands and my hommies from T-dot, Spiral Beach!!!

Interestingly enough, I get a Facebook message about a week or so before the festival from this girl I met at V-fest a while ago and had since stayed in touch with (see my note on V-fest…you’d have to go waaaaay back though…) asking me if I can hook her friend up with a place to stay. I tell her I’ve got a lovely floor and her friend says, “I’ll take it!” In return, she hooks me up with a press pass to the festival…sweet…

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the first two days of the festival due to uNfOrtunate cIrcumstances beyonD my control at the time. So for me the festival started at around four on Wednesday when I got to see The Diableros play a short set at Taz Records.

It took them FOREVER to get set up, though they have my sympathies, as they were setting up in the back room of a record store that was not set up with in-store performances in mind (I can’t imagine how people pull it off in Soundscapes back home, that place in tiny…but awesome). When they finally did get set up they played a great little set of melodically charged indie-rock to a whole like 7 people…very lame turnout for a very awesome band. I couldn’t even find anyone to go with! Sorry Diableros, hopefully your night set at Coconut Grove was better; the people of Halifax don’t deserve your awesomeness.

On Thursday, my guest arrived. I showed her my room, we chilled for a bit and then we headed over to the Citadel Hotel and picked up our festival passes.

Fast forward a bit to that night and we went to St. Mathew’s Church to see Spiral Beach. We got there before the band started and I ran up to say hi to everybody. They were all like “oh, hey marc/grub,” but it was clear that the entire crew was running on empty. They’d driven something like 15 hours straight or something to get to Halifax just in time to play their half-hour set and then they had to drive another 10 or something hours right away to get to Ottawa to play some other show.

Anyway, even sleep deprived and starving they played an awesome show and managed to get the entire front row of the church onto their feet and dancing…no small feat. After their set, The Meligrove Band went on and they did their nice little indie-pop thing also. I was a little distracted because when they went on, Laura Barrett and Rich Aucoin both walked in and I just thought it was too cool that they were all there, chillin.

After The Meligrove Band, Sari and I headed over to Coconut Grove to see Boxer the Horse. I can’t say I was that impressed by them or the band that came after, The Rural Alberta Advantage, but I guess they were both at least ok. For me, they were both just too interested in making weird noises than they were in writing good songs.

The very nice boys of Ruby Coast

Eventually Rich Aucoin gets onstage and sets up his projector and proceeds to rock out. Musically it’s just him and some keyboard-type instruments but Aucoin’s sound is bigger, better and so much more gorgeous than 90% of bands. He plays his beautiful songs synched up to clips of the original cartoon Grinch or some weird old movies projected onto a sheet in front of the stage. At times, Aucoin lets his gear run on autopilot and he marches around the stage, throwing confetti or balloons into the audience. His performance was probably the best of the entire festival; an absolute stunner in every respect.

The Ghost Bees are up next and they are really good. Playing guitar and mandolin, the twin sisters harmonize about vampires and old German ghost stories. They’re absolutely incredible and everything from their wardrobe attire to the way they set up the stage with creepy masks and such creates a fantastically creepy-woods vibe. After their set they poured “dream tea” for a couple of us to drink, telling us it would make us dream more. Did it? Not really…maybe a little.

Closing the night was the inimitable Laura Barrett. Armed with a bunch of kalimbas, Barrett coos lovely melodies over haunting kalimba rhythms that she plays with an obvious mastery of the instrument. At one point she tries to create some kind of “dance party” with some kind of old school drum machine type thing. It doesn’t exactly work out perfectly but whenever anything doesn’t go right, Barrett and the audience just laugh it up, enjoying it regardless.

After Barrett’s performance I call it a night.

The next night there weren’t really too many bands I wanted to see but I went to St. Mathews Church to check out I See Rowboats anyways, cuz I’d heard good things about them.

First up was The Prospectors Union. They were really great and there were a couple moments during their set that were really incredible though the whole thing really didn’t do it for me. Sometimes that’s just how it is.

I See Rowboats was pretty interesting and great too, though more the former than the latter. They use a lot of interesting instruments and focus a lot on the violins, which makes for a very beautiful sound, though again, they lacked that je ne ce qua that moves me.

Last was The Retribution Gospel Choir, which features two members of Low, which is a decent band. They played some new (and very loud) version of their slowcore rock from the 90’s. Again, didn’t do it for me. After a couple songs I decided to just head back.

The last day of the fest was pretty cool. I decided to head over to the Zine and Record Fair at St. David’s Church. Only problem was that it wasn’t at St. David’s Church. And that place is really far. So after we’d travelled all the way across the city to get to the place, we realized it wasn’t the right place. The right church was actually only ten minutes from King’s. My amazing sense of direction prevails once again! The good part of the whole getting lost bit though was that I found a new comic book store with better prices and selection than the resident one, Strange Adventures.

When we got to the Zine and Record Fair I bought a couple albums and checked out a lot of the cool stuff. A lot of zines, cool clothing, weird things, etc. It was great; I love that kind of homemade craft stuff.

We then headed over to The Pavillion to catch Islands, who played for like 20 minutes…but it was a really good 20 minutes…

That night we went and saw Picnicface’s HPE performance at the Citadel Hotel and of course it was hilarious. Then we went and had pizza and beer at Boston pizza. I decided I wasn’t going to go to any concerts that night and instead I would work on my essay. My guest however, convinced me to go with her to Coconut Grove for just a bit. We checked out The Bicycles and some rapper dude or something and then decided to head back to my room.

We got there and then we watched Me, You And Everyone we know which, like, BLEW MY FREAKIN’ MIND.

All in all it was a very awesome festival. I wish I could have seen Holy Fuck and Jay Reatard and Ruby Coast but whatevs, what I did see was awesome. I might even go so far as to say it was…explosive? Just maybe…

The Wrens

October 24th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Though this week’s band of the week has been around for nearly 20 years and made two stone-cold classic albums, not too many people know them. Unfortunately, this is often the case in the world of music. This week’s band of the week is:


The New Jersey alt-rock quartet formed in the late 80’s and released their first album in 1994. However, it was on 1996’s Seacaucus that their greatness became apparent. The album is way too long at 19 tracks but there’s no question as to the consistency of the set. Each song bristles with anger, excitement, exuberance and heartache. Although my age was still in the single-digits in the mid-90s, I’d choose Seacaucus as the defining document of the time over Nevermind anyday.

In 2003 The Wrens released the VERY long awaited follow up, Meadowlands, an album steeped in disappointment, bitterness and despair. Though those elements had been present in The Wrens’ music already, time had only brewed those emotions to a new level of intensity. If there’s one album that makes me scared to enter whatever this thing “adulthood” is, it’s Meadownlands. Songs like “Happy”, “Hopeless” and “Ex-Girl Collection” are incredible and proved that even though The Wrens were older, their explosive sound had only become more volatile with time.

Last night I was telling a writer for the Dal Gazette the problem I had with a lot of today’s bands. I said that a lot of bands are more interested in making interesting sounds playing with drum machines and synthesizers than they are with creating music that actually speaks to people. The Wrens make music that speaks volumes about all the important things in life, not just lyrically but in the emotion conveyed in every note, every chord and every sound. That’s why they’re this week’s BotW.

The Submarines

October 19th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This new glimmery Death Cab-esque indie pop stuff is growing on me, I’m sorry, I can’t help it. This week’s band of the week also uses synth-pop aesthetics and computerized drum beats over which they dramatically sing in harmony with themselves. But damnit – it’s pretty good. This week’s band of the week is…


No, not The Subways, another band I at first confused them with. The Submarines make that new oh-so-trendy indie-pop music that all the sensitive kids are gushing over. But…is it a crime to be sensitive? The answer: yes. Just kidding, I’ve also got the entire Morrissey discography (except for the prog albums) on my iPod.

So yes, the composition style of The Submarines is pretty much identical with that of Death Cab so we’re talking lots of pretty melodies, drum machine beats but there’s also the female-male singing thing going on (you don’t see that in too many bands, ahem, Arcade Fire, Besnard Lakes, New Pornographers and basically every band on Arts and Crafts…)…And the obvious use of pro-tools. BUT IT’S REALLY GOOD AND CATCHY!

Look, if you’re all jaded and pretentious and stuff and don’t want your friends seeing this kind of stuff on your iTunes then don’t check them out, don’t buy or dl the album, just ignore them. However, if you don’t care about that and are up for a good band with killer melodies that may be guilty of just a little over-sentimentality, then check out The Submarines. They’re good.


October 12th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is an artist who’s been creating innovative and exciting music for over 20 years. Sure he’s had his ups and downs, he’s been praised and ridiculed but we still love him because his music kicks ass. This week’s artist of the week is…


Yes, the man who changed his name to a symbol is this week’s band of the week.

Prince is an artist in the truest sense of the word, creating original work using the latest resources available to him, constantly building upon what’s come before him and making it his own. He’s not a big man, but Prince is a musical giant, influencing everyone from Of Montreal to My Morning Jacket.

In the 80’s, his use of synthesizers and drum machines paved the way for a million imitators who sound ridiculous today, while Prince was always so ridiculous that his awesomeness is timeless.

Prince has a couple masterpieces, Purple Rain and Sign of the Times being the most notable of the bunch. He’s written scores of super-classic songs like “1999”, “When Doves Cry”, “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain”. In addition to being a great song and album, Purple Rain is also a half decent movie (mainly because of the killer soundtrack).

The last couple years have seen Prince make one hell of a comeback; he played a great Superbowl show, delivered a stellar performance at the Grammies with Beyonce, and embarked on insanely successful tours.

As the years go by and the 80’s continue to look dumber and dumber, Prince still stands out as a true artist who’s weathered the years well and continues to stand among the most respected of rock’s royalty.


October 5th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week hails from Sweden, a country known for it’s uber-melodic composers ever since ABBA took rainbow-pin-wearing communities by storm back in the day. (Note: even I kind of like ABBA, they wrote some damn good songs) Anyways, this week’s BotW leans more towards ELO than the flamboyant foursome. This week’s band of the week is…


Indeed, Pacific! are a crew of Swedes who dig highly melodic, highly synthesized music. Everything you’d expect from a big, synthetic pop production is here. They’ve got big, pitch-perfect harmonies, walls of synthesizer, nice little bleeps and bloops, drum machines and just-enough reverb.

For many, the music might sound just too manufactured for enjoyment, but for others the solid construction of the music and the wealth of tight melodies will be more than enough. Songs like “Sunset Blvd” and “Number 1” – off their album Reveries – are absolute classic pop songs that would be instant number 1s had they come out 30 years ago, when good music actually seemed to get heard. The rest of their album is pretty solid also, although the second half could use another big, fast pop song amidst the slower ones. Regardless, it’s thoroughly a good listen.

If you weren’t crazy about the super-experimental bands I’ve been posting about lately, you’ll probably be good with Pacific!. That exclamation mark in their name is well deserved.