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 fucking 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, Sari, 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. I heard Maddy complaining about being really, really hungry so I went out to Venus Pizza and bought the band a pizza. Yes, I know, a little kiss-ass but my experience knowing Spiral Beach has been so rewarding in so many ways that it was really only an attempt at returning a favor to buy these guys a freakin’ pizza.
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, and that they all remembered me (yay!).
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. While I was not-listening to those two bands I was talking to Hilary Beaumont (of the Dal Gazette) about the problem with music nowadays; talking to Rich Aucoin about what he’s up to now and meeting the members of Ruby Coast, who are all very nice, nice boys.
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 like…really tiny…but 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. I meet up with Sari (who was over at The Marquee Club for Holy Fuck) and we head back to my place.
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. Sari and 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. Sari 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 and scared the fucking shit out of me. I had been depressed that whole day and that movie only made it so much worse. I think the depression was caused by me drinking two Brava’s that day and for some reason I’ve become like caffeine intolerant. Weird. Anyways, yeah, good movie.
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…