HFX Pop Explosion Day 1: Testing the Waters

So what’s up, guys and gals?  Meghan and I decided that rather than blogging about the same acts, we’ll split the duties up. For the record, here’s what I saw last night, in order: Jesse Dangerously, Hind Legs, These Electric Lives, Sandman Viper Command, Cousins (sort of), and the Oh Sees. But before I get into that, I wanted to share my first impressions of the fest itself.

Halifax Pop Explosion does not seem to have the same panicked urgency as the Toronto festivals.  I like that. If sets go a few minutes late, they go a few minutes late. If they start a couple minutes behind schedule, the world does not end. They are not trying to cram more than is reasonable into a night. As such, the sets sound tighter and the sound techs seem to be less exhausted. That’s a good thing. Additionally, the festival seems to focus on filling rooms with music fans first and industry/other bands second. I am not sure that is my favourite part, since I’m here as media, but it does make for a really enthusiastic crowd and an opportunity to focus on the music and not have to obsess over “who’s in the room.”

I really wanted to catch the Extremities at the Citadel, but we weren’t able to get there in time. Still, it was pretty awesome to walk into a room in a town I’ve never been to before and be greeted instantly by Fes, Fresh Kills, Jesse Dangerously, and Ghettosocks. These are all guys I know from back home, and it made the Citadel feel like the Rancho during a $5 rap show. That was relaxing.

Jesse Dangerously took to a tiny stage that was almost tumbling over from the bass in the rap beats, and put on a cool show. It was not the best I have seen Jesse D play, far from it.  But under the restrictions the stage gave him — and without a proper DJ or his theremin — I think he rocked it like the “Halifax Rap Legend” that he is. When a room restricts you, the best thing to do is make the best out of it — without a doubt, Jesse D did exactly that.

Later in the night I saw Sandman Viper Command at the absolutely gorgeous Seahorse Tavern.  This was, for me, something i personally really wanted to do.  Some of you know this, some of you don’t, but I was once pretty close with the SVC boys — but due to being at Rancho all the time, I haven’t seen them play in quite a while. It was nice to get a chance to finally break that trend last night. The older songs they played really appealed to me, probably because those are the songs that made me fall in love with the band. The new songs were slammed with potential — you know, the type of potential that gets you invited to Halifax Pop and CMJ in the same week. For me though, I can’t help but feel that this is a band in transition. I know that makes me the minority when it comes to SVC but listen, it’s not an insult at all. I just think there is a rather big shift from the old songs to the new sound, and that the true gold will be found somewhere in the middle. That gold will likely surface very soon and when it does, WATCH out.

I closed the night out by seeing a band that played the perfect time slot of the night for me, and judging by the mood of the crowd at Reflections I was not alone in that feeling. By 1 AM, the combination of the hangover from the previous day and the beer we’d been hitting since 8ish had me ready for some dirty dirty rock/garage/punk, and Thee Oh Sees were more than happy to provide it. I don’t know how it is that Halifax Pop managed to score this band from San Francisco for this festival, but good on them for doing so — they were the highlight of the festival so far for me.

The washroom stalls had three guys in each of them…you can connect the dots. The bouncers were covered in blood. I saw many a people who I am convinced puked a lot last night. I heard one guy say as he was leaving that he had to go puke. There was moshing, there was crowd surfing.  The lead singer of the band was balancing a beer bottle on his lips and chugging hands-free. The two drum kits were smashing and the crowd was absolutely at a fever pitch. Would it be nice to see Thee Oh Sees when I was a little bit more on the sober side? Maybe, but would it be the same?  Definitely not. When music is that on-the-edge, it just sounds better if you yourself are in a similar state.

By this time we’d gathered a bit of a friends-of-TWM contingent — Catherine from Buying Shots, Amanda from Sticky, Ryan from Glory Glory here in Halifax — and a new friend, Mike from the Dalhousie Gazette. Our crew went out in search of the Halifax staple, the donair. We found it, but it did not blow my mind. I know, right?  What an idiot this guy is. But I am willing to try again!

Tonight we are starting with Deadhorse, and I think heading back towards the Seahorse/Reflections to close the night. I’m not a bigger-show kind of guy; personally, I prefer the atmosphere in the indie shows AND I think the bands playing those shows are more happy for the coverage. Listen, I love Dan Mangan, but 200 other people are going to tell you how great his show is tonight. But who is going to tell you about Deadhorse?

TWM is. That’s what we do.

Cheers from Halifax,

Dan

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Filed under halifax pop, live reviews, photos, reviews, seen and heard

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