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Students on the prowl in downtown Halifax for crunchy tunes – HPX ’11

Aislinn Robinson, Arts Editor | October 29, 2011

Students on the prowl in downtown Halifax for crunchy tunes – HPX ’11

Students of Wolfville – lets face it, you’re not going to miss a midterm, project deadline or on-campus commitment for a few shows on a Tuesday. This is not a mistake, but a ‘responsible’ decision for most students – but for those of you who made it to the opening of the Halifax Pop Explosion,  we can all agree that it started with one hell of a “pop”.

Tuesday, Oct 18th – Artists, merchants and HPX volunteers lined up venues for the start of HPX’11. DJ T-WOO and James Reid kicked it off at the Citadel hotel, where HPX headquarters seem to have stayed for this year’s edition of events. However Gus’ Pub, the Seashore Tavern, The Palace and the Carelton were fully loaded with lineups. Although many artists were playing simultaneously, choosing which venue to conquer first seemed tricky. Ending up at Reflections Cabaret was no disappointment – the Explain! And Molson sponsors brought Klarka Weinwurm, Pepper Rabbit, Ohbijou and BRAIDS to stage. Having spoken with Casey, the lead singer of Ohbijou (Oh-bee-jsew), the band was pumped to showcase their newest album “Metal Meets” to the Halifax scene. “Thoughtful and experimental” is how the band views their latest works and were pumped to contribute on tour for HPX11. BRAIDS followed with a great set featuring smash hits such as ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Plath Heart’ that had the whole cabaret up and dancing. It was a tough choice to stay for both sets with Keys n Krats and Zeds Ded playing at the Palace, especially for those of you who enjoy a two-level dance floor – the beats were going late into the night two fist-pumping artists.

Wednesday, Oct 19th –Venues expanded all over Halifax for the second day of the musical festival including, my personal favorite, St. Matthew’s Church venue. The show to be at that night seemed to be the sold out Rich Aucoin show featuring Crissi Cochrane. Andrew Foote, checking into the Explosion from Ottawa noted that, “Rich Aucoin’s hometown release show for “We’re All Dying to Live” at St. Matthew’s United Church wasn’t his standard show – subtract confetti and parachute dance parties but add a crowd of (what he said was) 80 other musicians with him on stage and a spirited performance of the new LP from front to back.” Foote was ecstatic about the performance, but gave fair warning for those looking to hit the d-floor; “If you brought someone to the show promising them a neon-filled, communal singalong party you’d have lied to them… but chances are they’d have left blown away nonetheless.” The Extremeties continued at The Citadel, as well as many sets at the Carelton and Olympic Community Hall venues, but Gus’ Pub lit up North Halifax with a different set of tunes. Ska and electric dance music was at any hipsters disposal with the featured acts including Gigas, Windom Earle, And Born Gold. The Terror Pigeon Revolt stole the show by captivating the audience into a full on parachute, closing the whole audience under one patchy umbrella of awesome. It was not your typical ‘rave’ type scenario, but a close-knit group, mostly students at this point, that enjoyed the chill Molson draught prices and crunchy tunes. On that note, HPX ’11 also welcomed anyone to any of their events, which showcases that the crowd that attends HPX events is so diverse that anyone can feel relaxed and have a good time.

Thursday, Oct 20th – Probably one of the most anticipated nights of HPX ’11, Thursday night was a showstopper for many with Tribeca opening its doors to festival go-ers. In previous years, Tribeca has always been my go-to, since almost always Tribeca gets the widest range of artists; so if you’re planning on going to HPX but don’t know where to go, Tribeca’s always a safe bet with fair drink prices, good acoustics and fair size of occupancy. Wildlife, a band that I tuned into reviewing before the set schedule was in place, impressed Haligonians with their featured song “Stand in the Water,” that had the crowd bumpin’ to the beat… However, Dan Mangan took over St. Matthew’s United Church just a few blocks away, capturing the audience with his acoustic driven set and taking the breath away from 20-something year old girls everywhere.

Friday & Saturday, Oct 21st-22nd – The reason why HPX has the title it does is not just a marketing strategy –it’s an actual fact. This city explodes with musical talent. The weekend portion of HPX consisted of a lot of line-ups, but no disappointments. With free shows all over the city, venues indoors as opposed to out since the rain and ‘Occupy Halifax’ were conflicting, the inner city and downtown areas of Halifax were self-imploding. What’s wonderful about these two nights is that the streets are literally filled with music. Sure, the Dome and Pacifico are bumping spots, but this is a time when freedom can reign over the normal bar scene and music takes back the night. Some Halifax favorites such as Tupper Ware Remix Party, Twin Shadow and Timber Timbre were spread out downtown, where many notable Dal and SMU students gravitated towards. However, Plants and Animals and Stars on Saturday were a “not-to-miss” show. On Twitter, spectators that were unable to get into Stars venue in the Olympic building exploded with gratitude that Stars played in the parking lot to their sold out free show.

It’s one thing for me to review a show and tell you guys, ‘my audience,’ to go listen to them and why. But it doesn’t work like that. My main point that I want to get through to readers is not just that music is great and there’s something for everyone at HPX, but it’s also a fantastic scene to be a part of. Screw thinking “oh well I wouldn’t fit into that hipster scene crowd” – irrelevant. It’s about the culture that HPX can bring past our fingertips online and showcase amazing talents from the world round. I encourage every single one of you who scan iTunes and Youtube alike to check out the Halifax Pop Explosion set lists and learn about these struggling musicians’ past, present and history. It’s all available in this one week, but continues to evolve all year. 360 days of work for one group is tough work, and although extremely organized and thoroughly publicized, HPX needs us for support. So next year, when the start of your school year is heating up – plan for HPX ’12, because we know they’re going to have to top next years for the 20th anniversary…! Stay ‘tuned.’

Media Credits:  Bryan Moreau photo