Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Every October, about two weeks after Thanksgiving, the city of Halifax transforms as 180 bands play in over 20 bars across five days for the Halifax Pop Explosion. You may wonder whether it’s practical for the city, as images of Coachella and Osheaga come to mind, but Halifax is home to the highest amount of bars per capita in Canada and the city is quite small, 262.65 square kilometres to be exact. Walking from bar to bar is an easy feat and there is even a free festival bus to get around the city. The Halifax Pop Explosion hosts a variety of events, including digital workshops and art markets during the day, and in the evenings the city is filled with music. Here is a first hand account of some shows with photos to entice you to visit Halifax next year.

The Zolas

The Zolas were a perfect start to the festival with their upbeat indie tunes. The Zolas epitomize the Canadian indie rock scene with sing-along melodies and some enthusiastic musicians, causing vivacious singing and dancing from the band and the crowd. They played in the intimate Gus’ Pub in the north end of Halifax, letting the crowd get within arms reach, and instigating Zachary Gray (vocals/guitar) to jump out into the crowd.

Bandcamp: The Zolas – Ancient Mars

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— , November 19, 2013    Comments Off on Halifax Pop Explosion 2013
Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Amidst all of this holiday season craziness, here is a list of favourite things that happened at the Halifax Pop Explosion 2012, the twentieth anniversary of the festival, for you to ponder how awesome the festival is and why you should probably attend it next year.

of Montreal

Not sure if you guys all know (you probably do) but of Montreal is fantastic live. Hands down one of the more entertaining shows I’ve ever been to. I found myself giggling uncontrollably a number of times throughout their concert, which included body suits, pretend action fights, and lots and lots of balloons. When two guys in bodysuits unleashed long, tied-together balloons from between their legs (resembling a number of things…) I was quite taken aback at first, but it was absolutely hilarious and the balloons created some unbelievable fun in the crowd. More magic was added with Kevin Barnes adorning the stage in lace and vibrant make-up, which, when paired with the psychedelic lights and their funky pop music, made for a lively and delightful show.

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— , December 24, 2012    2 Comments

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

Halifax Pop Explosion is a marked change from the summer festival scene. While there are no beer gardens, Keith’s is never in short supply. The festival swaps the colossal stage of Toronto Island for the warmth of packed bars. Rather than tents, picnic blankets, and sunscreen, festivalgoers arm themselves with scarves, mittens, and umbrellas. Music-lovers inherit a mosaic of stamps connected with permanent marker that forms an impromptu tattoo to symbolise their nights of barhopping. The festival is a mere secret whispered between bus stops as fans travel from one venue to the next. Scheduling is made more complicated by coat-checks, ID checks, and checking out that girl from your ecology class dancing next to Dan Boeckner. Halifax Pop Explosion did not provide the scenic beauty of Sasquatch, the free American Apparel underwear of Osheaga, or even the toddlers sporting oversized ear protection of Toronto Island. What it did provide however, was an unadulterated intimacy. An intimacy only felt in the Pack A.D.’s spittle as they belt out songs no less than two feet away from you or the Handsome Furs spiritual cleansing and confessional at St. Matthew’s Church. The following is a record of those intimacies at HPX2010.

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— , November 5, 2010    1 Comment
All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

For those unfamiliar with Halifax, the timid Canadian city performs an annual Megatron-like transformation at the end of each October. Barrington Street goes from mildly intoxicated and raucous to Amy Winehouse on amphetamines with a megaphone. Venues crank subwoofers from comfortable thumping to post-tracheotomy Barry White levels. Mornings involve waking to find a group of five Icelandic men sleeping on inflatable mattresses in your living room. This metamorphosis has occurred for nearly the past seventeen years earning the title of Halifax Pop Explosion. Boasting over 125 acts through the five-day period, Jesse F. Keeler, Gregg Gillis, and Brian King sightings between classes become a commonplace occurrence. Donair pizza, glow sticks, countless layers of clothing, and failed midterms fuel the East Coasts celebration of music.

The festival took place in just over a dozen venues across the city, ranging from theatres and halls, to clubs, pubs, and even a couple of churches. Coincidentally, Halifax claims the highest rate of bars per capita in Canada and as such, there was no shortage of settings to get cozy and personal with the musicians – and Alexander Keith. With most locales within walking distance, reasonable taxi fares, and hospitable residents getting around was painless. This was of paramount importance as the headliners, MSTRKRFT, Final Fantasy, Japandroids and Girl Talk, each played sets within the last two days, driving even the most organized hipster to scheduling psychosis. The packed agenda caused certain acts to have up to five openers and sets running late into the night. Here are a few photos, tracks, and intimacies shared at Halifax Pop Explosion 2009.

Japandroids – Wet Hair
You Say Party! We Say Die! – Dancefloor Destroyer
MSTRKRFT feat. N.O.R.E. – Bounce

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— , November 8, 2009    4 Comments