It would seem that the attendees of this year’s Halifax Pop Explosion had silently taken a mail carriers vow before the festivities started on Wednesday. Through sun and rain (and wind and cold and near tropical humidity levels in the Forum and was that snow for a second there?) crowds appeared at the various stages to laugh, dance, mosh and shuffle their feet back and forth awkwardly, to the talent provided. Squadrons of coordinators, volunteers and staff flitted about the venues holding the sprawling event together, and doing it well I’ll add.
With the warm weather coming to an end and festival season wrapped up neatly for the year, Pop Explosion was a wonderful closer my festie circuit 2016. Both the out of town and local artists killed it (even through some pretty hairy technical difficulties, looking at you Monomyth).
One of the many reasons Pop Ex is so enjoyable is their eclectic lineup, giving an inclusive feeling to the entire event. The diversity in musicians and genres allowed for much of the city to enjoy time out together while having their musical proclivities satisfied, and perhaps treat their earbuds to new delightful sounds. Whether it was the warm fuzzy familiarity of watching long time favorites or the electric jolt of discovering a new obsession, the smorgasbord of talent was a treat to consume.
Some highlights for me this year were BadBadNotGood, John River, Laura Sauvage, Holy Fuck, The Yips, Keys n Krates, Jay Mayne, A. A. Wallace, Nap Eyes, White Lung, Basia Bulat, Century Egg, Harrison, Daniel Caesar… and the list goes on. It’s honestly too difficult to pinpoint a favorite. John River was up there for sure, but it was raining, it was pouring, and Halifax was snoring. A surprisingly low turnout for such a talented and emotionally charged performer. The people who did make it to the Forum in time were treated to a very intimate and raw show. Staying beautifully true to form, his performance was thought provoking and moving. Being an artist that uses the stage to open conversations about race, equality and global politics takes a certain determined kind of charisma, that John River undoubtedly possesses. I am waiting eagerly for his next appearance in our little city.
The Yips summoned forth a horde of wild spirits to the Marquee stage, using their craft, Ouija Rock. The crowd moved with an animalistic tenacity, as if under a spell. BadBadNotGood, a late but extremely welcome addition to the lineup, allowed me to cross a number off of my bucket list. With the scent of smoldering sage wafting through the air, and Saxophonist Leland Whitty fronting a Tim Hortons tee, the band serenaded the crowd with mind bending jazz, dynamic interpretations of hip hop and special guests. The group invited Daniel Caesar back onto the stage with them, which was the cherry on the cake. Color me captivated.
Props to the Marquee and the Seahorse Tavern for the near seamless execution of staggering the bands between floors. Starry eyed patrons moved like schools of fish up and down the stairs whilst the hard working staff, volunteers and artists tinkered away at the next act, and the next and the next. It was a pleasant reprieve to have two venues in one building, and probably one of the reasons I didn’t become completely undone by the end of the weekend, as I was determined to see as much as possible every night.
Pros of Pop Explosion: So many great artists and venues! Cons of Pop Explosion: So many great artists and venues! I suppose there are worse problems to have.
Shout out to the Pop Explosion staff, James Boyle – Executive Director, Ashley Moran – Operations Manager, Gabrielle Archer – Festival Manager, Sara Russell – Marketing Manager, Josh White – Conference and Volunteer Coordinator, Trevor Murphy – Press and Media Coordinator, and their amazing teams. You’re all champions.
Photographers: Veronica Gruninger & Joel Samson.
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