Halifax Pop Explosion attracts not only the best of the east coast, but some of the best in Canada and beyond. The music festival is a vein for this to grow every year, and once again it delivered with headliners Japandroids, Cloud Nothings and The Rural Alberta Advantage. However, while these shows are diamonds forged from the relentless work put in by the local music community, they are not what best represents the letters HPX. The festival is all about staying humble to the scene’s roots and investing in and giving new opportunities to homegrown talent. At the quarter century mark of creating some of the most diverse line-ups on the east coast, the festival still remembers to mark its flag in all the areas that make it special.
The thriving bar scene, starting with the dynamic duo that is the Marquee Club and The Seahorse Tavern, once again carried a heavy load, living up to the accolades given to it by the city, province and the region. While highlighted by the eccentric performances of Weaves and Tasha The Amazon as well as the ruckus that was the Bat Sabbath show, the rest of the venues’ main attractions were very much locally sourced.
Halifax native Quake Matthews owned his time on the Marquee stage, the same place where he started his rise to the top of the east coast hip-hop scene. He shared the spotlight along with his long-time friend Kayo, who helped him perform tracks from their project dubbed ‘The Search’. To finish their set, Swedish band Huset joined the two for their last song, providing additional instrumentation to one of the many moments of spontaneity this year’s festivities provided.
Of Vice and Virtue graduated from the ranks of the all ages metal scene to play with some of their heroes in Cancer Bats (Bat Sabbath), earning a prime-time slot during the week along with fellow local acts Vogue Dots and Not You.
Local hotspot Gus’ Pub pulled their weight with the likes of Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, The Courtneys, Motherhood and Bad Pop, who wowed those who stumbled upon their amazing set. Gus’ kept with their tradition of bringing the heavy, hosting a showcase courtesy of Dine Alone Records, featuring New Swears, Dead Heavens and the captivating chemistry of Julie and the Wrong Guys.
Current holders of the ECMA for “Venue of the Year”, The Carleton Music Bar and Grill, drew great crowds for their shows with Texas King, Cedric Noel and the stylings of Devarrow, the current artist in residence for Music Nova Scotia.
The all ages scene was also heavily represented in this year’s line-up. The third edition of the Emerge all-ages festival and conference brought showcases and speakers to four different venues, including both the Central and North Branch libraries as well as the recently resurrected Pavillion, the centre of the all-ages ecosystem. Guest speakers included the likes of Reeny Smith and Ghettosocks. Musical performers included Partner, local favourites Electric Spoonful and an incredible surprise line-up of Botfly, Like A Motorcycle and Cancer Bats, who played a set of their original favourites at the Pavillion for the first time in 4 years.
New Brunswick initiative Quality Block Party also showcased the best of their obscure acts, with a free, 8-hour takeover of the North End Memorial Library—one of the most underrated venues on this year’s line-up. They showcased the likes of Janowskii, Shrimp Ring, Little You Little Me and their Ontario friends in Heart Attack Kids.
Another all-ages venue included The Bus Stop Theatre, where Halifax based label Forward Music Group held a showcase headlined by JOYFULTALK. The Khyber provided the festival’s only wet and dry venue, perfectly placed within walking distance of the north end bars, and perfectly stacked with acts such as Pony, Casper Skulls and a warm-up show from Weaves, the night before their main slot at the Marquee. Local radio station CKDU also chipped in with early evening showcases from Frigs, Beliefs and WHOOP-Szo.
All in attendance received a crisp, flavourful dose of everything that is popping in Halifax (pun intended). Straight down the spine of the festival, the products of Halifax are looking as good as they ever have.
Note: A previous version of this article was published with a feature image that did not reflect the coverage we gave of HPX. At the time it was published, we also were unaware of the context around the photo. We sincerely regret this error and wish to apologize to Kirsten Olivia Taylor for our oversight. In the future, The East promises to work more closely with its writers and photographers to give our readers a more accurate review of the events and artists we cover. We will do better.