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Halifax Pop Explosion’s first two days hit all the right notes

Day One starts with a bang

The 25th annual Halifax Pop Explosion kicked off Wednesday night, with some of the loudest bands the festival has to offer. Acts included three local bands, and Toronto-based noise rockers METZ.

The Marquee hosted opening ceremonies featuring Halifax Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas. After, Halifax Pop Explosion Board Member Trevor Murphy presented the annual Scene Setter award to Dalhousie’s own campus radio station CKDU for their years of supporting the festival since it launched in 1993.

Halifax-based Crossed Wires took the stage next with their hypnotic brand of fuzzed-out garage rock, but were stalled momentarily by technical flare-ups.

Beauts played a tight set of songs from their two EPs and closed off with a soaring ballad with Halifax-based vocalist Kim Harris. “(Kim) was waiting in the wings like a professional,” said guitarist Darryl Smith after introducing Harris to the stage.

Fresh off the heels of their debut EP, Not You captivated the growing crowd with their take on 90s riot grrl sensibilities despite technical miscues and errors throughout.

“Sorry if I made mistakes,” said guitarist Stephanie Johns, who Haligonians also know as the music editor for the Coast. “There is another human being inside me and I’m pretty sure he can’t play guitar too well.”

Johns, who is pregnant with her second child, performed with a sizeable baby bump behind her guitar. This was one of the most badass moments in this year’s Pop Explosion.

While not their first Pop Explosion, METZ attacked every note of their songs with an intense level of ferocity, that sent guitarist and singer Alex Edkins and bassist Chris Slorach into what seemed like a duel on who could thrash the hardest on stage; It was a tie.

Highlights include favourites like Acetate, Spit You Out, and Cellophane.  The last of which is off of their latest album entitled Strange Peace, which was released last month and produced by punk mastermind Steve Albini.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been out here,” said Edkins, who first played Halifax in 2008 at Gus’ Pub. “But this festival, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Talented women showcased on day two

The second night of the Halifax Pop Explosion featured some of this year’s line-ups most dynamic acts, including two Polaris Prize listed artists, during the festival’s Women in Music Showcase.

Ethereal pop duo Tynan Dunfield and Babette Hayward, better known as Vogue Dots, soothed audiences with dreamlike soundscapes. A major departure from last night’s heavy rock performance.

At the same time, Owen Meany’s band Batting Stance was downstairs at The Seahorse Tavern, playing new and old songs reminiscent of early Modest Mouse and The Shins.

“This is a song about being a boy in a choir,” said vocalist Daniel Walker speaking on a new track about a boy wrestling with images of masculinity and queerness. Walker just returned home to play Pop Explosion after touring in Europe during the summer.

Back upstairs, anticipation was building for Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta in a sold-out show for the Marquee. Wearing a pink and white kimono complete with curly pink hair extensions split into grade-school pigtails, Pimienta first told the audience that she wanted to see women at the front of the stage and white men at the back. However, not everyone complied immediately, prompting Pimienta to send someone to the back — twice.

Much has been written about Pimienta’s transformative performances, and how she is able to communicate intense vulnerability; All while singing in Spanish. Many people already started crying before she played songs off of her record ‘La Papessa,’ which translates to The Priestess.

Due to the language barrier, Pimienta contextualized her songs to the largely white audience. She gave passionate and relatable monologues on victory, realizing self-worth, and the division of labour on relationships that tends to disproportionately burden women. “If I’m giving you a blow job, I want a bag of groceries,” Pimienta said.

In closing the set, Pimienta played one of her breakthrough singles, ‘La Capacidad,’ a song she wrote after leaving an abusive relationship. In the emotional peak of the show (and there were probably 800 to choose from), Pimienta continuously howled with anger, self-loathing, and a glimmer of resilience that she’s “such a stupid woman.” What woman has not thought that about a friend, a family member, a loved one, or herself when reflecting on serious missteps in the path to love?

The final set of the evening was 24-year-old singer-songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson, who mostly played new material to complement tracks off her powerful debut EP, CDW. Wilson’s performance hushed the audience with her rich and haunting vocals.

It was a good way to bookend with Vogue Dots by lulling the audience to a dreamlike world, where pain could be channeled so gracefully and effortlessly in the way that only Wilson could.

Tonight, the Marquee ballroom will welcome the eclectic and commanding Weaves returning to Halifax.


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