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Headfirst through the Explosion

Lose your mind every night (Photo by Bryn Karcha)
Lose your mind every night (Photo by Bryn Karcha)

Sunday morning and I can’t move my arms above my head. After four consecutive nights of sweating and dancing to the point of near-delirium, it almost feels good to say that this year’s edition of Halifax Pop Explosion is over. Almost.

Upon first hearing of this year’s line-up, I was a little taken aback. The line-up was filled with super high-profile Canadian acts, from Fucked Up to Japandroids, as well as dozens of brilliant local acts. Arranging a tight itinerary would be crucial.

Wednesday night, I took in the show at the Olympic Community Hall, a venue of which’s existence I was completely oblivious. The high-ceilinged square room began to fill steadily as Halifax locals Cold Warps kicked through their set. A great four-piece band rocking short, high-energy pop-punk songs, Cold Warps has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. New Yorkers Obits followed with a drab and meticulous approach to rock music, dispersing some of the crowd’s energy that was bottled-up during Cold Warp’s set.

By the time the night’s headliners, Wavves, took the stage, the crowd was pulsing and sweating in a great heap. Despite some monitor and microphone troubles, Wavves delivered a great set. The crowd frenzied through each song, especially those taken from Wavve’s debut, King of the Beach.

Classes on Thursday with a steady buzz in my ears and a slow ache in my bones. Thursday night’s show was the one I was perhaps most excited for: Fucked Up at the Marquee Ballroom. Having seen Fucked Up play over the summer in Toronto—they gave one of the most engaging show experiences I’ve ever had—I was very excited to see what they’d bring to Halifax.

I was not disappointed in the least. Following local openers The Mouthbreathers and Cousins, Fucked Up gave a heartfelt and earnest performance. The crowd was bustling with a very different energy than the one I was a part of the night before; it was an effort to stay afloat in the swirl of bodies.

Being a part of a Fucked Up show is different than listening to any of their recordings: it’s all about the delivery. Frontman Damien glows with a warm smile, all the while delivering crashing bellows and shaking his very sweaty torso. As the set concluded, the band rushed out with boxes of pizza to disperse into the crowd, and a fan was pulled up on-stage to play guitar for their final piece.

Having already checked out my top-two shows, Friday and Saturday night were a little bit of a come-down. Friday night I took to Reflections Cabaret to see METZ, one of my absolute favorite bands of recent years. Recently taken in by Sub-Pop Records, METZ invokes all of the fuzz and screech of the late-80’s and early-90’s—real grungy stuff.  Following METZ’s performance, Reflections quickly reverted from punk venue to club, and I made my getaway.

I went to check out indie-poppers TOPS at the Company House on Saturday night, a welcome departure from the sonic wails I had been so used to all week. Dressed in full get-ups procured from the Army Surplus on Gottingen Street, TOPS sent out excellent guitar licks beneath some gentle crooning.

As with all music festivals, by the end, you realize how much you missed out on. Killer Mike must have been incredible to see, as with Dirty Beaches. Most of all, by the end, I am tired, a little bruised and wishing that I could run through the week one more time.

Mat Wilush
Mat Wilush
Mat Wilush once went to see Agent Orange on the outskirts of Toronto, where the beer was salty and drunken teenagers took turns sitting in a prop electric chair. The music had aged poorly. A mohawk’d middle-ager danced through the first couple songs, but quickly tired out. There just isn’t much room for surf rock in the world anymore. What next? Mat Wilush wants to know. Mat is the Gazette's Arts Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @wilushwho and email him at

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