After Day 1 took its toll on my weary bones, I sat out Day 2 of HPX in preparation for a full slate of Day 3 shows I wanted to check out. Initially I planned on hanging out at Olympic Hall for the duration of the night to check out Quake, BadbadnotGood and Killer Mike and from there it was going to be a toss up whether I was going to stick around Olympic Hall for some of Action Bronson‘s set, or trek down to see Hollerado at Reflections. Late Tuesday, news came down that Action Bronson cancelled due to health concerns and the Olympic Hall show ended up being reshuffled. It was that reshuffling which allowed me to rethink my plans for Wednesday evening and took what was going to be a night of Hip Hop in Halifax, and turned it into a night of genre and venue hopping which ultimately resulted in a great night of music.
I opted to kick off Day 3 of HPX in the same place where I closed out Day 1 which was Reflections Cabaret to catch Dance Movie (fronted by my former editor Tara Thone). It was the first opportunity I had to catch this local group and I really enjoyed their charming brand of indie pop. The crowd may have been a bit sparse for 8pm on a Wednesday, but that didn’t deter Thorne et al., as they churned through a solid set of tunes which included “Benson” (a song inspired by SVU’s Detective Olivia Benson), “Yeah You Are” and “Carjack my Heart”. For the number of pop culture references interspersed throughout their material, and the fact that I’m a sucker for an indie pop act who bears similarities to Hunter Valentine, Tegan and Sara, and Karen O (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame), Dance Movie really impressed and kicked off a solid night of music. I would have loved to stick around for the last song or two, but Justin was texting me updates that St. Matthew’s Church was filling up, so I had to make tracks to check Hannah Georgas.
Never having been to St. Matthews Church before, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than I was going to see a terrific Singer/Songwriter in a church. When I arrived to the church, I was able to catch the tail end of Leif Vollebekk’s set and was a bit dismayed that I was only caught a glimpse, as I think I would have really dug his rootsy retro rock sound (think Ray Lamontagne meets Van Morrison). After a brief changeover, Hannah Georgas and her band took their spots at the music alter and delivered a life affirming performance. Catching Ms. Georgas was something of a last minute change (well, as of Wednesday night’s You Tube research session), as this was a great pop-folk performance which was a bit more subdued than the Dance Movie set, but was great nonetheless. Georgas‘ voice reminds me lot of what you would get should you ask Florence Welch to cover a Feist tune, and was very well suited to the church acoustics. She’s an artist who made a fan out of me, and I will be sure to catch her next time she rolls through town. Once again, as it is a festival I had to opt out towards the end of Hannah Georgas’ set, so that I could trek back to my car and make it to the Bus Stop Theatre for Newfoundland’s own Repartee.
This marked another genre change on the evening and my first visit to The Bus Stop Theatre. I’m glad my first time was to see Repartee perform, I was lucky to have caught Repartee back when the band opened for Joel Plaskett when they played the Olympic Hall (where I was headed back to, after Repartee’s set). I made the trek from St. Matthews to The Bus Stop Theatre (BST) in time to meet up with Jeff who was already hanging out there(you can read his review here: http://wp.me/p2K4We-2rY). After a quick chat, I waded into the most awkward of crowds (the tallest chap in the room planted himself at the front, smack dab in the middle of the crowd), it was an unusual space to move around in, but that didn’t stop Meg Warren and co. from completely slaying the crowd with their infectious energy. The very appreciative crowd steadily built over the duration of the Repartee set, and those who were in attendance were treated to a set which consisted largely of cuts from the band’s eponymous EP, but the crowd was treated to a new track and an equally energetic and infectious cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”. I will always look forward to seeing these guys and gal as it’s always a lot of fun, and you can clearly see they love performing and it is apparent from the enjoyment reciprocated by the crowd. As the Beyonce cover wound down, I headed up to Olympic Hall in hopes of getting in to see Killer Mike.
Once I arrived at the Hall, I was glad to see there wasn’t much of a wait to get in as I had expected there might be. According to the pictures I was seeing on Twitter it appeared to be close to capacity, and while it was a packed house, there was plenty of room for the stragglers. I made it in time to see the tail end of Badbadnotgood who sounded great, but I’d need to see more of them to have a more definitive opinion. I took a walk around to determine my best vantage point to snap a couple of pictures and to enjoy the show, and eventually settled in off to the left of the stage in front of the speaker stack.
(a little background – when R.A.P. Music initially dropped, I wasn’t overly interested and pushed it aside for other music which was coming out at the time, but in preparation for this show, I revisited Killer Mike’s breakout disc and his latest collaboration with El-P entitled Run the Jewels and was blown away by the content and Mike’s flow. It was every bit as bombastic as the commercial rap which has inundated the genre for the past number of years, but the content of the lyrics is honest and direct, it eschews the blingcentric material in favor of rapping about the state of race, religion and politics, Killer Mike actually has something to say, rather than just getting up on stage to make noise)
When Mike hit the stage, the bass from the speaker stack shook me to the core and I knew I was in for a ride. His set of bass heavy hip-hop, included his scathing assessment of Regan and Regan era politics aptly titled “Regan”, tracks “36 Chain” and “Do Dope, Fuck Hope” which at face value seems like more of the same from the current state of rap and hip-hop, but it is far more a diatribe on the fact that too many are dependant on pharmaceuticals vs. letting their bodies heal themselves and that dope is far better for you than anything that is prescribed. I also noted that this was a far more diverse crowd than one would come to expect from a hip-hop show, there were hipsters, politicians, hip hop heads, guys, girls, it seemed that most demographics were well represented at the show (even Jesus made an appearance, and garnered repeated references from the stage). It was a treat to see a guy who was mentored by Big Boi and Andre 3000 (aka Outkast) just get on stage and have fun. He was completely on board with the show and seemed to be having a great time in Halifax, the crowd and artist embraced the symbiotic relationship which was going on. Towards the end of his set, Mike waded down to the front of the crowd where he performed a couple additional tracks to an incredibly appreciative crowd.
By this time it was after 12 and my carriage was close to turning into a Pumpkin, so I headed for the door after an excellent night of music at the Halifax Pop Explosion. Day 3 ended up being the cap to my own personal HPX experience, as I had previous plans for Friday night which prevented me from catching the Shad / Hollerado performances at grand parade, and after a long day of Dodgeball on Saturday, I was too pooped to partake in the Like a Motorcycle, Motorleague, Metz, and Japandroids at Olympic Hall. Overall, It was a great experience for the two nights I was able to get out and partake in some of what the festival had to offer, but it is certainly a young man’s game, and yes Riggs, I’m getting too old for this shit. It’s far more difficult to play the role of adult by day and music fan/journalist by night. Justin had the right idea to take the time off to be able to catch up on much needed ZZZ’s during the day, and then go indulge in shows at night. While this was my first HPX (which is hard to believe), it’s certainly not my last. Next year I’ll make another go of it.