Dregs, This Ship and Willie Stratton’s Pop Extravaganza: HPX 2014

Part of the beauty of the Halifax Pop Explosion is that you can sometimes hit a show that contains very different, distinct sounds between the bands on the bill.  Some of these line-ups work and some don’t. Luckily for me Friday night’s show at the Harbourview room at Casino Nova Scotia was one that was undeniably on the good side of said coin.

Armed to the teeth with a look and a feel that would fall somewhere between the Foo Fighters and White Lies, Dregs hit the stage with a force that is hard to find in the majority of two-piece bands.  The next 40 minutes would give the crowd a peek at the sound that can come from two seasoned musicians.

Jumping from guitar to drums halfway through the set, Dregs launched a full-on rock assault to the ears of the willing audience. The band shredded their way through the course of the evening’s set,  Dunn & MacAskill both proficient at educating the Harbourview crowd in the art of rock.

After a hiatus which was spent searching for a drummer, This Ship’s retooled line-up found its way back to the stage. This was only the second show since adding Shane Martin to the line-up.  The evening’s setlist was comprised of material from both incarnations of the band’s line-up and it was apparent that the time away from the stage was of little concern.

From start to finish, This Ship navigated its way between a mix of 8-minute jam sessions and 3-minute pop gems. Oozing with the confidence of a band that knows exactly the musical direction they’re heading toward, the Halifax foursome passed songs from one lead singer to the next, showing off a massive amount of diversity and creativity.

By also playing the part of an art-rock pop band, This Ship would glam the set up with sequined tops and high heels.  This was not your typical rock show, as this set had a theatrical feeling to it, proving to be a perfect match with the music dancing from the PA, and with the exception of a few minor hiccups (which naturally come with working with a new member), it seems like a good bet that this foursome appears to be heading in the right direction once again.

Last act of the evening was local acoustic giant, Willie Stratton & The Boarding Party.  I was anticipating this closer as soon as he was announced. My last experience hearing Stratton was a little better than a year ago and I came away extremely impressed with how he was able to create a sound that was as acoustically raw as it was well polished. Needless to say when the band walked on stage there appeared to be a major difference. Willie had taken a page from Bob Dylan’s playbook and opted to make the move to electric.

Transitioning from a Mumford and Sons type of sound to straight-up hillbilly rock, Stratton & Co. whizzed around on stage, flailing their bodies and stomping their feet from start to finish.  That brilliant feel that I experienced hearing Stratton perform acoustically was still dominant in this performance with the only difference being the volume. Reminiscent of a show you might find somewhere a little more southern, Stratton is due for a big breakout and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened sooner than later.


 Photos by Justin Roy and Jeff MacEachern

About the author


Jeff is one-fourth of the group that makes up HAFILAX. His usual ramblings can be read right here on the website. If reading isn't your thing, he also hosts the Basement Tapes podcast.