With Day 1 in the books, camera battery charged up and ear plugs in tow, it was time to hit the town running for the second night of the Pop Explosion. This year was a bit different from the past two, as I didn’t really have a set plan for the first couple of nights and just went where the music led. In talking to Jeff, we had pretty similar plans for the evening, so we arranged to meet at Olympic Hall to catch the Vogue Dots set and eventually work our way over to The Seahorse for Like a Motorcycle at 11. For the most part, I was aware of the bands playing on this Wednesday night, but I was only familiar with LAM’s material.
The venue was awash with the pastel lights that had the ethereal synth-pop duo of Tynan Dunfield and Babette Hayward, otherwise known as The Vogue Dots, obscured in a backlit shadowy shroud. I remember walking in to the Olympic Hall and thinking that the moment felt very cinematic, what with the way the light was bouncing around the Hall and the way the atmospheric electro tunes emanating from the stage provided the ideal aural background. The backlighting obscured the pair quite effectively, and while this might not have been apparent to the folks in attendance, the moment you pulled out your camera to try and snap a good picture, it was abundantly apparent. I wasn’t willing to wait through Astral Swan’s opening set in 2014, so I missed out on seeing the Vogue Dots, but in 2015 I walked away happy, having checked the band off of my checklist.
As there wasn’t a lot on the go that interested us after Vogue Dots (and prior to Sorrey), we stuck around to catch Suicideyear’s set. In doing a little homework before the evening kicked off, I was able to uncover very little beyond some instrumental tracks, or a handful of remixes; needless to say my interest was piqued. Of what I saw, the performance was a solid DJ/Producer set and while there wasn’t a lot of interaction between artist and audience, Suicideyear grooved along as he kept the evening rolling; it was a performance that showcased the talents of a burgeoning hip-hop producer. The tracks and beats showcased were tight and had the crowd moving. It was clear that Suicideyear had some serious hip-hop chops. Considering that time was ticking down to 10pm, Team HAFILAX had to make tracks and head to Reflections for Sorrey’s set, so we bailed before Suicideyear ended his set and headed out into the cool, crisp evening.
I made my way through the desolate streets of Halifax to the relocated Reflections. You can say what you will, but the downtown core isn’t exactly a hotbed of activity during one of the biggest weeks in the year; it’s not quite a ghost town, but I wouldn’t say it’s that far off either. On the docket at Reflections was the solo debut of Sorrey (Colour Code’s Emilee Sorrey’s project). I was going on the recommendation of Jeff and Justin, as they are both fans of PEI’s Colour Code. There are a lot of concessions I’m prepared to make for a debuting act, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect either. Once the lights went down and the band took the stage, it was all sorts of underwhelming. I wish I would have something far more positive and glowing to say, but from the surprising lack of stage presence from Sorrey, to the lack of crowd interaction down to the lackluster sound in the room… I’m willing to chalk it up to an off night for a new act, but not all shows are going to be home runs (as much as I wish they could be). As the house lights came back up, I had already made my advances on the exit.
Next up was the Seahorse to catch the fantastic ladies of Like a Motorcycle’s set. Unlike Jeff, I’ve had a few opportunities to see Michelle, Kim, Jillian and KT tear up the stage, and each time the band gets a little tighter and a little fiercer. For the uninitiated, Like a Motorcycle’s sound is perfectly crafted from equal parts Punk and Hard Rock, and a solid dose of harmony. On stage these ladies are aggressive and unapologetic, they know exactly how to rile the crowd up and get it going. You can tell that this is a tightly knit group of women who love playing loud music together. Like a Motorcycle continued to prove that they could do no wrong on stage, and this was a great warm up to the forthcoming Cancer Bats.
First though there was a special guest who was going to take the stage for a bit before the Cancer Bats took over. Fresh off an opening night set at The Carleton, Halifax’s own Myles Deck bound on stage with this band The Lord Almightys and tore through a raucous and brief set of energetic garage rock tunes (think early Ramones hopped up on caffeine). The set might have clocked in at 20 minutes, but the crowd was into it and were chomping at the bit for the headliners of the evening, The Cancer Bats.
I opted to check out the Cancer Bats at the Seahorse, as I doubted I’d be attending the Dillinger Escape Plan show; and I had an idea that this show was going to be intense, but little did I know just how intense. For those who haven’t been to the new Seahorse location (or its former incarnation as Hell), it’s an intimate room with a fair-sized stage and the perfect floor for a sweaty and loud night of hardcore punk-rock. From the moment that the band hit the stage, the crowd pulsed and swayed intensely, so much so that it almost swallowed up a couple of the photographers at the front, but we managed to stay on our feet. Fortunately, being off to the right was the right place to be, but never have I experienced a show such as this where people were launching themselves into the crowd with reckless abandon and the mass of flesh was reciprocating with such force and energy that the monitors were being shoved across the stage (at one point wiping out a stack of barware, sending shards of glass flying). Front-man Liam Cormier (who looks like the rock star equivalent of comic Chris d’Elia) bounced around the stage and wound up his loyal followers and watched them crash into one another. While the crowd wasn’t quite as intense as last year’s Single Mothers show at the old Seahorse, it was pretty close. By the time I waded out of the crowd, I was sweaty and grinning ear to ear, this was exactly the show I needed to see. They fully exceeded my expectations. Liam praised the crowd for living up to the hype of earlier Halifax shows the band has held here. As the set wound down, I had tentative plans to go see Walrus up at Gus’ Pub, but I was so fired up that I made the decision to hit the road and head for home instead of cooling the night down with some Psychedelic surf rock.
While the evening had some moments of disappointment, it certainly finished up strong with the trio of Like a Motorcycle, The Lord Almightys and the Cancer Bats. With that the second day of the fest was in the books, and things were moving along smoothly. I needed to catch some sleep to prepare for Day 3.