While Night 3 of #HPX2016 was one that required some planning and decision making, heading into the homestretch of Night 4 was more of a night to execute a plan and put my #HPX2016 carcass to bed. My first #HPX adventure back in 2013 (and my follow-up in 2014), I made the ill-advised choice to eschew using vacation days while trying to take in as many shows in the evenings as I could. Needless to say, I was a mere husk of a man when those fests wrapped up, as I wasn’t seasoned enough yet to handle working full-time, while covering HPX. For the past two years, I have booked off time during the Pop Explosion to prevent burn out and/or zombification, this also has allowed me to maximize the festival experience.
For this the 4th (and final) night of #HPX2016, there was a ton of great acts playing in and around town, a lot of whom were playing their second night of the festival at an alternate venue. Considering that my amazing and extremely accommodating wife had tolerated my festival-going all week, I opted to keep the final day relatively light, so I knew that seeing the Barr Brothers in the intimate Seahorse Tavern was not in the cards, and neither was Royal Canoe at the Carleton, or the Dub Kartel-hosted after-party at the Marquee. This isn’t a story about the shows I wasn’t at; instead, to kick off Night 4, I headed back to the Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Public Library for the early Comedy Show.
Both the early and late comedy shows were being headlined by well-known comedian Kyle Kinane (the voice of Comedy Central, frequent guest on @midnight), but in arriving at the Library there was a lengthy line-up of folks on stand-by waiting to get into the venue (so many, in fact, that organizers added a few more seats on the floor). The openers for the early show were Everardo Ramirez and local favourite (and Picnicface alum) Cheryl Hahn, but it was apparent from the moment that Kyle Kinane walked on stage that the packed hall was there to see him. Little prince Kyle’s set clocked in at roughly an hour, and he incorporated bits regarding his dealings with our extremely sympathetic yet firm Canadian Customs folks when he tried to visit Calgary. His thoughts on the pristine state of the robes which adorn those bigoted KKK members were spot on; however, those moments when Kinane slipped into “Little Prince” mode, he evoked images of Max from Where the Wild Things Are. As the set wrapped up, I slipped out of the room and made my way over to the Marquee where Hannah Georgas was slated to open for Basia Bulat. I had plans to circle back here for Kinane’s 11PM set anyway.
While Georgas’ set at the Carleton was a relatively late one (kicking off well after midnight), it was one of those special shows that you were more than willing to endure a little sleep deprivation for. Now it was time to see how her ethereal electro-pop sound translated to a much larger Marquee Ballroom. There was definitely a handful of folks who attended the late -night show at the Carleton, but it was impressive to see a full house in attendance for the Vancouver chanteuse’s performance on this the last night of Halifax Pop Explosion. The set list wasn’t drastically different from Friday night, as there weren’t many surprises during Saturday’s show. And that didn’t matter to those Haligoons in the room, as Georgas’ set was a balance of new material off of her recently released For Evelyn (the dreamy “Don’t Go”, “Rideback” and “Crazy Shit”) and fan favourites such as “Enemies”, “Shortie” and “Elephant”. It was a mesmerizing set that brimmed with charm and swagger, provided by Georgas’ soaring, sweet and atmospheric vocals. Then Hannah thanked the crowd and headed off stage, and the crew prepared the stage for headlining act Basia Bulat.
Bulat’s headlining set marked the singer’s return to Halifax after opening for Dallas Green’s City and Colour at TD Halifax Jazz Festival earlier this year. Prior to her appearance, she stood side stage and watched the lion’s share of Hannah Georgas’ captivating set before disappearing backstage. When Bulat emerged, she brought with her a 10-string ukulele and kicked the show off with “It Can’t Be You”, a beautifully delicate song which felt immediately timeless, and the now packed Marquee Ballroom was rapt. The room was enthralled with this amazingly talented musician and singer. There is this slight warble hidden within Basia’s vocals, which adds an alluring texture and charm. Once the Uke was passed off, the Toronto-based singer manned her keyboard and kept this powerful set rolling. As I was largely unfamiliar prior to this evening, Bulat was an absolute revelation. Her voice largely reminded me of Dolores O’Riordan (the Cranberries) with a hint of Fiona Apple (only sweeter). Even the way she entranced from the back of the room was largely impressive, and in retrospect I wish I had remained at the Marquee for the entire set, but I had one more stop on my #HPX2016 journey.
I made my way back to the Halifax Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall to catch Kyle Kinane’s late show. I was somewhat surprised to see a sparsely attended show, but the “crowd” was less than half of what it was for the early set. While the jokes were re-arranged, to hear Kinane work through a myriad of pronunciations of Whopper with Cheese still made those in the room guffaw and chuckle. Ultimately, had I known the late set wouldn’t be vastly different, I would have opted to see Basia Bulat’s full set. Aside from this one misstep, it was a wildly successful Halifax Pop Explosion, filled with great choices, excellent musical acts, and a healthy dose of sleep deprivation. Can’t wait to see what the fest has planned for 2017.