With sore feet and tired eyes comes the end of Halifax Pop Explosion 2019. I would venture to say that it was physically impossible to fit more fun in a weekend. This magnificently curated lineup could have been cherry-picked right from my most-played on Spotify. The lineup was nothing short of diverse, and had top tier acts to cater to whomever may want to lend their ears. Through the next couple of paragraphs I’ll attempt to prove that this past weekend, if you were not there, you are, in fact, square. These would be my favourite memories (albeit blurry) from HPX 2019.
Being the responsible adult that I am, I decided to give away my shift at work, because who needs money when there’s fun to be had? The kick off to the weekend brought me to the beautiful St. Matthew’s United Church for Rich Aucoin. Having been to a number of Rich Aucoin shows in the past, I had reservations to seeing him in a sit-down venue. “But where will the parachute go? How will he crowd surf with the pews? Will he just cover Jesus’ songs?” All reservations were quickly put to rest. Having a stacked lineup for his backing band, he had a number of his cohorts open the show. Don Brownrigg, Arsoniste, Terror Pigeon, Stewart Legere, and Rose Cousins all sat at the beautiful baby grand piano on stage and made the crowd feel ALL the feelings. With a brief intermission, Rich was then carried to the stage in an inflatable pink coffin by his bandmates, which he leapt from to his signature 20th Century Fox intro. His set was filled with new songs from his recent album “Release“. With Alice In Wonderland playing on a screen overhead, the band jammed through their trippy set mixed with instrumentals, electronic jams, wonderful harmonies, and exceptional musicianship. Though there weren’t parachutes, there certainly wasn’t a lack of energy.
For the third time (second this year), Weakened Friends have blown me away with their live show. Their albums personify the same energy that they leave on the stage. With a set list mainly focused on their most recent release “Common Blah”, Weakened Friends easily could have been mistaken for the headliners of the night, the way fans sang and moshed along. Songs like “Blue Again,” “Aches,” and their most recent single “What You Like” were highlights of the set that personified their heavy aesthetic and punk roots.
I was genuinely worried when I showed up at the Marquee on Saturday night that there may not be a roof left on it after PUP’s set on Friday. The sold-out crowd couldn’t have been more excited for the punks to take the stage and rip through their headlining set. With a mixture of old and new material, the crowd chanted, hollered, sang, and crowd-surfed through the sweatiest set of the weekend. Kicking it off with “Morbid Stuff” and only getting heavier from there, PUP gave just as much energy as they got back from the crowd. After 5 songs at the front of the stage for photos, I couldn’t handle the heat so, after doing some mathematics, I decided the only way out was to go up and over the crowd by method of crowd-surfing. It was the perfect personification of a PUP show.
In their home away from home, The Hypos absolutely rocked Bearly’s House Of Blues during their Saturday night set. A dedicated crowd sang and boogied along to their Alt-Country vibes. With a couple of new songs sprinkled in, most of the set surrounded their “In 3/4” album. With a fun sprinkling of an Elvis cover, and Grease’s “You’re The One That I Want”, everyone in attendance, if not already a fan, certainly left as one. I can’t get enough of these guys, and every time I see them I’m reminded of how awesome local live music and shows can be!
Adorably profound energy encapsulates Diet Cig. This two-piece pop-punk band, based out of New York, brought their heartfelt and sometimes cutting jams to the Marquee stage to close out my Halifax Pop Explosion. Fronting the band, Alex Luciano leapt from one side of the stage to the other, spun, kicked, and dove in what seemed to be an endless supply of rock and roll energy. “Sixteen”, a song that everyone who was ever a teenager can relate to, opened the show. After the “Ready?” in the first 30 seconds, everyone was. Their album “Swear I’m Good At This” drove most of the set, with some newer and older gems sprinkled in. I hope Mick Jagger has the opportunity to see Diet Cig at some point..there’s notes to be taken on how to command a stage.