Halifax Pop Explosion delivers exciting weekend lineup

Saturday comedy and indie-rock shows end festival on satisfying note

Halifax Pop Explosion likely took over your Instagram all of last week, and aside from the mountain of school commitments, I managed to make my way to the Halifax festival for the final day of shows on Oct. 24.
Upon my arrival, I caught a pop-up show from Montreal’s Sheer Agony. Their 1960s-infused power pop was a perfect introduction to the rest of the day’s programming. Sheer Agony’s lively set energized the room apace with their mid-day mimosas.
Later in the afternoon, I wound up at the Mint Records Showcase in time to see Vancouver’s indie quartet Tough Age rock the neon-soaked Seahorse Tavern. The venue’s lack of windows enhanced the atmosphere born from the bubblegum garage punk that filled the room. Unfortunately, I had to take my exit before Halifax psych rockers Monomyth took to the stage, but a night’s worth of entertainment lay ahead.
Early in the evening, I made my way to the Atlantica to catch one of the weekend’s comedy showcases. Opening the show was Toronto’s Heidi Brander, who fired off some great digs at pop-culture staples like Ryan Gosling, who was Brander’s childhood rival in an elementary-school lip-sync competition who finished second to her rendition of “Friend Like Me” from the Aladdin soundtrack. Some questionable commentary on the equation of sexism and racism clouded the latter half of her set, which left Brander exiting the stage on a sour note in my mind.
Halifax’s Adam Christie took to the stage next and performed a set with such complexity and intricacy that I was in awe he did not succumb to his own setup. Christie utilized rapid-fire timing and wit, alongside great crowd participation, to build universal jokes of high school bullies, particularly a former foe whose attempts at pro-hockey stardom have followed him long after school.
When Hamilton’s Gavin Stephens appeared next, I was amused by his personal anecdotes about bootleg Breakfast Club tapes and family conflicts, but some dated joke setups and age-old gender stereotypes quickly took a turn for the worse. Stephens frequently opened jokes with “And now one for the ladies…”-style openers which divided his audience and broke from the universality of humour built by Christie in the previous set. This caused more misses than hits.
To cap off the night, I made my way to Gus’ Pub to see an all-star lineup of new and veteran musicians. When I arrived, Marine Dreams was in the midst of an acoustic set to a building crowd which struck awe and ease, particularly after preceding from the buzzing comedy set. Nick Ferrio delivered an uncharacteristic rock show, turning in folk ballads for rock jams off of his latest record while testing out some new experimental material, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
Adrian Teacher and the Subs were next to take the stage, who sit among my favourite live acts, and they delivered on all fronts of musicality, performance and personality. Being the most charismatic performer to take the stage is an understatement, as Teacher and co. were able to charm and entice the crowd through a set filled by Teacher’s large repertoire of tracks, including the likes of COOL and Apollo Ghosts, on top of his latest release.
The penultimate set was brought on by hometown heroes Nap Eyes, who delivered an electrifying number to a pub reaching capacity of enthusiastic concertgoers. Tears and beers were spilled among friends old and new reunited in the company of their favourite bands, and the vibe of Gus’ Pub felt comparable only to a weird family reunion at which you are actually excited to see each passing face.
Only one act could truly deliver a proper conclusion to this evening: Jon Mckiel and his all-star band of sonic titans stepped up to the plate. Mckiel jammed out some new material while also delivering original and alternative cuts from his latest self-titled record. No other ending to the final day of Halifax Pop Explosion 2015 could be written that would dethrone this evening—though it may be the countless bottles of Oland’s likely still in my bloodstream that keep these memories so fond.

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