Halifax Pop is still one of the best Canadian music festivals

Pop Explosion caters to all kinds of music and media lovers.

Last week from Tuesday to Saturday, Halifax Pop Explosion dazzled the minds and deafened the ears of the audiences fortunate enough to make it to the Maritimes’ urban centre. And many did—the turnout was huge and lead straight through to the liveliest crowds, which were perfectly conducive to the live music. Perhaps this was surprising, given the jaw-dropping lineup that was so diverse it allowed the festival to feel centred on any genre, from punk rock to hip hop.

Wednesday night’s headliner Wavves brought about what was undoubtedly one of the week’s highlights, bringing their signature nihilistic and intensively jaded garage rock to the Olympic Community Centre in Halifax. The Southern California band, with their music a spliff of surf and punk, lit up the night, grinding the crowd in to a roiling mosh pit, laced with the abandonment of discontent. Separated only by quick microphone checks, (due to unfortunate technical issues with the sound), and a drug reference or two, the set was almost an hour of non-stop waves of crowd surfers, and the excretion of the grimy kind of jubilation that punk seems to bring out in everyone.

Wednesday night culminated with the entire festival converging at Reflections, a gay bar in the centre of downtown Halifax. BADBADNOTGOOD put the crowd to bed, capitalizing on the propensity for moshing that Wavves had undoubtedly whipped up. Although they are almost a cover band, the trio’s technicality, musicianship, and blood-pumping stage presence more than account for that oddity. The label is applied loosely, as the songs they do cover tend to be hip hop or house beats recontextualized within the genre of free jazz, whirling in and out of improvised regressions. Standout covers included an electronic drum pad-infused, drop happy “Bugg’n,” originally composed by TNGHT, and a cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” powered by a dark and rolling bass line. The band also showed off some new original content from their album, which they are currently in the process of recording. Lucky enough for all involved, this almost-cover band got to play another set, opening up for Killer Mike on Thursday.

Thursday night was destined to be punk rock heaven with performances by Jerk Damaged, Fucked Up, the Mouthbreathers, Cousins, and then Fucked Up again, with a set that included the entirety of “Year of the Dragon,” their fifty-minute punk odyssey. The night included the main hip hop show, featuring Killer Mike’s southern rap and awe-inspiring stage presence along with a second performance by BADBADNOTGOOD. However, Action Bronson’s last-minute cancellation for health reasons dampened the mood: It forced Halifax Pop to refund tickets, caused much confusion in the scheduling, and definitely added to the crowds of the other venues.

The unnerving choice of which shows to attend was at its most agonizing on Friday night, in which 2013 Polaris Prize nominees METZ, Young Galaxy, and Sackville’s Jon McKiel played at similar times, at what seemed to be opposite ends of the city.

The last night saw a huge turnout for Japandroids, in the process of playing their last set in Canada for this current tour. Before Japandroids’ set was METZ’s second performance of the festival, which did not quite live up to that of the previous night: the difference was the environment, with Reflections’ tight and packed atmosphere giving the crowd a rowdy energy that dissipated in the more spacious Olympic Community Centre.

That night, Reflections itself saw performances that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, a show that morphed from Halifax garage rock when it began, to straight up electronic when it finished, marking the end of the equally comprehensive festival.

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