Halifax Pop Explosion October 30 to November 1 - Halifax, NS

Halifax Pop Explosion October 30 to November 1 - Halifax, NS
By Matt Charlton, Susana Ferreira and Tara Thorne The Carnations The Carnations had the unfortunate luck to go on after a badly received FemBots performance in Hell just as local fave Jon Epworth was hamming it up upstairs in the Marquee, but if they were worried about it, it didn't show. Refreshingly lit from the bottom, the Toronto power rock quartet did their best to rock out to a crowd that kept its distance. Simple stage banter and sexy hipbone flashing from singer/bassist Thomas D'Arcy, plus lots of juicy, hooky selections, made me wish for a Carnations return, this time to headline. TT Jon Epworth Jon Epworth's show ultimately didn't transfer the accomplishment of his debut CD into a live setting. Although his vocals were impressive, the set never really took shape. His cluttered guitar tones emphasised the holes in his songwriting and his loud instead of funny stage banter was received like Bill Hicks at a Rock Church convention. Still, Epworth's promise is undeniable. With a few less Old Milwaukees floating around his dressing room this could have been something special. MC Ermine "Is that a violin player?" Perhaps benefiting from a late start, a no-show sound guy and a Gaffer-crazed crowd, Saint John-born, Halifax-based quartet Ermine rocked it out big-time in the glorified basement that is the Seahorse. Aptly described as "art metal," new member James Blanchard's bow gave their already smart hard rock a new layer of intelligence and interest, as opposed to a new layer of Celtic horror. Hard guitars and out-of-who-knows-where time changes kept the place on its toes. TT Johnny Hardcore Newfie hip-hop? Urban snobs may sneer, but it's true, and Johnny Hardcore plays the role of the Rock's ready spokes-rapper. With Halifax MC/ producer Jesse Dangerously handling the beat machine, Johnny tried to live up to his name by going through every aggressive pose in the hardcore repertoire. The venue and mid-afternoon timeslot were hardly ideal but, to his credit, Johnny rocked his sparse crowd as hard as he knows how. Not once did he slip out of his mean face, even as endearing technical difficulties abounded. Know what else? "The Hip-Hop Ten Commandments" is one hell of a rap song. SF Kunga 219 Considering the circumstances, it is a testament to this man's integrity and ability as a performer that he pulled in as much of a crowd as he did. Second on a bill following a rock band and one floor below the disc jock finals for the DJ Olympics, Kunga still had a room full of happy, appreciative fans hanging on to every verse and dancing. No DJ, no backing band, no Puffy hooks, just Kunga, one microphone, one mini-disc of beats, a gaze that could pierce through anyone's ego and enough MC charisma to keep the party flowing for hours. SF Tyler Messick & the Museum Pieces Local folkie wunderkind Messick played his lurching, melodic yarns to a packed, sweaty, uber-hip Khyber crowd apparently unfazed by the night's late start. Earlier this year, Messick was everywhere, but this was his first high-profile gig in awhile and he was better for it. The Museum Pieces are a damn good backing outfit, one apparently unconcerned with image or attitude, smoothing out the potentially pretentious edge of the snappily dressed, eye-make-up-sporting Messick. Messick's songs are wordy and intricate, nostalgic without being dusty, music for the thinking drinker, the one who brings a notebook to the bar, and this HPX crowd was scribbling right along with him. TT Ron Sexsmith Over-adored and underappreciated songsmith Sexsmith led the audience through a career spanning collection of rocking chair pop. Surprisingly charismatic in front of a crowd, he proved that beside his massive songwriting talents, he is also a gifted performer. The show seemed to have a different highlight for every GAP vintage jeans wearing audience member. Even the people who came to see the big-headed fellow who sang that song with Chris Martin left with a smile. MC Warsawpack A seven-piece rap-rock band with a funky edge and a political message, sound familiar? Yeah, but just forget that a minute because this Hamilton, ON lot have got a one-two punch that'll surprise you. They did their best to defy the Rage- and Roots-inspired band stereotype during an uncommonly energetic afternoon performance, with much of their charm being carried by two soulful saxophonists and MC Lee Raback's power as a storyteller. If they can keep the niche band comparisons at arms length, Warsawpack may very well develop into a household name. SF Wintersleep Halifax's best new band continues to expand its fan base and repertoire with each show, and even though they played two hours before main attraction Ron Sexsmith, the dance floor was packed to capacity with appreciative fans. Every performance yields a new song that's longer and more intricate than anything on the gauzy rock quartet's excellent self-titled debut. Front-man Paul Murphy and virtuoso drummer Loel Campbell add spice to the solid, hat-wearing tent poles of guitarist Tim D'Eon and bassist Jud Haynes. Murphy displayed a side a few shades lighter than his introspective lyrics and enigmatic vocal exercises, chatting with the crowd and responding to a fan's (okay, my) request to take off his sweater, while a new song found the band doing a "la-la-la" refrain en masse. They've always been a little too serious, so it's a welcome evolution. Keep your ears on Wintersleep. TT