The Halifax Pop Explosion Halifax NS October 15 to 20

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Halifax Pop Explosion, which over the years doesn’t seem to have given up much of its intimacy. The shows are no more than 20 to 25 minutes away from each other, and there was nary an anonymous hockey arena or cavernous club venue in sight. Furthermore, this year’s festival included a music conference, a zine fair and a Super 8 film festival. Things got underway Tuesday night with the Divorce Records showcase at the Seahorse. One man noise crew Torso kicked off the night in winning fashion with clean, eerie soundscapes, before morphing into Vennt after he was joined by a drummer and bassist, which dirtied things up a good deal. Be Bad highlighted how the label is up to much good. The stoicism of the audience, though, was very puzzling for Be Bad’s energy belied the reception they received. By the time Old Time Relijun came on, the venue was at its fullest for the night. It was hard to shake the feeling that OTR were holding back a bit initially, but halfway through the set, singer Arrington DeDionysio soared into full, face-contorting flight as the band tore through songs from their Lost Light trilogy. AIDS Wolf came on for a subdued performance by their standards, which was mirrored by the sober crowd. It was a different story at the Attic, however, where a very tired bunch of Bicycles made the best of a bad sound situation and proved that having the Monkees as a primary influence is nothing to be ashamed of. Thursday night at Gus’s Pub, Montreal’s Shapes and Sizes put on one of the best performances of the festival. It was unfortunate that only 20 or so people witnessed it, but it made for an invitingly intimate show. Still, the real highlight of the festival happened at a packed Seahorse on Friday night where the now legendary Zoobombs plied guitars dewy with sweat and converted scores more with a monster of a performance. At the festival’s final show on Saturday at the Marquee, Miracle Fortress weren’t quite as swooning or good as advertised. But, no matter, Eric’s Trip saved the day with a loud, emphatic set. Sure, Julie Doiron may have lost her voice, and the stage banter may have been a tad awkward, but this set was every bit the nostalgic homecoming finale to the festival it should have been.