Halifax Pop Explosion Halifax NS October 21 to 25

Halifax Pop Explosion Halifax NS October 21 to 25
Within a festival full of highlights, there was one show that rose above the rest. The wildly hard rocking Israeli group Monotonix descended on the crowd and proceeded to tear shit up. Singer Ami Shalev rubbed his sweaty torso all over the audience, spending the majority of the show swimming on their outstretched arms in a sea of grinning faces. Later those arms held up Haggai Fershtman and his drum kit. Bodies were flailing furiously, and only let up when the show moved outside, where Shalev hung from traffic lights while guitarist Yonatan Gat wailed on top of a van. It was the show of the festival and possibly Halifax’s show of the year.

Elsewhere, there were the expected highs and lows that come with the territory of hosting 100 bands playing 42 shows at 12 venues over the course of a five-day music festival. Tuesday night at the Marquee boasted a stellar set from local instrumental rock dynamos Tomcat Combat, leading up to 30 minutes of melodic punk thrills courtesy of Jay Reatard. From start to finish Reatard barely said a word to the crowd, which would have only got in the way of his set’s joyful intensity.

Wednesday’s reunion of the Inbreds was hotly anticipated but largely disappointing. Singer Mike O’Neill still has the vocal chops, but the chemistry between him and drummer Dave Ullrich wasn’t there and made everything plod to the point that even a classic like "North Window” dragged. Better was O’Neill’s new band the Beginners, who sounded strong on Thursday.

Friday’s hip-hop show at the Marquee featured a stellar set from local MC Ghettosocks, who brought heap loads of energy to his rhymes about reading books and stealing from Wal-Mart. GZA gets kudos for playing a lengthy set and giving it his best, but he seemed tired and had zero stage presence. It was almost preferable to listen with your eyes closed, because vocally he sounded solid.

Saturday was busy, with highlights including muscular math rock from VKNGS, the bouncy pop of Islands (with a bass clarinet player to boot!), Attack Mode’s spastic-punk craziness and the white noise-tinged power violence heroics of the Endless Blockade. Brutal Knights played some phenomenally tight punk rock and ended the wild week on one final high note, hopefully to carry over to next years Pop Explosion.