by carl wilson

'Sploded! Post-Halifax Report

Plasketts Sr. and Jr., in Halifax on Saturday. Photo pilfered from Kaytethinks on Flickr.

I'll return to some underdeveloped points about indie/race/class tomorrow, but wanted to say that if you ever get a chance to go to the Halifax Pop Explosion, jump on it. The scale makes for almost the perfect festival - the venues are all within 20 minutes' walk, for one thing; and despite the smaller size, the quality and diversity of the programming is as high as you could ask. Sure, there weren't any superstar-legend guests, but who needs them?

I got in very late on Friday night after two delayed planes, so I missed everything that night. Our Saturday-afternoon panel on the 15th anniversary of the HPX was a racuous, enjoyable and productive one (if occasionally a bit insiderish, and more than a bit of a sausage party). The strongest debate that emerged was the question of how hard the festival should try to get more government funding, as after 15 years it still gets only meagre city and provincial support - and partly as a result has not one full-time paid staff person - mainly because it will not shift to be less "pop" and more "culture" as the local gods of tourism see it, ie., "more boats, fish and fiddles please." A comparison was made to the East Coast Music Awards, which once were dominated by Celtic music but after a lot of lobbying (by some of the folks on the panel, as well as others) opened themselves up to be genuinely representative of Canada's east coast, and gained much more national attention in the process.

I suspect that (as I outbursted in the discussion) "the total fucking transformation of the music industry" will make the HPX and events like it ever-more self-sustaining in the future - as bands and management alike recognize how central live, showcase performances can be to a career in the new, not-so-recording-oriented business models - so my bet is on the government coming around. Better yet, maybe, would be sponsorship from non-music-biz businesses that see the value in sponsoring something so entrepreneurial, innovative and cool. (This is one of the strengths of the Polaris, to me, that it is neither government nor music-business dependent, but gets support from unrelated quarters.) Bureaucracies are slow and Canadian bureaucracies are especially turtle-ish about recognizing non-traditional culture as true Canadian/regional culture.

As for the music? I saw about 10 bands, the definite highlights of which were an almost-unheard-of, semi-acoustic (no drums, amps down low) Eric's Trip mini-set at the launch of Bob Mersereau's new book, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (about which more, I'm sure, in the future) and Joel Plaskett's joyous mostly-solo acoustic show at St Matthew's Church. Never having seen Joel without a band, I was floored by his ability to vary, ad lib within songs, poke fun at and personalize the experience. (Prominent in the patter was the fact that he'd flown in from Dallas at 5 in the morning and had to fly back out to New York in a couple of days to hook back up with his Emergency band and the Tragically Hip tour they're featured in. He was tired, and a bit hoarse.) And I was reminded again what a humblingly, casually smart songwriter he is, sometimes hokey but often inspired and left-field in the connections and twists his songs make, and how his lyrics are poetically chatty rather than too-fragile-to-touch (speaking of class and indie-rock...). He also put the "pop" back in "Pop Explosion" by performing almost half the show with his dad, Will Plaskett, who turns out to be a crack guitarist. I've never seen Joel in Halifax before, and the hometown spirit that permeates his songwriting is doubly moving in that setting. I spent half the show with my eyes a little damp, and did a lot of clapping and singing along, as did everyone in the room.

Otherwise, I realized just how Pixies-esque the Vancouver band Mother Mother really is (the folk flourishes are deceptive) but despite the derivativeness they're a fine live band; I saw Toronto-based group Forest City Lovers for the first time, and there's a lot of craft there, though some of that old unfortunate indie preciousness veils the potential strength of the songs; I saw the utterly unprecious Zoobombs blow the roof off yet another venue and the tops of the heads off another unsuspecting crowd (revelation, though: Haligonians dance less than Torontonians do!); I realized that I like all the elements of Land of Talk but still haven't quite embraced the sum; Miracle Fortress had a slightly "off" set, as did Toronto's Germans (all the driving it takes bands to get to Halifax does take its toll), but no shortage of personality and ideas; and the full-on Eric's Trip electric show was the nostalgic, emotional, pogo-your-face-off-and-then-get-a-little-weepy festival closer it was fated to be.

Thanks to the fest for the hospitality explosion, and I'm sure I'll be back. It's as good a festival, in its smaller way, as Pop Montreal, and as we all (a bit cattily) agreed, beats the hell out of the Toronto equivalents.

Which leads me to this thought: The Wavelength Pop Festival?

General | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, October 21 at 7:32 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)



"Precious" may have been the wrong word although you're taking an implication from it that I didn't intend - to me preciousness and genuineness aren't exclusive. What I felt about FCL was an overly ginger touch. Call it under-reach. I liked the plainspokenness of the songs but felt the arrangements and performances were very restrained, and might benefit from being extended and intensified.

Posted by zoilus on October 24, 2007 3:03 PM



I missed the forest city lovers set, but what exactly did you mean by "though some of that old unfortunate indie preciousness veils the potential strength of the songs"? I've seen them before and never found them to be overly "precious"...fairly genuine usually.

Posted by Jess on October 24, 2007 11:41 AM



Wavelength Pop Festival?

Posted by Ryan M on October 22, 2007 11:27 PM



I almost have my voice back! Very nice to meet you kind sir, drop back any time!

Posted by Waye on October 22, 2007 7:32 PM



Tim Jones! I see you.

Posted by danica on October 22, 2007 4:46 PM



Pleasure to meet you wandering lost around the hotel; it was great to hear you speak before I had to run off to watch the Zoobombs rip me apart. So jealous you got to see the Eric's Trip mini-set. It's cool to watch Julie essentially front that band.

Posted by Tim J on October 22, 2007 8:38 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson