HPX 2010 - Night #5 RECAP! // The End

The End of HPX 2010....
The last 2 standing - Dan & Tiff
PLAN OF ACTION: start early Saturday afternoon - go out with a BANG!

Even more so than Friday, Saturday was going to be the day of venue hopping to the extreme. With day and evening shows plus the usual bar shows, there was a lot to take in, and the rest of the week had started to take it's toll. Still, I trooped on and picked out a few bands that I knew I wanted to see. Our first stop was Coconut Grove for an early afternoon show of experimentalist and electronics.

Dan & Tiff @ Coconut Grove
Cokemachineglow Showcase
02:00 PM - Grimes
03:30 PM - Jay Crocker
04:15 PM - Feuermusik

Jay Crocker (Of Ghostkeeper) was the first act we caught. His stage setup certainly caught my eye: a multitude of pedals littered the floor, arranged around a modular synth complete with rows of coloured patch chords sticking out the top. Jay played guitar and a small, 2 stringed fretless instrument that I couldn't even begin to name. Though most of his music was droning and filled with bleeps and bloops that swept from the lowest lows to the highest highs, his work was made somewhat more accessible by his strong singing. The vocals sounded like they were transposed from acoustic guitar rocking, first position chords folk rock singer, though they weren't at odds with the music – they worked and added a totally different layer that really helped expand the sound.

HPX 2010 - Jay Crocker 01

HPX 2010 - Jay Crocker 02


Feuermusik (featuring members of Rockets Red Glare) were the final act, and though I hadn't heard their music, I was excited to see them based just on their setup and descriptions. With their music being described as somewhat like experimental jazz, it was no surprise that the leading instrument was a bass clarinet. The duo was rounded out unusually, however, by their drummer, playing a 3 piece kit – of buckets! Two plastic buckets, one metal bucket (which seemed in appearance and tone to be modeled somewhat after a steel drum) , and of course a bucket to sit on. It was certainty a bizarre arrangement, but after the first few notes of the first song, it was clear that this homemade instrument was no impediment. Incredibly precise and fluid rhythms flowed with amazing rapidity and accurate from a pair of ordinary drum sticks.

HPX 2010 - Feuermusik 01

HPX 2010 - Feuermusik 02


Of course, the virtuoso horn playing was impossible to ignore, even while still mesmerized by the bucket brigade. From the deepest astonishing drones to impossible high, overblown shrieks that almost sounded like an overdriven electric guitar, and of course mind blowing mid range runs, multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Strachan (He also plays bass for RRG) seemed to cover as much or more sonic space than most full bands. While the music was undeniably based out of jazz, there was clearly value to more than just jazz junkies, judging by the varied and mesmerized crowd. It's hard to describe exactly the sounds being produced by these two musicians (which is why you should watch the videos), but suffice to say my mind was sufficiently blown, no easy task for a two man band, afternoon show after almost a full week of mind blowing shows. Even one certain Noisographer who has professed to “hating horns” was impressed, so you should do yourself a favor and check this guys out if you're interested in fresh, thought provoking music.

HPX 2010 - Feuermusik 04

HPX 2010 - Feuermusik 06


After a quick supper break and a quick download of the afternoon's data, I was the first one up and out of the house to continue on my show rounds. The first stop was the Pavilion, all ages mecca, to check out Moncton's own COP SHADES. 

Dan @ The Pavilion

All Ages at the Converse Pavilion
09:15 PM - Black Moor

Again I hadn't heard their music, but based on the description of heavy, guitar-less music, I was intrigued. Fortunately, I was once again not disappointed. With drummer Matt Blanchard behind the skins, I knew at least catchy beats and tight drumming were in order. With heavy bass with the Big Muff pedal never off, and rounded out on vocals and effects by the Peter Parker's own Remi Cormier: Cop Shades were everything I hoped for. Chugging stoner bass riffs and warping, pitching vocals ala new wave electro punk bands kept the crowd rocking out, and there was no lack of fullness without guitar. All though some of the songs blended together and were slightly repetitive, I enjoyed the good use of tempo changes and variety of beats, from slow stoner rock grooves to fast punk beats.

HPX 2010 - Cop Shades 02

HPX 2010 - Cop Shades 01


Right after their set I quickly scooted back towards home base, and then down to the Company House to catch It Kills.

Dan @ The Company House
Herohill Showcase
08:00 PM - IT KILLS
10:00 PM - Boats
11:00 PM - Ghettosocks

I'd seen these guys previously at Sappyfest, and I was eager to catch more of their sound. The polar opposite of Cop Shades, these guys sound like the quiet parts of a Godspeed You Black Emperor! Record crossed with the Kronos Quartet. The most stunning thing about this band is simply the sound of the strings – plenty of “rock” bands try and incorporate cellos and violins, but these guys make them sound akin to the way they're intended to sound – thanks in no small part to the orchestral style rather than rock band arrangements (and volume levels). With barely brushed guitar, mallet played drums (and no pounding snare or bashing cymbals), the lush, rich organic sound of strings is able to vibrate freely to life. With fantastically worked harmonies and vocal arrangements on top, it's no wonder that the band has all ready played some fantastic shows and festivals, and I'm eager to hear what they will do in the future.

 HPX 2010 - Its Kills 01

HPX 2010 - Its Kills 02


After the It Kills set, there was scarcely enough time to get home and download even more pictures and video before heading out to what would be, for us, the grand finale: Rockets Red Glare and North of America at the Seahorse, with a great pile of opening acts to boot.

Dan & Tiff @ The Seahorse Tavern
Exclaim! Presents
09:00 PM - Cursed Arrows
10:00 PM - Cousins
11:00 PM - Crosss
01:00 AM - North of America

Halifax-via-Ontario two piece Cursed Arrows were up first. I have to say first off that I think that the whole “guitar and drums” duo is over done now a days. I'm generally more critical of bands like this because I like a lot of instrumental, harmonic, and rhythmic interplay, as well as a full range of sound including the low bass. As such I'm not always a fan of these type of bands.

HPX 2010 - Cused Arrows 02

That being said, Cursed Arrows take a few steps to alleviate my complaints. Guitarist Ryan Stanley makes good use of both effects and arrangements to augment the low end of sound. A lot of bands try and plug into a bass amp and think this will fill up the sound (more on this shortly). Stanley's use of harmony pedals like the Whammy and the micro-POG fill the sound up in an more natural (but ironically artificial) way. Smart guitar work and lower range vocals give the band a pretty full sound. The band is clearly still experimenting with sounds somewhat, with drummer Jackie Stanley stepping out on guitar a few times for double guitar and rhythm box setups, or switching places all together. While a little rough around the edges the band has a good sound and the songs are catchy, and I look forward to seeing more from them as a newly local band.

HPX 2010 - Cused Arrows 05


Halifax's own seemingly new favorite drum/guitar duo, Cousins, were up next. Having seen these guys a few times before, both at Sappyfest where they sounded fantastic, and at local venues like Gus' Pub, I was a fan. However tonight was not the best night for them, which is a shame, since Pop Explosion is a great time to introduce new fans to your sound. To be fair, the band was really in almost no way at fault for their troubles. The drums were crisp and the vocals were excellent. The problem lay mostly in the guitar. The first song went great, with Pat Ryan on bass and vocals. Once he switched to guitar, right off the bat, the sound was a wall of mud, and that wall returned every time Ryan hit the E string on his guitars. I can't say for sure where the issue was, since I didn't have access to the amp controls nor to the sound board, but right away I knew the double Marshall cab, side by side, was a problem. First off lining up drivers horizontally is a big no no – it's nothing but phase cancellation. That's why cabs like the Ampeg 810 and the classic vertical Marshall stack have always worked so well – vertically stacked drivers.

HPX 2010 - Cousins 01

Even when playing what should be one of the trebliest guitars around – a beautiful new fireglo Rickenbacker - the wall of mud remained. It was really a shame, since not being able to make out the only chording instrument meant there was really very little left of the sound except for drums and vocals – which, as mentioned, did sound fantastic. Hopefully the band impressed a few new fans who will come and check them out and future shows where hopefully technical issues will be less present.


New to me band Crosss were up next. Again, all I had heard of them before hand was biographical info – I knew that Christian Simmons (of Play Guitar and formerly the Burdocks) as well as Andy Marsh (Museum Pieces) were members, so I knew that there was a good chance of something great happening. While the band continued, to a lesser extent, to be plagued by some of the sound problems of previous bands (I was beginning to think that the unusual drum placement was to blame, with the bass cab firing right into the kick drum mic), their sound was a little clearer, and I could make out at least some of Marsh's guitar work. The most thrilling aspect to me was to see and hear Simmons on the drums, after many years of headlining on guitar. He was always a fantastic drummer on top of being a great guitarist (both Simmons brothers seem to share this talent). Again I had some trouble making out a lot of the songs, but with a bassist in the mix as well the guitar relied less on low end and was a little clearly, and what I heard sounded great. Skittering drums and bopping bass gave these guys a perhaps indistinct, but enjoyable sound.

HPX 2010 - Cross 03

HPX 2010 - Cross 02

HPX 2010 - Cross 04


To be perfectly honest, as much as I enjoyed the opening bands, my main motivation for attending that night was to see Rockets Red Glare. By far one of the best bands ever to grace the Canadian music scene, I was lucky enough to catch them at Sappyfest this summer, as they reunited after many years of inactivity. As is always the case, it's the hardest to write about the best bands. This was one of the top sets I saw all Pop Explosion, though I can't perfectly detail why. Their music has such a strange, intense energy that it's impossible to resist. A perfect combination of calculated mathematical music and soul stirring emotions, not to mention the mind blowing drumming of Gus Weinkauf made for an incredible musical experience.

HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 01

HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 11

HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 06

Luckily a careful rearranging of the stage, and a band with 10+ years of experience perfecting their sound lead to an elimination of the sound issues the previous bands had suffered. Despite using almost entirely borrowed gear - the one main piece brought all the way from Toronto, the Jazzmaster guitar, mysteriously stopped work just before the set, though fortunately thanks to the presence of fellow guitar aficionados North of America, another Jazzmaster was quickly procured – the band sounded as good as their records made 10 years ago. Even starting almost a full 10 minutes early (a feat I doubt any other headlining band that week could claim), their set still seemed to end too soon.

 HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 09

HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 12

HPX 2010 - Rockets Red Glare 04


Fortunately the end of one amazing experience only led into another. Seminal Halifax band North of America, who paved the road for a generation of indie and math rock bands from the east coast, were the final act to see that night, and the crowd was (and had been, since before 11:00) packed in tight to be there. The band plowed through a plentiful set of old and new hits, and even featured original member J. LaPointe, who I had unfortunately missed during their last reunion show where was was present at only one of two engagements. Thanks to a reoccurring technical issue that had plagued every band all night long, we even heard drummer Mike Catano call out a “New Jam” to keep the crowd occupied while the backstage area was cleared and guitar amp power was restored.

HPX 2010 - NOA 06

HPX 2010 - NOA 09

HPX 2010 - NOA 08

HPX 2010 - NOA 03

HPX 2010 - NOA 05


I heard every song I wanted to hear, and even a rare early one I hadn't heard before. There was even a certain eager crowd surfer enthusiastically carried around the bar, which Gerry Hubley called “the only stage-dive I've seen at a North of America show in over one hundred times seeing them here and on the road.” So there's that. After a mind blowing set extended 10 minutes over the bars close, we sadly ran out of time for the famed Arches of Loaf cover, but none the less the crowd left immensely satisfied (and slightly bruised).

Needless to say, it was time for sleep.


This concludes our coverage, for what was probably the BEST festival that Noisography will cover this year!
Thanks to all the bands, the HPX organizers, volunteers and all the music fans.
Can't wait till we all get to do it again next year!

Check out all of Noisography's HALIFAX POP EXPLOSION PHOTOS here.
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