HPX Day#5: Saturday Oct 22nd 2011 - DAN

 
The Olympic Community Hall & The New Palace
HPX 2011
No Joy @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 05
Show Overview & photography by Dan Nightingale

Saturday was here. The final long day of amazing shows and bands. My Saturday started off at the Olympic Community hall, where I would return many times over the course of the day and night. The free show had been moved indoors and the music started off at noon, so after a quick greasy breakfast I rushed up to catch Papermaps. The band claimed lofty goals for themselves in their bio, and while they were definitely a strong band, their songs weren't as eclectic and energetic as they might believe.
None the less the crowd was appreciative (but who isn't when it comes to free music?)
Papermaps @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 03

Papermaps @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 01
Papermaps @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 02
The fantastic Carmen Townsend came up next and delivered a truly fresh twist on pop music, with heavy guitars that inspired a level of head banging usually reserved for metal bands. Her perfect voice on top of insanely catchy and thick bass and guitar made for the perfect combination of family friendly musical entertainment and sheer impressiveness.
Carmen Townsend @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 05
Carmen Townsend @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 01
Carmen Townsend @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 04
Crowd favorite Plants and Animals took the stage as the hall began to fill to capacity. Their three part vocals and double guitar approach gave a rich sound to their well crafted pop rock songs. Their set was tight but there were no surprises, and with over an hour before headliners Stars took the stage I opted to run home and catch up on some much needed downtime before the evening truly began.
Plants and Animals @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 03
Plants and Animals @ The Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 02
Once it did start, I found myself downtown early in the evening at an unlikely venue, the New Palace. Better know for Friday night drunken pickups and all out debauchery than for scrappy local rock bands, Halifax's Long Weekends none the less found themselves taking to the over sized stage with their catchy garage pop songs. Through the hefty PA, snarling bass and crunchy power chords sat perfectly under the polished but edgy vocals of front man Noel MacDonald, who in a few short years has gone from fronting an instrumental pop band to singing a few nervous backups to projecting out and out rock n' roll vocals that don't rely on any gimmick but just work.
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The crowd swelled quickly during their set and soon filled the balconies and “dance floor” with strategic non dancing head movements; as No Joy appeared from the darkness. Bleak, heavy, reverb soaked, and without banter or explanation No Joy spread their sadness all over the room with their dark shoegaze songs and attitude laden feedback. The band was probably a stand out of the week full of upbeat pop songs, at least for me, and their short and sludgy set hopefully confused the heck out of a few Palace regulars (and staffers, who seemed to have little concept of the scope of the festival taking place in their venue, as one waitress asked me if I was the photographer for the whole event)


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Kingston's PS I love you (who tied with Murder by Death for the band who sounded the least like their name would imply) managed to do what a few other two piece bands did that week, which was sounding at least reasonably full, and catchy enough to distract from the simple instrumentation. Ripping guitar solos and tight drumming were the hallmarks of their set, which unfortunately I had to depart too early from in order to get back to the Olympic Hall in time to catch anything at all.
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When I arrive back Suuns were in full swing, and sadly this was the point at which my brain started to curl up in a corner and go sleep, and everything started to blend together. From what I can piece together, they were good, all though for exactly none of the reasons their bios lead me to believe that I would like them (“stark, restrained, minimal, and intensely loud music” tends to evoke a pretty specific sound in my mind), and Suuns seemed to fall more along the lines of the dark synth pop bands featured elsewhere at the festival, and while there was no motorik beat that landed upon my ears, they still played a brooding and enjoyable set.
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Suuns @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 02
Suuns @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 03
At this point it was time for my legs to join my brain in rebellion as I ran back down to the Palace to try and catch Fucked Up, whom I had been kicking myself for missing at the Pavilion. The band didn't disappoint, with a veritable orchestra (for a punk band) on stage, and lead singer Damian Abraham making full use of his wireless mic and running around, up, through, and even out of the Palace to the delight of fans (and the confusion of the growing line of Palace regulars outside).
Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 02Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 03
Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 01
Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 05
Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 04
Fucked Up @ the New Palace, HPX 2011 04
Before I could appreciate the full extent of the band's antics, it was back to the Hall once again to finally settle down and catch Miracle Fortress and Chad VanGaalen. When I arrive Miracle Fortress was in full swing, immersing the hall in near darkness and swirling synths. I guess I can't really object to a festival called the Halifax Pop Explosion show casing every kind of pop they could find, but at this point all the jangling telecasters, Microkorgs, floor tom beats, handclaps, and soaring vocals were all just running together into a huge blurry pop rainbow. Coming in halfway through the set and with no point of reference for the songs I sat back and let the sounds of the band run past my ears like a digital river of notes and chords.
Miracle Fortress @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 01
Miracle Fortress @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 02
When the time finally came for headliner Chad VanGaalen, my body had all but given up, but being that I was at least a fan of VanGaalen and his quirky dark-humour pop songs I pushed on to the end. I've seen Chad before (at Sappyfest) and I knew that it was unlikely that a full working presentation of the sounds and instruments that make his albums so amazing would be present, but I held a small amount of hope anyway. As he took the stage and enveloped the crowd in a wash of noise, his backing band arrive on stage to play drums and guitars. While they did an admiral job, it was really more akin to a jazz performance – where the band is playing the songs, but playing their own versions of them and not with reference to any kind of hard copy. The songs were all recognizable and didn't fall short with VanGaalen's trademark vocal delivery, but I still couldn't help but recall the thrill of hearing the amazing sounds and constructs that he delivers on his albums.
Chad VanGaalen @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 04Chad VanGaalen @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 03
Chad VanGaalen @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 02
Chad VanGaalen @ the Olympic Community Hall, HPX 2011 01
Overall it was a huge year, and wildly successful for the festival. A huge thanks to everyone for all their hard work - next year marks the 20th anniversary, so here's hoping for another amazing year of mind blowing bands and secret shows.

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