Recap – Halifax Pop Explosion, Oct. 22 2009
– recap by Liz Stanton/photos by Ayla Harker
Thursday morning, I wake with a hangover and a hearty case of the “Jesus Christ, I have to do this three more times?” blues. After checking out the night’s lineup, though, I’m ready for another round. Okay, I needed a nap and a few post-dinner coffees, but THEN I’m ready to go.
One thing’s for certain: in this town, shows start on time. Maybe the size of the festival necessitates order, but I rolled up to St. Matthew’s Church at 9:17, and the lights for the 9:15 Herman Dune show went down almost immediately.
Herman Dune’s been a duo for the past few years, but David-Ivar Herman Düne wandered out first with his guitar to play a few solo tunes. Clad in hipster-regulation fedora and full beard, he charmed the pants off everyone in the church with his prancing, bird-like dances around stage and sweet French-accented asides.
“I was talking backstage with someone about season 19 of The Simpsons. You know that season? It was the episode where Homer is obsessed with Seinfeld. Elaine, sponge-worthy…well, it’s only funny if you know what I’m talking about.”
Brother Néman eventually emerged to play the drums, and helped lead the audience in a mid-chorus sing-along to “I Hear Strange Music” that definitely suffered for lack of enthusiasm (David-Ivar: “My mother always tells me not to ask people to sing, because when they don’t do it loudly enough, it’s not good”). In my defence, I was in the front row – I could feel their beady little eyes watching me! Stage fright!
Shows in churches always seem just a touch more magical, and Herman Dune was no exception. Though David-Ivar’s vocal range is limited, the two managed to pull off a set full of songs I’d never heard that still seemed familiar and beautiful. Not every band can mine the humor and pathos in the conversation that ensues when a superhero has to tell his girlfriend about his secret identity: “Man, those talks never seem to go very well.”
After leaving St Matthew’s, we made the somewhat jarring transition to the Paragon for Think About Life. The crowd was definitely into the lively party band’s scene, and no one else would agree with me, but these dudes reminded me of Fine Young Cannibals. Style-wise, sound-wise, no, but, you know… kind of fun, kind of generic, kind of egh; perfect for one moment in time but bizarre outside of that.
The Montreal band does have some pretty sweet pipes, but I found their crazy ’80s-inflected disco-pop a bit boring. Party bands are everywhere these days – c’mon, what makes these guys any different? Sometimes simple is fun, though, and I’m pretty sure I was the only jerk in the room not into ‘em. For their final song “Sweet Sixteen”, Cadence Weapon came out on stage and sang along enthusiastically.
Cadence Weapon, Edmonton’s poet laureate, started his midnight set with a rather solemn reading of his poem “Dirt City”, which slid right into one of the rapper’s typically literate rhymes. For someone who’s been such a prominent name in the Canadian hip-hop scene for so long, Cadence Weapon seemed surprisingly young and exuberant, jumping rope with the mic cord and taking advantage of any opportunity to go into the crowd.
On new song “Jukebox”, the rapper treated the Paragon audience to a chorus screamed at the top of his lungs, Limp Bizkit-style. (Yeah, I went there.) Compared to the previous night’s Mates of State set, though, Cadence Weapon was much more engaged with the audience, reminding them that he was DJing the afterparty (DJ: “It’s a PIZZZZZZZZAAAA PAAAARTY!”) and actually calling the people Haligonians.
Yeah, Mates of State, you’re Americans, but that’s no excuse for thinking a toonie is a $3 coin. Seriously, it’s in the name. I left the Paragon much too late for the second night in a row, my ears ringing in the cold.
Two more nights to go, people! Send beer money!