Arts & Culture City Editors' Blog In Focus

HPX: Night two

From Oct. 19-22, Halifax Pop Explosion is taking over venues around the city. Here’s what we thought about the performances we attended Oct. 20. Click here to read our night one recap. 
John: Fresh off my embarrassing wardrobe choice last night, I decided to toss on a Black Keys t-shirt under a denim button-up. I figured that’s appropriate festival wear. Too bad everyone at the Marquee was dressed in patched denim or leather jackets. So close… but I’m incredibly sleep deprived, so very few cares were given. I chose to remain sober this evening to ensure my journalistic prowess remained uninhibited.
Hannah: I got home and downloaded so many songs from all of the artists I saw during the night two performances. Walking to class won’t be boring for the next bit with all of this music. I know I’ll be listening to them all so much that I’ll grow to hate them quickly, but in the best way possible. Did that make sense? Whatever, it’s late. I’m tired. Tonight was pretty great.

Drummer Ben Brennan of Geil takes the stage at the Marquee Ballroom. (Photo: John Sandham)
Drummer Aaron Burke of Geil takes the stage at the Marquee Ballroom. (Photo: John Sandham)

John: Unfortunate name for a band, because when I searched them on Google, all that came up is the J. Geils Band.
“Keep moving, don’t stop!” said lead singer Jessi Talbot as she swung her pigtails from side to side (which made it near impossible for me to get any sort of still photo of her). I knew exactly what kind of music they would play when drummer Aaron Burke came on stage shirtless. Starting off a show shirtless – I don’t even know if the Chili Peppers do that. Does anyone have any idea how to dance to screaming? There were some head nodders, a few leg/toe tappers, and one full body gyrator near the front… not my cup of tea, but Geil certainly has energy.
Reeny Smith
Hannah: I got the the Forum in the middle of her set because transit’s just so good here, but I wish I wasn’t late! As soon as I walked in I kind of wanted to ditch the camera bag and start dancing a little bit. Only a little bit; I don’t dance often. I planned to go to watch her after seeing the Pop Explosion schedule and researching which local artists would be performing. Reeny is a 24-year-old singer out of North Preston who, according to her bio, started playing piano and singing when she was five. She’s a great singer and has won a bunch of awards, which doesn’t surprise me. I hope she does more local shows in the future, I want to experience an entire set.

(Lady Wray at the Forum. Photo: Hannah Daley)
(Lady Wray at the Forum. Photo: Hannah Daley)

Lady Wray
Hannah: I didn’t research Lady Wray before I went to watch her, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. She was up next after Reeny Smith and I was able to go in with no expectations and it was awesome. I could tell immediately that I really liked her. She’s so lively on stage that she made me want to dance almost more than Reeny Smith did. I’m such a non-dancer so this was a bit of a weird experience for me. Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge Lady Wray’s shoes. They were the first thing I noticed during her performance and I spent about a minute trying to get a good picture of them. Here’s what I ended with:

(Photo: Hannah Daley)
(Photo: Hannah Daley)


(Daniel Caesar at the Forum. Photo: Hannah Daley)
(Daniel Caesar at the Forum. Photo: Hannah Daley)

Daniel Caesar
John: Damn. This man’s voice is velvety smooth. He could sing the writings of Hegel and they would still sound beautiful (and maybe help me understand them…?). After Geil, Caesar was certainly a welcome change of pace. Without a doubt, the highlight of his set was a new track, “Get You,” that was released earlier today.
Hannah: Daniel Caesar was the only one I saw tonight that I had heard music from before, so I was pretty excited to see him. He released a song earlier today, “Get You“, and it’s so good. Last night the performers I watched played heavier music (which I promise I’m not opposed to), or were comedians, so hearing Caesar was an interesting difference in style. His voice is so… I don’t even know. I’m pretty sure there was a point where I forgot to blink. I know I’m saying I love everyone that I go see, but it’s all true. I can’t help it, I like live music.
John: After hearing me sing Daniel Caesar’s praises, you can imagine how glad I was when BBNG (a last-minute addition to the lineup following Charles Bradley’s cancer diagnosis) brought him up on stage to help them a cover a Mac Demarco song.
I’m a huge fan of BBNG – I saw them this summer at WayHome, and although nothing can beat that saxophone in 40-degree heat, this was almost as good.
Man, do the sounds of the sax and keyboards mesh well together. It almost makes me wish I hadn’t given up on the piano back in grade eight. (Sidenote: have I ever mentioned I once had aspirations of becoming a saxophone player? That dream died hard when my grade five music teacher told me I’d have to start with the clarinet before graduating to the sax. No offence to clarinet players, but I’d still choose the trombone if I’m ever given that choice again.
Hannah: After the Forum I made my way to the Carleton Music Bar & Grill for the Loveland show. This was my last show of the night and Loveland was a good one to see. Their show started at 11:30 pm so I was kind of sleepy (I have an 8:30 am class on Friday mornings, so sleep is very important to me) but their style of music really worked out for me with that. It’s light and synth-y, so it was almost like a really, really good lullaby in a way that obviously didn’t put me to sleep. An example.
Pet Sun
John: Would you believe I’ve never been to Gus’? These Hamilton rockers pumped out a solid few songs. (Their hometown is the only thing they and Arkells have in common; their sound reminds me more of Radiohead). Two thumbs up for these guys (and for the atmosphere and cheap seat comments at Gus’!).
It’s midnight, and I’m off to bed; it is a school night, after all. Not to mention my Honours Project is due tomorrow. To be clear: covering HPX is work, not procrastination. I’ll be at the Forum tomorrow night because Hey Rosetta! is playing (#blessed) and there aren’t many things I would miss them for.
The entire Halifax Pop Explosion schedule can be found here
Correction: This article originally stated Ben Brennan is the drummer of the band Geil. Aaron Burke is on drums and Brennan is on guitar. 

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