Rocktober in review: HPX highlights


The Sunday after the end of Halifax Pop Explosion is a quiet comedown at the best of times. When you’re the anticipatory type (as I am), you get all excited about something like a music festival and then you get struck with a weird “what next?” ennui as soon as it’s over (and you’re way too tired to do anything about it). You reflect on the shows you wish had never ended, and the shows you wish you had gone to instead of some that you did.

And then Lou Reed dies.

I don’t have the relationship with Reed’s work to write anything that anyone else isn’t already writing (and doing so much more eloquently than I would). He’s one of those artists whose influence is almost taken for granted, and whose songbook isn’t shoved in your face like, say, the Beatles or the Stones but is still always there, tips from your tongue. But as I looked back through my HPX photos and reflected on the festival, I couldn’t help but draw so many lines back to Reed’s influence and the aesthetic revolutions he led in helping transform “rock and roll” into an accepted and celebrated art form.

Anyways, to the highlights. I’ve already done a bunch of writing on the festival as I was covering it for the good folks at Exclaim. You’ll find links to the 10 shows I reviewed there along with a) my photos of every band I saw, and b) extra comments or insights where I felt the band gave me something worth talking about.

Tuesday, Oct. 22

North Lakes

North Lakes


Soho Ghetto


The Darcys (read my review)


Zeus (read my review)

Wednesday, Oct. 23





I was completely won over by Elgin-Skye despite her dancing dangerously close to a few of my personal danger zones (uber-twee pop, Joanna Newsom vocals). Emerging in a Wonder Woman outfit — “I thought it was a costume party,” she said with a smirk — her songs are cute but not totally precious, fun and funny but with a dose of grit at the same time. Yes, she’s a loop performer, which I’m almost at my breaking point with, but the songs worked for me, and she was a great case study in how to make an early-evening show memorable and engaging.


Obits (read my review)


Wavves (read my review)

Thursday, Oct. 24


Bille Dre & The Poor Boys (at CKDU)


Louise Burns (at CKDU)


Cold Warps


Fucked Up (read my review)



I turned in early on Wednesday night, and apparently missed a blockbuster show at Reflections by Toronto’s buzziest jazz-hip-hop-whatever-they-are trio. The rap crowd waiting for Killer Mike took a while to warm to BadBadNotGood on Thursday, especially as the earlier part of the band’s set relied heavily on its jazzier influences, but by the set-closing blockbuster take on TNGHT’s “Buggin,” the entire floor was collectively losing its shit. The terrifying part: these kids are all in their early 20s. They’ve barely scratched the surface of what they can do, and they’re already incredible.




The Everywheres


The Zolas (read my review)

Friday, Oct. 25





Shad’s set was top-to-bottom aces; the man is a true entertainer in every since of the word, and the new material from Flying Colours held up great alongside his older jams. But it was the encore that was a killer: an epic verse, sans instrumentation, that had the cold, outdoor crowd on the Grand Parade in stitches and cheers throughout. Whether he was spitting about Drake, Phil Collins or himself, the verbal dexterity with which Shad wielded his biting cleverness was stunning. With the exception of “The House That Heaven Built” (see my Japandroids review below), it was the festival’s best moment.



Suuns have traveled light-years as a band since the last time its members played the Pop Explosion. Once a bit jammy, their grooves are now locked tight, nervy yet hypnotic at the same time. This year’s Images du Futur is a favourite of mine, but it (and their live show) still sounds like a band on its way to something even greater, which is pretty exciting.




The Walkmen (read my review)


Young Galaxy (read my review)

Saturday, Oct. 26





Festival sets can be a crapshoot for sound. Outdoor sets too. So respect to Islands and HPX alike for having one of the weekend’s best-sounding sets under both circumstances. Actually, the outdoor shows all sounded pretty good. Would have been great to see more people at them considering they were free (I wouldn’t say they were poorly attended, but certainly below what I would have expected, particularly for Islands). Perhaps the weather was a factor: this was the weekend when early fall turned to late fall, and the cold faces on Saturday night certainly showed some weather-wearyness.


KEN Mode


The Motorleague


Metz (read my review)


Japandroids (read my review)

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