Woke up on Saturday morning under a blanket of cat body and felt the week weighing down my bones. I walked through my apartment and it looked like a bomb had gone off. We rapidly fled the house to go to the CKDU brunch at Gus'. The burritos looked delicious but I got waffles, feeling wary about impending farts in small spaces.
The Graboids played and Adrian Bruhm sang the Buzzcocks and took a smoke break.
Then Ghettosocks went on for a solo set, talking about brunch. I felt a weird collapsing sensation and added some whiskey to my coffee in time to catch Cousins for a second time. They played some low-key numbers, including covers of Dolly Parton and Feist. Aaron Mangle's mom was standing next to me and she was adorable.
Then it was time to eat more food. I expected the Herohill/Saved by Vinyl BBQ at the Company House to feature the standard fare of hot dogs and buns and whatnot - instead, we were met with a spread that included chicken meatballs, pulled pork sandwiches, pasta and coleslaw. Total SXSW delicious-styles. I nearly wept.
Then it was time for a nap, except I watched the X-Files instead. There was a little boy with a "bad" side who kept killing nurses and freaking me out. Then it was time for the Pavilion! We grabbed some road pops and arrived for Envision, who were greeted with the usual enthusiasm by the kids. I like Pavilion shows. I did not have anything like a Pavilion growing up. Instead of seeing live music, I drank Mike's Hard Lemonade in the park near my house and then we'd walk around trying to find tennis balls until we felt sick. So I think the Pavilion is pretty great.
Next up - CHIXDIGGIT! After hearing about how great they were at Reflections the previous night, I was pumped. They did not disappoint.
"Let's give it up for Chixdiggit! Let's give it up for Kepi! Let's give it up for you! This next one is a love song!" Clapclapclap.
Lead singer KJ was super charismatic and didn't waste a word, and the whole band was super peppy. I went into the set not knowing many Chixdiggit songs and left with the ability to sing along to at least eight of them. My favorite is "(I Feel Like) (Gerry) Cheevers."
What a great bunch of dudes.
Then we made a mistake. We left before Fucked Up because I heard Chad Van Gaalen would be playing a secret show at Tribeca. And well, he did - like, three or four songs. Meanwhile as I waited and fought the urge to drink 80 screwdrivers, I thumbed through Twitter updates that crowed that Damien Abraham was climbing the rafters and high-fiving little kids and throwing out gold doubloons and kissing babies and doing tons of other amazing stuff that we totally missed. While we waited for Chad Van, who took forever getting to the bar and setting up, we also missed Long Weekends and No Joy at the Palace. While it was funny to hear a girl shout "Shave my PUSSY!" as a request (and hear Chad Van actually play it) I really would have rather seen those other bands. Or a full Van Gaalen set. The allure of the secret show is hard to resist, I guess, but next time I'm gonna try not to be such a turd.
Happily, though, we did get to see the sweet boys of ISBN. They are pretty much my new favorite Halifax band now (check out some tunage here). I was also really glad to see Jon McKiel, who pounded out a short set featuring some songs from his new album Tonka Warcloud. So good. So warm and serene, strange and intense. At the end of the night I found myself facedown in the couch, listening to the album, mumbling to myself. Big things await him. I think everyone knows that.
Back to the Palace for PS I Love You. You could really sense the contrast between the HPX crowd and the club crowd tonight. A hockey game was also letting out from the Metro Center, which made the crowd even weirder. As I waited in line to get in, a group of guys, awash in fart smells and beer, accosted the bouncer to try and get in. "Whas going on there? Heavy metal?" one of them asked. Upon learning the ticket price, they disappeared with a hearty chorus of "FUCK THAT!"s.
PS I Love You needs to be loud. The last time I saw these guys, it was a teeny tiny bar show. It was good but not breathtaking. A year later, after nearly two months on the road, in a place with a real sound system, the mighty sounds of Paul Saulnier's guitar and his screechy, quavery, Spencer Krug-on-mescaline warble filled my ears and my eye sockets. There was even a residual roaring in my throat and chest. The crowd got larger as the set continued, and I heard someone say "Holy shit!" when Paul pulled out the double neck guitar and wailed for seemingly forever. If God and the world were just, this is what "stadium rock" would actually sound like. Great job boys. Remember me when you're famous and I'm still a piece of shit. (Note: Drummer Ben is also a brilliant graphic designer. I own a few old-school Ben Nelsons. Check his work here.
We got warmed up for the main event with a bewildering medley of Rammstein songs, and then Fucked Up were on. YES. The mosh pit surged up to greet Damien Abraham, who doffed his shirt and swung his arms like an ape. He roared and grinned, high-fived, pulled amazing faces, and ran up the stairs and all along the upper half of the Palace, posing for photos with security and fans and screaming down at us from the VIP balcony, his arms dangling. And the guitars - they sounded huge. I tried to headbang but I realized I was so tired that all I could do was gape at the stage in amazement. I couldn't believe I was seeing a hardcore show at the Palace, and a hardcore band headlining Pop Explosion.
As I sang along to "The Other Shoe" I felt my eyes begin to roll back in my head - it was sooo loud —- so I went outside for a breather. I stood there yakking with some friends about the show and then, well, this happened:
"Son the Father" was my jam for basically a year. Screaming the lyrics in Pink Eyes' face was a major highlight of my life. It was amazing. Then we saw the now-infamous Head-Butting Man getting dragged out by security, and Damien stalked after them. "I'M IN THE FUCKING BAND!" he yelled when a security guard got in his face. Then everyone was yelling, I stared at the dude's rapidly purpling face, and then we ran off.
After a quick clean-up at home, we returned to Gus' Pub for Demon's Claws, a wacky group of Montreal warlocks and poncho wearing older gents playing ramshackle country and garage. They were weird and so good.
People were loaded and dancing and feeling trippy, drinking out of pitchers, dancing with pretty ladies. It was the end of a long week and everyone was letting go with abandon. I was boozily bummed out....until...
"LETS HEAR IT FOR THIS PARTY."
Yep, Chixdiggit showed up at a house party at my sister-in-law's house and played a set at 3 in the morning. I lost my mind. Photos and video (by Adrian Bruhm) below.
That's it folks. Let's hear it for Pop Explosion. This is my last Pop Explosion as a resident of Halifax for awhile, so it's kind of bittersweet, but I had the best time. See you next year.