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NXNE day 3: Halifax pops, VanGaalen heats up 

It was a hot and cold one for festival-goers and Canadian music icons.

John McKiel
  • John McKiel

I started Saturday off as a journo-geek at a NXNE talk by Evan Ratliff from The Atavist, a non-fiction journalism website that is publishing long-form journalism through Kindle Singles for the iPad, iPhone, etc. Nice to know that I may still have a job in 10 years, because music festivals aren't cheap.

Saturday's Halifax Pop Explosion showcase (Dance Movie, Glory Glory, Jon McKiel, Cousins) was hosted at Velvet Underground. Back in my black-hair days, before the bar was taken over by an entertainment corp. and discovered top-40, there used to be a bowling alley and a lot more goth-y action there. Maybe it was just hiding behind a curtain. Anyway, it was an odd (but cool, as in temperature) location for the HPX showcase, and there were some obvious problems with the sound, but all the bands were fantastic, playing for a small but devoted crowd and the regular Velveteens waiting for the dancing to start. McKiel especially has been getting great press around Toronto, so hopefully he'll be back for his own show in a more appropriate venue. I can't say much about Dance Movie because I'll get hung with conflict-of-interest ropes, but I will say that I think their new material will take them places further than the air mattress on my living room floor. And I love hearing that distinctive Andrew Watt sound and style in Glory Glory.

Also, props to Cousins' Aaron Mangle for getting beers out of a shitty sound situation. Even when his vocal mic went kaput, and he was straddling the drums to get to a working mic, he turned that anger into frenetic drums. Love this band.

Chad VanGaalen
  • Chad VanGaalen

The last time I saw Chad VanGaalen was under a wee Main Street tent at SappyFest, so a packed-out, hot-as-hell Great Hall was a bit of a shocker, and not necessarily an improvement (especially when they ran out all their expensive beers, except Canadian). It was amazing to see VanGaalen hold court as an indie rock icon, and not lose any of his wonderful weirdness. There were still intimate moments too, like the sweet "Sara," but later in the set, VanGaalen seemed a little detached, which is probably why he also ignored the stage manager's pleas that the show was going over time. Still, a delight. Almost as much as when my husband told Kevin Kane from Grapes of Wrath, while we were heading in to see VanGaalen, that there was no way that as a Canadian legend, he should have to wait in any line-up. I caught him again later, just getting into the hall as VanGaalen wrapped up.

Though it wasn't officially part of the festival, we spent Sunday afternoon in a park with Halifax friends, listening to an acoustic set by Sister, swatting aphids and eating cheap Mexican. Perfect.

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Vol 24, No 43
March 23, 2017

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