Even if you're new to the city, you should already know that Halifax has always been the centre of sweet music scenes. The Mamas and The Papas, Sloan, Ben Caplan, Cousins and Classified all got their starts on a small stage in Halifax. If you've always wanted to be in a band or get involved in the music industry, this city is a great place to play your first chords. It's a welcoming, robust and diverse community with niches for all tastes, and pros in every corner.
So, where to start? If you don't have your own instruments, swing by Long & McQuade (6065 Cunard Street) to buy or rent the gear of your dreams. Offering school-year and daily/weekly rentals, Long & McQuade can hook you up at affordable prices.
Got your own gear that needs repair? Check out the Halifax Folklore Centre (1528 Brunswick Street). This is where the likes of Joel Plaskett and Old Man Luedecke take Gibson guitars and banjos for tender loving.
Got your gear? OK, good. Now grab some pals and head to Rockopolis Rehearsal Studios (2304 Hunter Street, across from Long & McQuade) for monthly and hourly space rentals, and jam your little heart out. Noodle some prog rock, shred some metal. Into hip-hop? At Droppin' Science at The Company House (2202 Gottingen Street) on Wednesdays, you can mingle with MCs and DJs.
Now that your new band is coming up with slick songs, you probably want to play a show, right? For the past eight years, Reflections Cabaret (5184 Sackville Street) has been home to the city's only full-band open-mic, $Rockin 4 Dollars$, every Monday night. Hosts Craig Hamlin (Fat Stupids) and Adrian Bruhm (The Graboids) say new bands show up every week.
"It's no pressure, you don't need gear, and the sets are only 10 minutes, so if you screw up, who cares," says Bruhm. "It's the best way to get more shows at other venues and meet other musicians." Cover is $3 with drink specials all night. Some Mondays feature special guests. Plus, every band that plays gets a chance to spin the prize wheel for a cash bonus ($200 to $1,000).
If you're stage shy but a true music junkie, visit the CKDU-FM radio station (Student Union Building, Dalhousie University). Since 1985, CKDU has been flooding the airwaves with local and Canadian music and a wide variety of interesting programming. Buck 65, Jay Ferguson (Sloan) and Skratch Bastid began hot radio careers there. Got an idea for a radio show? Make it happen. CKDU offers radio training and opportunities to go live. A community leader, CKDU welcomes volunteers for local events and concerts, including for the Halifax Pop Explosion.
Under various incarnations since 1993, the Halifax Pop Explosion (October 22-26, various venues) is like Christmas for the music community. Bringing in big-name acts and showcasing local talent, HPX also welcomes (all-ages) event volunteers during the festival. Throughout the year, you can also volunteer at The Halifax Jazz Festival and other events. Just Google "Halifax festivals."
If you're under 19, you can still be a rock star. Check out upcoming shows at Halifax's premiere all-ages venue since 1988, The Pavilion (5816 Cogswell Street): the first place that many music locals created and entered the community. And to get acquainted with Maritime bands, TAZ Records, just off Spring Garden Road, has a thick local section and occasional in-stores to get you started.
And, as always, keep an eye on The Coast's local listings for all-ages shows, open mics and big-time concerts coming through town. Never, ever give up on your rock and roll dreams.
August 31, Gus' Pub, $5
Some of Halifax's most fun punk and pop-punk bands. Free wedgies.
New Music Fridays presented by Music Nova Scotia
Every Friday, Harbourfront Lounge, Casino Nova Scotia, free
Showcasing local acts in the Harbourfront Lounge. Maybe you'll win at blackjack.
Surf Sing Change Benefit:
Matt Mays, Sam Roberts,
September 7, Rececca Cohn Auditorium, $41.50/$46.50
Two classic rockers, one hilarious comedian; a benefit for OCD/Autism in Nova Scotia.
Jenn Grant w/Jim Bryson
September 7, The Marquee Ballroom, $22/$25
Get ready to swoon. Jenn Grant's voice is the best thing since sliced bread.
Frosh Week Beach: Viceroy
Sep 7, The Argyle Bar & Grill, $10/$15
Tropical extension of summer, lush house, Hawaiian t-shirts, fancy drinks.
Black Joe Lewis, Outtacontroller
September 15, The Seahorse Tavern, $14/$16
From Austin, Texas, a big band blues sound reminiscent of Howlin' Wolf. Dance it out.
DJ IV and The Caravan September 27, The Marquee Ballroom, $12/15
Get a taste of Halifax hip-hop via the annual Hopscotch Festival. This show marks its opening night.
RedBull Thre3style Qualifier
September 29, The Toothy Moose, $10
Halifax DJs go head to head for a place at the Canadian Nationals in Calgary. Spin it.
last Thursday of every month, Michael's Bar & Grill, $6
Blow up your eardrums with this monthly metal show hosted by Red Tentacle.
Freak Heat Waves, Viet Cong, Moon
October 3, Gus' Pub, $5
BC's coolest post-punk trio, Freak Heat Waves, returns to Halifax. This will rule! Do not miss!
Halifax Pop Explosion
October 22-26, various venues
Chad VanGaalen, Killer Mike, Wavves, Brian Posehn, Dirty Beaches, and more. Unreal line-up.
Symphony Nova Scotia with
Joel Plaskett & Mo Kenney
October 24-25, Rebecca Cohn
A special event between HPX and Symphony NS. A once-in-a-lifetime classical experience.
November 14-15, Casino Nova Scotia, $40 Mmmbop! Ba duba dop, ba du bop. Ba du bop, ba duba dop. Ba du. Yeah, yeah.