When Aldean Cromwell---the Digby-based rapper named Al Boogie--- was growing up, attending St. Pat's-Alexandra between grades three and six, Halifax's north end felt a little different. He remembers his mother expressly forbidding him from going to Uniacke Square.
"Everyone tells you this and tells you that, so it was always 'better safe than sorry,'" he says. "For me, when I was younger, everything around the community was just bad.... Now that I'm older, it's calmed down. I love it now, I feel comfortable and safe to be there."
Now, there's a tight-knit arts community that blooms near Bloomfield, grows on Gottingen and is tilled along Agricola. So enter Bad Thursday, a one-night-only north end block party organized by students of the Nova Scotia Community College's music business program. Think of it as a sort of North by North End: over 30 musicians, including Al Boogie, will perform on Thursday on five different north end stages, giving a neighbourhood once shrouded in stigma a chance to get its musical shine.
The program's 16 students had been organizing shows at The Company House once a month, but in December, they independently decided that one monthly night wasn't enough to showcase the wide diversity of musical talents.
"One of the biggest draws for the north end scene is that they're not traditional venues. It adds to the music, and it can make for a really unique and unexpected experience," says Samantha Forsyth, the student organizer of the festival. "There are a lot of venue owners in the area that are doing really cool things...it's a very special place in Halifax."
By cramming five shows into a couple hours, the Bad Thursday series is intended to let audiences experience and celebrate not just the ubiquity of the north end's venues, but also its diverse musicians. In true Halifax fashion, says Forsyth, many of the festival's supporting acts came on simply because they were friends of students.
"That struck me the most---the community of artists and industry people is really kind of overwhelming," she says. "It's really supportive, and it reflects the music scene that you're going to help your friends because everyone wants live music. It comes down to that: supporting Halifax means supporting each other."
Bad Thursday also comes at a time when venues have been closing across the city, with four shuttering in 2011. Cromwell says it's made hip-hop shows difficult to book, and beyond the Seahorse, there aren't many venues interested in "putting up with a rap show," and he's looking forward to playing at The Company House for the first time. "When I got up here, people were talking about Lifted"---the hip-hop night---"and Coconut Grove, but then around the time I came up, everything started declining," he said.
Cromwell was thrilled to find out that he was going to play the festival. "I'm not from up here, but if there's any bit of Halifax that I'd represent myself with, it'd be the north end," he says. "I hope that good comes of this and people see that it's good music and a good crowd that comes out."
Bad Thursday Block Party, Thursday, April 5, Various times (6:30pm-1:30am), various venues, See the Break Through Productions page for all details www.facebook.com/BreakThroughProductions, Wristbands will be sold at the door
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