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To know them 

Awesome secret shows and nail-biting cancellations. Bleeding ears and empty bank accounts. Fifteen years, as told by those who sweated, worked and played for the Halifax Pop Explosion.

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Peter RowanHalifax Pop Explosion co-instigator, spearhead, blunt object and punching bag, 1993-95.

The highs: Stereolab. While chaos reigned around me, they took me far, far away. And Eric's Trip, always.

The lows: Angie Fenwick and I hitting Swinging Bells with our last quarters on the last night at Birdland and winning enough to pay The Super Friendz. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: To Angie, Colin, Greg and Shell Shell Mac Mac, and a hundred others, thank you—especially Angie.

Ladies' night: The Maynards, "No Girls (at the Pop Explosion)" (from 2003 Octoberfest EP): "There must be some kind of mistake/if this is true/oh it can't be..."

Women artists, solo or in a band, 2005: 14 Women artists, solo or in a band, 2006: 37Women artists, solo or in a band, 2007: 44

"I always wanted to be invited." Peaches on HPX. Reverb, October 2001.

Colin MacKenzieHalifax On Music co-founder and music co-ordinator.

The highs: Godspeed You! Black Emperor in The Bike Shop on Gottingen Street. The Grifters. Neko Case backed by The Super Friendz. Ron Sexsmith's first appearance in Halifax. Drinking with Giant Sand during a hurricane. Stereolab almost blowing up my inner organs with sound.

The lows: Howe Gelb (Giant Sand)'s piano WAY, WAY out of tune. Yo La Tengo having a fight on stage. Brian Jonestown Massacre getting stopped at the border and missing their gig.

"I heard from a lot of people that he was a great guy and a great musician so I called him up and asked him to do this thing with me. I think he thought I was a little crazy at first, but it all worked out." Neko Case on Matt Murphy and his Ten Cent Wings. The Coast, September 25, 1997.

The show we're saddest we missed: The beloved Elliott Smith at the Khyber, October 13, 1995, 1pm.

"I'm not in the music business! I'm in the Brian Jonestown Massacre business!" BJM head-kicker Anton Newcombe. The Coast, September 24, 1998.

Sherry Lynn JollymoreAssembler of band riders (back in the day the veggie trays were made from scratch by me, yo!), hoster of cocktail parties, giver of band passes, putter-up of posters and door-lady, 1994-99, 2002, 2004-05.

The highs: Stereolab in 1994 blew me a-freaking way. Danko Jones were a rock'n'roll showboat treat in 1996. (1996 was also an amazing year after-party-wise: there was an impromptu band consisting of some local awesomes, then out of nowhere in mid-show, friggin' Steven Page from The Barenaked Ladies jumps on stage...crazy!)

Trans Am in 1997 opened my brain to a whole new music and also the fine fellas in Mooney Suzuki. Deadly Snakes, 1998. Smugglers, 1999.

Hot Hot Heat and Cheerleader, 2002. The Hidden Cameras, 2004. In 2005 I was sick as a freaking dog but got the riders ready with the assistance of Kate Moverley, only saw ONE show, which was HotShotRobot—who I'd never seen before and really enjoyed.

The lows: I remember 1994 being complicated. I think there were some last-minute acts cancelling, and also a missed flight by Bonnie Prince Billy.

Another low was probably the Cat Power show. It was so depressing and heartbreaking, she pretty much had a breakdown onstage...ughhhh, so sad.

"I saw the lineup and it looks crazy. I think there's a bit of a buzz about it. At least there's a buzz about it in our van!" Hot Hot Heat drummer, Paul Hawley on the awesomeness of the HPX lineup. The Coast, October 3, 2002.

Melissa BuoteHalifax on Music publicist, 1997; Halifax Pop Explosion publicist and assistant festival director, 1998; Chair of the board of directors, 2001-03; publicist, 2003.

The highs: Lately I feel like my memory is really foggy about things, but during Halifax On Music, I was totally excited the year that Yo La Tengo played.

The show at Reflections was so great! And I remember really loving the show Neko Case did with the 10 Cent Wings at Blues Corner back in the day. The Les Savy Fav show at the Attic during 2003's HPX is still one of the shows that stands out as a favourite. The Unicorns also played that show and were super swell.

There used to be late-night, after-party shows at Dio Mio during Halifax On Music. I super-loved those.

The lows: Crying in a rental car with Waye Mason and Sara Spike after what was a supremely awesome festival, but a hideous and disappointing financial reality in 2001. I can still taste those salty tears. OK, not really. I'm just being melodramatic. But it was pretty much a huge bummer.

Deadwood:Birdland Cabaret, Blues Corner, Downtowners, Café Olé, Café Mokka, Stage Nine, Wormwoods. May your stage in the sky always be rockin'.

"It has opened up some doors, but more than anything I'm just happy it means we'll have some money to record our next album with." Arcade Fire's Win Butler before their first major tour. The Coast, November 4, 2004.

Waye MasonHalifax on Music marketing director, 1996-98; some small help, 1999; Halifax Pop Explosion executive director, 2001-present

The highs: Scarce, 1993. Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars, Stereolab, 1996. Wheat at the Bike Shop, 1997. Peaches at the Marquee, 2001. Constantines at The Seahorse, 2003. Ron Sexsmith. Arcade Fire at the Marquee, 2004. Golden Dogs at Stage Nine, 2006. Every Weakerthans show. Best show ever—K'naan, 2004!!

The lows: Well, I know a lot of people are going to say Garth Hudson, but the low for me was '98, when the other partners in the festival wouldn't book Strawberry, a band I had on No Records that was getting great press and video play on MuchMusic and touring a lot in central Canada. I quit that year! Eighteen months later in 2001, the event was on the way to relaunch in our current not-for-profit status. I try and remember how that felt when I am dealing with local bands and businesses who want access to the event for their artists.

HPX has grown an awful lot but we are still very much a labour of love. No one will ever get rich or even make a living, just running this event! But for whatever reason, people devote a lot to time and energy to make this amazing festival happen year after year. It is wonderful and humbling to be a part of it!

"These things are sort of made for what I'm doing." Ron Sexsmith on HPX. The Coast, September 25, 1997.

Angie FenwickI was involved from the beginning of HPX until the end of Halifax On Music. The first year of HPX I was the media liaison. The next years of HPX, I did more and more, was "second-in-command" so to speak. Once the change over to HOM happened and Peter wasn't involved, I became the executive director of the festival.

The highs: What was most rewarding was seeing bands make long-lasting friendships with one another, with industry people, with Halifax, as a result of our work putting on the festival. It was cool that some bands became much "bigger" in Halifax than they were elsewhere, like Scarce, a band from the eastern US that would sell out here, but didn't have a huge following elsewhere.

And of course, the love affair that Pansy Division developed with Halifax was a highlight too. In fact, the final year of HOM only happened because Pansy Division wanted to come back to play Halifax again, so we made a festival just for them.

The lows: I'm an optimistic person (probably a requirement for working in the music biz!), and I tend not to hold onto negative experiences. I also love dealing with problems, considering all the options and finding solutions. What would probably be a lot of people's low point was for me a highlight...I think it was the first year of Halifax on Music. We had a hurricane hit Halifax the Saturday night of the festival. We didn't know if we would have power at the venues for the festival headliners. (Read: "big money on the line!")

Sloan was headlining at Birdland, which was a bit of a big deal as it was the first time they were going to play the festival, I think. I remember calling their manager at home to discuss what they'd want to do if we lost power. We got lucky and none of our venues lost power, even though most of the rest of the city did. The Sloan show was awesome. The crowd was soaked from getting to the venue in the driving rain but the energy was amazing. There was actually steam rising from the crowd while the band played.

Other than that, all I have to say is that I'm thrilled that the festival found new life due to Waye's hard work and perseverance. It's amazing to see it continue to become better and better due to all the people willing to make it happen. Super kudos to everyone and I wish that the experience for them will be as amazing and fun as it was for me.

We encourage you to share your own memories of the Pop Explosion here.Please, leave your comments below.


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