Pop Explosion or bust

One volunteer’s annual trip from the Netherlands to Halifax.

Hugo van Dun shows off the - sign he used to hitchhike across Canada.
Hugo van Dun shows off the sign he used to hitchhike across Canada.

All of the volunteers at the Halifax Pop Explosion work hard, but likely no one puts as much effort in getting to the festival as Hugo van Dun. For the third year in a row, the Dutchman has left home in Utrecht (about 40 kilometres south of Amsterdam) to travel Canada and volunteer at HPX. Hugo took time away from hiking Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park to chat with The Coast about his musical pilgrimage.

You've been volunteering at HPX the last two years?

I was doing a cross-country trip of Canada at that time. I hitchhiked rides from St. John's, Newfoundland all the way to Tofino, BC and back. I started in October in Halifax, and I Googled a little bit and found the Pop Explosion. I thought, "Well, I don't know any of the bands playing. I love live music. Might as well volunteer, discover some new bands and have a good time."

What brought you back the next year?

I had a work holiday permit that would allow me to be in Canada for a year. I had a bit of luck at immigration service, they accidentally gave me a month extra. On my return from BC, I was like, "Well, if I plan this right I might just do the HPX a second time." I had such a great time. I love the people there. It's just such a nice festival. Plus, there are a lot of bands that don't play Europe that much, so I mostly don't know the bands playing. It's just one big discovery for me.

What do you do, when you're not hitchhiking Canada?

Back home I study scenography, theatre design. I work a workshop with students that do the same study I did. So, just build; power tools, metal, wood and everything.

What do you like about Halifax?

Well, Halifax and especially the east coast is so beautiful. It's at least as beautiful as the west coast, BC. But the people on the east coast are so much more friendly. They're very open to visitors. They're very interested in what you have to offer, and the story you have to tell. That's a bond that I love about the east coast.

Was there any one show or memory that stands out to you from volunteering at HPX?

I love a couple of venues, Gus' Pub, and the Seahorse. I think that it's moving, right? Going up to the Marquee, I read somewhere. Last year's show of BadBadNotGood was just phenomenal. I went to a show earlier that night in the same place, and then BadBadNotGood played. I heard a couple of songs. There was another band I wanted to see, so I went to another pub. I saw two numbers of them, and was like, "No, wait a minute. I have to get back." So I went back to BadBadNotGood and had a great time. That was the best band of last year, I find. But then, opinions, hey.

You're in Newfoundland right now, when do you expect to hit Halifax?

I'm with a friend right now. We're first going to travel Newfoundland a bit more, and then we'll be hitchhiking rides from North Sydney to Halifax on Monday, the 20th. Hopefully we'll be in Halifax on Monday evening, somewhere.

Interview conducted and edited by Jacob Boon

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