A to Zeds Dead guide to Halifax Pop Explosion

It’s true, figuring out what to do at Halifax Pop Explosion can be a daunting task, with endless bands playing all over the city for five nights. Mixtape is here to help you figure it out. Editor-in-chief and HPX veteran Jonathan Briggins is here to help you figure it all out. To kick of our annual HPX coverage we have a handy-dandy A-Z listing that will give you some well needed pointers and guide you through the five-day festival without missing a beat (pardon the pun).

A is for All Ages

One of the best things about this year’s schedule is the number of all-ages shows, especially in a city without a lot of options to see bigger indie bands if you’re not of age. This year, the Forum Multi-Purpose Centre, St. Matthew’s Church, CKDU Lobby and Rebecca Cohn (and Olympic Hall on Saturday afternoon) all have all ages events. Lights, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Zeds Dead, Danny Brown, The Wooden Sky, Tanya Tagaq and Whitehorse are some of the big names playing these venues.

B is for Badbadnotgood

One of the most talked about performers from last year was Toronto’s jazzy jazz trio Badbadnotgood. They’re back this year, but it will most certainly be very different from last year. They’re playing with Wu-Tang members Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. This week, BBNG shared the track “Gunshowers” from their album Sour Soul coming out February 17. Each track on the album features Ghostface Killah. We’re not sure exactly what will go down at the Multi-Purpose Centre on Thursday night, but we expect it to be off the hook.

C is for Church

The shows at St. Matthew’s Church tend to be special events. You get to sit down and enjoy music in a quiet, beautiful setting and bands enjoy performing knowing they’ll have a room full of careful listeners. Just a hunch, but 2014 Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq’s show on Saturday night could be the show of the festival. Other St. Matt’s shows include The Wooden Sky and Kalle Mattson on Wednesday, Gypsophilia and Michael Feuerstack on Thursday and Paper Beat Scissors opens for Tagaq on Saturday.

D is for Donairs

You can’t spend a night out in Halifax without tasting the sweet, sweet joy of a donair at midnight (or later). The best donairs in the city are from Tony’s. The pizza joint is conveniently located 15 seconds away from the Olympic Community Hall. You can grab a big tasty, stinky meat and sauce mess between bands and not miss a note. I’ve done it. So can you.

E is for Eats

The best burgers in the city come from Ace Burger. They have two locations, Gus’s Pub (a HPX venue) and Bearly’s (near St. Matthew’s Church). If you’re looking for an affordable spot before seeing Raekwon the Chef, pop by Johnny’s Snack Bar across from the Halifax Forum. A wristband or pass will get you a bunch of sweet discounts on food at various locations around the city. And while we’re on the topic, I have a confession: two years ago at HPX, I accidentally shot ketchup on somebody at Gus’ Pub/Ace Burger. It was dark, I didn’t mean to.

F is for Free and Freelove Frenner

One of the questions people ask me the most around HPX time is what’s a good show that doesn’t cost a lot. Free is a pretty good price to see Freelove Frenner, Sheer Agony and Brave Radar on Friday at Gus’ Pub. The show starts at 2 p.m. While I haven’t seen any of these three bands live, some of my trusted sources are super excited to have these bands in Halifax. Other free activities include the CKDU lobby shows (Kestrels, Soft Spot, Charlotte Day Wilson, Nigel Chapman, Old & Weird and Nicole Ariana), Mounties, Gay Nineties and The Walkervilles at Olympic Hall on Saturday afternoon and Moon, Heaven For Real and Most People at Gus’ on Saturday afternoon.

G is for Gypsophilia

I’ve never been to a Gypsophilia show and felt like I wasn’t at a party. (Translation without double negatives: every Gypsophilia show is a party). They play St. Matt’s Church on Thursday with Michael Feuestack. So basically a church party. If only somebody would bring sandwiches.

H is for Hip Hop

It’s fun to grumble about music festivals ignoring hip hop and women. Fortunately HPX does not ignore either group (more on women later). If you’re a hip hop head, your brain will explode with this year’s lineup including Danny Brown, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Weirdo Click. Saturday night, the Seahorse hosts the Danny Brown Afterparty/ Dub Kartel hip hop showcase featuring all the best hip hop the city has to offer.

I is for Identification

Don’t be that person who shows up at the venue without proper identification, especially at Reflections where you’ll need two pieces. Also, remember Reflections is now located at 5187 Salter Street.

J is for Jumping Venues

It’s still in the prototype phase so we can’t share the secret yet. We’re working on a way to clone yourself so you can be at two venues at once and never miss the bands you want to see. Until then, plan on venue jumping. If you’re going to bounce between venues, be smart about it. Going from the Multi-Purpose Centre to the Seahorse isn’t the most time efficient strategy out there.

K is for Kappa Chow and Killer Haze Records

Killer Haze Records is a rad label based in Sackville, N.B. One of its artists, Kappa Chow, play Reflections Thursday night at 8 p.m. Kappa Chow may not be the only Killer Haze Records artist you’ll see in Halifax this weekend.

L is for LOL

LOL stands for laugh out loud. I’m more of a “haha” type of person but who cares. If you love to laugh out loud, you’ll want to check out the Company House Wednesday to Saturday starting at 7 p.m. each night. Comedians performing include Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, Mark Little, Sandi Rankaduwa and more.

M is for Mixtape Magazine

We’re making daily digital magazines. So, that’s a thing.

N is for New Discoveries

My favourite part of Halifax Pop Explosion is finding my next favourite thing. Last year it was Badbadnotgood. The year before that I saw Freak Heat Waves for the first time after having no idea who they were. Approach the schedule with an open mind and you never know what you’ll discover.

O is for Old and Weird


Old and Weird play the CKDU Lobby at 6:15 on Friday and Gus’ Pub on Saturday at 10 p.m.

P is for Pop! Talks

One of the most underrated parts of Halifax Pop Explosion is the Pop! Talks music conference. It’s free with a wristband/pass and features lots of wise people that are worth checking out for bands and fans.

Q is for Quiet Parade

Where do you get the best quesadilla in Halifax? Until the quesadilla becomes a staple of the late Halifax food menu, we’ll talk about bands that start with Q. This year, it’s Quiet Parade. The Halifax based folk band plays the Carleton on Saturday night at 10 p.m.

R is for Rebel Girl Rock Camp Workshop

Rebel Girl Rock Camp is the most important thing happening in the Halifax music community, empowering people to be part of the music scene. This year they’re putting together “a day-long workshop designed to inspire and educate all youth who identify as female, trans, and gender non-conforming of all backgrounds and skill levels.” Sessions include music journalism, festival & event management, artist interviews live sound/PA set up and a DJ workshop.

S is for Symphony Nova Scotia

Every year, Symphony Nova Scotia teams up with an artist to put on a show of epic proportions. This year it’s Whitehorse, the husband and wife duo of Melissa McClellan and Luke Doucet. If you’re looking for a fancy date night, take your partner/crush/mom/neighbour to see Whitehorse at the Rebecca Cohn on Friday and Saturday night. This show is not included with the regular wristband but you can buy tickets online for both shows.

T is for Twitter

Hey, we’re on Twitter! We’ll be tweeting up a storm all week long.

U is for Uber

There’s no bus this year, so you’ll have to find another way around town. For those who don’t like to walk or bus, the Uber taxi service is an option. You can get your first ride free (well, up to $25 worth) when you use the code ‘HPX2014’.

V is for Vitamins

Don’t get sick. If you stay up late every night and share the same breathing space with strangers in close corners all week, you’ll get sick. Take your vitamins, eat some vegetables and give ‘er.

W is for Wristband

Economically a wristband makes the most sense for HPX. Also practically it’s ideal. Tickets are easy to lose. Losing your limb is more difficult and painful.

X is for…it’s X, not E

This year we’re really pushing to get the hashtag #HPE2014 trending on Twitter since Explosion starts with an E, not an X. We’re totally serious. Yup.

Y is for You, PS I Love You

PS I Love You will melt your face with behind the head guitar solos and a whole lot of noise coming from two people. You can catch the Kingston band on Friday night at Gus’ Pub at 1 a.m. and Olympic Community Hall at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Technically both shows will happen on Saturday, but that’s plain old confusing.

Zed is for Zeds Dead


Photo of Badbadnotgood: Evan McIntyre/Mixtape Magazine

About Jonathan Briggins 71 Articles
Editor-in-chief of Mixtape magazine.