HPX 2011: Day 1

Halifax Pop Explosion

Sleep-Deprived Musings of a Stage Manager

Day 1:     Arrived in Halifax after a short but painful couple of flights from Toronto. I’ve never flown with a head cold and hope I never will again, lest my sinuses explode out my eye sockets.
The bill for Reflections Cabaret is Klarka Weinwurm, Pepper Rabbit, Ohbijou and Braids. I was super stoked to have Braids on my roster, having rooted (failingly) for them to win this year’s Polaris Music Prize. Ohbijou, oddly enough contains a former TA of mine and a member of my university friends’ band- Little City. Not to mention, most of the venues operating tonight are full of Toronto bands like One Hundred Dollars, Zed’s Dead, DD/MM/YYYY, The Balconies and Greys. It’s almost as if I haven’t left. Almost. Hoping to pop out for a quick bite to eat before doors opened at my venue I soon realized that Halifax doesn’t have Tim Horton’s, Subways and Pizza Pizzas on every block like I’ve become accustomed to. I settle for a dinner of Starbucks Banana Loaf and a fruit smoothie. Thankfully, due to aforementioned cold, I don’t have much of an appetite.
Klarka Weinwurm is a local three-piece, fronted by Klarka herself. Despite her meek voice, they put on an engaging enough half hour performance for the semi-full room. Their somewhat generic folk sound is given an interesting twist by substituting guitar for ukulele. The set ends awkwardly though, with Klarka on drums and the guitarist and bassist turned inwards, forming a triangle and shutting out the audience. I’m not sure if there was reason for this beyond trying to stay in time with each other; it reminded me of a high school band rehearsal.
Pepper Rabbit, another three piece on their first trip to the East Coast (they’re from LA) brought an entirely different sound, armed with keyboards and synths. Think setting up and soundchecking keyboards should be easier than instruments that have to be tuned? Wrong. It’s been my experience that nothing digital ever works when it has to. Of course, these guys weren’t allotted a proper soundcheck before doors opened so the crowd got to experience a lengthy and painful line check. Their upbeat dance rock made up for it.
Having a band of 6 with a multitude of eclectic instruments is sometimes a nightmare for stage managers and sound techs alike. At the very least, it’s always stressful. Ohbijou, however, have been around a while and it shows in their level of professionalism. They take the stage to an impressive crowd and immediately entrance them with their earthy melodies. They wrap up the set with a winding jam session, pouring every last ounce of soul into the performance.
This set was the perfect introduction to Braids, who have seem to have taken a page out of Ohbijou’s book and run with it. Having played almost every Canadian music festival and recently performing as a Short List Nominee at the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, it’s not surprising that the club is packed for their midnight start time. Though incredibly sweet and grounded people, Braids will likely get the reputation of being difficult to work with. They’re just so very precise with every sound that they make. You can see it in their performances, it’s not free form art that they’re pumping out, it’s well calculated and controlled sounds. This works in their favour, as it’s particularly satisfying to hear Raphaelle pull off her orgasmic wails in a live setting. However controlled the sound is, it’s still dreamy and trance-like. Many arms undulated in the air as the twinkling and swirling synths brought out the forest nymph in all of us…especially those on drugs. All in all, a pretty stellar opening night.


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on October 20, 2011, in Sound Bites and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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