Concerts Concerts Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Wednesday

Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Wednesday

Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United
Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Wednesday
Rich Aucoin, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Halifax, NS
October 19, 2011

Review by: Max Mertens
Photos by: Amanda Fotes

For those of you who aren't familiar with Halifax Pop Explosion, it's one of the largest annual music festivals in Atlantic Canada, featuring approximately 150 local, Canadian and international bands playing 18 venues over five days.

The idea for myself and Amanda covering this year's Pop Explosion for Sticky came in early September, when Porter Airlines announced they were having a 50% off all flights sale. Taking advantage of this, we booked a flight to Halifax and eagerly counted down the days until October 18th. This would be my first time attending Pop Explosion and Amanda's first time visiting the Maritimes. After unpacking and familiarizing ourselves with the territory we would be covering over the course of the week on Tuesday, our group—which also included Catherine from Toronto music blog Buying Shots For Bands and Dave from Halifax band KawajaBear—started off our Halifax Pop Explosion experience at a 154-year-old church.

Rich Aucoin

Before his show even began, Rich Aucoin had a public service announcement to make. "This is the craziest thing I've ever done," he told the crowd assembled at St. Matthew's United Church. He wasn't kidding either. For his highly anticipated album release show, the Halifax singer-songwriter organized an eighty person orchestra, which included a choir, several percussionists, a string section and about ten backup singers. He also let six of these singers open the show by performing one song each—a move that only added to the night's overall sense of community (the highlight was Jenn Grant's stripped down cover of "Eye Of The Tiger").

No, it wasn't a completely seamless performance—just you try to organize that many people onstage—but Aucoin's enthusiasm more than compensated for any technical hitches. If you've seen a Rich Aucoin show before, you know the singer utilizes a dollar store's worth of props, including (but not limited to) yards of multi-colour tape, glowsticks and a parachute. Free of these gimmicks and with the full band behind him, his songs sounded fuller and road-tested. We're All Dying To Live is a deeply ambitious record, a collection of songs that look at the cycle of life and death (the singer's father passed away while he was finishing the album), full of infectious synth-pop hooks and sing-along choruses that fans of Architecture In Helsinki, Brian Wilson and The Flaming Lips would enjoy. On several occasions during his set, Aucoin left the stage and scrambled on-top of the pews, which drew a standing ovation from the hometown crowd. Ambition looks good on him.

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Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United   Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United   Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United   Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United   Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United   Rich Aucoin at St Matthews United  

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

It may have been the last stop of their North American tour, but if The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were tired, they weren't showing it. The New York City-based indie pop band delivered one of the loudest sets of the week, thanked the festival's organizers for inviting them to play and gave a shout out to fellow American acts Titus Andronicus and Twin Shadow. While the five-piece divided their time equally between material from their two albums, "Belong" and "Heart In Your Heartbreak" from this year's Belong (which received the "Best New Music" tag from Pitchfork), were highlights of the set. When they weren't playing, lead singer Kip Berman draped himself in a Jägermeister flag, joking to the crowd at the Olympic Community Hall that they were being sponsored by the alcohol manufacturer. They weren't, but there's no doubt the $4 shots helped everyone in attendance loosen up.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Olympic Community Hall   The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Olympic Community Hall   The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Olympic Community Hall   The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Olympic Community Hall   The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Olympic Community Hall