Concerts Concerts Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Thursday

Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Thursday

Dan Mangan at St Matthews United
Halifax Pop Explosion 2011: Thursday
The Daredevil Christopher Wright, The Crackling, Dan Mangan, Titus Andronicus, The Thermals
Halifax, NS
October 20, 2011

Review by: Max Mertens
Photos by: Amanda Fotes

One of the best things about Pop Explosion is that the majority of the venues are close together, which makes it easy to go from show to show.

If you happen to be watching an act you don't like, or perhaps a band is running late, you simply walk next door or a block down the road and see someone else instead. If you do need to take a cab, Halifax taxi rates are completely reasonable compared to their Toronto counterparts, so you'll usually never spend more than ten bucks on a ride. This last fact came in handy on Thursday night, when the Atlantic Canadian weather took a turn for the inclement and dumped over 170 mm of rain on the city. The weather didn't stop festival goers from packing into St. Matthew's Church and the Olympic Community Hall for two different-yet-excellent showcases, although there were certainly more individuals wearing boots and rain jackets while brandishing umbrellas.


The Daredevil Christopher Wright

Hailing all the way from Wisconsin, The Daredevil Christopher Wright got the night off to a strong start with their stripped down folk songs. The three-piece band consists of brothers Jason Sunde (bass, vocals) and Jon Sunde (guitar, vocals) and Jesse Edgington (drums, miscellaneous percussion, vocals). They told the at-capacity crowd at St. Matt's that this was their first time in Canada, which was met with hearty cheers and continued to keep audience participation levels high through out their entire set. The trio's harmonies were slightly reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, though comparisons to early Bon Iver are apt, not surprising when you learn that the majority of the band's debut album was mixed by fellow Wisconsin native Justin Vernon.

The Daredevil Christopher Wright at St Matthews United   The Daredevil Christopher Wright at St Matthews United   The Daredevil Christopher Wright at St Matthews United  

The Crackling

Due to a missed flight earlier in the day, The Crackling took to the stage second, with little time to warm-up beforehand. The British Columbia band is the project of seasoned touring musician Ken Loewen and have been opening up for Dan Mangan on his current tour. Loewen plays drums in front of Mangan, but he formed The Crackling to focus on playing guitar and songwriting. His husky voice and straightforward introductions ("This is a song about a puppet") kept my attention, even when the band's "throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks" approach to the music didn't. Just to switch things up, Mangan joined the band on drums for one song, grinning like a kid in a candy store the entire time.

The Crackling at St Matthews United   The Crackling at St Matthews United   The Crackling at St Matthews United   The Crackling at St Matthews United   The Crackling at St Matthews United  

Dan Mangan

Despite previously hearing great things from friends about his live show, this was my first time seeing Dan Mangan play. He didn't disappoint. Playing a mix of songs from Nice, Nice, Very Nice and his most recent album, Oh Fortune, the Vancouver folk singer-songwriter was in high spirits, cracking jokes and playfully disregarding his scheduled set time. While I was taking notes on his set, I wrote down the word "joyous", underlined and circled it, which I really think sums up the singer's attitude to playing and writing music. I don't see how you could possibly not like this guy. So many artists and bands are content to phone-in their live performances, but not Mangan. While it was older songs like "Road Regrets" that had the crowd singing along, and the photographers/videographers in the front of the church tripping over themselves to capture, the newer material also sounded strong. The guitar breakdown during "Post-War Blues", a song which has gotten plenty of love from CBC Radio 3, was particularly thrilling. I came in as a casual listener and walked away as a converted Dan Mangan fan.

Info: Dan Mangan
Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter
Music: Oh Fortune

Dan Mangan at St Matthews United   Dan Mangan at St Matthews United   Dan Mangan at St Matthews United   Dan Mangan at St Matthews United   Dan Mangan at St Matthews United   Dan Mangan at St Matthews United  

Titus Andronicus

Speaking of acts that put on a joyous performance, our next stop of the night took us to see New Jersey's Titus Andronicus, one of the best live bands I've seen in the past few years. Opening with "The Monitor", from the band's incredibly well-received 2010 album of the same name, the quartet wasted no time in getting bodies moving. Gruff-voiced lead singer Patrick Stickles staggered around onstage, lunging at the crowd with his guitar, while singing about drunks, loners and losers. (Never has a large bearded man swearing like a sailor been so endearing.) The band writes choruses that ring in your head long after the show is over and have never shied away from ambition―after all, The Monitor is a concept album loosely based on themes relating to the American Civil War and contains five songs over the seven minute mark. Meanwhile, the band's not-so-secret weapon, guitarist/violinist Amy Klein delivered some of the best violin solos you've heard in modern punk music and pogoed all over the stage until it shook. The night was bittersweet too—afterwards, Klein announced via her website that Titus' two Halifax shows would be her last with the band.

Titus Andronicus at Olympic Community Hall   Titus Andronicus at Olympic Community Hall   Titus Andronicus at Olympic Community Hall   Titus Andronicus at Olympic Community Hall   Titus Andronicus at Olympic Community Hall  

The Thermals

I didn't know too much about The Thermals going into this show, other than the fact that they were a) from Portland, Oregon, b) originally on Sub Pop Records before signing to Kill Rock Stars and c) been around since the early 2000s (thanks Wikipedia!). The rest of the audience at the Olympic Community Hall seemed to be a little more familiar with the three-piece―Kathy Foster (guitar, vocals), Hutch Harris (bass, vocals) and drummer Westin Glass―and their catchy politically-charged pop-punk songs. Bonus points to the trio for having a song named "Canada" as well.

The Thermals at Olympic Community Hall   The Thermals at Olympic Community Hall   The Thermals at Olympic Community Hall   The Thermals at Olympic Community Hall   The Thermals at Olympic Community Hall