Halifax Pop Explosion (HPX) has been rolling out stellar music acts across the city since the nineties. Every fall, musicians from across the continent converge on the festival stages at seven main venues, with three to four acts performing a night. HPX truly showcases the diverse musical talent locally and throughout North America. This year’s lineup includes Mo Kenney, Hey Rosetta! and Charles Bradley. Now in its 23rd year, the festival has cultivated a real mix of music genres and is the not-to-be-missed event of the year. Local Connections Halifax chats with Pop Explosion Executive Director James Boyle on what makes this event so unique to Halifax.
How has HPX grown since the nineties?
The Pop Explosion is a music festival that happens annually in the city. It kind of grew out of an idea to showcase local talent in the nineties; essentially an urban multi-venue music experience that happens in October every year in Halifax. It started in one venue with the goal of bringing the bands that were happening at the time to the forefront and to put them on stage with other similar, notable acts in North America. In a lot of ways we have really stayed true to that vision. Many of the acts that we bring in from away play with a local band; it really showcases the talent here. It blossomed into a really cool music experience. People get to be a part of what Halifax has to offer from a musical standpoint — the venues, the atmosphere, the food.
You mentioned that you bring bands in from outside of Halifax. Where do you find talent?
We have a focus on supporting Halifax and then acts from Atlantic Canada. We put them on stage with artists from across Canada; some artists are not from Canada, like American soul singer Charles Bradley. We even have an artist from the U.K. this year, and last year we had six artists come from Texas. We focus on some of the best bands coming out of Atlantic Canada and some from across America. So it’s a real mix of music from all over.
With the festival’s great reputation, I gather it’s not too hard getting musicians on board. How do you determine who makes the cut?
I think people think that at festivals you have the ability to program who you want; get a group of people together and figure out what artists you want. The reality is we sent out a survey last year in the city. We wanted to see where Halifax is at and what bands people wanted to see. Many of us attend music shows all year round, so we pay attention to what shows are doing really well. It’s a big process, but ultimately it all comes down to your gut feeling. What people in Halifax want to see and who is available. We do our best to get a great lineup, like the one this year!
How many people do you anticipate showing up for Pop Explosion?
Thousands and thousands of people attend Pop Explosion over the course of the event. Our venues are all over the city and they hold anywhere from 100 people up to 1,800 people. They are all packed full of music fans. We are excited that our Pop Explosion can see 20,000 excited music fans pop through the doors.
What do you think makes our music scene out here so special?
Halifax's music scene is really about the people. It’s the bands and the music fans that drive the identity of any music festival. When you’re ingrained in the Halifax scene so much, your name really represents the music community. Everyone is blown away when they visit Halifax for the first time. They come to Atlantic Canada and they see that the people are nicer and are really engaged. I see bands’ faces light up every time they go on stage in front of a Halifax audience. The food, the atmosphere, the energy . . . it’s a city that really opens the door for you.
Head to halifaxpopexplosion.com for the full lineup and tickets.