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Halifax Pop Explosion celebrates 25 years of showcasing the 'next generation of talent'

The annual music festival runs this Wednesday to Saturday with more than 100 acts playing across the city.

Charlotte Day Wilson

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Charlotte Day Wilson

Rich Aucoin jumping from a bar balcony. Dan Mangan walking across the pews of a church. Arcade Fire playing the Marquee, just before their Funeral album hit it big.

As Halifax Pop Explosion (HPX) turns 25 this week, executive director James Boyle says it’s those little unexpected musical moments that fans carry with them years later that are “really special.”

“It’s pretty amazing when you look back at what the festival’s accomplished, and we’re really happy and proud that we’ve been able to take it this far … and look forward to another 25 years,” Boyle said Monday.

Running from Wednesday to Saturday, HPX will bring more than 100 musical groups, singers and DJ’s from across Nova Scotia, Canada and the rest of the world to crowds totalling roughly 20,000 people over the whole event.

Boyle said those numbers have grown significantly since the festival began, when it started as a “small, local show case” and a couple of bands from out of town.

Now, Boyle said their annual music conference that runs alongside HPX draws in even more industry professionals, and the musical acts fill up multiple large venues around Halifax like the Forum, Marquee, and Rebecca Cohn with the popular Symphony Nova Scotia show.

The Pop Explosion’s drive to highlight indie bands has remained constant, Boyle said, but added that music and genres shift from year to year - with 2017 likely being one of the most musically diverse with lots of hip hop, folk, electronic and more alongside rock and pop.

“It’s important to recognize the Pop Explosion was the first time Feist played in Halifax, first time K’NAAN played in Halifax, the first time Arcade Fire played ... those bands went on to be household names,” Boyle said.

“The festival’s always had a history of providing that next generation of talent, and a lot of it has become mainstream.”

Boyle said it’s hard to say whether those who began HPX 25 years ago imagined it would have grown to this scope or lasted this long, but suspects there was always this inkling that Halifax was “an incredible place where music was coming from."

“There was an understanding that Halifax is special … I would assume there was a lot of thought that once this starts it could never stop,” Boyle said.

Taking the milestone moment to look ahead, Boyle said he hopes HPX can keep growing to showcase not only local music but what’s going on around Canada and internationally, and that the event becomes a “revered” destination for both musicians and other professionals to talk about the future of the industry.

“It’s a celebration of what Halifax is known for - a good time, a great community and incredible music,” Boyle said.

For a full schedule and tickets go to

2017 highlights

The 2017 Halifax Pop Explosion will be one for the “record books” according to organizers.

Executive director James Boyle said highlights he wouldn’t miss include Canadian indie punk rockers Japandroids at the Halifax Forum on Thursday, and also that night Polaris winner Lido Pimienta at the Marquee alongside pop songstress Ralph opening for new Toronto R&B star Charlotte Day Wilson.

Long-time soul powerhouse Lee Fields & the Expressions headline a Friday night show at the Forum, while the venue’s Saturday night lineup is another highlight with locals Dance Movie, pus indie rockers Yukon Blonde and The Rural Alberta Advantage before singer-songwriter Patrick Watson of Montreal.

Hip-hop fans should head to Reflections Cabaret on Friday (Maje, Thrillah & Jay Mayne, Ms.Banks, Beach Season) and Saturday at the Marquee for locals like Quake and Reeny Smith before Clairmont the Second, Tasha the Amazon, and Bambii.

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