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Canadian Music Festival Profiles

Halifax Pop Explosion

Halifax, NS


The Halifax Pop Explosion was founded in 1993 by Halifax music maestro Peter Rowan and promoter Greg Clark; that legendary music journalist Legs McNeil (co-author of Please Kill Me) would take the train in to cover the very first festival that September was just a sign of what was to come. The 1990s saw national and international excitement over the new East coast affair, which brought in headliners like Stereolab, Sunny Day Real Estate, Elliott Smith and no-showers Brian Jonestown Massacre within their first couple years.

Presenting over 150 artists, comedians and speakers from across the globe, Halifax Pop Explosion now stretches across the streets of Nova Scotia’s capital, in more than 15 venues. While the festival’s kickoff began at the height of a burgeoning independent alternative rock scene — itself called the Halifax Pop Explosion — the bill now includes hip-hop, electronica, punk and more. The festival reaches beyond music performance, and includes a conference, comedy shows, a zine fair and other partnered events and parties over a week every October.

Ever the originators, Halifax Pop Explosion usually includes artists that loom on the horizon of popular music. Toronto’s punk duo Death From Above played pre-1979 suffix (and pre-LP You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine), and hardcore group Fucked Up were on the bill in 2006, three years before The Chemistry of Common Life would land them the Polaris Music Prize. Canadian favourites Sloan are scene veterans, and Ghostface Killah and Raekwon’s 2014 performance included hip hop/jazz genre-benders BADBADNOTGOOD. With Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kardinal Offishall and Peaches taking the stage over the years, Halifax Pop Explosion has become a pillar in east coast music lore, and one of Canada’s most important musical, digital and cultural events.