Halifax Pop Explosion is set for October 20 and will run late into the night of October 24. The pool of artists, comedians and bands features talent of regional, national and international acclaim, and if it appears there will be more acts from outside the 902 headlining, that’s because it’s true. At least so far.
Out of the 38 artists already announced to headline a festival stage this year, only 11 of them are from Atlantic Canada. Albeit most are from right here in Halifax, but for the most part, the big names from away are getting most of the spotlight.
That’s not to say some local won’t be headlining and selling out larger venues and other main stage showcases during the week-long event. Rich Aucoin, Walrus, Mardeen, Moon and Nap Eyes are among those 11 already named locals.
The big names at the top of the concert posters are usually what boosts ticket sales and allows lesser-known acts the chance to play for a potentially new audience with the hopes of it moving their career ahead, either short or long-term. Those big names also draw more fan, label and media attention which, in-turn, increase the venue’s bar and food sales helping bring things full circle for the city.
“It depends on how you look at it,” says the festival’s executive director, James Boyle. “There’s a slew of showcase bands still to be announced and it’s in the September announcement that you’ll find all the local bands.” Boyle goes on to explain that the average HPX fan wants the entire experience: their local scene represented, new bands from away to discover, and their favourite big name acts live on home turf—local act or otherwise. “HPX allows for all of this to happen, which is why I think people continue to support the festival in such a big way.”
In order to snag a HPX gig, entertainment hopefuls must pay an industry standard application fee and submit an online application. “Each genre has jurors that come from the music industry and understand the genre they are judging. They look for things like great music, professional history, live performance footage if available and overall fit,” Boyle explains. After that, acts who make it past the selection process move on to the programming phase. “We play a role supporting local music, up-and-coming Canadian music, and obviously headliners play a role in ticket sales, so you sort of have to be fluid in that process to make sure you’re supporting all of those things…”
So while it appears the out-of-town headliners are getting more of the milk than the local cats, the bigger picture is this: those big names are big names for a reason. They’ve earned their keep and people want to see them, and local or not, other bands want to play shows with them for networking, education and admiration. What’s good for the outta town goose is apparently good for the Altantic gander, as it were.