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Rich Aucoin on 5 Halifax bands you need to hear

Holly Gordon

Rich Aucoin’s first Halifax Pop Explosion show was eight years ago, and he was covered in Christmas lights.

"[They] started to give me shocks as soon as I became sweaty," he remembers of the Hell’s Kitchen bill. "Luckily, it was before the dance-party days of the show so I didn’t get too sweaty and didn’t die of electrical shock."

Over the last near-decade, the Halifax musician has added synced videos, tributes to friends and a party with a giant parachute, confetti and a balloon drop. At this year’s Pop Explosion, though, Aucoin’s dialing down the theatrics and upping the grandeur: he’s playing two shows with Symphony Nova Scotia.

Both Friday and Saturday nights, Aucoin will play his music — which he arranged, as supervised by David Christensen — with the full symphony, and at least 29 additions.

"One of the biggest things I realized early on was that I wanted to do the show without any computers, synthesizers, electric guitars, basses, keyboards or anything modern. That's meant, though, needing to put together a 25-person choir in order to perform the pieces as they sound in their recordings as well as recruit the help from fellow percussionists Ryan Gray, Joel Waddell, Paul Aucoin and myself to join the four percussionists already in the symphony.”

So no parachute. No confetti. No balloon drop. But no doubt two shows you won’t want to miss.

Since Aucoin’s in his hometown for these special shows, and there are so many Halifax Pop Explosion shows to choose from this week, we asked the honorary symphony member to recommend some Halifax bands you should check out this week. But don’t worry: if you can’t make it to the fest (shame), we’ve put together a playlist of Aucoin’s suggestions. Just keep an eye out for the bands when they tour — you’ll want to check them out.

Below, five Halifax bands that you need to hear.

Band: Walrus
Song: "Banger"
HPX shows: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 1 a.m., Gus’ Pub; Friday, Oct. 23, 6:15 p.m., CKDU Lobby

"Rad psych garage-rock that's getting more refined with each recording without losing any of its lo-fi charm."


Band: Monomyth
Song: "Medicine Man"
HPX shows: Wednesday, Oct. 21, midnight, Gus’ Pub; Saturday, Oct. 24, 5 p.m., Seahorse Tavern

"These guys are the Beatles of Halifax if the Beatles started with the rooftop sessions and then continued on into the ’70s psych scene."


Band: The Everywheres
Song: "Strangers Below the Wire"
HPX shows: Wednesday, Oct. 21: 5:30 p.m. in the CKDU lobby; 11 p.m. at Gus’ Pub

"A gentler touch of the Halifax current psych movement. ’60s blissed-out vibes with an undeniable groove that connects everyone everywhere they perform."


Band: Beauts
Song: "Beauts"
HPX show: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 11 p.m., Reflections

"A young band with years of sensibilities of melodic angular experience; punked beats by way of urgently yelled refrains."


Band: Vogue Dots
Song: "Way With Silence"
HPX show: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m., Olympic Hall; Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 p.m., Seahorse Tavern

"Immaculately produced soundscapes of richly developed songwriting articulated by one of the nicest voices you'll hear."

More to explore:

Halifax Pop Explosion 2014: a (mini) oral history of the fest's best moments