Published Oct 22, 2015One of the more thrilling parts of a festival like the Halifax Pop Explosion is seeing local acts get the opportunity to command a larger stage and discovering what they make of it.
A band like Vogue Dots, whose dream-pop atmospherics have been winning over audiences (at home and, increasingly, abroad) over the past two years, wouldn't normally be booked in a sizable room like Olympic Community Hall, and probably not without the decked-out light show that HPX had installed for the week. But as the opening act of the Ryan Hemsworth-curated Secret Songs showcase, the duo had its moment to play bigger.
The set took a few songs to find itself. Vogue Dots' synth-heavy sound is all about constraint — keeping pop's release choked-in, suffocated, so the moments that sneak out carry a torch song urgency — and at first it seemed like the softness and the space were an ill fit. But with the song "Turns and Turns," a quiet, infectious confidence began to sneak in. Vocalist Babette Hayward has a tone that could easily be country twang if she let it twist a bit, which added unexpected edges to songs like "Skinny Thing" and a cover of Cousins' "Thunder." The duo (which also includes Tynan Dunfield) added a drummer for the show, making for a more physical live experience, and the band's swoony, hazy synths and the light show were a perfect fit.
Set closer "Way of Silence," easily the band's biggest song, rightfully closed the set at its peak. With an instantly hummable four-chord chorus and a dark, minor-chord breakdown of a bridge, it encompassed the balance between surprise and satisfaction that characterizes the duo's best material. If Vogue Dots are indeed headed for bigger and bigger stages, they're pretty damn close to being ready for them.