By Kevin JonesFor 15 years, Toronto's annual Honey Jam showcase has served as one of the city's premiere expos for female urban artists looking to find their place in a cut-throat and often unresponsive Canadian music industry. But in an era where the Internet tells us instantaneously all we ever need to know about anything and anyone, can we still expect a talent show of relative unknowns to draw people from their air-conditioned homes on a hot summer night in the city? The crowd at Toronto's Mod Club certainly proved that it could, and the diverse line-up of choice newcomers and well-seasoned vets gave the bustling room its money's worth.
With MuchMusic VJ Sarah Taylor holding down the "Mistress of Ceremonies" title for the night, things got off to an impressive start with talented teen songstress Faith Antoine showing presence and poise beyond her age, covering Mariah Carey's "I Still Believe." From that point on, the event quickly showed it had grown far beyond the urban artist promotional tool its founding PhemPhat fore-sisters had envisioned, with styles as disparate as Jessica Cho's moody synth house grooves, Janelle Monique's Latin flavour and the acoustic balladry of former God Made Me Funky vocalist Lynzie Kent.
Show highlights came by way of 12-year-old, soon-to-be pop sensation Jaclyn Kenyon, who floored the audience with a bluesy "This Little Light of Mine" intro before ripping into her power-pop-infused main performance. She was soon followed by the fantastically slinky, soul-drenched jazz inflections of newcomer Elise LeGrow, whose solid performance unfortunately also marked the point where the night's four-hour length began to set in.
Despite Honey Jam being expertly and efficiently organized, there was no way to make 20-plus acts feel like five, and it began to show in the diminishing crowd as the night wore on. Those who stuck around to see powerhouse vocalist Saidah's eight-piece rock outfit were treated to one of the evening's best performances, before current move-maker Trish snapped us all back into Top-20 R&B reality with the heavy thump and minimalist drones backing her choreographed paces. In the end, it was night offering all things to all people, and an annual celebration that continues to do this city proud.