Published Apr 08, 2008Exclaim!'s coverage comes a day later than everyone else, we know, we know. But considering this is our first time covering "Canada's Grammys" in 16 years, it feels right. Here's to hoping you still care two days after the big soiree...
Between the glitzy Juno Awards and Juno Fest's two-night, 120 band extravaganza, the weekend festivities still couldn't shake the feeling that the whole thing was orchestrated by the same out of touch and middle-aged white men who run the Canadian music scene. A good idea in theory, Juno Fest was disappointing in reality. Since people don't know that Canadian music is performed in local clubs year round, line-ups snaked down city blocks in front of woefully small clubs ill-prepared for the crowds. Even wristband holders were unfairly forced to pick one destination and stay put rather than seeking out new favourite bands and finding time-wasting line-ups instead.
Out of town performers included the Coast, Julie Doiron, Jill Barber, Justin Rutledge, Luke Doucet and the Sadies, who put on a riveting set if you could see the band around the lovely Corb Lund's gigantic cowboy hat. Another stand-out included Edmonton's the Whitsundays, who fell short on showmanship, but offered an incredible psych-rock-lite repertoire. They're exactly one mutton-chopped tambourine player and an onstage hissy fit away from fame. Two local artists put on their last Calgary shows - Remote Kid (who are breaking up) and Calgary's answer to Kim Deal, Kara Keith (who is relocating to Montreal). Other local favourites like Forbidden Dimension, the Dudes, Lynn Olagundoye, Gunther and Los Morenos were also on hand. With tons of industry parties happening, musicians were off packing the clubs while the musicians preoccupied with being celebrities attended the parties.
Club DJs had their chance to shine at the dance party of the weekend - Red Bull Academy's takeover of the exquisite Chinese Cultural Centre where Calgary's Smalltown DJs packed the dance floor with a sophisticated, pulsating set. Other events in the city included a free outdoor rock concert in the city's central Olympic Plaza and the fifth annual Juno Cup. The latter pitted Canadian Rockers against NHL legends and proved to be another highlight of the weekend. Early Sunday afternoon, a sold-out Songwriters' Circle featured the winsome vocals of heart-warming songwriter Joel Plaskett and his guests Alex Cuba (winner of World Music Album of the Year), Corb Lund, the whip-smart former Calgarian Tegan Quin and others.
That evening, the jovial mood shifted before the televised awards began. Canadian Idol's Farley Flex left everyone in the Pengrowth Saddledome exchanging puzzled looks after his immensely awkward pre-show warm-up routine. He clumsily aimed lame insults at bright-eyed fans in the front row, which obviously dismayed anyone who wasn't talking through his set.
During the televised awards, there was a mild effort to pay tribute Western Canadian culture - from the twang-y opening number "Alberta Bound" to the pile of platinum oil barrels on a stage that resembled a Triceratops. The local First Nations population was sorely missing from the televised proceedings, but the stiff government representative was not. During the show, the audience went wild for hometown favourite Feist, who deservingly took home five awards and gave a spotless performance of "Sealion." Interestingly, the audience was glaringly silent during five mentions of an absent Celine Dion. The ladies stole the show anyway, with performances by Anne Murray, the impeccably witty Jann Arden, Sarah Brightmann, Avril Lavigne, the charming Jully Black and impressive Measha Brueggergosman.