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GayCalgary at the Junos

A Look at Canadian Music’s Biggest Week

Culture Music by Jason Clevett (From GayCalgary® Magazine, May 2008, page 9)
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GayCalgary and Edmonton Magazine was thrilled to be welcomed as the only gay media outlet at the Juno Awards, April 3rd – 6th, 2008. Here’s a small look at what went on behind the scenes and around town.

Juno week started off with a bang – a free concert at Olympic Plaza headlined by Bedouin Soundclash and Finger 11. Finger 11, who would go on to win best Rock Album and perform their hit Paralyzer at the Juno’s, is one of Canada’s most energetic and enthralling bands to watch live, and entertained the thousands who braved the chilly spring evening to check out the show.

Our first backstage visit came in the form of a press conference at noon on April 4th at the Saddledome. Ben Mulroney hosted various print and TV media and introduced Juno nominees Hedley and host Russell Peters. Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard cracked up the crowd with his reasoning for wanting to take home a statue.

“For me it is something I can have to make my parents refer to me only as ‘Juno Award winner Jacob Hoggard’ as opposed to son, which would be very special for me. It is a fantastic achievement to be recognized by your peers in the country where you live for your musical accomplishments. It is really special to me. Right now I am really happy with Juno Nominee, which is how my family refers to me.”

Peters promised an interesting night as host, forgoing past host gimmicks like flying (Nelly Furtado) foam body suits (Alanis Morrisette) or being Pam Anderson.

“My tricks are talent. I don’t need foam or planes or big tits. I do actually need the latter of the three, not on me but in my life. I am going to use these legs and walk right to that spot there and start talking. I am really looking forward to making it somewhat watchable, because lets face it; it kind of sucked in the past. “

Friday night is when things officially kicked into high gear with the Welcome Gala at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt downtown. Industry and VIP’s mingled and mixed while Calgary talent like The Dudes entertained. It was quite the party, but unfortunately I had to cut things short to check out Canada’s favorite pastime – hockey, in the form of the Juno Cup.

Fans filled up the Corral in support of MusiCan. NHL greats like Flames Stanley Cup winners Lanny McDonald, Paul Coffey and Doug Gilmore squared off against a team of Canadian rockers like Tom Cochrane, Aaron Lines, and members of bands like State of Shock & illScarlet, captained by Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. In what was the closest game yet, the hockey players narrowly beat the musicians with a score of 16 – 15. The highlight however was the “sing off” between Cuddy and McDonald. Lanny absolutely butchered Blue Rodeo’s Try but the crowd couldn’t help but cheer his efforts. In the end, everyone went home entertained and the kids that benefit from MusiCan got a much-appreciated boost.

Saturday night saw 32 Juno Awards given out in a Gala dinner at the TELUS Convention Centre. Clocking in at over four hours, it was a very long evening, however opera singer Measha Brueggergosman made the evening enjoyable with a surprisingly comedic run as host. The first big award of the evening went to Blue Rodeo, taking home the adult alternative album of the year.

“The adult alternative category, I don’t know what it is exactly. The album of the year has become sales based and what they were missing every year were a lot of artistic records that were not going to sell the same as these gigantic artists,” Jim Cuddy told reporters. “I think they created a category in which you can acknowledge people like Ron Sexsmith or ourselves that are not huge blockbuster records but still have some artistic merit.”

Blue Rodeo has achieved nearly 25 years of success, a tremendous milestone, and Cuddy told GayCalgary some great advice for up and coming bands.

“In the Canadian music industry you have to get out and play for people. We are a country that is based on live music so get out there and play and get to know people and different regions. The only thing you can do is write your own music and try to get it out there; there really is not that much more to the formula. If people like you they want you to come to their backyard and play. The opportunities are there in this country as long as you are willing to get into the van or bus and go to wherever people are very willing to listen to music.”

New Artist of the year Serena Ryder was very humbled to receive her first Juno.

“This is my love, my passion, what I wanted to do since I was 4. It feels great to be rewarded for something I feel so passionate about. I have always known that I was going to do what I am doing, I didn’t always know that I would be successful at it, but that didn’t matter to me. Now that I am semi-successful at being a Canadian musician, I feel absolutely honored and think it’s amazing.”

Ryder was battling a cold, which lead to an amusing bit of levity. “I have a cold which is why I am sniffling. I am not Amy Winehouse,” she commented, cracking up the pressroom. “That is really bad, I am glad I am not on that stage saying that… but I am being recorded.”

In a time when people like Winehouse and Britney Spears make headlines for their train wreck behavior, the down to earth Ryder takes her role seriously. “I feel like I better watch my mouth. I definitely am aware of being a role model. I am absolutely in love with young people. We know they are going to become adults and who we are today so it is very important to know what you are doing, with a sense of awareness and have a message, to do it for the right reasons and make a good impression.”

Gay artist and former Nylon, Billy Newton-Davis, seemed floored by his Juno for Dance Recording of the Year for his collaboration with Deadmau5, All U Ever Want.

“I find it so interesting that it is the dance thing I am doing right now. Everything was a stepping-stone. Canada has been such a support system for me, when I look back at trying to be a recording artist in the States, which is where I am from, it wasn’t happening. But you guys embraced me, and that is what lifts me higher and makes me feel good in that I can give back everything you have given to me. When I arrived in Canada, it was from working on Broadway with Gloria Gaynor and Sammy Davis. To be in Canada, which I love so much and have received with so much support, I am overwhelmed by my win tonight.”

The Juno awards also open up the eyes of the public to the many different aspects of Canadian music, such as the blossoming Jazz scene, represented by Vocal Jazz Album of the Year recipient Sophie Milman, and Rap Recording of the Year recipient Belly.

“You make a record for yourself, and you make the kind of record you want to listen to. I am not the kind of artist that thinks of what will sell, I do this because I love it, am passionate about it and respect the music,” said Milman. “I appreciate the accolades but I don’t think about stats. It is fun, it is important as an artist to explore different artists and there is more of an emphasis on the performance side as opposed to selling records, because that isn’t happening. I am happy that there are people around the world that want to see me. I feel like I deserve more to win with this record than the last time [I was nominated]. I am happy I won for this record, because I am actually very proud of it.”

“I definitely feel good about the Canadian urban scene,” stated Belly. “We are taking it in the right direction. I am already being accepted internationally and I know it’s going to happen to a lot of other talents as well. The problem we have is that 50 Cent can sell 300,000 records in Canada and I sell 50,000. So rap records can sell in Canada, it is just a case of supporting our own artists. That is what we are trying to change. I have heard guys in Canada that are more talented than the ones down in the US but don’t have the resources to put themselves in the position they need to be in. Once we put those resources in place, we will be having the hip-hop award when it’s televised and everyone can see it.”

Jully Black has worked long and hard to achieve her Juno for R&B recording of the year. The E-talk Daily correspondent is very humble and grounded.

“I do what is passionate and feels right, which is enjoying life. I am in a great space. Everything in life is preordained, I wanted it for years but I wasn’t ready, and now I am a woman and ok with everything that is happening.”

Black attributed this to her faith and her mother. “My Mom is so positive, she raised 9 kids by herself and so if she can do it, a record deal is nothing. It really doesn’t matter to her. I told her I was going to make her proud and bring home the trophy and put it next to her Jamaican figurines.”

Black continues to grow her fan base, and is presently on tour for The Revival, which will see her play at the Grande Theatre in Calgary May 14th and the Myers Horowitz Theatre in Edmonton May 21st. If her show stopping performance at the Junos is any indication, this may be your last chance to see her in an intimate venue, so I would suggest getting your tickets now. Black represents Canada’s multiculturalism and takes pride in being a voice of the people.

“My role is to dare to be Jully, first and foremost, and continue to enjoy and be confident with who I am. My role is also to be the channel that people can tune into, writing songs and being the voice of many, I embrace the opportunity to speak on behalf of everybody because we are all God’s children. Dr. Martin Luther King said, you judge a man by his character not by his colour… and not by his sexual preference either, I am going add that part in there.”

Calgary’s Paul Brandt was presented with the Allan Walters Humanitarian Award for his efforts with many international aid charities. After a moving video tribute, Brandt gave a real and heartfelt speech that had many, including Brandt himself, in tears.

“I am really pleased to have been there to accept the award because it gives me a great opportunity to talk about organizations like Samaritans Purse and Turn on the Tap. The fans for the Risk tour that we are currently on have raised $240,000 for providing clean drinking water for 24,000 people in developing countries. For me it was an extremely emotional moment, especially after seeing the video, faces of kids I hadn’t seen in years, some of which aren’t here anymore. I love being able to use music as a platform to do something bigger with it. It felt like a really successful moment for me.”

Brandt has also dedicated a lot of his time to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“Music is a very powerful and spiritual thing and it touches people in a way that nothing else can. Having the opportunity to work with the Children’s Hospital is a huge thrill for me. I remember when people like Lanny McDonald would come and hang out with kids, it would change their whole lives. To be able to follow in those footsteps and be on the other end of it is really exciting for me.”

Sunday night was the big event, live at the Saddledome. Rob (my Editor) and I headed down and learned the glamorous life of entertainment media – a lot of waiting. I headed outside and photographed arrivals on the red carpet, before heading back in and joining Rob… for more waiting. Finally, the broadcast began, but the feed directly from the Saddledome was not quality, so we watched the CTV broadcast, just like you at home. Nothing really happened with media until halfway through the broadcast, when Michael Bublé came backstage after an entertaining speech in accepting the Doritos Fan Choice Award.

“I would like to thank you fans, thank you Canada. You really have been beautiful for me and I am so proud to be a Canadian. I would like to thank Doritos for making such tasty treats. Sometimes when I eat them, my fingers, they go orange but it’s worth it. This is for all those people that said I couldn’t vote for myself enough times to win.”

Backstage, Bublé was asked his favorite type of Doritos.

“I like the Cool Ranch. I do love Doritos, I just learned when you are eating them you should never watch dirty movies. It’s true, I thought something was really wrong with me but it was Doritos... I am so disgustingly unclassy. I’m Michael Bublé, that is all I have to say.”

”I am stoked that I won this and it is a huge honor because the fans choose it,” Bublé continued. “Truly it was a great change to my night because I just kept kicking the shit out of myself for not writing 1234. I could croon that.”

Bublé can take solace in winning a Grammy this year, which he was unable to attend due to a prior commitment.

”I basically won on my couch with a bottle of wine. I did pump my fist a few times. But I checked the papers the next day to see what they said about the Canadian kid winning. There was nothing, it basically said Feist lost.”

While Bublé’s voice is the selling point of his records, his looks and personality, very much on display backstage, is also a major selling point to his fans.

“I get fat really quick, I love eating Doritos and shit like that, so I don’t really count on the looks thing because I go from this Bublé to Chris Farley,” he told GayCalgary.

Many feel that Russell Peters did well in his role of host, except when he basically outed an 11 year old on national TV. We asked him if he was going to offer the kid counseling. After making fun of me, which can’t really be described, just watch the video, he said that bad things happen when you have to go off script.

“Here is what happened. They go ‘Russell, when you are out there with the audience, stretch.’ I don’t know what to say to them! It’s a bad series of events, I feel bad for little Teddy. Hopefully he isn’t writing a blog for you guys in a week,” he said. “The only time I really adlibbed was when they said ‘Russell, kill a minute and a half.’ So I went to my writers who went ‘Uh we didn’t know we had to stretch.’ Which is how poor little Teddy’s feelings got hurt.”

As for Feist, who took home five awards, by the end of the night she was torn as to what was the highlight of her career – the Junos or being on Sesame Street.

“It is a competition between the puppets and the Junos. I sang ‘1234 monsters crawling across the floor.’ It was so cathartic. I have sung that song so many times on TV but never with furry creatures and chickens in bikinis staring up at me. I’d grown up watching Blondie, David Bowie, Ozzy Osborne everyone did the Muppets. Sesame Street is just down the street from the Muppet Theatre so I felt like I was there. Kermie is my favorite Muppet but he wasn’t around.”

With that, the Junos were over, but our night was not. We picked up Steve (my Publisher) and headed to Murrieta’s West Coast Bar & Grill for the exclusive Warner Music after-party. Guests stood in awe as Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo jammed on stage, while members of The Cliks, Finger 11, and artists like Corb Lund, Bublé and Peters mingled with the crowd.

The 2008 Juno Awards have gone, and if this year is any indication, it will be a heck of a party in Vancouver in 2009. You can bet Calgary is already making a bid to host again, and if you missed out this year, you will want to make sure you experience Canada’s biggest music week for yourself.

The 2008 Juno Awards

www.junoawards.ca

(GC)



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