“Ever since I was a young musician…” A look back at JUNO Week 2012

Ever since I was a young musician, I dreamt of being at the JUNOs and one day walking on stage to the applause of thousands to receive an award.

Now, that being said, I have not chosen a career that would lead to this dream, but I have chosen a career that still lead me to be in attendee at this year’s JUNO Fest and Awards.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’m a full-time music publicist and an occasional freelance writer. With the honor of attending the 2012 JUNOs as spectator and writer, I truly got to experience the JUNOs and the Canadian music talent it celebrates.

This year’s JUNO were in Ottawa, ON and were finally close enough to Montreal, QC, where I’m based, that I was simply able get in my car with my bestie and fave music writer Barbara Pavone and drive the two-hour trek.

Arriving on a Friday afternoon, you can already tell that the excitement of the JUNOs was plastered on the streets of downtown Ottawa.

I have to admit right off the bat you can tell that the JUNOs are a completely different element in their own right from other Canadian music events such as Canadian Music Week and NXNE. They’ve got a vibe of more suits and industry execs and are like being at one big office party.

There was a great number of superb Canadian bands performing during the JUNO Fest that I was dying to see, but unfortunately I couldn’t be at more than one place at a time. I kicked off my first night by attending The JUNO Cup, a night of hockey between former NHL players like Paul Coffey and Gary Roberts vs. The Rockers (i.e. Juno-nominated musicians). It was honestly a great entertaining game full of action-packed hockey along with follies of seeing pros kicking some serious amateur ass, though Sam Roberts and Classified really delivered finesse as if they were real NHLers.

After a great hockey game, which proves I truly am Canadian, I kicked off my music fun with a night at local venue The Cabin where I saw Jordan Cook, a one-man band from Saskatoon, SK who put on a mind-blowing set with so much showmanship on stage and great tunes; he was doing vocals, guitar and drums all at the same time. Cook is a true prodigy that puts on an incredible performance and is a must-see.

The second band I got to see was a band from Hamilton, ON called Monster Truck. If you’re looking for a great old school ‘70s rock band that gives you that modern good time rock ‘n’ roll fun, this is the band to check out. My fave song from their set was ‘Space Nebula’ and if you want to check out their rocking tracks, then head over to their website and download their two EPs -The Brown EP and Monster Truck – for free.

To follow up Monster Truck’s most awesome set were legendary metalheads ANVIL. Taking to the stage, these old school head bangers brought out a contingent of fans stuck in the ‘80s with mullets and ladies with the full-on hairspray poofs. ANVIL aren’t legendary just because they’re aging metalheads, but because they know how to head bang their way into the hearts of fans, performing classics like ‘666,’ ‘Metal on Metal’ and recent tracks like ‘This Is Thirteen’ from 2007’s same-tilted release and ‘New Orleans Voodoo’ from their 2011 release, Juggernaut of Justice.

Saturday was a night I wasn’t sure what to be prepared for, but am really glad about the way the night played out. Attending the non-broadcasted part of the JUNO Awards was truly a treat and obviously different from the big show to be broadcasted on CTV the following night.

The non-broadcast night included a very nice gala with a dinner for all the nominees and members of CARAS (The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts Society) and saw 36 awards given out over three and half hours. The category I was anticipating the most was the first one – Metal Album of the Year. First on the list to be given out, the category had five great Canadian metal talents nominated: ANVIL, Devin Townsend Project, Cauldron, Fuck the Facts and KEN mode, who won the award.

Over the gala night, it was great to observe the non-broadcast show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘The Q show’ and see all the great Canadian talent. The highlights were meeting CBC’s ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ comedian Sean Majumder, Simple Plan and getting a chance to talk nerd shop with Devin Townsend.

Following the gala, I headed over to the Gibson party thanks to one of my fave Toronto music promoters Darryl Hurs who runs Indie Week, a festival in Toronto that promotes Canadian indie music. The Gibson bash was pretty great, as I got to hang with musicians from The Rabid Whole, ANVIL, the UK’s Suburbians and Monster Truck. Both Monster Truck and ANVIL were playing again that night for the party with two-songs sets and it was a true treat to see them both play again.

From the Gibson party, to end my night, I took off to see Metal Album of the Year winners, Winnipeg’s KEN mode perform at Café Dekcuf for a 1:00am set, anticipating and hungry crowd. The assault these guys laid down for the crowd was bleeding to the ears in a good way and I truly was stoked to finally see them live.

Sunday night was the big night and I was full of excitement, but before I made my way to the big show, I hung out with Marcus Ryan from The Grind podcast to do an interview and talk about our love of music.

From there I headed off to the big JUNO show, which was taking place at the Scotia Bank Place, a good twenty-minute drive outside the city. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was sure it was going to be memorable. And it truly was and even though I was stuck in the media room for Q&As with winners, it was still a great experience to hear comments from artists like Feist, Dallas Green, Blue Rodeo and Deadmau5.

I have to say legendary actor William Shatner, who I’m sad I didn’t get to meet, was hilarious as host. At his age of 81 he’s still kicking it and entertaining people of all generations.

The highlight of the night for performances was Dallas Green; his performance of ‘O’Sister’ was truly heartfelt. 

After a long night of Q&As in the media room, there were the after parties and it seemed every label had a party going on and wanted you to be there and it was a no brainer of how to get ya there – free booze! I only attended one party that night, as I figured Warner Music’s bash would be the best bet for great people and fun, but to be honest, it was like going to a Christmas party and being the guest of a guest. It was all pretty much suits and nothing else, there were occasional artists and celebrities here and there, such as Ron Sexsmith, Jim Cuddy and Ron Maclean of CBC’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’ but overall it felt stuffy, except for the free beaver tails!

All in all, it was a great experience of music and I pray one of these days they bring the JUNOs to Canada’s true music capital, my hometown of Montreal. The JUNOs won’t know what fun is until they experience the life and culture of this city, so I express and urge they come this way soon. And if the JUNOs do come to a town near you, go experience the festivities and enjoy as much music as possible.

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