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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gala is good fun yet also serious

More loose, but more hardware awarded

Posted: 03/30/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0


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Good morning, Winnipeg. The forecast high is 0 C, the Jets have almost no chance of making the playoffs and the 2014 Junos are 85 per cent over.

As of 9:20 p.m. on Saturday, 35 out of the 41 awards honouring the best and beardiest in Canadian music were handed out at the Juno Awards gala -- the part of the glassware-apportioning proceedings you don't get to watch on television.

A grand total of six awards -- yes, I am a mathematical genius -- will be presented at the broadcast component of the show, which CTV airs from the MTS Centre tonight at 8 p.m.

For decades, rappers, jazz musicians and other recordings consigned to the "genre" categories have lamented the fact the vast majority of the Junos are not deemed worthy of a national TV spotlight.

This year, for the first time, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences live-streamed the gala, which was held in the concrete confines of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

That meant people who really, really wanted to find out which art directors won Recording Package of the Year or see Vancouver Island's Helen Austin win the children's-album award could ignore Hockey Night in Canada for one Saturday of the NHL season.

Yes, the Juno gala ain't as glitzy as the broadcast. It's geared more to the music industry than it is to actual fans.

But it's also way less scripted and more prone to abject goofiness.

Halifax's Matt Mays, for example, was hanging around in a convention-centre hallway, yammering with a buddy about surfing, when his Coyote won Rock Album of the Year.

Toronto's Justin Rutledge, who won the Roots & Traditional Solo Album award for Valleyheart, wandered into the backstage media room and directed attention to a wet spot in his lap.

"Your crotch is God's beer cozy," he explained, uttering what would have been the most uncomfortable quote of the night until someone asked him what sexual position best described his music.

Awards shows are serious business, people.

Award presenter Fred Penner, the kids' music deity, led a room full of people in ball gowns and suits through an a capella rendition of Red River Valley, changing the lyrics to reference the little-known fact Winnipeg is cold.

Gala MC Jian Ghomeshi, the host of Q on CBC Radio, balanced out the requisite Winnipeg needling by claiming his hometown of Toronto is actually the "city with the coldest people" -- and prone to power failures, too.

"In Toronto, we don't call them blackouts, we call them stupors," he said, making the only Rob Ford joke of the night.

While Toronto's mayor wasn't present -- this was a non-televised show, after all -- no less than four current and past politicians managed to get face time with a few hundred music-business types.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger made some perfunctory remarks. Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, Manitoba's senior MP, heralded Canadian cultural exports. Lloyd Axworthy, a former senior Manitoba MP, introduced humanitarian award-winners Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.

And Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau appeared in a video tribute to the humanitarian couple, whose joint acceptance speech easily ranked as the most poignant moment of the gala.

Kreviazuk, who volunteers for War Child Canada among other charities, spoke passionately about the use of sexual assault as a weapon of war. The former Winnipegger told a harrowing tale about a Congolese woman who was repeatedly raped and lost both her husband and two children to her attackers.

There was an awkward emotional disjunction as Kreviazuk and Maida headed backstage and faced questions about their clothing and upcoming recording projects.

Awards shows are serious business, people.

To be fair, not everyone in the media room could hear what was said in the convention-centre ballroom. Kreviazuk and Maida handled the weirdness gracefully.

Another former Winnipegger, jazz bassist and composer Mike Downes, name-checked the Silver Heights Restaurant while he graciously fielded hometown questions about growing up in St. James. He won traditional jazz album of the year for Ripple Effect.

The big Manitoba winner of the night was violinist and former Brandonite James Ehnes, who was handed two awards in absentia. Technically, these were the only Manitoba wins of the night.

At the start of the gala, CARAS president and CEO Melanie Berry noted Manitoba is home to 12 per cent of Canada's musicians even though it has only 2.5 per cent of Canada's population.

As no more Manitobans are up for awards this weekend, this province actually hoovered up only 4.9 per cent of the available Junos.

The remaining awards will be presented tonight. Pop singer Serena Ryder, rapper Classified and country singer Johnny Reid will host the show -- with no guidance whatsoever from Fred Penner.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2014 A4

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