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- Posted on Mar 14th 2010 1:15PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
Every festival needs a good closing party, and Canadian Music Week / Canadian Music Fest wrapped last night with the 10th annual Indie Awards, celebrating emerging independent Canadian artists in 28 categories (including a handful for international acts).
Held in a cavernous Royal York Hotel ballroom at Canadian Music Week headquarters and broadcast live-to-air on XM Radio, the award show has become as glitzy and slickly produced as any major show, complete with cameras on cranes and a full stadium-style light show during live performances on a massive stage.
The winners list saw a few hardworking indie veterans who are often overlooked for prizes finally get recognized, including fan favourites Metric, who took home the Favourite Album of the Year award for their stellar record 'Fantasies', and indie-rock bruisers the Constantines, who took the Favourite Group of the Year category.
"This is our first-ever award we've won as a band, so thank you," said guitarist Steve Lambke, looking genuinely surprised and grateful.
Other winners included East Coast troubadour Joel Plaskett as Favourite Solo Artist of the Year, and Vancouver pop-punkers Mariana's Trench for Favourite Single and Favourite Video for 'Cross My Heart'. Toronto hardcore crew F----ed Up followed up their Polaris Prize win from last year by taking the Indie for Favourite Punk/Hardcore Group of the Year, while electro diva Peaches and dark storyteller-rapper D-Sisive nabbed the Favourite Electronic Artist and Urban Artist awards respectively. Among the international winners were Phoenix (Favourite International Single for '1901'), the XX (Favourite International Album), and Neko Case (Favourite International Solo Artist).
The only presentation of interest during the lengthy awards show was an appearance by Hamilton rockers the Arkells (winners of the Favourite Live Group award), there to discuss their participation in the Young Artists for Haiti benefit single released earlier this week. In fact, the charitable project had a strong presence at the awards show with an information table and volunteers sporting t-shirts with its logo milling about the crowd to let revellers know how they could donate or get involved. The Arkells got off one of the best lines of the evening, quipping that they lost out on delivering the song's final line to "that little guy, Justin Bieber."
Despite the interminable wait between performances, the brief live sets underscored the theme of the evening, featuring emerging Canadian acts who've had a great year, including Indies winners the Rural Alberta Advantage (Galaxie Rising Stars award), Great Lake Swimmers (Favourite Folk Artist/Group), and the Constantines. It helped that all three of those acts are from Toronto, so each received a particularly warm response from the hometown crowd.
It was the truly excellent performances by the latter two acts, as disparate from each other as can be, that underscored what the awards are supposed to be about -- celebrating great independent Canadian music in all genres.
While one wouldn't necessarily think the gentle folk stylings of Toronto's Great Lake Swimmers would potentially go over well with a rock-heavy industry crowd, the five-piece impressed from the very beginning notes of 'Everything is Moving So Fast,' serving up a huge-sounding mix that showed how relentless touring can translate into being able to really own a big stage.
The band's performance easily dispelled any notions that they're simply easy-listening CBC Radio fodder, frontman Tony Dekker's soothing vocals floating high atop Miranda Mulholland's velvety harmonies, her complex fiddle parts cutting through the layers of sound like a knife. By the time they broke out the banjo on 'Your Rocky Spine,' a fan in the front row was pumping her fist in time with the rhythm, utterly lost in the music, not unlike many others in the audience won over by GLS' strong set. Oftentimes award shows, with their awkward flow and stiff format, aren't exactly the place to witness great live performances by the participating artists, but GLS grabbed the opportunity to make the most of their time in the spotlight.
Similarly, Guelph/Toronto indie-rockers the Constantines are known for ripping it up live, but they would've been forgiven if they'd phoned it in for their Indies appearance, which isn't really meant to be a full-on concert. But the stalwart performers offered up a typically blistering half-hour set, flannel-shirted frontman Bry Webb in fine throat-shredding form. Like the Indies, the Cons were also celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band, and their longevity shows -- the group puts younger bands to shame, still evoking a strong punk undercurrent and giving it their all onstage as if they still had something to prove.
The opening bars of oldie 'Hotline Operator' elicited squeals from the fankids crammed up against the stage, and even a brief technical mishap with a guitar amp was quickly resolved, guitarist Steve Lambke attempting some slightly awkward yet amusing banter to fill the brief interlude ("We didn't win the banter award, you may have noticed earlier," he joked at his own expense).
By the time Webb hollered out the "Can I get a witness?" breakdown in Cons classic 'Young Offenders,' one thing was clear: awards shows and music festivals may feature a long list of trendy acts who come and go, but good old-fashioned rock'n'roll is always a hands-down winner.