Monday 26 Sep 2016

An After Word
Dr. Denise S. McConney

Going to the Junos Awards marked a number of important firsts for me. It was the first time I had been back to a music event or concert for many, many years. It was the first show for the most important reason I haven't been out to much of anything lately.

My 13-year-old daughter, whose report is also here, was attending too. So, returning to an event that is a gala for what I sometimes fondly refer as 'my misspent youth in the music business' was loaded with potential for noting changes in the past few or rather more years.

One of the first things I noticed came when Farley Flex (below) came out to give 'us," the audience, our instructions. Of course he also gave the erroneous announcement about the couple that had allegedly won a car. All they had really won, as it turned out, was the right to lose the good seats they had paid for while they had to watch the show from the obstructed view in the vehicle. Although I wasn't surprised by anything he said, I realized I hadn't actually heard them, in person, before. I guess I was also at my first live broadcast show.

Shortly after that, the about to be triple crowned goddess of Canadian music, Nelly Furtado, appeared about midway up the stands. All that most of us could see were the feathers at the back of her head. Elaborate hair do or fancy frock? Neither of course as it turned, just a bird costume with which to spoof, or was it to mock her first big hit - and all of those who loved her music at that point and helped propel her career to where she is today? Unfortunately this was just the first of many attempts to present Nelly Furtado, comedienne. Don't give your day job Nelly, and those of you watching from home can rest assured that neither the videos nor the other humorous moments were any funnier live than they looked on screen.

I realize it must have been difficult to come up with 3 live acceptance speeches and be the host. It was a little embarrassing to notice that her ability to speak spontaneously was clearly running out with the second award and she used a cheat sheet for the third. Billy Talent's acknowledgment of their tour mates, Alexis on fire, with his first award seemed far more gracious. Their performance though was gangbusters, a great arena rock act that blasted the house, although I was taken aback to be informed later that they're considered to be a heavy metal band, which is another category that must have changed since the old days. Other than that I would say that the rock performances all demonstrated that Neil, of the Young variety. was right and rock is still a dynamic force. Three Days Grace, too, almost blew off the roof . In reality, it's the fault of the prairie winds, guys, not yours, we have to build them extra strong out here. There's was a power house show accompanied by one of, if not the best, stage and light show.

Although I loved being part of the excitement there, I would like to send one note to the Juno Organizing Committee: your selections and work to attract the under 30s likely seemed a pretty good long-term business strategy. I'm sure you were conscious that you were sacrificing the over 30s, like yourselves (sic), who were disappointed, upset or outraged with the narrow range of your performance choices. Were you aware though of how much you missed in the range of vigorous styles and approaches in popular music today? I teach at universities and there were many under 30s there who identified and were disappointed with the lack of representations. Come on guys, even iPods can read a wider range of options. I know the Juno categories reflect those possibilities but this was the big show and the selection, Gregory Charles not withstanding, was just too constricted.

I do understand including Bob Rock (left) as the tribute choice. I was pleased to see him looking and playing well. His work, if not his name, should certainly be familiar to your target audience. Still, you were hosted by Saskatchewan -- remember, "sorry about the weather" is the provincial motto -- and maybe you could have somehow made space to at least include the territorial First Nations hero, Tom Jackson (right) for his Humanitarian Award. You must have driven past his reserve, the One Arrow Willow Cree First Nation, on the way to the hockey game in Prince Albert.

Nope, sorry, make that two notes. What hasn't changed since the days when I was around is how much the biz is still so clearly and obviously gendered male. Yes, Nelly Furtado hosted and performed but whether we're counting the winners from the show or the performers she was almost the only woman in sight. Yes, some of the presenters were women but that's not nearly enough in the 21st century. And that's just a sad comment on the talent that got ignored.

I would also apologize to the performers who are likely used to a much more active bunch crowding the front of the stage. It was really really cold outside while we were waiting to come in and we hadn't all thawed out from the winter yet. We like you a lot more than it might have seemed. Part of what I was looking for while I watched the rebroadcast was to see how often they cut away from the front of stage portion of the crowd. Lots of dancing in the seats though, even if the cameras weren't on us much.

One evolution in contemporary concert going that I did notice was that rather than the good old fashioned custom of waving matches or lighters, when the band comes on, now it's a sea of camera-ready cell phones. Hmm, perhaps that's not quite as warm and glowing a welcome. I do admit it was an exciting show; the bands who were chosen gave stellar performances and my compliments to the stage people. Great quick work between sets and the changes in the presentations for each band were impressive. So, in conclusion, when it's your city's turn to host the Junos, turn out for the great Canadian Rock Road Show. Even after, hmm, I'll just say, a very long time, it was fun to back at the biz again.

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