Behind the scenes!

The 2006 Juno Award Experience. By Elio Iannacci, Senior Features Editor

2006 Juno Award Experience
By Elio Iannacci, Senior Features Editor

Day Four – Sunday April 2: JUNO C’EST QUA: The big day (and night)

The Constantines’ “Underneath the Stop Signs” is rocking out of my radio and I am late. Martha Wainwright is too, thankfully. We are shooting the pop folkster at the Delta after her sound check at the ungodly hour of 10:30 am (mind you we were up until 3am the following night, whooping it up with Ron Sexsmith) and I am looking more and more like Neil Young.

Just to get off topic for a moment… four things about Halifax that Tracy and I have noted: 1) there are no garbage cans anywhere (where do poop and scoopers dump?), 2) 80s music is everywhere (Hali’s bars love their Bananarama and Culture Club), 3) the restaurants round the bend are really into wrapping entrees and appetizers in bacon and 4) (not to sound like Lindsay Lohan about it but) you can’t find one place serving espresso on a Sunday to save your life.

Anyway, Ms. Wainwright ends up being a total good sport and shows up looking like a billion bucks. She tells me that after her Juno plans she is flying off to Australia to “write an album of epic songs” that will be released tentatively next spring. We chat about fashion (she’s into vintage like nobody’s business) and ends up giving us the shot of her roll after our photographer, “Handy Andy” McNaughton, tells her a few stories about shooting the stars on the road. We catch her laughing and slightly touching the tips of her hair.

Divine Brown shows up next and the room actually humbles when she walks in. The woman is F-I-N-E and she knows it and lets me in on a few of her plans to create a new foreground for soulsters like herself in Canada. She cites Liberty Silver — another Canuck soulstress — as her inspiration to take the 49th parallel’s R&B world to another level. The way she passionately articulates and composes herself lets me know that this girl is serious and Canada is lucky to have her.

Hot Hot Heat was next on the shoot agenda and gave us a shot worthy of their name. When the topic of clichés of Canadian style came up, the afro’d lead singer, Steve Bays, riffed on what he thinks is an epidemic: “the lazy west coast look … you know… with bad cargo pants and no clue.”

We run over to an abandoned restaurant for our next two shoots: Can idols Melissa O’Neil and Rex Goudie and rocksters Nickelback. Down to the last hour (5:30 – 7:00 and counting) we snap them both and head to our rooms to change for the Junos and the Warner/FLARE party happening right after the big fest.

The show kicks off with Buck 65 rap-happy in his Hugo Boss suit and the crowd goes wild for Coldplay, BEP and Hedley. During the show, I go backstage every once and a while to see Bryan Adams milling about and have a few drinks with the stars (from Kardinall Offishall to Bedouin Soundclash , you name it) from inside the Pantene Red Room.

After the show stops, we really get our party started (although a disco nap would be perfect) and the night does not disappoint. The biggest nominees and winners showed up to the Warner/Flare “Be Fabulous in Halifax” party at the Tribeca Lounge, including Michael Bublé , Ron Sexsmith, Martha Wainwright, Jann Arden (who was tickled by Ron Sexsmith’s tunes), Buck 65 , Matt Mays (who’s a regular DJ/performer at Tribeca and worked his turntable magic later on in the night), Hot Hot Heat , members of Our Lady Peace and Jeff & David from Simple Plan . The biggest winner of them all, Michael Bublé made his way through the crowded club stopping for photos and signing autographs for all the PPPs (pretty party people) and then with a *little* coaxing from two over anxious marketing directors Michael surprised everyone by joining Ron Sexsmith and his band on stage for a sensational rendition of Elvis Presley‘s “Don’t Be Cruel”. Cell phones quickly raised above the heads in the crowd capturing photos of this “only at the JUNOS” moment! Other performers that evening included Great Big Sea’s Allan Doyle with Luke Doucet (who sang a rockin version of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”), Corb Lund and his band (The Hurtin’ Albertans!) turned in a blazing set, Bedouin Soundclash did Clash and Billy Bragg covers, and solo turns from Luke Doucet, Matt Mays and Ron Sexsmith. Let me tell you, the Moet, Red Bull & Polar Ice Vodka came in very handy in toasting a long and fruitful life to Canada’s no longer burgeoning music scene. And, upon leaving the party — goodies galore! Roots gift bags filled with products from Marc Anthony, Random House, Hugo Boss, Laura Secord, Estee Lauder & B Kamins. Cheers to all the nominees and winners. See you next year in Saskatoon!

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Day Three – Saturday April 1: Juno Gala Dinner

We sat with our friends at Procter and Gamble (who are sponsoring the Junos exclusive Pantene Red Room), the lovely Melissa Karis and Lisa Festa lapping up the Moet and laughing at how far Jully Black would go for a joke. Black actually used her mom (who attended) as the butt for many of them but what was hilarious was when people who won awards such as Diana Krall and Daniel Powter weren’t there to receive their Junos, she accepted them for the artists and kept her speech simple and to the point: “his a** ain’t here!” or “she ain’t around so we’ll give this to Michael Jackson.” The epitome of fierce. Martha Wainwright (sister of Rufus, daughter of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle) took the FLARE award for best performance of the night. She sang her song “Factory” with a voice that could make Donald Trump cry.

After changing into something less formal, my date Tracy Finkelstein (who was in full-on Marc Jacobs muse mode, by the way) and I headed over to another golden Juno moment, watching Ron Sexsmith perform in the intimate quarters of the Halifax Club. He sang his entire new album (“Time Being”, in stores May 16) which got the ladies pretty crazy. Ron was then joined onstage by Blue Rodeo‘s Jim Cuddy, Great Big Sea‘s Alan Doyle and Bob Hallett, alexisonfire and City & Colour singer Dallas Green, Matt Mays , Damnhait Doyle and Kim Stockwood from Shaye, Mike Smith (Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys) and Tomi Swick, all performing their favourite Sexsmith tunes.

We recap the day that whizzed by us and name Hedley the craziest, funniest and nicest band to hang out with so far since during our shoot, the lead singer Jacob Hoggard actually convinced his bandmate to drop his pants and wiggle his butt to our photog, showing us their HED (left cheek) LEY (right cheek) tattoos. During our breakfast/interview with the band Jacob was ever the gentleman offering Tracy some bacon, but she politely declined. And, no, we aren’t printing the Hedley bum shots in the magazine.

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Apr 2nd • Apr1st • Mar 31stMar 30th

Day Two – Friday March 31st: Shoots and interviews

Feist’s song and video “Mushaboom” wakes me up (via my trusty television alarm) and the first thing I see in the morning is Ms. F ride down a street in a white horse. With all that inspiration in mind, I choose a Marc Jacobs Blondie t-shirt, a grey Preloved jacket, Levis and Ponys for my first full-length Juno day look. Walking down the street some guy asks if I am part of a band – I tell him I’m working on it.

After grabbing a quick club sandwich brunch at The Argyle (on Argyle Street), Tracy and I walk over to our first shoot with Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter. Actually, other than the cab we take from the airport, everything is walking distance and the weather is on our side. The city is charming with trees and water surrounding it and a huge bridge as its focal point zooming right over the harbour.

The whole week we are confusing everyone with our main meeting spot at the Delta Hotel because there are two Deltas in this town (the Delta Halifax and the Delta Barrington) and they are both on the same street – Barrington. It’s a running joke that isn’t so funny when you are pressed for time.

Kalan arrives with his two person entourage (the darling Erica Silver from Sony and Kalan’s agent) and Tanya Kim from eTalk beautifully trails behind us, shooting us, shooting Kalan in one of the hotel’s elevators. It is a hilarious scene because people are STILL riding the elevator and are asked to get on as Kalan is getting shot from floor to floor. Tanya, Tracy, Erica and I wait patiently as Andrew and Kalan go up six floors and return with surprised hotel guests including a new mom with her baby. We could have shot a video to one of his upbeat songs like “Lucky Day” and it would have been perfect.

Through the whole fracas, Kalan is totally cool, cracking up every time the elevator doors open and new guests try and take the ride down as if nothing is happening (even though they are sharing a tiny space with a FLARE photographer and an eTalk Daily cameraman). It was very “comedy central”. When we finally get the shot we want and head to the lobby for our interview with Kalan, we are interrupted by fans of all kinds (and all ages), snapping shots nervously and asking for a slew of autographs. Kalan deals with the swarming like he’s sitting down for thanksgiving turkey with his family and it’s his turn to pass the gravy.

Our next shoot was with country newcomer, Belleville’s own Amanda Wilkinson. Daughter of legendary songwriter/country man Steve Wilkinson and a member of country fam group, The Wilkinsons, she immediately reminds me of June Carter Cash (whom she says she idolizes). She’s a tiny little whisp of a thing who is beautiful, has got lots of flair and a voice that is bigger than Halifax and Nunavut combined. After we finish up photos with Andrew McNaughton (who, for the record, does not scream “work it” while shooting, thank God) in the hotel ballroom, Amanda and I start discussing her life on the Canadian road and in Nashville, where she took up residence for a number of years. This girl is the sharpest whipper snapper I’ve met in a long time, calling Nashville’s old boys club mentality, “a personal work in progress.”

We soon get back to our rooms, change and take a cab over to a very unFLARE-like venue – a hockey arena. Every year, the Junos hosts a “rockers” vs. NHL all-star game to help raise funds for CARAS – a group that helps raise money and resources for music education in Canadian schools. The announcers – Michael Landsberg from TSN’s Off The Record and Sloan’s front man made the night, sassing the players and giving enough snappy play-by-plays to make Don Cherry look like an amateur. The highlight of the whole game was when opera diva Measha Brueggergosman, took to the ice and slapped a puck in goalie/popstar Luke Doucet’s net. The arena stands were as receptive to her fancy footwork at the Halifax Forum Arena as her opera buff fans are to her higher-than-Mariah voice during arias.

On our way to catch a few acts for Juno Fest (the options are endless – T.O.’s Jacksoul to Halifax’s Jimmy Swift Band and and, I kid you not, NYC’s Matisyahu — pronounced Mat-is-ya-u — the first Hassidic Jewish reggae star) we pass by a few restaurants getting into the spirit of things. One serves a Barenaked Ladies “million dollar macaroni” with foie gras and ketchup, another puts a Blue Rodeo cappuccino (with spirits) on the menu and another café (called the Stars Café) touts The Matt Mays Torpedo ginger cookie as their baked good of the week. The members of Bedouin Soundclash (who are up for best new group of the year) are on the hotel elevator, talking about their glam grueling schedule the next day. Interviews, soundcheck, interviews, interviews. Tough life.

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Apr 2ndApr1st • Mar 31st • Mar 30th

Day One – Thursday March 30th : Arrival

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Chantal Kreviazuk is ironically blaring out of my iPod as I pass by Bruce Coburn and the former lead singer of 80’s pop band Parachute Club, Lorraine Segato, on Air Canada Flight 684 to Halifax.

As I make my way to 26D (an aisle seat, sweet!), I hear a few “Is that who I think it is?” whispers from the passengers directly in front of me just before Segato stands up to remove her white leather sport jacket (looks like Diesel but could be Bustle) before we take off.

Choruses from the ole P-club’s hit songs get caught in my head (“Rise up, Rise up” and “Under the Feet of the Moon”) and repeat themselves during liftoff, taking me waaaay back to pre-MuchMusic days when I watched Toronto Rocks as a kid. My traveling companion, FLARE’s director of business development and promotions, Tracy Finklestein, snaps me out of my retro funk and asks if I had time to read through our intense Junos itinerary yet. All I can think of is the Amazing Race.

Our goal is really like some zany reality TV premise. We have to interview and photograph over a dozen Canadian artists in 3 days or less for FLARE’s upcoming June issue and do it with as much grace and as little drama as possible. Easier said then done. For every artist, there’s a record label, for every label, a publicity rep or two, or three or four….and photo shoot schedules are like rock songs, they change pace at any chord. Throw in FLARE’s trusty photographers – the high-energy, all-vocal (yet devilishly charming) George Pimentel, who is set to capture the parties and the behind-the-scenes shots and the stoically serene Andrew McNaughton, who will be taking his signature style portraits for us – and you’ve got one terrific series.

After 20 more minutes dishing with Tracy on how this year’s Junos have so much more going for them than any other year: Pam Anderson hosting, Coldplay crooning, Black Eyed Peas humping, etcetera, etcetera… and the fact that MTV Canada (which just launched), eTalk Daily, Star TV and, of course, MuchMusic will be filming our crew, a baby on the plane starts pulling a Celine Dion and hits some major high notes. My iPod goes back on and I crank it up and sleep with Feist in my ear.

We land two hours later and are greeted by gigantic plaid-skinned lobsters at the baggage department. Junos posters are everywhere and everyone is looking around for a pop star glimpse. On the streets the next batch of newly arrived journalists and PR teams mixed with funky locals all look like they could belong to Broken Social Scene or Metric or Blue Rodeo . The whole city screams rock star, as opposed to what my city slicker friends foolishly joked to me about Nova Scotia (“Everyone looks like Anne Murray!”).

We soon venture out onto the streets after settling into our hotel and people are everywhere. We pass the Halifax Metro Center (where the big event is happening) and see that the red carpet is covered with fence and a giant sized eTalk Daily poster which flaps in the wind. We decide to fuel up at a restaurant called 5 Fishermen with our pals at Sony BMG Canada – Josh Glover (who works with Our Lady Peace) and Shauna Jessiman (who works with Canuck idols Rex Goudie and Melissa O’Neil) – and get treated to a seafood meal (replete with a delicious mussel bar) and an interesting conversation about the latest pop news, including a very wacky chat on Prince’s radical décor tastes.

After settling in, Tracy and I get into our best Thursday night outfit (Thursdays are the new Saturdays) and hit the town square to catch Matt Mays and El Torpedo as well as east coast rockers, The Trews.

After the rock-a-thon, we head down the street to The Bitter End (not a film on Jessica Simpson’s love life, it’s a martini bar, folks). Tracy’s good friend, Kelley Burns-Coady, of the Moet & Chandon champagne fame, is hosting a pre-Junos by-invite-only fete. The room is packed with good-looking hipster, slickster types and a troop of music execs from the Warner Music camp. The very cool Buck 65 stops by and chats us up a bit (he’s not nervous at all about co-hosting the Junos with Pam) and opera soprano Measha Brueggergosman (a Juno nominee for classical album of the year) is spotted doing some Jagermeister shots with T.O. PR empress Deb McCain. The crowd is totally sparkly and bubbly, just like the host’s brand of tonic. Just before one glass too many, I mosey on back to my suite at the Prince George and get to sleep for tomorrow’s big day. Bless my soul it’s rock and roll.

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