Once again, the biggest weekend in Canadian music was a smashing success with a wide variety of events across the host cities of Regina and Moose Jaw, SK. These prairie towns welcomed folks from across the nation to enjoy some Saskatchewan hospitality, and they didn’t fail to impress.
After a brilliant welcoming reception on Friday evening, JUNO Fest saw a bevy of acts take to the stage all over both cities. In the heart of downtown Regina, the tent stage took over City Square Plaza with a great setup that Saskatoon’s Foam Lake took full advantage of. These four blood brothers grew up just down the road in Moose Jaw and have been building steam in a big way, with a string of festival appearances planned in Europe this summer.
Over at Rocks Bar & Grill, Canadian metal guitar hero Devin Townsend played an incredible solo acoustic set that had the crowd of dedicated followers screaming along with every word. Townsend was nominated for this year’s JUNO Award in the category of Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year for his latest album Epicloud.
Another Saskatoon band, Castle River, was up next with their two-man guitar and drums attack. Having just finished a new EP, they’ll be out on tour backing up Smokekiller across Canada next month – don’t miss it.
Saturday evening saw the JUNO Awards Dinner & Gala, where 35 of the weekend’s trophies were handed out to a who’s who of the Canadian music industry in attendance. Metric were the night’s big winners, as they picked up honours for Alternative Album of the Year with SYNTHETICA, while guitarist Jimmy Shaw won Producer of the Year and art director Justin Broadbent took the award for Recording package of the Year.
Other Saturday night winners included Classified and David Myles winning Rap Recording of the Year for “Inner Ninja” and father/son duo Kevin and Kane Churko picked up the award for Engineer of the Year – made even more special that the win came in their home province of Saskatchewan, where Kevin grew up playing in the family band with his father Roman, an admired local guitar teacher in Moose Jaw.
On the industry side, Larry Leblanc was honoured with the Walt Grealis Lifetime Achievement Award for his five decades of covering the Canadian music scene for such publications as Billboard, Rolling Stone and countless others. It was fitting for Leblanc to receive this honour, as he got his start working for Walt Grealis as a music industry journalist at RPM Music Weekly in the 1960s.
Rock legend Tom Cochrane was also honoured with the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, for his work with a wide variety of charitable initiatives from World Vision to Parkinson’s research.
“It is an odd thing to receive an award for trying to do the right things when those things have presented themselves in the light of the tremendous blessings I have received in my life and career,” Cochrane said.
“Every day my fans, family and friends get up and many of them do the right things for other people and the good of our world and country without getting acknowledged. So I share this with you. Love to all.”
The party continued on Saturday night as JUNO Fest shows continued across Regina, but the band putting huge exclamation mark on the end of the fest was Monster Truck, who destroyed the stage at The Exchange with a blistering set. They also picked up the JUNO Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year during Sunday’s broadcast awards show.
Speaking of which, the big Sunday winner was Carly Rae Jepsen, as she added to her win for Pop Album of the Year on Saturday, with two more for Album of the Year and Song of the Year. She also ran through a medley of songs during a performance at the broadcast show including the winning smash hit “Call Me Maybe”.
The star of the evening though, was definitely k.d. lang, who was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and busted a barefoot performance of “Sing It Loud”. Even more moving was her acceptance speech, where she encouraged people across the nation to truly be who they are.
“I think the fact that I'm standing here receiving this award says more about Canada than it does about me, because only in Canada could there be such a freak as k.d. lang receiving this award. Only in Canada could there be people like Stompin' Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil. So I am here to tell you, my friends and my countrymen, that it is okay to be you. It is okay to let your freak flags fly. Embrace the quirkmeister that is inside all of us.”
Hope to see you all again at the 2014 JUNO Awards in Winnipeg!
– Tyler Stewart