Photographs by Sarah Rix.
With Canadian Music Week winding down, it means that it is time for the 14th annual Indie Music Awards presented by SiriusXM satellite radio.
I was running late, but I did make it in time to see members from Protest The Hero come out to present Video of the Year. They pulled the record out of the sleeve where the winner was printed on it. Arcade Fire was announced for their song Reflektor. Protest The Hero said they would accept the award on their behalf, host Jeff Leake came out and proclaimed, “Fuck those guys for not being here! Just kidding I love Arcade Fire and they love you!”
The Strumbellas was the second band to take the stage and they performed three songs. They brought their stompin’ country rock music and got the party started. The venue was still filling up so they had to work extra hard to get people dancing. Lead singer Simon Ward who was on our very own Capsule Podcast, came out and wearing a black onesie that said HYPE in big pink letters across the chest. They played songs off their new album We Still Move On Dancefloors, including Ride On. Ward was filled with so much energy he thrashed his mic stand and had to use his backup guitarist Jon Hembrey’s mic to sing a song.
Ash from USS came and presented Rock Duo or Group to Wildlife the indie pop rock band. They came on stage to accept their Gibson Epiphone trophy, sandwiches still in hand. During their brief acceptance speech they were the first band of several to mention the importance of May 11th, “We want to thank our mom’s!”
The Mounties, a supergroup consist of Hawksley Workman, Hot Hot Heat’ Steve Bays and Limblifter’s Ryan Dahle. They started out sounding like an electro alt-rock band, like a mash up OK Go and The Strokes with their first song Pretty Respectable. That idea was short lived, as their sound is much more of a schizophrenic prog dance episode. Bays, who was playing the keys would go on Ray Manzarek like binges of epic-ness. Workman was obviously trying to have the record for fastest drum fills in a set. Workman has always been an oddity in Canadian music, he has a fervent fan base but is pretty much ignored by the mainstream media, he claimed “We’re at the Kool Haus and we just want to be cool” tongue firmed in cheek. As the set descended further into madness playing songs like Headphones and If This Dance Catches On, Bays wound up on his back singing and their bassist playing with a large bow like he was Jimmy Page.
Members of Men Without Hats came out to present Pop Duo or Group, which went to Fast Romantics. This award show celebrates the uncelebrated. Those people who make great music for the fans but aren’t going to be triple platinum selling artists. In keeping with the brief acceptance speeches it included “Thanks, we’re going to go drink some more beers now!”
The Glorious Sons came out to present Single of the Year, which went to City and Colour for The Lonely Life. Dallas Green was not at the show even though he seemed to win almost every award that was just announced without presentation. They tried to only actually present awards to bands they knew would be there to accept them.
Born Ruffians with their folk-punk sounds had possibly the loudest crowd of the night outside of the headliners. Lead singer Luke Lalonde had some interesting musings between songs “Is this live on the radio? Sorry, I’m just tuning my guitar”. They played a bunch of songs off their fantastic album Birthmarks like Ocean’s Deep and Permanent Hesitation which got the die hard fans loudly singing along. “I hope you all voted for us. Actually we don’t care about awards. We do it 60% for the awards and 40% for you. I can’t believe you all actually just clapped for being called 40%, this one is for you” as they jumped into Needle, which had a huge freak out including tUnE-yArDs like multiple personality like vocals.
Dan Mangan came out to an introduction as a man we should all spoon with, to present Alternative Artist of the Year, which July Talk won. Lead singer Leah Fay was wearing a trucker had emblazoned with fellow nominee The Darcys name on it. Host Jeff Leake commented on how they also won shortest acceptance speech after all they said was “We weren’t expecting this, so thanks!”
Members of Poor Young Things presented Emerging Artist of the Year, which went to The Mounties. When Hawksley Workman accepted the award he claimed “You should always be emerging”, it was funny seeing such veteran artists win a best new act award since they have been around so long, just not in their current iteration.
Hollerado hit the stage with arguably the most energy of the night. They opened their set with their hit Amaricanarama and sporadically throughout the show they had confetti cannons go off to great delight of the dancing crowd. These guys play a lot of shows, so it’s no wonder they have the some of the best synchronized jumps in the game. They had plenty of onstage banter and when announcing one of the songs lead singer Menno Versteeg exclaimed, “this song goes out to people who talk too much. It goes out to us.” To finish off their set Versteeg was practically in the crowd singing and foam guns were going off soaking the front few rows of the audience.
The Hidden Cameras came out and the men were all wearing long navy skirts like they were monks. Their self-described style of gay church folk music is an interesting genre title. They have the gloominess of The Cure with chamber pop vocals, but since they have a horn and string section they have a hint of The E Street Band in them. They played a song and front man Joel Gibb asked everyone to close their eyes, I cheated and watched them play, but the whole band kept their eyes shut for a fantastic piece of showmanship. They can be best described as a modern day Talking Heads. Art rock with weird dance moves, either political or nonsensical lyric content and funky off rhythm beats.
When Little Dragon finally hit the stage at almost midnight fans were getting impatient. Shouts for lead singer Yukimi Nagano to come out, came from many excited people. When they did come out they brought a truckload of electro freakiness. Nagano was wearing a short neon green and yellow patterned dress with white high top Air Force Ones. She had a huge open space to work with as her three band members created a semi-circle around the stage. Her sweet moves can be described as being in place at a Pow Wow and a séance. They played several songs off their upcoming release Nabuma Rubberband. The new stuff had a much more hypnotic feel to them as it was more about setting a mood than telling a story.
Nagano commented many times throughout the night about how much they love playing in Toronto. “Who has been a fan since the beginning? I don’t know if any of you came out when we used to play at small clubs like Wrongbar?” Nagano exclaimed showing off to the crowd her knowledge of the city. Keyboardist/mad scientist/beard enthusiast Hakan Wirenstrand keep the show playing like a story adding and subtracting beats to make it a continuous dance party. While Wirenstrand kept the pace, bassist/keyboardist Frederik Wallin, whom we interviewed on our podcast as well, kept the party going. Wallin’s beats were fun and impossibly irresistible. They finished their set with an almost 10 minute odyssey of chaos. Their music turned the place into a trance club with enough strobe lights to send someone into an epileptic shock.
The Indie Awards are an exciting event, but not because you get to see famous people. The real reason why it works is because there is so much great Canadian talent working today and while Arcade Fire and City and Colour deserve every accolade they get, bands like Hollorado winning Best Live Act right after seeing them in action and Wildlife being so surprised they go on stage with food in their hands make for great moments. We may not remember who won next year, but I will remember a night of fantastic performances celebrating real art forever.
A full list of the SiriusXM Indies Winners can be found on the official CMW website.