The 2011 Indie Awards at the end of Canadian Music Fest on March 12 marked the crowning achievement of a week in which the world of music converged on the city of Toronto. This year’s Canadian Music Week featured the rising stars like Janelle Monae, Hollerado, Hannah Georgas and Andrew Allen. You had the legends of music like Sammy Hagar and Nikki Sixx, at both the film and music festivals. And you had the fresh bursts of talent like the fresh-out-of-high-school hard rockers Desperate Union performing on the Indie Awards stage, and billed as currently being among the fastest-rising young talents in Canada.
The 2011 Annual Independent Music Awards, or The Indies, as they are affectionately known, bring the world’s attention to musical acts who may step a little to the side of the mainstream, but whose incredible talent cannot be avoided or ignored.
This year’s Canadian winners included awards ceremony performers Hannah Georgas(for Best Solo Artist of the Year), Shad K(Favourite Urban Artist), and Hollerado (Favourite Video for Americanarama). Other recipients of the Indie Award’s trophy black guitar included Grammy winners Arcade Fire (Chartattack Album of the Year award for The Suburbs), Marianas Trench (Favourite Single of the Year and Favourite Pop Artist or Group), and Alexisonfire (Favourite Group or Duo of the Year), the latter winning out against Arcade Fire. In accepting the award, they said, disbelieving of their win, “We put out an EP to mixed reviews last year, Arcade Fire won a f****** Grammy!” But they went on to praise their fellow nominees, a list that also included Elias, Broken Social Scene, and Tegan & Sara, and urged the audience to support independent music in all its forms.
Awards host Jeff Leake kept the show banter humorous, upbeat and lively, with one of his first comments being,
“For an indie crowd you sure do dress up good, you clean up nice!”
Guest hosts included all-girl band Magneta Lane, Toronto rapper K-Os, and rock legend Sammy Hagar, who appeared on stage to present the Favourite Rock Artist/Group award to Crash Karma.
But the highlight of the evening was definitely the stellar performances from some of the best young artists and rising talents currently in the music industry.
In order of performances, you had Desperate Union, billed as “one of the fastest rising young bands in Canada”. With hard driving basslines, an energetic lead singer in vocalist Alen Worsoff, it’s not hard to see how they landed a coveted spot performing at the Indie Awards.
Next up was Hannah Georgas, whose debut album This Is Good impressed fans and critics enough to award her the Best Solo Artist of the Year award. In accepting the award, Georgas noted that, “So many artists on this list are so good, so thank you!” Her performance only built on the energy already released by the performance of the band before her, and left the crowd wanting more.
Performance number three came from the Bombay Bicycle Club, the British boys in a band allegedly named after an Indian restaurant in England. They also had a set that kept the crowd rocking, and perhaps by virtue of having come all the way across the pond to be at the Indies, their set went on a bit longer than anyone else’s up to that point. Frontman Jack Steadman at one point said to the crowd,
“How’s everyone doin’? We’re from London, happy to be here.” From the response to their music, it would seem the crowd was happy to have them.
Hollerado came on next with an explosive set that upped the energy notch by five. With guitar solos, drum solos, psychedelic graphics in the background, falling confetti, and an impromptu crowd rendition of “Happy Birthday” to bassist Dean Baxter(whose shifting birthday, according to lead vocalist Menno Versteeg had been the source of many onstage hoaxes before, but was apparently the real deal tonight), it was definitely a performance worthy of the award ceremony that capped a week of music and music-related films.
If they had been the last performers, many in the crowd might have gone home happy. But the best of the evening was still yet to come.
Toronto’s beloved hip hop son Shad was up as the precursor to the much-awaited performance by Janelle Monae, and while this could have been an uncomfortable position to be in, he did not disappoint in his own right. He was the winner earlier in the night of the Favourite Urban Artist/Group/Duo Indie Award – when receiving the iconic black guitar from fellow Torontonian and rapper K-Os, he famously asked, “Do I get to keep this?”
Shad’s versatile rap referenced everything from religion to politics to Shakespeare to pop culture, seamlessly blending it all together lyrically, and further hyping up the eager crowd lip-synching to his songs. With an uncommon message of positivity and non-materialism, Shad proved without a doubt that he is a leading figure on the Canadian hip hop scene for a reason.
And then, after an intermission during which the stage was re-vamped once again, it was time for the final performance of the night, one which arguably many people had come solely to see.
Introduced by a solemn faced, top-hatted member of the Wondaland Arts Collective, Janelle Monae herself was nowhere to be seen during the rousing opening riffs and brass horn blasts of the performance. At least, not until one of the three hooded, cloaked, dancing figures that had shuffled on stage earlier pulled off the hood to reveal the Arch-Android herself to screams and cheers from the gathered crowd. It was more than just a performance, it was piece of theatre. There was drama, there was plot, there was spectacle, (there was an onstage painting session…). There was frenetic, fevered dancing both onstage and in the crowd, there was clapping, piercing guitar riffs, and masked tambourine girls dancing with the crowd while images as disparate as Muhammad Ali fight footage and scenes from sci-fi classic Metropolis flashed on the backdrop. And of course, there was a magnificent crowd surf by Janelle Monae partway through the show. When the band said goodbye and left the stage, no one moved in the crowd until they all returned for an explosive encore that put to shame any artist who ever came back on stage for just one more song.
All in all, Janelle Monae and all the other wonderful performers and winners of the night ended Canadian Music Week 2011 with a brilliant sendoff, sure to keep people talking until next year’s fest.