West Coast Music Awards - Read All About It...
Georgia Straight Awards
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The WCMA's, besides being an awards show, had one thing in common with the Georgia Straight Reader's Choice Awards earlier in the week; the Matthew Good Band. The show was a lot more of a big-production type of event, but lacked character on the whole. I walked in through a 'special' media entrance (the red carpet splayed out the front doors of the Commodore and rolled overtop of the worn and grungy sidewalk in the somewhat rundown Granville Mall seemed a bit out of place), and ascended the stairs past statue-still girls who were painted completely silver and covered in ornate decorations made out of shiny CDs. I entered a room that was fairly full, but it was quite hard to gauge just how many people were there because the floor was packed with enormous round tables. The house lights were low at this point, most of the illumination being provided by candles set atop intricate CD centrepieces. Everything was segregated - VIP tables cluttered the floor, and media and 'common areas' were along the sides. Certainly this did not offer the same sort of social atmosphere that the GSRCAs provided. It was hard to even tell who was there at this point.
Soon enough, the house lights dimmed completely, and the stage lit up to a colorful and energetic performance by Scrap Arts Music, a group of fit individuals who do well-choreographed dancing and drumming on these huge steel drums. It was reminiscent of other industrial troupes like Stomp and Tap Dogs, and also seemed a familiar unusual start to the show, much as Circus Orange was at the GSRCA's. Maybe the awards would be more interesting than I had thought.
Our host for the night was Angela Kelman, one of the wholesome gals who make up the country group, Farmer's Daughter. She started the show with a few cracks regarding her nervousness, and imagining some of the notable West-Coasters in their underwear. She introduced the first presenters for the night; CFOX's Larry and Willy. Before any awards were handed out, Larry, in reaction to Kelman's mentioning only Willy in her speech on anxiety, walked to the front of the stage and deftly removed his pants, shook his ass for the crowd, and returned to his spot behind the podium. Ah, now the show can begin!
Larry spent the full time he was onstage in his shorts, and no one batted an eyelash at receiving an award from such an individual. Anything this duo does in Vancouver is perfectly acceptable.
As can only be expected, the Matthew Good Band won everything they were nominated for, aside from one award where Nelly Furtado was nominated in the same category - Best Release with Major Distribution. Again, Matthew Good himself was not on hand to accept awards, and neither was Dave Genn. But this time, drummer Ian Browne joined bandmate Rich Priske and honorary member Blair Dobson on stage. Dobson was wearing a neat suit for the casual Georgia Straight Awards, so it was only fitting that this evening he be wearing a grungy black leather jacket and jeans. They took home five awards. Our princess, Nelly Furtado, was not in Vancouver to accept her pile of awards either. She sent along an exceptionally cheesy video speech from Sweden that was far too gushy and lasted far too long, especially coming just after we had all been lectured by Larry and Willy about keeping the acceptance speeches to a minimum to keep the show running along ("All right, we're happy that you won, but shut the hell up and get off the stage"). She received four awards.
Many incredible bands went unacknowledged as they happened to fall into a category that MGB was also nominated for, but some that received well-deserved awards include Zubot + Dawson, jazz guys Metalwood, jazz pianist Michael Kaeshammer (who believes he's too young to win an award!), and big local favorite, Luke Doucet. Doucet is best known for his role as guitarist, vocalist and all-around cynical guy in the band Veal, but also just released a wonderful solo album called Aloha, Manitoba. Also on the menu for the night, local gal Sarah McLachlan took home the Industry Builder award predominantly for her work with Lillith Fair, the all-girl summer festival. She accepted the award from a distracted Vancouver Mayor Phillip Owen, whose eyes kept darting to the barely-dressed silver award girl standing a couple feet beside him. McLachlan has been on a bit of a hiatus from touring and recording to concentrate on family life with her husband and drummer, Ashwin Sood. She looked happy and healthy and was all smiles accepting her award. We also were presented with a video tribute to Scott Smith of '80's rockers Loverboy, who passed away tragically in a boating accident last year.
The whole event was fairly bland overall, but colorful moments occurred by way of Blair Dobson, and some little technical glitches. Probably the most amusing (and best taken in stride) was when the Puentes Brothers, winning best world release, walked onto the stage to the tune of Nelly Furtado's I'm Like A Bird. The crowd looked amused at this point, and upon reaching the stage, Alexis Puentes immediately began singing the song. Shortly after their acceptance, they hit the stage to perform, and began with a salsa-flavored rendition of the song. Other performances were by Michael Kaeshammer, Kim Kuzma, and the Paperboys. Kuzma put on an exceptional performance, spirited and incredibly fun. She was positively beaming from just winning an award (on stage, sobbing, she proclaimed, "I'm a girl; I can cry!"), and sang with a big smile on her face. The Paperboys, also winners on the night, played the last set of the evening, and continued playing after the awards while the bar remained open and people stood and began to mill about.
Aside from the pushy and rude videographers, who thought nothing of walking right over my head to stand directly in my line of sight, the show went pretty well from a photography standpoint. A fair bit of stagefront space was allowed us, and the lights were bright, bouncing all over when reflected off the wall of CD's that framed the podium. The event went relatively smooth and was pretty short as well. The performances were all chosen to be as inoffensive as possible to everyone. Nothing was too loud or too soft or too off the wall. It was basically a scaled-down version of the Grammys. Efficient, mainstream, generic, and generally tepid. It had some grand moments, but was mostly just a customary awards show, more of a formality of being in the music business than anything else. It was so different from everything that transpired over the rest of the week, it hardly seemed as though it should be associated with New Music West at all, but it did effectively wrap the weekend up tightly and leave me pining for next year's festival.
In the end, New Music West was an amazing success, and the showcasing of more local talent was a big plus. It kept most of the shows on the same level, and made it much more exciting to drop in on shows just to see what was going on. NMW isn't as high profile or quite as large as its eastern and southern counterparts, but grows every year, and should enjoy the same level of respect as its bigger brothers. The people in Vancouver responded to the 'festival' tag to prove that music-lovers do exist here, and that if a few more bucks are spent on improving show advertising in this town, the newly-informed populace will come out and support the scene. Things like the Vancouver Seeds shows and IndieBlast give huge exposure to independent bands and make folks aware that some of the best music they will ever hear exists right under their noses, and not necessarily on some huge, mass-production, big-label scale. It also shows that some of the last great remaining small clubs in this town, such as the Starfish Room, need not be destroyed in favor of condos as a money-maker. Such a revelation can't save the ill-fated Starfish Room now, but hopefully it will spawn a resurgence in peoples' interest and excitement, and maybe create some new spots to play music in this town and keep the indie music scene growing. We have the talent - we have the interest - now we just need regular support.