This past weekend was all about the JUNOs in Ottawa and I was lucky to attend 3 very different events to partake in the celebrations.
First up was Canadian hip-hop artist K-OS who threw a DJ Set at Bijou Nightclub & Lounge, a new venue located on the corner of Bank and Slater that recently opened its doors. It was my first time at Bijou since the opening and it was also the first time I went out to hear K-OS spin records for a live crowd. The venue itself is small and intimate but decorated with taste and clean, which is somewhat difficult to come across when it comes to nightclubs and bars. I sometimes ask myself why the best music is often played in the grimiest of places, but not this time! Bijou proves to be an interesting place to go out for drinks and dancing if you like it a bit more upscale.
Prior to the main set, Bijou resident and Ottawa DJ Kid SL got the crowd warmed up followed by Sebastien Grainger from Death From Above 1979 who kept the people moving until K-OS decided it was time for him to take over, which was around 1:00 am. That’s rather late, but considering the place was open until 4:00 am with extended license on the occasion of the JUNO weekend, then I guess it was acceptable. Having said this, the minute K-OS started his set, I knew the night could only get better. The man held it down and served the crowd classics one after the other: I was in hip-hop heaven! He’s definitely a great DJ for those who enjoy good old hip-hop, but others who would expect newer stuff and commercial tracks would’ve been disappointed. Thank you Bijou, K-OS was a great choice to bring out to celebrate the JUNOs in the nation’s capital!
Saturday night, although I wanted nothing more than to go party with The Weeknd at Studio SKYbar, I switched things up and headed to Mercury Lounge, renowned in Ottawa for being a major contributor to the arts sector and night-life scene in the national capital since its creation in 1996.
I was primarily there to see Rise Ashen & Flying Down Thunder, 2012 Juno nominees for Aboriginal Album of the Year, but also enjoyed hearing KASM and the Seed Organization who came all the way from Winnipeg to spin addictive and danceable tunes filled with reggae flavors and heavy-bass beats. I didn’t know who Rise Ashen & Flying Down Thunder were until last week when I read an Ottawa Citizen article on them and saw them perform their One Nation single during sound-check at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (they were scheduled to perform at a JUNOs launch private party the same night at the Museum). Combined, the newspaper article and sound-check run sparked my curiosity and I wanted to hear more hence why I headed to Mercury Lounge.
The duo hopped on stage around midnight, and although they didn’t take the JUNO Award for Best Aboriginal Album of the Year (Murray Porter did) they consoled themselves by offering a fantastic performance to the receptive crowd in attendance. They performed their main track One Nation along with many other excellent songs from their album, which shares the same title. B-boys and B-girls alike were breaking it down front and center as everyone seemed to have a a good time jamming to the unique sounds of Rise Ashen and Flying Down Thunder. Thanks to the guys for such an engaging and energetic performance and thanks to Mercury Lounge and APTN for organizing a very successful JUNOfest event!
Last but certainly not least, the culmination of all of JUNOfest and other related events lead to the JUNO Awards show, which took place at Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. As a volunteer seat-filler, I had to arrive quite early for logistical reasons. Around 7:30 pm, I was finally seated in the 200-level (sadly I wasn’t sitting next to an artist like I had hoped for) and watched the show with great interest! It was so exciting to not only be at a awards ceremony, but to also experience it in person as opposed to watching it on TV as I normally do. It was interesting to witness some of the behind-the-scenes and to enjoy seeing so much Canadian talent under one roof.
Although only 7 award categories were announced live (the majority of awards had been given out the night before at a JUNOS gala), this gave the crowd a good balance between the awards announcements, William Shatner’s so-called humorous skits and the artists performances. The Toronto Sun has it just about right when it wrote that this year’s JUNO Awards were “just plain weird from the presence of 81-year-old hambone host William “I wanna rock!!” Shatner (and the absence of major international celebrities) to the bizarre comedy bits and inexplicable award choices, this year’s event easily ranks as one of the weirdest JUNO nights in recent memory”.
Despite finding the performances somewhat ordinary, at the end of the day, my highlights were definitely to see Kardinal Offishall and Classified announce the winner of Songwriter of the Year, City & Colour performing The Grand Optimist, K’Naan who dropped a verse with Simple Plan and almost fell off stage (!), Feist for being all-around cute and awesome and deadmau5 with Lights for the grand finale! All in all the main stage was fantastic, the lighting was great and the special effects were sort of impressive for a Canadian awards show! And now that the madness is all over and that everyone has gone back home, Ottawa will get back to its regular old self, but here’s to hoping we keep some of that fun JUNO spirit alive!