Amazing Week For Canadian Music? JUNO-it!

Photos by Kamara Morozuk

What a great time to be a music fan in Canada’s capital, eh? 

You could have thrown a Timbit in any direction and hit a musician as Ottawa became music city in the days leading up to the 2017 Juno Awards! Was that The Strumbella’s playing the Rideau Centre while shocked shoppers tried to freeze the escalator? Did somebody spot Shawn Mendes sipping a Bridgehead Maple latte? Did the Arkells really open for Fred Penner who played a near midnight set with puppets voiced by Sloan? Does Jim Cuddy have alternate versions of himself made in some secret government facility in British Columbia to ensure he can be in about six places at the same time?

A Tribe Called Red

Oh yeah, it was that kinda' week in O-town so who better to open the biggest night in Canadian music then Ottawa’s own A Tribe Called Red! 

It would be an Indigenous cavalcade introduced by Allan Waters Humanitarian Award winner Buffy Sainte-Marie. The beat of a drum kept the pace with JUNO winners ATCR standing tall in the middle of the massive JUNO set as dancers in colourful regalia paraded around the stage in a jubilant display of culture to kick off a show that would be both celebratory and somber.

Hosts Bryan Adams and Russell Peters

Hosts Bryan Adams and funnyman Russell Peters began the show with a little comedic banter that included Prime Minister Justine Trudeau making a special Juno request of the legendary rock star: “Can you play ‘Summer of ‘69’”, he asked? "I love that song"

Who doesn't, JT?!

Shawn Mendes

Adams would emphatically deliver later on in the show but first some barbs Southward. 

“What a great time to be in Canada. We’re still sexy at 150,” said Peters playfully adding that our neighbours below have been aging pretty badly since January. Zing!

Ruth B., who took part in donating $10,000 worth of musical instruments to a local school earlier in the week, took home the first prize of the night winning for La, La Land….errr, Breakthrough Artist of the year.

She’d later perform her hit “Lost Boy” with Ottawa’s own OrKidstra.

“No matter where you come from, no matter what you do, if you have a passion follow it,” said B. during a heartfelt acceptance speech.

Alessia Cara

Though the crowd was a loud one all evening, the most vocal fan contingent in the Canadian Tire Centre made themselves heard early on.

Before host Peters could pronounce the first two letters of Shawn Mendes’s name the place got Beatles Shea Stadium kind of crazy, drowning out the host who quipped that the “only way we get a name like Shawn Mendes here tonight is because his name sounds too Mexican to get into the United States.”

Zing x dos!

Mendes fans lined up as early as 1 PM on a thankfully snowless day in hopes of seeing their musical paramour pick up a win.

“I can’t wait to see him,” Stefania Panetta said from her spot camped out in line before the big show. “He’s just so amazing!”

Though Mendes would lose out to Brampton’s Alessia Cara for Pop Album of the Year, fans like Panetta would not leave the show disappointed. Not only did the young heartthrob perform a sizzling rendition of his hit “Mercy” but he also took home the Fan Choice Award.

The Arkells
July Talk's Peter Dreimanis
The Strumbellas

Other acts included The Strumbellas “Spirits”, The Arkells –joined by a gospel choir- for “Drake’s Dad” and a spitfire of a performance by July Talk that showed one stage couldn’t contain the force of nature that is Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. They used every inch of the set, and parts of the floor, before moving to one of the side stages with Fay rolling around like a euphoric feline.

While new stars like Ruth B., Cara and Mendes got their chance to shine, the night would save its brightest lights for some of the icons in Canadian Music. Gord Downie won Songwriter of the Year for his solo outing “Secret Path”.

“We’re not completely Canada yet. We have friends, countrymen and women who are in big trouble,” Downie said in a pre-recorded message.

“Our friends who were here before us for thousands of years, First Nations, have many, many stories like this. Help teach our young ones. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you tonight. Thank you for the time. This award is to all of us, to all of us bent on trying.”

The band he fronted for over three decades, The Tragically Hip, won Group of the Year. What may have been the band’s final concert was watched by about one-third of the Canadian population back in August when it aired live from Kingston but it was the Ottawa arena crowd guitarist Paul Langois addressed when, during a lengthy speech, the show tried to play him off stage.

“Go to commercial, go head. This is my arena, not yours,” he said to a massive eruption of Mendes'esq proportions from the crowd.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Trudeau would return to the broadcast, this time with wife Sophie Grégoire, to introduce the most touching portion of the evening, one that honoured the late Leonard Cohen. As friends of the master poet, novelist and man born with “the gift of the a voice”, the Prime Minister spoke of Cohen’s importance to Montreal, how he was a pallbearer at his father’s funeral and called him “one of the greatest artists Canada has ever produced”.

Feist would perform a haunting and beautiful version of Cohen’s “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” while a black and white slideshow of his career played on the screens behind her.

Feist pays tribute to the late Leonard Cohen

“And now it’s come to distances and both of us must try / your eyes are soft with sorrow / hey that’s not way to say goodbye,” she sang, words leaving some misty eyed.

Cohen’s final release, You Want it Darker, would go on to win Album of the Year.

“My father always said that he saw a Juno in my future,” said Cohen’s son Adam upon accepting the award. “Of course, it was his.”

Sarah McLachlan

Songstress Sarah McLachlan was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame earlier in the evening before returning to seemingly close off the show with “World On Fire”.

“I have the best job in the world,” McLachlan told the crowd. “Music is my church, music just makes our world so much better. I’m grateful for the luck of geography,” she said touching upon the freedoms Canadian women have to express themselves as she did and reminding those watching that “we need to remember to hold onto our light” in dark times.

But Sara was not the end. The JUNOs would have one final surprise and it was a big one.

Adams, now fully out of host mode and into his rocker best, struck the first few chords of “Summer of ‘69” and suddenly Shawn Mendes earlier cheer was obliterated by the roar that emanated from the audience possibly cracking the foundation and upturning a few cars in the parking lot.

"I got my first real six string. Bought it at the 5 and Dime," they sang. Wait, Adams snagged his first rocker guitar when he was 9 at the 60's equivliant to a Dolleramma? Ahhh, doesn't matter! 

It was as though you could hear millions of Canucks behind their televisions, computers and tablets also joining in song as an all-star cavalry of performers flooded onto the stage to join the legend for one of his biggest hits.

McLachlan, Cara, Billy Talent, White Horse, The Arkells and others ended the show with the kind of musical love fest that’s happened all over the capital for the last five days. They really pulled out all the stops for Canada's 150th! It's a week Ottawa music fans are not going to forget.

Whether you were rocking out at House of Targ, gathered in Zaphods, lining up at Fan Fare, watching the Jocks battle the Rock for the JUNO Cup, one of the lucky few taking in any of the mega JUNO Jam sessions on stages big and small or there in the Canadian Tire Centre last night, for this music fan anyway, like the song says, these were among "the best days of my life!"   


Album Of The Year: Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker.

Group Of The Year: The Tragically Hip, Man Machine Poem.

Breakthrough Artist: Ruth B.

Songwriter Of The year: Gord Downie for “The Stranger,” “The Only Place to Be” and “Son” from Secret Path.

Pop Album Of the Year: Alessia Cara, Know-It-All.

Country Album Of The Year: Jess Moskaluke, Kiss Me Quiet.

Fan Choice Award: Shawn Mendes

Artist Of The Year: Leonard Cohen.

Single Of The Year: The Strumbellas, “Spirits.”

Breakthrough Group Of The Year: The Dirty Nil.

Adult Alternative Album Of The Year: Gord Downie, Secret Path.

Alternative Album Of The Year: July Talk, Touch.

Rock Album Of The Year: The Tragically Hip, Man Machine Poem.

Rap Recording Of The Year: Jazz Cartier, “Hotel Paranoia.”

Dance Recording Of The Year: Bit Funk Featuring Shae Jacobs, “Off The Ground.”

R&B/Soul Recording Of The Year: The Weeknd, “Starboy”

Reggae Recording Of The Year: Exco Levi, Siren.

Indigenous Music Album Of The Year: Quantum Tangle, Tiny Hands.

Contemporary Roots Album Of The Year: William Prince, Earthly Days.

Traditional Roots Album Of The Year: The East Pointers, Secret Victory.

Blues Album Of The Year: Paul Reddick, Ride The One.

Vocal Jazz Album Of The Year: Bria Skonberg, Bria.

Jazz Album Of The Year — Solo: Renée Rosnes, Written In The Rocks.

Jazz Album Of The Year — Group: Metalwood, Twenty.

Instrumental Album Of The Year: The Fretless, Bird’s Nest.

Francophone Album Of The Year: Laurence Nerbonne, Xo.

Children’s Album Of The Year: Diana Panton, I Believe In Little Things.

Classical Album Of The Year — Solo Or Chamber: New Orford String Quartet, Brahms: String Quartets, Op. 51, Nos. 1 & 2.

Classical Album Of The Year — Large Ensemble: Steve Wood And The Northern Cree Singers And Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Going Home Star — Truth And Reconciliation.

Jack Richardson Producer Of The Year: A Tribe Called Red, “R.E.D.” (Featuring Yasiin Bey, Narcy And Black Bear) And “Sila” (Featuring Tanya Tagaq) From We Are The Hallucination.

Recording Engineer Of The Year: Jason Dufour For “Push + Pull” And “Beck + Call” From July Talk’s Touch.

Recording Package Of The Year: Gord Downie, Secret Path — Jonathan Shedletzky (Art Director), Isis Essery (Designer) And Jeff Lemaire (Illustrator).

Video Of The Year: Grimes, “Kill V. Maim” (Director: Claire Boucher).

Electronic Album Of The Year: Kaytranada, 99.9%.

Metal/Hard Music Album Of The Year: Mandroid Echostar, i.

Adult Contemporary Album Of The Year: Sarah Mclachlan, Wonderland.

International Album Of The Year: Coldplay, A Head Full Of Dreams.