Polaris Music Prize 2018: A night Canadian music lovers can be proud of!

All photos by Laura Collins

“All of my people, this is for you!"

Jeremy Dutcher screamed this out as he emotionally took the microphone to address the ecstatic crowd.  "Canada, you are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance," said Dutcher as he accepted his award. "Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?"

He spoke slowly and precisely, as if he had waited a century to tell his story.  His words resonated confidently about how his album was inspired by the voice of his people. "I do this work to honour those who have gone before, and I lay the footwork for those who have yet to come.”

The passionate and beautiful show he put on depicted his love for his heritage perfectly. His album , “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa” is highlighted by the fact that he used one hundred year old wax cylinder recordings he unearthed of songs from the Wolastoq First Nation. His elder, Maggie Paul, whose voice you actually hear on the album telling him "when you bring the songs back, you're going to bring the people back, you're going to bring everything back,” was proudly on hand.

Hosted by the lovely Raina Douris of CBC’s Music Morning’s and Backstage pass, the event took place at the beautiful Carlu Theatre in downtown Toronto. It was interwoven with nine amazing two song sets and it’s hard to say that anyone was a standout as everyone was just that good.

Indie pop band “Weaves” opened the show with an energetic set highlighted by singer Jasmyn Burke’s strong vocals and stage presence.

Jean-Michel Blais followed and he silenced the Carlu, then brought them to their feet with a well deserved standing ovation. His emotionally dynamic piano scores that were brilliant to say the least, left everyone wanting more.

If I was to pick a personal favourite performance, it was Quebec native Hubert Lenoir. His gritty, loud, unabashedly glammed up set was by far a crowd favourite.  He stole the show with his unmatched stage presence and took us back in time to the  L.A. Sunset Strip circa 1980’s.  Just when you thought he might go too far he dialed it back perfectly and left us anticipating what would happen next, finishing his set while screaming “I am your French Canadian nightmare”.  Rock n roll at its finest.

If I had the smallest gripe about the night it would be the downtime between sets. A set backline would have been much better for artist switchover.  However, that is the smallest of smallest gripes about a fantastic evening.

Polaris Music Prize founder, Steve Jordan, finished off the winners press conference by going on record to say that “this years Polaris was the best we’ve ever had”. Felt like it to me!