Things are a bit crazy right now as I try and a) get my day job work in order before departing on a concert trip in two weeks and b) spend my nights volunteering/filmgoing with the Atlantic Film Festival. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a couple of quick thoughts about last night’s gala ceremony for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize.
First, let me say how great it is that a process that started as a very insular industry event is becoming more and more open and accessible. Last night’s program was available not only in streaming audio at CBC Radio 3 but in video form at muchmusic.com and a (thankfully) condensed version of the three-hour show will be aired on Much this weekend. It feels less like a contest now and more like a celebration of Canadian music, and it showed in the genuine reactions from all the nominees who performed. And they ALL performed – the first time all 10 nominees were able to take the stage at the ceremony.
And there were some pretty great performances too, none more visual than Patrick Watson and his band playing in the crowd with strange sonic contraptions wrapped around them. Or how about Chad VanGaalen tearing up guitar riffs before demonstrating his own torn-up-ness with rambling stage banter about Leonard Cohen? Or Elliott Brood handing out kitchen utensils to let the entire crowd bang along to their performance? Perhaps next year Polaris organizers can find a way to make the ceremony even more accessible by having something for viewers to do in-between bands (other than listen to recorded songs, mind you), but I found the show entertaining regardless.
(You can download the highlights in podcast form at CBC Radio 3)
Second, I’m pretty happy that Fucked Up won, even if their record isn’t a favourite of mine in the slightest.
You may recall that two years ago, after Patrick Watson surprised nearly everyone in wining the award, I questioned whether or not the Polaris process – which requires a consensus of jurors on the night of the show – could ever produce an abrasive, challenging winner. I guess I got my answer last night. After a blistering, ass-baring performance, a band whose name needs to be censored for broadcast walked away with the $20,000 cash prize. Even if it’s not my personal cup of tea, and even if it was – in some way – a decision made to be “brash for brash sake,” having The Chemistry of Common Life win the Polaris Prize demonstrates to us doubters that the process can reward a record that pushes more than it pulls. And that’s a very good thing for the validity of the award moving forward.
Plus, there’s something peversely entertaining about watching television and radio commentators figuring out how best to say the band’s name on the air. That in itself made it worthwhile.