Concerts Concerts JunoFest 2011: Friday Night

JunoFest 2011: Friday Night

Sweet Thing at The Mod Club
Junofest 2011 - Friday Night
The Balconies, Sweet Thing, Bravestation, Emm Gryner, Royal Wood, Dala, Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose
Toronto, ON
March 25, 2011

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Julie Lavelle

The country's finest new stars beam on-stage in Toronto for the first night of Junofest 2011.

To complement the annual Juno Awards, JunoFest is arranged as a celebration of Canada's top upcoming talent. This past weekend, the awards show and festival returned to Toronto, and some of the city's favourite venues were set to come alive for back-to-back nights. Answering the call, Sticky Magazine tossed a photographer and writer to the wolves in the pursuit of the best JunoFest performances. With dozens of sets happening within a few hours all across the downtown core, we wore our shoes thin taking in as many highlights as humanly possible.

The Balconies

Kicking off our night with the sun still shining, we arrived at The Mod Club to see The Balconies perform one of the festival's earliest sets. Taking the stage after Michael Bernard in a show supporting Sweet Thing, the rock trio stepped up with strong instrumentals and vocals that were stronger still, showing at their brightest on their heady "Giant Squid." It wasn't surprising to see vocalist Jacquie Neville steal the show with her sexy indie-rocker stylings and her matching sultry voice, but her band-mates showed no slack for their part, contributing to a powerful performance that seemed sadly lost on an audience full of bored young faces waiting quietly to see the headlining group.

The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club   The Balconies at The Mod Club  

Sweet Thing

By the time Sweet Thing picked up their instruments, the audience that was thin twenty minutes earlier had grown thick and bustling, teeming with fans eager to let loose for the party that the group always brings to the stage. The crowd did not leave disappointed. While the silences between songs were alive with the sounds of "I love you" screamed from the floor, the songs themselves were well-polished and performed with the dramatic flair that makes Sweet Thing fans dance and scream, no matter what direction the hands on the clock are pointing.

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Bravestation

From The Mod Club to The Drake Underground, our stacked schedule led us into a crowd gathered together to see Bravestation, one of the many acts of the festival that hang their hats in Toronto. This is a group that was fairly new to us, but it was easy to take to them from the start. With their melodic new-wave sound, the group performed songs that were deeply-layered and mature, like the complex "White Wolves", all the while giving genuine thanks and sporting beaming smiles, showing just how grateful they are to make a career out of making music.

Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake   Bravestation at The Drake  

Emm Gryner

Stepping out just before the end of Bravestation's set, our team of two hustled West and arrived at The Great Hall just in time to see Emm Grnyer wrapping up with her final few songs. Opening a night showcasing two Juno nominated acts, Gryner was having no trouble keeping the attention of an already full house, with a talent honed through a discography spanning over fifteen years.

Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall   Emm Gryner at The Great Hall  

Royal Wood

Royal Wood appeared next, his signature dapper style and sharp vocals this time paired with a talented band that were obligated to pull on suits of their own. Alongside slight self-deprecation about his singular hit and funny quips about his colleagues' bad luck, the singer-songwriter covered tracks from his latest album, The Waiting – a release that earned him a Juno nomination for songwriter of the year. Highlighted by tunes like "I'm So Glad" (a song written for his brother on the eve of his wedding), Royal Wood was a thrill to an audience that turned out to be the most mature and attentive that we'd end up seeing all weekend.

Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall   Royal Wood at The Great Hall  

Dala

Dala was last up on The Great Hall's stage for the night, to perform music well-suited for the same well-composed crowd that had been so entranced by Grnyer and Wood. Nominated for a Juno for roots and traditional album of the year, their music from Girls From the North Country was presented even more stunningly and heartfelt on Friday than it was for its live recording. For their part, the duo was painfully cute and engaging, and they carried themselves with a modesty and unrelenting grace that kept the audience whispering with praise and roaring with applause.

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Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall   Dala at The Great Hall  

Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose

In order to squeeze in one last act before bed, we had to make our exit before Dala left the stage. Thankfully, our disapointment was short-lived, passing once we stepped into The Garrison, where Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose were digging into their set. The group was last in a line-up known for bringing life to an audience, and they were definitely carrying their weight. From the calm of The Great Hall, we stepped into a scene wild with music and energy, packed with a crowd glad to dance and a band glad to be rowdy. Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose played their music with full-force and were all smiles and, even when they dragged a horns section onto the tight stage, they never slacked on dancing and letting loose. But, despite the chaos they brought on-stage, nothing hampered their sound. The group closed our night with a surge of adrenaline; at a time when we expected to be struggling not to fall asleep, we made our way home struggling with our anticipation over what night two of JunoFest had to offer. 

Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison   Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose at The Garrison