Mod Club in Toronto, ON
March 1, 2011
Review by: Natalia Buia
Photos by: Robert Ciolfi
The third annual Verge Music Awards provided stellar performances by three amazing acts and some surprising, albeit well deserved winners. XM Canada really knows how to throw a party. Musicians, writers, photographers, friends, family and fans filled The Mod Club to its capacity.
The night took off as Ottawa's The Acorn flocked to the stage for a 30 minute set. Lead singer Rolf Klausener advised the crowd: "This is a pick up song. If you wanna pick up, now is the time to do it" before he and the rest of the band began to play "The Misplaced". Not gonna lie, that song gives me goosebumps - more so when hearing it live.
Awards were given out by industry extraordinaires between sets. XM Canada director of programming Jeff Leake presented the Emerging Artist of the Year award to none other than the lovely Hannah Georgas. This Vancouver songbird had some stiff competition with The Rural Alberta Advantage and PS I Love You (some of my faves) also eyeing the prize. She has been working hard this past year promoting her album This Is Good. After interviewing her, I can see why all her fans voted for her triumphant win.
"I'm grateful for my fans. I try to keep them in the loop with what I'm doing all the time," she says. "To nurture your fan base is a very important thing."
Hannah also tells me her top three favorite experiences these passed twelve months have been putting out the record, of course, touring with her band in Germany and opening for Mother Mother in Toronto. I can rest assured that Hannah will be making more trips overseas in 2011 thanks to her generous monetary win.
Tokyo Police Club charmed the growing crowd as they began playing all their hits: "Favourite Colour", "Nature of the Experiment" and "Bambi". Dave Monks' energy transcended throughout the venue and really picked up the pace after The Acorn's soft, rootsy presentation.
Alexisonfire mates George Pettit and Wade MacNeil got on stage to hand out the $25,000 prize for Album of the Year to the ghosts of Zeus. I say this because, well, the Toronto based four piece initially never made it on stage to say thanks. It was not a case of not being in attendance but rather miscommunication. George Petit offered comedic relief, stating "I'm going to spend the $25,000 on machine guns!" Luckily, Zeus have nine lives and were granted an acceptance speech by Leake later on in the evening.
I have a feeling Say Us is going to sell a lot more copies this week. It's been a year since the now award winning album's been out. It's certainly one of the most feel good albums to come out in 2010. The band's been touring like crazy and when they play shows, they exude confidence, energy and authentic chemistry that cannot be denied.
"I think playing live you quickly realize that the audience gets off on energy, and you do too. It feeds off of each other. It's inescapable," Mike O'Brien says backstage. "I think that any great band people have liked over the years are just at the core of it. They play well together, there's a chemistry there. That's what we go for."
The final award off the evening was presented by two broken social scenesters, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Up for Artist of the Year were some renowned bands like Tegan and Sara and Arcade Fire. But it was those young, loveable boys from Windsor that all music enthusiasts voted for. Michou were over the moon when accepting their $25,000 prize.
Immediately after their win, I caught up with the band and yes, I shared some ginger pride with lead singer Michael Hargreaves. The band is big on using not just charm, but social media to reach out to fans and keep contact with those they meet at shows.
"Not a lot of people are making money off music in terms of selling records. At the end of the day, your music is your best marketing tool. We've worked as hard as we can to make the best songs and give them to people and see what they think. We've had a great response of people getting on board and supporting us," says Hargreaves.
The band continues to stress how important it is to make friends with everyone. Anyone in the production staff, everyone in the crowd, the band's all about hanging out and getting to know everyone, as Sasha Appler insisted.
"We genuinely love meeting people at shows. After we play, we really just want to meet the people that are there," Ryan Frith says, after leaning in and pulling a piece of lint off of Sasha's hair.
"See, that's how nice we are!" he jokes.
It must not go unmentioned how fun this band was to interview. Although they're young and fresh on the scene, a lot of mature, seasoned bands can really look up to Michou for their likability and kindness.
Speaking of mature and seasoned, the night was capped off by Gord Downie and his band, The Country of Miracles. I was taken aback by the stoic performer, who shared the stage with some very talented musicians including Julie Doiron. The highlight to my night was hearing him play "Vancouver Divorce" and kudos to his hilarious introduction to the song: "Is your relationship going well? Well, if it isn't and you're out of ideas, I'll save you the airfare. Don't go to Vancouver. It wont work there either. Beautiful as it is, it will not save you. This song is for you!"
There is a lot of gossip streaming online about this year possibly being the last bash for XM Canada. However, from the immeasurable amount of fun I had, I sure hope that isn't true.