4/6/09

Guest Writer: Kaya Fraser (Juno's part 2)

Part two of Kaya Fraser's Juno experience (including one of the most beautiful paragraphs I've read in a long time... second last). Read part 1 here


So day two: surprisingly unhungover, I was nevertheless rather jaded about all this. I spent the day doing other things: having brunch twice, seeing some family, enjoying that rare phenomenon, Vancouver sunshine. I could have gone to see a songwriters circle or some such thing, but I decided not to--I might not have gotten in, anyway, since it was a limited-space event. Same deal with the "red carpet" event, which I couldn't get into. But it was just as well, since I didn't feel like hurrying around the way I had the day before. So I took my time getting my outfit on and applying eye-makeup, and hopped the Sky Train again (my very favourite public transit system, by the way. It sounds so futuristic!) and headed down to GM Place, usual home of the Vancouver Canucks, but tonight, home of many overdressed industry types.

Even more than the previous night, I was actively shepherded as soon as I arrived. I guess this was for security's sake, but when I got to the media entrance, I was individually escorted by a be-headsetted young woman, who reported to someone on the other end of the line that she was "moving with media." I really wish she'd said, "over" or "roger that" or something, but it was still pretty cool. I joked with her in the elevator that I felt flattered, having a personal escort. She smiled back, "well, we don't want you wandering around." True, I thought. Who knows what kind of scrapes I could get into. I might even go tell Nickelback what I really think of them.

Arriving at the upper chambers in some mysterious part of the building, I was again deposited in a sort of media pit. Another room much like the last, except with even more lights and cameras. Luckily I sat down beside someone who, I learned, was another freelancer, and who had an appropriate sense of irony about this whole thing. He told me right away where to get the free food and drink. This was good, as I hadn't eaten since brunch number two, and was quite peckish. I collected a boxed meal that they had put together for us (no trough this time), and a bottle of Big Rock traditional ale, grateful that the event wasn't being sponsored by Molson or Labatt. I sat down beside my freelance buddy and munched on a ham sandwich while we watched Russell Peters perform his "comedy" in the opening minutes of the show.

It was the same routine as the night before, but at a quicker clip this time. The winners were paraded in, questioned, and paraded to the next-door room for photo ops. It was rather a thrill to see Sarah McLachlan in the flesh--she who was a great heroine of mine during my teens, when I picked out the chords to the songs on "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" on my guitar. She was both luminous and humble, an entirely Canadian star, swathed in the gorgeous gown she wore on the cover of her most recent CD. I haven't listened to her lately, I'm rather sad to say--I didn't even know the song she performed a few minutes before on the broadcast--but I still admire her. Not to the point where I begged a photo and autograph from her, as some of the reporters did after her Q&A; I really do find that a cheapening practice. It was just good to see her and hear her speak with such dignity.

A moment I loved came later on. Sam Roberts and his band, who had performed a noticeably excellent song on the broadcast, came up after winning Artist of the Year. He and his cohort were funny, modest, and articulate. Questions were given actually interesting answers, thoughtful answers. Roberts even used some words that were longer than two syllables, I noticed. And then, when questioned by someone from Radio Canada, answered in French without missing a beat, with (I thought) equal eloquence. Impressive. It made my Montreal heart glow with pride.

So they were shuffled off, and then who came in next, but that behemoth of mediocrity, Nickelback. Now, I don't know Chad Kroeger or his bandmates. They seem like decent guys, and one had to feel some sympathy for them, as they addressed the hate-on that the critics have had for them, explaining that they were just a mainstream band, that's all, and that they played for their fans. But oh, the darkly hilarious contrast, after the clever Sam Roberts. Kroeger marvelled that even their fans in Detroit, having to sell their houses for $100 in this economic crisis, still found the money to come to the Nickelback concerts and to buy their records. Honest, grateful amazement on his part: but one sensed there was a more cynical sense of amazement pervading the room on the other side of the podium. My friend beside me whispered his theory of the band's success: "the only reason they sell so many records," he quipped, "is that their fans can't figure out how to download it for free." Was it a teasing play on words when one reporter asked whether Kroeger was "dumbfounded" by their winning the Fan Choice award? I will not speculate. But it was kind of endearing, watching them answer the questions, and although I will never buy one of their records, I have to hand it to them: they're doing what they love, and a lot of people are digging it. Is that so wrong, really?

A few other people came through, ending with Peters, who, although his popularity is undeniable, I just can't find that funny, when his "jokes" consist of repeating the question of an Asian reporter in a "me ruv you rongtime" caricature accent. What the?... This country has produced how many brilliant comic minds, and this is what we've resorted to? So I took some pictures and packed up my notebook. There were some murmurs that Elvis Costello would come up for a chat--which would have been very, very cool--but he seemed to have gotten waylaid, so I eventually gave up and headed downstairs.

Hoping I might get to meet some more people, I wandered into a darkened space that seemed to hold a lot of them--turns out this was the CTV E-talk Lounge or something. It was rather... carnivalesque. I got my free wine from the open bar and waded through the crowd, which consisted mostly of girls who, I gradually figured out, weren't actually media people or musician-dates, but were just... fans, I guess? They were young, dressed in cheap-looking lycra dresses, and looked far too excited to be anyone important (this is how my brain started thinking by the end of this whole thing. Sick, eh?). There was a sort of a stage in the middle of the room, where a skinny woman with a demonic hairdo was interviewing a little guy in a hat. Cameras were filming them. There was a smoke machine somewhere, sending out puffs of aromatic fog that I guess were supposed to create atmosphere, but it wasn't really working. I saw Jian Gomeshi again, and then the loathsome Ben Mulroney, but that was about it for recognizable faces. I guessed that the musicians were in some other dungeon of the arena, drinking champagne--either that, or they had been ushered off to their afterparties. So I gulped back my free wine as a matter or principle, and left. No attempts at going out this time: I'd learned my lesson the night before. So I headed back to my base, surprising my host by arriving so early, and wrote my 200 words on a legal pad.

I tried to mention the bands who made an impression with their real-ness, the ones who had their history of hard work written on their faces. Credit where credit is due. This is not a country of overnight sensations. It's too damn big for that. This is a country of road warriors, seasoned veterans of the Trans-Canada highway. This is a country where musicians have to reach out to find eachother, meeting and playing and recording together again and again and again for years before anyone even notices. Long, cold winter nights spent in basements, learning the craft. Hot summer nights spent in situations that beget great songs. All of it happens over long spans of time, over long distances.

I left the next morning, taking the ferry back to the island where I live now, thinking about long time and long distance. Am I in this for the long haul? Because that's what it's going to take. You don't even think about a destination, you just keep going. I think I am, but I realize now that I'm only just starting out. At least others are on the road, too, and lord knows we better all stick together.

1 comment:

Alexis Marsh said...

Yeah, Kaya! Nice writing and thank you for your take on the whole experience. Funny and wry. Lovely. And I really enjoyed your songs in the fall at the Cameron House. Stay on that road!