Guest Writer: Kaya Fraser

My friend musician Kaya Fraser had the oppurtunity to see the Juno's first hand. She originally posted this to a few friends on Facebook, but I thought it would be something you guys would dig, and she graciously alowed my to re-print it. Thanks Kaya!

So I've been meaning to write a li'l blog about my experiences this past weekend, for the benefit of those who wanted the run-down and my REAL opinions. Here's the backstory: I got a surprise opportunity, thanks to a friend of mine, to cover the Juno Awards as a freelance reporter for a fine publication which shall remain unnamed. It was a small assignment--just 200 words and some pictures--and unpaid, but it would get me a media pass, so I said, yes please! And ferried over to the big city to catch the excitement.

I had to get there a little late--Saturday afternoon, to be exact--because of my choir concert the previous night. That stressed me out a little, since I had never dealt with anything like this before. The first task was picking up my media pass, and my info kit had warned ominously that if the passes weren't picked up by 3 PM, you weren't going to get into the awards the next night. Well, I had only noticed this once I was on the 1:00 ferry, and nearly had a stroke. There was no way I'd be there by 3--it would be 4 if I was lucky. So I hightailed it when I hit the city, getting ready to prostrate myself, shuffling into the fancy-schmancy hotel, backpack on back and feeling hilariously underdressed in jeans and running shoes, compared to the media types who were already there in their pointy shoes and powersuits. Perhaps based on my outfit, the young usher who directed me to the media desk (he might have been 20) asked if I was a volunteer. "No, I'm a REPORTER," I curtly replied, feeling indignant despite how hilarious that sounded to my own ears. It felt a bit like saying "no, I'm an ASTRONAUT." But for the purposes of the weekend, this was my role, so I thought I'd better try to get into character.

I got the media pass without a problem (turns out the ominous warnings were just a ruse for newbies like me) and quickly fled the hotel, in order to get back to my kind host's place, so I could change. I returned to the hotel dressed in little black dress and nylons, and was directed to the "Q and A" room above the ballroom where the banquet and early awards were happening. Now, I had been hopeful about the banquet, considering I was on a budget of about zero dollars per day, and some good food was a nice thought. I should have gotten there earlier. The food for the media was set up outside the "Q and A" room, buffet-style, on a long table. Kind of like a trough, now that I think of it. It seems the livestock had already been through, because the trough was very nearly empty. I scraped up some salmon-in-porcini-infused-

sauce and a bit of risotto or something, and had my dinner (it tasted pretty good, at least, even if it was a scanty portion). At least there was WINE. And plenty of it, on a table nearby, free for the pouring. It was even pretty good-tasting wine--some kind of BC variety. I poured a generous glass and set myself up in the Q&A room.

These rooms are just rows of seats in front of a podium; some people had desks to plug their laptops into. Behind the seats are all the cameras and the big lights. At the front, beside the podium, was a big screen which showed us a simulcast of what was going on downstairs. The drill was, we would sit there, drinking our free booze and typing on our laptops or whatever, until some award winner was shepherded up to the media room for questions. During the Q&A, the TV was muted (although we were provided with headsets in case we wanted to ignore the person being questioned and keep tabs on the show instead). Then the award winner would leave, and we'd watch the TV some more until the next person showed up.

That's it. Fairly straightforward. The Saturday night winners had their own charm, since they were the unfamous ones for the most part, and so seemed more humbly pleased by it all. One answered questions about his dayjob at a software company. Another had clearly been hitting the open bar pretty hard, and livened things up with some half-funny, half-embarrassing antics for the cameras (one journalist asked her, "So would you say you're feeling drunk with success?").

The appearances I most appreciated that night: first of all, The Stills, a band that features an old highschool friend of mine, so I was a pleased partisan for them. It was an amusing moment when, after winning New Group of the Year, they joked about having been together only six months (when really it's been maybe ten years). "New" is a very relative term in the music industry. I also got a kick out of Serena Ryder--another "new" act who's been at it for about a decade. She is charming but unaffected. No bullshitty hipster vibes from her. She's just good at what she does, that's all, and it's starting to pay off. She announced that she was donating the $2000 prize money to the music education charity Music Counts, which I thought was pretty decent, since I'm sure she's by no means filthy rich.

The whole thing wrapped up fairly speedily (everything felt early because of course we were all catering to the Eastern time zone) and so I just drifted downstairs to see what I could see. The lobby was full of fancy people, schmoozing and drinking and wandering through the crowd looking like they were seeking someone. There was another open bar (more wine? yes, thanks) and a tower of cupcakes, a tower of sushi, and big bowls of variously coloured melon balls. I didn't really know anyone, with a couple of exceptions. I ran into my friend from the Stills and congratulated him before he was swept off to the afterparties. I then saw another musician I know, not Famous but further along the trajectory than me, and hoped to say hi. However, he apparently didn't recognize me, or was too busy cuddling up to a pretty female singer-songwriter whom you've probably heard of. So I wandered in another direction, feeling exactly like a kid on the first day of a new school.

Finally, when people were getting in their limos, I figured I'd head out and get to a club to hear some of the Junofest bands I wanted to hear. One was Matthew Barber, who is great, but whom I'd never heard live before. Arriving at the pub where he was slated to play, I discovered a lineup, which I bypassed with my magical media badge. The pub was FULL. And NO ONE was listening to the opening act, who was valiantly strumming away and singing into a crappy PA in the corner. I thought, this is ridiculous, but grabbed a beer (yeah, it was a bit of a woozy walk home) hoping at least to stay long enough to hear Matt. I met him, as he waded through the crowd with his manager, probably wondering how the hell he was going to win over this completely oblivious audience. He was nice, as was his manager, but after talking to them, I decided that I didn't want to hear a good musician drowned out by this crowd of half-drunk partiers, so I left. Some "fest." I didn't even bother trying the other venues. I was suddenly really tired, and kind of depressed. I grabbed a slice of cheap pizza en route back to the Sky Train station, passed lots of dressed-up kids and homeless people, and eventually found my way back to my host's place, wondering how many years of shitty gigs it will take before I qualify as a new artist...

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