This past weekend, the Juno Awards came to Calgary for the first time. Somehow, the Gauntlet managed to snag accreditation for both the highly-publicized awards show on Sunday and the low-key gala the night before. Intrepid boy reporter and Entertainment Editor Ryan Pike recorded his experiences for posterity with over 10 pages of disorganized, handwritten notes and over an hour of audio recordings.
The day begins early, as I meet Jon Roe at the office and we check out Fan Fare at the Olympic Oval. Immediately, Jon and I realize something: we're both several years younger than the majority of the media and several older than the majority of pen-scratch panhandlers.
The setup itself is pretty solid: a stage on which MuchMusic is conducting interviews with artists. On either side of the stage is a long table where autograph-seekers can line up. It's all tremendously well-organized. The crowd, judging by their reactions to the Much people, are predominantly 14-year-old girls. We stick around for a few hours, hoping to get the VJ interview that was pitched to us by MuchMusic's media relations people. No such luck, so Jon and I duck out of the photo pit to avoid screeching-teenage-girl-induced hearing loss.
After regrouping with coffee and naps, we're off to the first night of the Juno Awards, the gala. The gala's in the north building of the Telus Convention Centre and us media folk are housed in the south building. The winners are carted back and forth between buildings. We're also informed of several key facts: 32 awards are scheduled to be presented (in addition to two special awards), but about a third of the winners simply aren't here. Nevertheless, the gala is pegged to last around four hours.
The ceremony begins 20 minutes late, as hostess Measha Brueggergosman informs the audience that she had troubles with the zipper on her dress. She also explains the procedure for accepting awards and the necessity for staying on schedule. While the show starts late, it stays on schedule once it gets going. Brueggergosman is tremendously funny throughout the show, from explaining how to deal with her if she lost her award to presenting several awards wearing a foam cowboy hat. Most people backstage are happy when she wins in her category on her third nomination.
The awards are presented in clusters and alternated with performances, all of which are excellent. On the other hand, I am proven to be horrible at guessing award show winners. After predicting only two of the first 12 awards correctly, I stop keeping track.
Watching such a long show backstage is a pretty strange experience. A large section of the audience in the back already have a good sense of who's winning what, so they tune out for much of it. The feed in the back is often cut off whenever a winner is brought in for interviews. Strangely enough, the only large-scale clamour in the back occurs when the internet feed dies and the IT guy is brought in to fix it (this gets a sizable ovation). The sheer length of the show wears on everyone by the end, though, and a great deal of the folks in the gallery clear out before the final hour of the show.
Jon and I return to campus from an after-party and discover, via running into various scantily-clad students, that the annual Porn Star Cabaret is the same night. It's a strange juxtaposition of clothing: Jon and I in suits, many others nearly in their birthday suits.
We arrive at the Saddledome and discover a much more hectic atmosphere than we experienced the night before. Comparing the rundowns of the gala and the broadcast are like night and day: the gala segments are blocked out in several-minute chunks, the broadcast is timed down to the second. With seven awards along with nine performances to cram into CTV's tight, two-hour block, the regimentation is understandable. The media area itself is also much more regimented than the previous night. Folks are running around much more insanely than they were on Sat. and the catering disappears as soon as it arrives, almost ensuring a room full of hungry, cranky people.
In keeping with the weekend's string of minor technical problems, the backstage live feed dies immediately after the show begins, forcing the media room to use the CTV feed with the standard seven-second delay.
Feist's first speech gets cut off, but she's able to finish it when she wins her next award. She had a different speech for her third award. The effects of the broadcast delay are soon felt in the media area: the rumbling of Avril Lavigne's performance is felt well before it's shown on screen.
The majority of the winners head to the backstage interview area once the show is over, with the exception of Michael Buble, who sneaks down before his performance and cracks everyone up. As expected, Feist is met with the most questions of anybody over the weekend. Surprisingly, though, she responds to a question about iPods by booing the questioner, who quickly comes up with a better one.
The weekend ends at the Warner Music after-party where we run into Finger Eleven, the Saint Alvia Cartel, NHL great Bob Probert, mayor Dave Bronconnier and federal NDP leader Jack Layton. The mood is upbeat and many Juno veterans are openly hailing Calgary's installment as the best ever held.
Overall, the experience is both amazing and exhausting. The grind of 20 hours of Juno-related events over a couple days wears on everyone, but the atmosphere surrounding the weekend is so energetic and upbeat, it's hard not to enjoy yourself.