Arcade Fire, the late Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Alvvays, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Shawn Mendes, LIGHTS, and A Tribe Called Red were among the winners Saturday night (3/24) at the 47th annual Juno Gala Dinner And Awards in Vancouver, the first of a two-night trophy giveaway celebrating the year’s best in Canadian music.
The private industry-only gathering at the Vancouver Convention Centre — presented by performing rights organization SOCAN, and attended by about 1,500 members of the music industry and nominees — knocks out the majority of wins over four hours. Thirty-six categories are awarded out of 42, and previously announced special achievement awards are delivered as well. The Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award went to industry trailblazer Denise Donlon, the International Achievement Award to Arcade Fire, the Humanitarian Award to industry leader and philanthropist Gary Slaight, and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy was given the MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Award for his impact on music education.
The night also featured performances by nominees Clairmont The Second, Iskwé, James Barker Band, Terra Lightfoot (who performed alongside the In Memorium tribute video), and one of the 2018 Allan Slaight Juno Master Class winners, Caveboy.
The Canadian Academy Of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS), the organization which presents the Junos, is focused on taking artists from “birth to myth, ” as they like to say. They aim to help youth with music education and nurture their careers, so they might one day be nominated for a Juno, and perhaps end up in the Hall Of Fame. That was touched on a little bit more at the gala.
“It’s really exciting right now,” began CARAS president and CEO Allan Reid. His 15-minute opening address also covered the industry’s responsibility to support and encourage more women in the music industry. “There are so many great new artists making incredible music, and at CARAS we received the most Juno submissions in our history this year. These are really good signs for our future.”
He stressed that the night was “about you — the artist, all 191 nominees,” noting that 74 of them were first-timers representing 23 different genres. He also called attention to the addition of the comedy album category, which had been on a 34-year “hiatus,” and asked the nominees to stand up before doing the same for all the first-time nominees in the room, a request he makes every year.
The first two awards of the night went to Krall for vocal jazz album, then Bublé for adult contemporary album. Both artists are represented by Vancouver-based management heavyweights that Reid had to go see three decades ago when he was starting in the music industry as a promo rep for A&M. “I used to go drop off records to Bruce Allen’s office every week and he would scare the hell outta me — he still does, to this day, but Sam Feldman, you were always nice to me,” he joked.
When Bublé went onstage, he brought up his producers, and also made a point to mention young rock newcomers the Beaches, another example of how a veteran encouraged the next generation. “Last night, I was at Bruce Allen’s party and I met the Beaches,” he recalled, “and I love them and I told them that all that mattered was being nominated, and that when you’re nominated in a group the way we are, with these amazing people, that that’s what matters.” Of course, the funny man — who will be hosting the Juno Awards broadcast tonight (3/25) — had to add “because even if you lose, you lie about it anyway.” Later, when the Beaches won breakthrough group of the year, one of them quickly thanked Bublé for the shout-out.
As the evening continued, first-time nominees won 20 awards, including Alvvays for alternative album, Anciients for metal/hard music album, Do Make Say Think for instrumental album, Ivan Decker for comedy album, James Barker Band for country album, Kirk Diamond for reggae recording, Kobo Town for world music album, Nick Fiorucci for dance recording, Rezz for electronic album, the Color for contemporary Christian/gospel album, the Dead South for traditional roots album, and the Glorious Sons for rock album. Grimes also won video of the year, although she wasn’t in attendance.
ok i’m feeling really stupid for not being at the award show now (i’m rly sick and i didn’t think i would win) but THANK u thank you @TheJUNOAwards @TIDAL and @JanelleMonae & every1 who worked on this w me cc: @route_eleven https://t.co/PrUTN2emJV
— Grimes (@Grimezsz) March 25, 2018
Another no-show, Kendrick Lamar, won international album, something Arcade Fire’s Win Butler was especially pleased about. “That was bullshit at the Grammys,” he exclaimed after his band received their International Achievement Award.
Surrounded by his bandmates at the podium, Butler also offered advice to artists starting out.
“I’m so grateful to be on this stage with some of my best friends and this beautiful group of people,” he said. “I think one of the most important things in life is to try and surround yourself with people that are more talented than you and better than you and smarter than you at all times. So that’s what our band is: Everyone that I can think of that was much better than me…”
An American who came to Montreal with his brother, Butler said he always thought of his band as “The Band in reverse,” because the Band were a bunch of Canadians that went to the American South to find their heartbeat and to connect to their soul.
“If you’re a young person in a band … move somewhere where you can go see bands that are better than you all the time,” he said. “Unless you feel embarrassed by what you’re doing because you’re seeing other people that are tremendously better than you, constantly, you’ll never reach anywhere close to your potential.”
See the complete list of winners here. Tonight at the Rogers Arena, the remaining awards, including album of the year, will be handed out. Barenaked Ladies will be inducted into the Hall Of Fame as well.
The two-hour show will be jammed with performances featuring many of the nominees and a tribute to Downie by City And Colour, Sarah Harmer, and Kevin Hearn.
A version of this article originally appeared on Billboard.