Crowds, rockstars, and beer drinking

The Junos kick-off lives up to the hype - good and bad

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Toronto has descended upon Halifax. At least, that’s the impression I got after Night One of the Junos festivities. While out on the town, I saw men with more product in their hair than any Haligonian woman. I think they might have been wearing make-up too. Not that they looked bad. They looked damn good and I might have been slightly envious.

There was a feel of electricity in the air as a friend and I walked towards the concert in Grand Parade Square. The sight we came upon was nothing like I had seen in Halifax. Thousands of people crammed into an area the size of half a block. Matt Mays and his band of Torpedoes were rocking out on stage and people seemed to be enjoying it. Or at least, the ones who could see the stage looked like they were having fun. A logistical nightmare for about half the people there, Grand Parade looked like one of those chutes cows walk through before they’re butchered. Kids resorted to scaling the wall of the World Trade and Convention Centre to get a better look.

All this for a line-up of bands that play in Halifax at least once every few months. Craziness.

There were other signs that something was different about the city besides the mass of humanity next to City Hall. A glance over my shoulder and there was Juno nominee for best R&B album, the smooth talkin’, ladies man Massari. A few feet away stood Ben Mulroney (he really does look like a Ken doll in person)! What’s up, Chris Murphy of Sloan hanging out at Tribeca?

The city is abuzz with Junos fever, alright, but at the moment my friend was getting claustrophobic. And all I’ve managed to see was a two-second look at Matt Mays’ beanie hat – and that’s when I was hopping up and down like a manic pogo-stick rider. So we decide to make a hasty retreat to Tribeca, my watering hole of choice for some Juno weekend beers.

Arriving at the bar, we found a different, albeit welcome sight – about a dozen people sitting comfortably, sipping beers. No smell of body odour, hot dogs and patchouli at all. It was as if this was our secret hiding spot from Junos craziness despite the big sign in the window that signified the establishment was a JunoFest host.

Little did I know that the Grand Parade performers would follow us to the bar. Actually, Joel Plaskett had beat us there. Within an hour, Matt Mays and company shows up with dozens of girls. Two hours later, he’s on stage spinning records and the dance floor is packed. Record execs are in attendance. Groupies are to be seen. Dude from Pilate is drinking with a posse in the corner. “Into Your Hideout” this wasn’t.

But you know what? I was having fun. Very rarely do the planets align to bring together the media (I counted no less than four local music writers in attendance), musicians, and record industry folk in the same room. Usually it’s a meeting over the phone or a chance run-in at a show. Tonight they were all out in force and it felt kinda special.

Now if only I can convince said record execs to let me into their Junos after-parties, things will be even better. Hint, hint.

Tonight is schmooze and booze with publicists at The Coast sponsored party, then performances by lovely chanteuse Jenn Grant at Ginger’s Tavern, followed by hip-hop with Universal Soul at Waterfront Warehouse, rock ‘n roll dance-grooves with Dr. Dfunkt at the Seahorse, and indie-goodness with Selfconscious at Tribeca. Then it’s taking advantage of the extended bar hours awarded by the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission to local establishments (5 a.m!!!) for the weekend. Thank heavens the Junos doesn’t always happen in Halifax. I could only afford one set of spare kidneys. I’ll probably pop those in Sunday morning.

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