There I sat, surrounded by cameras, microphones, and reporters. No, I wasn’t being interviewed about my role in the ECMA weekend. I was actually sitting in the basement of the Metro Centre, stuck in the Media Room as the ECMA Awards Gala raged on outside. If you're ever a journalist and you want to feel you're a small fish in a big pond, cover an awards ceremony of any sort. It's probably one of the most surreal experiences for a writer and something I have yet to get used to.
The ECMA Awards Gala was a clash of personalities, egos banging into one another, jostling for position. And that was just the media. The artists were more like cattle being herded in and out of the media room, bright-eyed and confused as to what was going on. Then someone would ask them a question, tell them to smile, and they would oblige. If only my interviews were so easy. The seasoned musicians of the east coast music biz are a bit better at infusing their personalities in the picture and interview ops.
For example, George Canyon takes the chance to thank all in the media for what we do at the end of his interview session. It could have come across as brownnosing, but it’s actually a moment of sincerity. And it should be. The Maritimes love the guy, evidenced by his third win in a row for Entertainer of the Year Award, voted by fans.
Relative newbies appeared star-struck. Classified, who won for Hip-Hop Recording of the Year and had probably the best show of the weekend at the Delta Halifax on Friday, was positively subdued in front of the media and could be barely heard as he stood on the media room stage with his entourage of Half-Life Records artists behind him. Needless to say, there were no smokes lit up on the media stage on Sunday evening.
The Gala Awards went off without a hitch (except for a problem sending photos to my editor and a typo in the TV broadcast itinerary that led to a mistake on my end) and in many ways, the pre-show telecast was more ideal than the televised awards show. Presenters gave out several awards at a time and reporters had a chance to interview winners one right after another. I had my copy for my freelance assignment done an hour early because of this.
There were several moments where I felt old. Some of the big winners on the night included In-Flight Safety (three awards) and Jill Barber (two awards). It’s strange covering a music scene for so long when people you consider acquaintances win pretty big accolades. I couldn’t resist asking the IFS guys about back in the day, when they were playing Stage Nine on a Tuesday night, if they even imagined they’d be winning as many awards as they did. John “Cheekbones” Mullane, professional to the core, gave a requisite “we took one day at a time, one gig at a time” response. But I couldn’t help but think if I saw him at the after-party that he’d be more like, “Shit no, I never imagined this. These awards are for all the people who never believed we ever amount to anything!” There are very few of those people nowadays.
Jill winning two awards is even stranger. Once a fellow Coast employee, she lived in the same apartment complex as I did for a year when we were both struggling to find our way in our respective professions. I actually never knew she was a musician until she quit The Coast to concentrate on her music. At the 2005 Shoreline Festival in PEI, I remarked to her that she had come a long way after the release of her Oh Heart! disc. Now she’s come even farther with For All Time and it was amazing to be there to see it. She looked absolutely giddy to be there.
Four years ago, I covered the ECMAs as a journalism student at King’s College. I remember being so enthralled by the events going on around me. I had no clue about after-parties, which artists stood a good chance of winning that weekend, or even all the venues offering live music.
As I sat there amongst fellow reporters and other media professionals four years later, tapping away on my laptop, I couldn’t help feel slightly jaded, but I also felt a little wiser to all the great music being made by east coast artists. Over four years I have made friends and acquaintances with many of the performers and industry folk and it made me feel like I was part of something bigger than any one person in the scene, that there were people out there that share a similar passion for what I do.
Yes, it was the artists that received the awards on Sunday night, but behind every artist were numerous individuals that helped them along the way. Every writer who worked on a story, every producer that invited the artist to do an on-air interview, every booking agent who set up a show – each one of them have a small part in the success of acts such as In-Flight Safety and Jill Barber.
The post-Awards party featured performances by several of the nominees in a room filled with participants from the weekend festivities. People dressed in their best attire – artists, industry folk, media, and volunteers - mingled in the Port Royal Room of the World Trade and Convention Center. And although I felt like a small fish earlier in the media room, at that moment, sipping my last drink of the four-day extravaganza, I felt like I belonged.