Four Hamilton-based acts won Juno awards Sunday night. Local winners include Monster Truck, Steve Strongman, Elliott Brood and The City Harmonic.
Retro-minded Hamilton classic rockers Monster Truck — as obviously rooted in the '70s as a well-worn shag carpet — claimed a win in the competitive breakthrough group of the year category over buzzy YouTube sensations Walk Off the Earth even though their debut full-length isn't due until next month.
It's the Juno win itself that might actually inspire their breakthrough.
"Wow, wow," frontman Jeremy Widerman said after reading comments from his phone. "Breakthrough group of the year when you're 30 years old is nothing to scoff at."
Backstage, he admitted he wasn't optimistic going into the show: "I thought there was no way, to be honest."
Strongman won for blues album of the year while alt-country band Elliott Brood won in the roots and traditional category. The City Harmonic won the Juno for best contemporary Christian/Gospel album of the year.
Jepsen beats Bieber
The big winner at the 42nd Juno Awards was Carly Rae Jepsen, celebrating the cheerful singer/songwriter and her rollercoaster summer smash "Call Me Maybe" with three trophies that all came at the expense of the teen superstar who helped discover her: Justin Bieber.
Jepsen had the biggest haul of the weekend with marquee wins for single, album and pop album of the year — all categories in which the absent 19-year-old pop pinup/tabloid spectacle from Stratford, Ont., was also nominated — at a briskly paced Prairies party at the Brandt Centre.
The Mission, B.C., native seemed particularly stunned that her gold-selling DayGlo valentine to '80s pop "Kiss" triumphed in the biggest category of the evening, album of the year, over multi-platinum efforts from Bieber and Celine Dion.
"Wow. I don't even know what to say. There are so many people who deserve this, and what an honour," she said, her voice repeatedly cracking. "I want to thank all of you here tonight. Everyone! This is truly a dream come true for me. If I could only explain how I feel.
"I'm sorta speechless," she added, having thanked Bieber himself in a previous speech. "This is amazing. Thank you so much."
Backstage, she said she expected Bieber would be happy for her.
"I think in general (it's) a shared success," said Jepsen, who said she hadn't heard from him yet but was "sure he'll send some love."
"The fact that he has really been my main supporter and he signed me, and because of that I was able to make the record 'Kiss' and sort of be exposed to the world beyond Canada. So I have nothing to say to him other than thank you and I know he's been rooting for me just as much as his own stuff."
Buble hears from the stars, pokes fun at Bieber
Meanwhile, a confident Michael Buble gave the show its biggest dose of star power and was introduced to a boisterous response from the audience. He opened the show with a self-deprecating pre-taped bit in which a series of celebrities — including Kelly Ripa, Gerard Butler, Dr. Phil and former host Russell Peters — doubted his ability to competently steer the program.
"You may not have the career of William Shatner. You don't have the street cred of a Drake, I'll admit that. You don't have the musical talent of a Justin Bieber — but you can do this," said Dr. Phil, with Buble reclined on his couch. "Man up man. You can do this. Get out there and do it.
He then paused. "No way he can do this. They should have got Jim Cuddy."
In a brief monologue, Buble was earnest in discussing how honoured he was to take the lead on the broadcast, stressing how much the Junos have meant to him over the years. He made the obligatory reference to the hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders and gently poked fun at the host city — "I have a tip for all my musician friends out here: I just want you guys to know that potash is not what you think it is."
The most barbed remark among his pithy speech began with an innocent comment about his impending fatherhood.
"I have heard the horror stories about no sleep and the late-night feeds and the little poopy diapers and the puking," he said. "Truth is, I figure it's just like being on tour with Justin Bieber."
When some of the kinder souls in the crowd hooted their disapproval, he added: "I'm one minute into my monologue and you guys are either booing me or going 'Buuu-ble!"'
He did make an ongoing joke out of the apparent inevitability of his failure and his insecurity over appearing onstage. Chatting via satellite with of-the-moment British teen heart-throbs One Direction, he pretended to steel his nerves with an awkward self-pep talk before butchering the interview.
"Do you guys like um, stuff?" he asked.
When they answered in the affirmative, he grinned with relief.
"Me too. Stuff's awesome. So cool."
Leonard Cohen wins 5th Juno
Seventy-eight year old Montreal troubadour Leonard Cohen was also feted in the Saskatchewan capital, wresting his second Juno of the year — fifth of his career — for songwriter of the year after releasing his platinum-certified "Old Ideas," a pitch-black rumination on mortality, aging and faith that topped the charts in Canada. The award was accepted by his son, singer Adam Cohen, who said his father considered Canada "the beating heart of his career."
"I'd like to say I haven't had much contact with my dad recently because he's been on tour in Canada," Cohen said of his father, who also won artist of the year. "He only called the other day to say, 'What's the user name and password at the house?' But I know that he has deep, deep fondness for the love that Canada has always expressed to him."
But other than Cohen, the evening really belonged to the kids.
While Bieber might have been licking his wounds after another so-so night of Juno returns, he could be comforted with his fourth career Juno win, this time for the fan choice award. Surely, if the Junos' voting bloc doesn't consider the recently troubled teen worthy of celebration, his droves of devotees still do — it's the third time they've carried him to that particular honour.
And Marianas Trench, the dramatic Vancouver pop outfit, won group of the year despite missing out on other nominations for their platinum concept record "Ever After," while 27-year-old frontman Josh Ramsay also shared in the elation at Jepsen's single of the year win given his co-write of her Skittles-sweet smash.
With the gala's youthful bent, Serena Ryder actually seemed a grizzled veteran next to some of her newbie peers. She won adult alternative album of the year — her fourth career Juno — for her gold-certified "Harmony" and the husky-voiced singer/songwriter with the astonishing vocal range put in a roof-rattling performance of her propulsive recent hit "Stompa."
"This is absolutely amazing," she said in accepting her award. "I almost started crying before I left my seat and that's not cool."
In other performances, Toronto new-wave act put in a sleek, stylish take on the propulsive "Synthetica," Marianas Trench performed a mashup of "Fallout" and "Stutter" with help from a blue-robed church choir and Jepsen's medley of "Call Me Maybe" and her new single "Tonight I'm Getting Over You" found her shedding her modest duds and trotting across the stage in an atypically revealing getup before blowing kisses at the crowd, which provoked a leering comment from Buble.
"She was so hot — did you see those little shorts? They looked good on her but they'd look better crumpled up on my bedroom floor if you know what I mean," he said, as the camera panned to catch his wife, Luisana Lopilato.
"Oooh. It's my pregnant wife. Hiii baby," he added, as she gave him the cut off sign.
Of course, there was also the incomparable k.d. lang, the native of Consort, Alta., who has already delivered her share of devastating Junos moments in the past. She didn't disappoint on this night, singing her gently swaying "Sing It Loud" and delivering the evening's high-point with an eloquent speech after being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by Anne Murray.
"The first time I saw k.d. lang, she was stomping around the stage in a cowgirl outfit and I thought: 'What the heck?"' Murray said. "But she made me smile. And she could sing. The second time I saw her, she was accepting a Juno Award in a wedding gown and I found myself smiling again. I loved her sense of fun, her spunk, her gumption. And she could sing.
"She went on to prove that a great voice can sing just about anything it wants. She defied labelling, and I cheered her on."
As lang took the stage, she and Murray locked in a long embrace.
"I had the biggest crush on her. I still do," lang said.
"I think the fact that I'm standing here receiving this award actually says more about Canada than it does about me. Because only in Canada could there be such a freak as k.d. lang receiving this award. Only in Canada could there be people like Stompin' Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil.
"So I am here to tell you my friends and my countrymen that it is OK to be you. It is OK to let your freak flags fly and embrace the quirkmeister that's inside of all of us. And I'm not even just talking artists, I'm talking every single person in this nation has the right to be themselves, live life.... I love you Canada, thank you so much."