As It Happens

PUP couldn't make it to the Polaris Prize gala — so they sent their parents instead

The members of the band PUP couldn't make it to Monday night's Polaris Music Prize gala, so their parents went in their place. Len Sladkowski, the father of PUP's lead guitarist, fills us in on a night of "rock star" treatment.
From left to right, PUP is guitarist Steve Sladkowski, drummer Zack Mykula, lead vocalist/guitarist Stefan Babcock and bassist Nestor Chumak. (Vanessa Heins)
It was a gala to remember.

On Monday night in Toronto, the 2016 Polaris Music Prize was awarded to Montreal sensation Kaytranada for his album 99.9%. It was the first time a hip hop album won the music prize. 

The band PUP couldn't attend the Polaris awards ceremony because they were on tour, so they sent their parents in their place. (PUP/Facebook)

But sharing a small bit of the Haitian-born musician's spotlight was an unlikely group of older folks sitting near the front.

Of the ten short-listed Polaris nominees, only one did not make it to the big event. Punk rockers PUP are currently on tour in Europe. In their place, they sent their parents.

"It was odd," Len Sladkowski tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "When we walked in, it seemed like we were being stared at."

Sladkowski is the father of PUP's lead guitarist, Steve Sladkowski. He says when his son first proposed the plan he had doubts about attending, but eventually warmed to the idea.

"First of all I thought, "Why? Why us?" Sladkowski explains. "Then I thought this is going to be crazy. This is going to be really, really good. I started counting down the days."

Len Sladkowski with his son, PUP guitarist Steve Sladkowski. (Steve Sladkowski/Facebook)

Sladkowski, who sported a PUP T-shirt to the event, admits other musicians' parents were in attendance, but insists that the PUP group were the only "full table of the older folk."

"We were treated like rock stars," Sladkowski says. "I call myself a 'financial groupie' and all that has finally come to fruition."

The parental posse also live tweeted the event under the hashtag #PUPsParentsAtPolaris. It quickly started trending on Twitter.

"I didn't know how to tweet. I had to ask someone," Sladkowski insists. "All of a sudden, I'm getting tweets from all over the place."

The band's name PUP stands for "pathetic use of potential," a phrase turned by lead vocalist Stefan Babcock's grandmother when she learned of his ambition to be a musician. But Sladkowski says everyone around the PUP table felt proud.

"He's in the big leagues," Sladkowski explains. "Last night, all the parents sat there and we looked at each other and we kept saying, 'Did you picture this five years ago?'"


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