George Stroumbouolopoulos was among the initial pool of 178 Jurors (music journalists, arts reporters, critics, bloggers) who helped determine the list of 40. Once down to the top 10, a Grand Jury of 11 convened over this past weekend at Toronto’s Drake Hotel to commiserate and vote by secret ballot for their favourite of the Short list.
One of the illustrious jurors who may have OD’d on the Drake’s oh so tasty burgers or sweet potato fries is one Mr. James Reaney – unabashed lover of Canadian music, member of the steering committee for the Jack Richardson Music Awards and the Arts and Entertainment columnist for the London Free Press. He also has a Blog @ www,lfpress.com/blogs. I have a couple of new vocab words courtesy of James that I can’t wait to try out! Polarisverse and Smash Fascism. More on that later.
James was kind enough to answer a few questions about the musical machinations of Polaris. Turns out we were ships passing in a very soggy Saturday night at the Home County Folk Festival cheering on Melissa McClelland and her partner in life and music, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon. Luke’s latest – Blood’s Too Rich – was an oversight for a nom. James’ vote for omission was Luddites 86-91 – a remastering of ‘the best rock recording ever to come out of London.’
London is my hometown and I’m proud to note that 2 of 10 shortlist nominees – Basia Bulat and Shad are Londoners. Diversity reigns – not only within my old hometown, but in the 10 Finalists. True - London Ontario isn't a Hip-Hop mecca but with Shad's success - who knows what the future holds?
So how does one end up on the Grand Jury? James speaks to that in his own words:
“ I sent in nominations for previous Polaris Music Prize years… sometimes my always Londoncentric choices weren’t eligible…before this year’s process started, Polaris founder Steve Jordan called and challenged me in a friendly way about my Londonness… he seemed passionate and intelligent about music & art…. two London artists Basia Bulat and Shad, from my original nomination list made the shortlist thanks to support from across the country… Steve got in touch again and asked it I would like to be on the Grand Jury. Would I? It’s an honour.”
What is the realistic impact a Polaris nomination has on an artist? Here, James and I are of like mind. The $20,000 is a ringing endorsement. James remarked that his father was a three-time Governor General award winning poet prior to any monetary rewards being attached – an irony not lost on Reaney Sr. Pride of accomplishment and acknowledgement of their efforts are the key benefit. Money isn’t the main motivator but for many artists, their recordings are often assisted by organizations like FACTOR or other sources of grant funding. Cash isn’t king but it sure does help.
Screwing on my rose coloured glasses, I can’t help but hope that many of you have found a new favourite or two in the nominees list – clicked on their Myspace, bought a CD, attended a live show… all in support of Canadian music.
Determining the winner over the weekend - Was blood drawn? Shouting? Doubtful. Deliberations are reportedly a civilized process and secret ballot is the weapon of choice.
If you haven’t already checked out the 10 Finalists – get on it! You’ll find an eclectic mix of genres, novice and experienced artists and a truly regional representation we can all celebrate!
Black Mountain – In the Future
Basia Bulat – Oh, My Darling
Caribou – Andorra
Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers
Holy Fuck – LP
Plants and Animals – Parc Avenue
Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War
Shad – The Old Prince
Two Hours Traffic – Little Jabs
The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour
I loved James’ response to my challenge to - in 5 words or less, describe the state of the nation for the Canadian music scene.
Passionate. Intelligent. Witty. Beautifully Confident.
I’d see those 5 and raise you a ‘Wry. Unpretentious. Remarkable. World Class.’
So - that new favourite vocab phrase – Smash Fascism? A response to my query pointing out that Arts funding is a hot button election issue as is its’ censorship. Brilliant. I shall adopt it as my own. Actually – wouldn’t Smash Fascism be a stellar name for a band?
Predictions? A worthy nominee will take it home. Personally, I adore Kathleen Edwards but it’s anyone’s game. How much would it make the press sweat if Holy Fuck wins? Priceless. All the nominees deserve to be there. So - who ULTIMATELY wins from Polaris? Music lovers like you and I, George, James and the amazing artists across Canada who strive to do their best – for arts sake. For their fans. To satisfy their need to create and for the pure, unadulterated love of music.
Celebrate and truly support Canadian music. Go to shows! Pay for the music you consume. Check out the Polaris site for more on how you can score some exclusive downloads of the 2008 nominees.
If you’re in Toronto? Why not swing over to the Drake’s after party @ 10PM.
Maybe you’ll start compiling a list of nominees for 2009? I know I have.