The 2016 Juno Awards were held in Calgary on April 3. The Juno’s are a celebration of Canadian music and so, fittingly, the two nights leading up to the awards show was Juno Fest. Over 100 Canadian bands and musical acts to see, 50 venues around the city participating in the festival, and a wristband to get you into any venue on either night cost $30! There were so many options. It was like a ‘Build Your Own Music Festival’. No two music lovers would have the same Juno Fest experience. Here’s mine.
On April 1st, some girlfriends and I started our evening at Nite Owl. We were presented with our Juno Fest wristbands and were set to see Shred Kelly, from Fernie, BC. The 5-piece walked out on stage and from the first strum of the banjo to the last chord of their set, the crowd did not stop moving. The band was having a blast. I was having a blast.
After Shred Kelly, we wandered over to Flames Central. The Royal Foundry had already taken the stage. The only thing bigger than the lead singer’s beard was the female vocalist’s stage presence – the one with purple hair and a sequin shirt. The two of them smiled and laughed as they sang to a rowdy, dancing audience. The Dead South came up next. These men, from Regina, look like they walked off the farm and onto the stage. They all wear white shirts, tucked into pants with suspenders. My absolute favourite part, other than the mandolin player’s curls, was when the cello player held down a rad cello melody, and the other three each cracked a beer in time to the music. A band with beer choreography? Gotta love it!
On April 2nd, we began our night at the Palomino. Here we would catch the last half of Calgary’s own The Ashley Hundred. I like this band. Their sound was so fun and they each looked like they belonged to a different band! From the bassist in the Canadian flag tank top, to the poncho-wearing banjo player. As different as their looks were, their sound was cohesive and they rocked the basement of the Pal. Off to the Ironwood in Inglewood. It was here my heart would swoon over the songs of Joe Nolan. He sang a song about “dead ends and damaged hearts” and I could tell this guy had some heart break to sing about. At the end of his set when he had the audience sing along to “Come On, Baby”, my love for this musician was solidified.
And the perfect way to end my Juno Fest was listening to the Fortunate Ones. Sean Majumder from This Hour has 22 Minutes surprised the audience by showing up and introducing this band. From Newfoundland, this duo is a girl with an accordion and a guy with a voice that’ll make you sigh. There I sat, listening to the softest voices, smiling like a goof.
To sum up my Juno Fest:
Number of bands I saw: 6
Number of venues I went to: 4
Number of banjos I heard: 3
Number of bearded musicians I fell for: 8
Number of sequinned shirts I saw and wish I owned: 1
Number of times I said, “Calgary is Awesome”: COUNTLESS!
Thanks for the rad Canadian music, Calgary.