Part I: Karkwa wins big and other stories from the Polaris Music Prize Gala

Quebec Band Karkwa wins Polaris Music Prize Masonic Temple, Toronto, ON
By: Sheena Lyonnais
September 21, 2010

Quebec’s Karkwa took home the $20,000 Polaris Music Prize last night for their album Les Chemins De Verre much to the surprise of the predominately English music media attending the event, but this isn’t to say the award was not well deserved.  In only two songs the band captured the audience with their enigmatic performance despite singing entirely in French, and their cute acceptance speech won them a couple bonus points as well.

Truth be told, the room that night was filled with such extreme talent it would be hard to argue anyone’s acceptance of the award, but there were a few contenders many of us were banking on.

Broken Social Scene at Polaris Music Prize Broken Social Scene opened the night big with a brilliant performance that set a bar that would have otherwise been hard to reach.  Their album Forgiveness Rock Record is arguably their best and with such a longwinded presence in Canada’s music scene, it was a little surprising they didn’t take the cake, though perhaps the judges felt awarding them would be somewhat ironically cliché as their name has been predominant for ten years now.  Despite this, their live rendition of “Texico Bitches” felt like a dazzling tease that left me yearning for their next Toronto performance in December.

“This record was a very different record from our others as we went with a different producer and recorded in a different city, so that affected our mood and really how it sounds.  I don’t know if that affected us being on the short-list or not, but I’m honoured either way,” drummer Justin Peroff told Toronto Music Scene before the Gala.

Forgiveness Rock Record took over a year to create and was recorded in guitarist Charlie Spearin’s studio in Toronto, creating what Peroff called a success within the family of friends that has become BSS

He offers a very humble overview of the night and what it means for Canada and Canadian musicians.  “It’s a celebration of Canadian music and it’s a celebration of Polaris itself because it’s relatively young, but it’s really, really growing and it seems to be getting international acclaim.  It’s not really a competition – it’s more about celebrating Polaris, Canada and all the bands, the long-list and the short-list,” he said.

The Sadies took the stage next with their haunting alt-country and though there was a deep communal respect for the band, they were never the lead contenders.  Their nominated album Darker Circles is one of the darker releases and certainly one that put the Sadies’ name back onto people’s lips.

Radio Radio at Polaris Music Gala Perhaps the most surprising band of the night, Nova Scotia’s Radio Radio tore apart the stage with their insanely elaborate and energetic French-English rap.  Nominated for their album Belmundo Regal, the trio has a presence and uniqueness that transcends the stage with a true Friday night feel.

The band wrapped filming on the video for “Guess What?” at a diamond importers house in Oakville, ON last weekend, which will hopefully be out in a matter of weeks, though no release date is presently set. 

The Gala was held at the Masonic Temple, which ignited a sense of excitement amongst the band as vocalist Alexandre Arthur Bilodeau explained, “Our whole album is about Oak Island, which is a supposedly possible Free Mason construction, the first in [North] America.”  Despite this, the band does not claim to be a Free Mason band, but rather just a group of individuals who explore their curiosities, much like how “Guess What?” is about “a modern man having to have a little gayness to get by,” Bilodeau said. 

The only similar act was Shad who performed later in the evening with some tracks off the nominated TSOL.  His performance was definitely the most anticipated in the room and he did not disappoint, emphasizing his strength as a gifted poet, a trait that inarguably lead to his nomination.  BSS’s Lisa Lobsinger provided lovely supporting vocals, though most in the room were more captivated by her gorgeous hair, according to the many Tweets of the night.

Stay tuned for Part II of Toronto Music Scene’s Polaris Music Prize report. For more information on the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, please visit .

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