Part II: Polaris Music Prize Gala empowers with brilliant performances

Dan Mangan at Polaris Music Prize Gala Masonic Temple, Toronto, ON
By: Sheena Lyonnais
September 21, 2010

As a huge advocate for the nominated Nice, Nice, Very Nice, I was slightly disappointed by Dan Mangan’s performance as he did not choose to play the songs that really emphasize his greatness and unique voice as a musician, such as “Road Regrets.”  This did not prevent him from winning over the crowd and convincing everyone to clap along and sing, “Robots need love too,” which was quirky and kind of fun, something he described himself as seeming “silly.”  He did prove himself as live performer, which will undoubtedly be noted and contribute to future success.

Mangan’s nominated album works towards departing from the singer/songwriter vibe, “making Nice, Nice, Very Nice more about the songs and less about me,” he said.  This is something he hopes to further more on his next release.  Though he and his band are currently in the midst of a three-month tour, he says they’re already working on new songs.
Besnard Lakes at Polaris Music Prize Gala The gorgeous Besnard Lakes performed in honour of their nominated album The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night.  I had this group of absolutely brilliant performers pegged with Broken Social Scene as the potential winner for they embrace a passion for their art that is evident through both their flawless performance as musicians and the intensity and love in their souls.  The award really boils down to artistry and truly this band captures that in its purest form.  They are a shining star in this music scene and it is obvious this is only the beginning of greatness for them. 

Before the Gala, Besnard Lakes told Toronto Music Scene that they just returned from a tour in Europe, but came home with a few scars. A jellyfish stung Olga Goreas one day, while on another an assailant pushed a garbage bin in front of their van before attempting a carjacking.  Luckily, their merch girl was a ‘strong Austrian girl’ who kicked the assailant out of the van literally, allowing everyone to escape unharmed.

Owen Pallett was hailed as a high contender for his eccentric and original album Heartland, a concept album much different from his Final Fantasy days when he was awarded the first ever Polaris Prize in 2006.  He was one of the more interesting performers of the night, capturing a feel that is comparable to a musical version of a Tim Burton character.  His music is both abstract and surreal in a fresh and distinctive way, as he plucks his violin and cowlicks through tracks possible only in his imagination. 

The forever-cute Tegan and Sara proved to be both lovely musicians and hilarious comedians during their performance for the nominated Sainthood.  The sisters just celebrated their 30th birthday, prompting co-host CBC’s Grant Lawrence to lead a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”  They are two small girls with music big enough to silence and move a room.  They were also the only artists to perform on a piano as opposed to keys, a trait complemented by Pallett’s violin plucking as he joined them on stage.

Caribou at Polaris Music Prize 2010 2008 Polaris winner Caribou took the stage last sporting matching all white outfits.  I absolutely adore Caribou as clearly did the audience who applauded loudly after just the first song, yet oddly somehow I found these songs get inside my head more at home in my living room than they did on stage.  Their performance was solid, but static, perhaps falling victim to the awkwardness of performing to a room of seated people donning mostly suits.  Their music is so spider web-dreamy and elaborate, yet all eyes were on drummer Brad Weber who out-shadowed everyone in the band, including the eccentric Daniel Snaith.  As Swim is truly a brilliant album and, in my opinion, their best, this will not categorize their abilities as performers.

Main man Daniel Snaith agrees, saying “For me, [Swim’s] about somehow articulating something that is uniquely me more so than my other albums.  Rather than drawing on outside musical influences, I was keen to recreate them out of sound in my head and my own kind of pallet.

“The kind of aesthetic I needed tying it all together was making fluid music and that kind of thread runs through all of the songs.  The intention is for it to be one body of work and not a bunch of disconnected songs,” he said.  For him, winning the Polaris Prize in 2008 allowed him to fund Swim and experiment with new sounds, textures and better mixing and production.  The other half of his winnings went to two Canadian Charities, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Youth of Justice.

All in all, there is much respect for all of the artists and musicians recognized at the 2010 Polaris Music Prize as the talent is unbelievable and their artistic merit is truly magnificent.  Anyone doubting the brilliance coming out of Canada these days simply needs to open their mind and expand their record collection.  Music like this makes it feel good to be alive and thankfully Polaris recognizes that.

For more information on the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, please visit .

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