The JUNO Awards kicked off with the Green Carpet Welcome Reception on Friday and broke into different events, pop up shows and celebrity sightings across our bright city. The Lister Block was beautifully lit, showcasing one of Hamilton’s historic assets. It has been 14 years since the CARAS brought world class Canadian talent to our city, marking the 44th anniversary of homegrown Canadian talent stepping foot on Hamilton ground together.
Some Canadian greats that passed through the city included JUNO Award winning artist Diana Panton, local boy Jeremy Fisher and Tom Wilson from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Local venues were packed with volunteers organizing the festival, from This Ain’t Hollywood to Baltimore House. If you had a wristband, you got your moneys worth. Even without one there was still an art crawl, providing more than enough reasons to go out and mingle among friendly people. Food trucks lined the streets in typical art crawl fashion, which Hamiltonians have become accustomed to the first Friday of the month.
Anyone familiar with art crawl can imagine the sort of traffic these events draw. Driving through the city was difficult but also inspiring, as businesses experienced a surge in traffic, making local hideouts virtually impossible to get into without planning ahead.
Hamilton was alive with rich talent, showcasing to the country that much has changed since the last time the JUNOs were here. The city has evolved from a steel processing hub into an artists’ epicenter, one of the best kept secrets that is now becoming known, bumping up real estate prices and creating a new climate for businesses. Had the JUNOs appeared three years ago, would the city be where it is today? It’s hard to say. But the future of this city is no longer a limb of the GTA. We are our own city.
The JUNO Welcome Reception on Friday was hosted at Hamilton landmark, Liuna Station, welcoming 1,200 guests including JUNO nominees to the official launch of JUNOFest. I had a chance to speak with JUNO Award winner, Eric Ratz about his nomination.
I spent the evening enjoying cocktails with local bloggers Cut From Steel and I Heart Hamilton until heading out to the Joel Plaskett show at Centenary United Church. Plaskett is no stranger in Hamilton, having performed an amazing set at the James St. Supercrawl in 2013. Jenn Grant performed a heartfelt acoustic set that accented the eeriness of music in a church.
I headed to Baltimore House and caught one of the only hardcore bands on the docket, The Dying Arts. The crowd was a modest number, making for a comfortable show with enough room to head bang to a gritty, loud band and spill beer on your best friend. For anyone that didn’t take the chance to visit, their bartenders are clever and their atmosphere is one of a kind. Some other highlights of JUNOfest included Teenage Head, Young Rival and Sagot.
Saturday’s JUNO Fan Fare presented by HMV Canada brought fans to see their favourite artists. Lights, Arkells, Shawn Mendes and Trevor Guthrie drew crowds to Limeridge Mall to connect with their fans across Hamilton.
In the evening, the JUNO Gala Awards featured nominees Fred Penner, Quique Escamilla, Ray Daniels, Lights, July Talk, Diana Penton, and Geddy Lee. Winners accepted their awards followed by a Q&A session.
Check out our photo coverage below.
We closed our JUNO celebrations at Liuna Station with the Gibson after party. Kardinal Offishall rocked the stage with Alysha Brilla. It was clear that the arts community had found its place in Hamilton.
Highlight of the evening: Meeting Fred Penner at Gibson after party.
Next year, Calgary will be hosting the event, committing to the arts.
What was your favorite JUNO event? Or did you protest with your wallet and spend money in Toronto? Hopefully the benefits to businesses will help the future of artists in Hamilton, and secure that the city does not become too rich in real estate to afford the passionate people that volunteer their lives to make a difference for thousands of others. Toronto, it’s great that you’ve noticed us. But we need to let the artists live in Hamilton.
Global news already published an opinion piece on the JUNO turnout this year, citing that it was one of the worst shows ever, noting transmission issues, random camera cuts and missed cues. I would have to gracefully disagree. Just because Leonard Cohen and Michael Buble did not show up to the event does not disqualify the JUNOs success. Hamilton did a great job acting as a host city.
Maybe people didn’t like the liberal tone of the celebrations. There was a vast array of demographics, identity and sexual preferences. Hamilton accepted the culture and a great opportunity to show off the world class citizens and businesses we have. The greatest asset Hamilton has to offer is our people.
With Fred Eisenberger and Calgary Mayor, Neeshi in attendance, there is no doubt that the arts will continue to flourish in these cities. The rising popularity of country music (Boots and Hearts) in Canada, and success of Nashville-centric rock (Dallas, formerly of Default, Tom Wilson) is a reminder to take its presence seriously.
Hamilton is where people come from every corner to unite for music, and ultimately the music-lovers hold the keys to the sustainability of its culture. We control the cultivation in this upcoming city that reflects values closer to a small town with big city resources. We’re not Toronto. We are all proud to be Hamilton.