I wish I was cool enough to have been invited to the 2012 Polaris Prize gala, which sees one amazing, and lucky, Canadian album win $30,000, but I’m not. I only ended up at this event because of pure luck.
Earlier on Monday, I won tickets to the gala’s viewing party at The Drake. Husband and I were only at that event for a few minutes when we won upgrade passes to the gala itself.
We were then whisked off to the Masonic Temple, which was hosting the awards show (even though it was called a “gala," jeans and a t-shirt were A-OK to wear). We arrived a few minutes after it had started, right at the end of Fucked Up’s performance.
The flow of the show was this: One of the two hosts would talk briefly, then pass the mic over to a music writer/blogger/whatever who would introduce, often awkwardly, a nominated album. The band that created that album would then take to the stage and perform a couple of songs.
At least that was the flow for seven of the 10 nominated albums. Three acts didn't perform and two of them, Japandroids (on tour) and the Handsome Furs (broken up) had good reasons for that (and Alexei Perry, one half of the Handsome Furs, was there to give a heartfelt speech after her ex-band's intro). The third no-show was Drake and well, you can read more about his impact on the night here.
My favourite performance of the night belonged to Kathleen Edwards, a singer I’ve seen before but who never really impressed me until I saw her on Monday. Maybe it was the setting but she really wowed me with her voice and just her overall stage presence.
Another performer who I was unexpectedly impressed by was Cold Specks. I always knew she had an amazing voice but seeing her live made me actually like her music.
I can’t say that anyone really had a weak performance but Grimes, who was my pick to win, did screw up her lyrics at one point and came off as rather unpolished (though to be fair, I think that’s part of her act). But since she had a male pole dancer on stage with her, I don’t think a lot of people noticed her mistake.
Between sets people ate free perogies and grilled cheese, drank their one free beer (nominees and other people special enough to get a table did get more free alcohol) and mingled. If I was a more outgoing person, I probably could have made a ton of new friends at this event but I’m not so I only talked to Husband and the four other lucky contest winners.
Overall, I had a great time at the gala and my only real complaint is that the night did drag a bit. While getting seven performers on and off a stage takes time, I feel like things could have been tightened up a bit more (I don't think I'm alone in saying that dropping the album intros could only strengthen the evening). By the time Feist was declared the winner, it was after 11 pm and there were visibly fewer people in the room.
Most of those people, including both myself and Husband, were quiet surprised that Feist took home the award (and to be honest, Feist seemed really surprised herself at winning). While Metals is technically a strong album, I find that it's also sort of dull and even boring at points. But hey, at least the award didn't go to Drake.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be lucky enough to go to another Polaris Prize gala, but next year I think I will buy tickets to the Drake’s viewing party. Besides giving away upgrade tickets, the 2012 edition also held draws for vinyl, signed posters, concert tickets and more and since there weren’t a lot of people at that event, the odds of taking something home were great.