Based upon popular vote, the 12th annual Sirius XM Independent Music Awards celebrated Canada’s favourite, or at least most recognizable, names in independent music. Though the words “popular” and “independent” could not be used in the same sentence at one point, many of the “independent” artists that hit the stage Saturday night (in an odd tradition, at the Royal York Hotel) are on their way to becoming the darlings of both the fans and industry execs.
And pardon the cliche, but dogs are clearly a fan’s best friend: The Sheepdogs walked (strutted?) away with four awards—every one they were nominated for—including Group of the Year, Favorite Single of the Year, Favorite Rock Artist or Group of the Year, and Favorite Live Artist/Group of the Year. No one’s arguing the mass appeal of the new sultans of the ’70s and their summer single “I Don’t Know.” You’re popular, Sheepdogs! Enjoy it. But this last award struck a particular nerve. Also nominated was Haligonian Rich Aucoin, positively renowned for his confetti-clad parachute parties, and in our opinion, deserving of the title. But alas, if we were to gripe about every voter’s choice award, we’d have time to get little else done. And at least Aucoin was the surprise winner of the SiriusXM Emerging Artist of the Year.
Here were some of the night’s main acts, and how they fared…
Pre-Show Hype: As the festival, and the band’s admission into the Indies Hall of Fame, was the catalyst for Treble Charger’s reunion this year, buzz was high. Crowd: People were generally pretty excited, but a few people were really excited. Like, really excited. Performance: It only lasted two songs (“American Psycho” and “Red”), but it was cool, we guess. Nostalgia FTW. Best Moment: The crowd joining in that really fast part in “American Psycho.” Miscellaneous: We did end up feeling really old by the end. Verdict: 7/10
Dan Mangan FROM: Vancouver, B.C.
PERFORMED: 9:05 p.m.
Pre-Show Hype: Riding the wave of his second album Oh, Fortune, a few Juno noms, and an epic nearly-two-hour secret show at the Horseshoe the night before, Mangan is beginning to create quite a cult around him. Crowd: Mostly responding with the typical Toronto head bob, still they were rapt with Mangan’s relatively stripped down set. Performance: Dressed in a pair of jeans and well-worn plaid shirt, Mangan seemed a tad under-dressed against the lights and video projections around him. Similarly, his rustic music added a dose of humility to the evening, a genuine no-frills-needed performance of tracks like “Row of Houses” and “Sold.” Best Moment: Whenever Mangan would let out his grizzly vocals in an extended “Ohhhh!” Miscellaneous: Pleased with his win for Favorite Solo Artist of the Year, he thanked the audience for voting, and mentioned a tender moment with Rich Aucoin backstage when they first met and Mangan remarked “Isn’t it amazing what can happen in five or six years.” The guy loves his job. Verdict: 8/10
Pre-Show Hype: As far as notoriety is concerned, the Sheepdogs were probably the most recognizable name of the night, second only perhaps to Passion Pit. Crowd: The crowd had already seen the Sheepdogs a number of times throughout the night on the side stage accepting various awards, so the suspense leading up to their performance was heightened that much more. The crowd sang and head-bopped along to most of the songs. Though some people absolutely lost their minds when Paul Rodgers joined them on stage and performed “Alright Now,” the majority of the crowd was too young to recognize one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greats. Performance: An amazing, absolutely entertaining, bad-ass rock set. That said, seeing the Sheepdogs and Rich Aucoin back to back while knowing that Aucoin lost the title of Favorite Live Artist/Group makes us scratch our head. Best Moment: Two generations of rock royalty on one stage. Miscellaneous: The Sheepdogs have come a long way since we first saw them play a (probably illegal) venue in a basement on Queen Street as part of an unofficial CMW after party in 2009. We hope that they’ll continue to crack out quality rock tunes for years and years to come. Verdict: 8/10
Pre-Show Hype: Aucoin is worthy of his Emerging Artist win, now getting recognition for his music as well as his legendary live performance acts. Crowd: The most interesting thing about Aucoin’s show was how he treated the massive crowd—just as he would have at a smaller venue like Wrongbar or The Drake. Not fearing to show the same genuine appreciation for the audience, the audience gave it right back. When he dove into the audience, they responded with the same joy as a lost dog looking for a loveable owner. Performance: It’s really quite hard to sum it up in a small blurb like this—but here goes. Rich Aucoin’s show was a YouTube mash-up/group hug/kindergarten gym class/partytime, with stellar tunes to boot. Having to cancel an earlier in-store show at Sonic Boom due to illness, he didn’t show a bit of discomfort. Just love for the audience. Best Moment: Too many to pick just one. Miscellaneous: He’ll take Favorite Live Performance next year. Verdict: 10/10
Pre-Show Hype: The last act of the night was the heavy draw for the crowd. Their 2009 album Manners, in particular the singles “The Reeling” and “Sleepyhead,” is still a pretty unique offering in the electro-pop genre. Crowd: Dancing, jumping, and plenty of fist-pumping. Performance: Hitting their major faves, opening with “Moth’s Wings” and ending with “Sleepyhead,” and including a brand new one off their recently completed album titled Take a Walk, the set lasted about four songs without a proper conclusion. While the drums, guitar, keyboards, and synths were relatively on-track with their records, Michael Angelakos’s vocals were comparatively weak. It was fun, but rather a disappointment for fans who waited over three hours to see them. Best Moment: Getting a hint of something fresh with “Take a Walk” was a nice surprise, though it doesn’t sound exceptionally new from the offerings from Manners. Miscellaneous: Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright was a special guest on the keyboard. Verdict: 6.5/10
Check out the full list of the night’s winners here. (Among our highlights: Bon Iver for Favorite International Group of the Year, Adele for Favorite International Solo Artist of the Year, and Dan Mangan for Favorite Solo Artist of the Year. )