Fucked Up win the 2009 Polaris Music Prize (!!!)
“Did they say Joel Plaskett?” Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham giggled, half-delirious with genuine shock and excitement minutes after he and the rest of the band (drummer Jonah Falco, guitarist Mike Haliechuk, bassist Sandy Miranda, guitarist Josh Zucker, and guitarist Ben Cook) accepted the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for their acclaimed, soaring hardcore epic, The Chemistry of Common Life. The press conference immediately following last night’s performance gala and award presentation was full of journalists, but it was oddly silent, maybe because, for the infinite snide opining on the awards’ predictability and who really deserved it, no one actually thought Fucked Up would win. Maybe we truly were, as Abraham mocked, all still in shock.
Fucked Up and CBC3’s Grant Lawrence at the post-gala press conference
Following the gentle punk-rock giant’s guest post for Torontoist yesterday, no victory could be sweeter. Being awarded a prestigious national music prize from the very mainstream that virtually ignores them might not mean number one hits and gold-plated everything, but as Abraham told Polaris host/CBC3 personality Grant Lawrence (who had his work cut out for him by co-hosting with Muchmusic’s Sarah Taylor, who spent most of the night struggling to hide her indifference and her inability to engage with the artists), that’s not the point. “[Our music] never should be totally accepted, but I hope that [this award] spreads a greater understanding in Canada.” The band plans to spend their prize dollars to make a benefit record to bring awareness to the more than five hundred missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. It will be available near Christmas, and we’ve been promised “funny guests.” You have a lot to live up to, 2010 Polaris winner.
The Polaris Music Prize gala hosts: Muchmusic’s Sarah Taylor, and CBC3’s Grant Lawrence
It’s probably not hard to guess that Fucked Up also had the best performance of the night, sourcing the crowd and including pals like 2006 Polaris winner Owen Pallett and recent Torontoist darlings Lullabye Arkestra. Even when Fucked Up is on their best behaviour (they were banned from the building a year ago when they, erm, fucked up an MTV bathroom during a performance and, as such, a couple of police were waiting in the wings for this one), they manage to stuff their few allotted minutes with the standard passion, skill, intensity, and sense of humour that inspired not only a jury of Canadian music luminaries, but also Chad VanGaalen’s table and Patrick Watson’s table to engage in inebriated beverage-throwing shenanigans. Scandalous!
Chad VanGaalen calls bullshit; wonders why Leonard Cohen isn’t automatically the Polaris winner.
K’naan was another great short-list candidate and performer; makes a room full of white people nod furiously.
But aside from the ice-flinging, this year’s affair was pretty tame and structured, tailored more for a classy broadcast on Muchmusic than Another Industry Event. Only a couple of performances strayed from the set-up-and-play: Patrick Watson and his band wandered into the seated area wearing bug-like light devices and carting an uncharacteristically tongue-tied Ghomeshi; Elliot Brood played one of their favourite live games and handed out aluminum trays and wooden spoons for percussion assistance; and Metric opted for a simple two-person acoustic performance. Too bad that was outshadowed by
everything their post-gala pouting on Twitter, “Wow, Pop-Core takes the Polaris prize! Surprise!” Pop-core? Better than pop-BORE! (They asked for it.)
Patrick Watson and his bug-eyed decorations
Metric open the show with an earful of sedatives.
Joel Plaskett: another frequently named possible Polaris winner. Instead, he wins life every day.
The juror and nominee data Exclaim! recently rounded up didn’t do much to dispel angry bloggers’ righteous (and unjustifiably entitled) cynicism towards Polaris, but ten years ago when Joel Plaskett was a knock-kneed baby in Thrush Hermit, barely able to find ears outside of your city’s tiniest venue, there’s no doubt an award like Polaris would have seemed like a dream. Last night, after 2007 Polaris-winner Patrick Watson’s performance, he told Taylor that when he tours overseas, journalists ask him first about his Polaris, and second, how it fits into Canada’s thriving music scene. We bet no one has ever been asked that about the Junos. What have they done for us lately?
Fucked Up: the most artistic merit.
All photos by David Topping/Torontoist