The 2006 CASBY Awards
November 22, 2006
The Koolhaus in Toronto, Ontario
Review by: Steve Okun and Pete Nema
Photos by: Pete Nema
Full Photo Set (29 photos)
The 2006 CASBY Music Awards show was hosted by 102.1 The Edge and Molson Canadian and with this offering of eight great bands performing their top nominated songs it would've been a difficult evening to pass up. (CASBY stands for “Canadian Artists Selected By You”). Radio personalities were omnipresent, and the beautiful Molson Canadian girls were there helping to advertise the one and only beer available at the bar by handing out a ticket for a free one just for posing with them in a picture. The eight bands performed in this order: Mobile, Ill Scarlet, Neverending White Lights, Hostage Life, Champion, Evans Blue, Sam Roberts, and K-OS. The show was very well organized, and went off with only one very noticeable but non-fatal problem (details later). It was hosted by Dean Blundell and the morning crew as well as the other DJs from 102.1 The Edge, including my two favourites: Josie Dye and Barry Taylor.
The four award presentations were spread throughout the evening and after each winner was announced, Derek the Blind Movie Critic came out to accept the award since none of the actual winners were present (see CASBY Music Awards for the list of winners). Although I'm unsure if Derek is actually blind, he did manage to fall off the stage at one point. In between the bands, there was the typical witty and intelligent humour that morning radio shows are so famous for, including making fun of an overweight intern, firing paint balls at a government employee, and getting a man with nearly no legs to impersonate a dog chasing his tail. Oh, and I'm pretty sure there was some farting. From where I stood, there was a lot of indifference to this aspect of the show.
So, yes, there was lots of attempting-to-be-edgy filler, but it was easily ignored because the performances by the bands were really what the night was all about. With eight band appearances in two and a half hours, this was a no holds barred event. Each artist came out and started out immediately playing their strongest. The whole evening commenced almost right on schedule, and after a video introduction to the night, the smoke filled the stage, the lights came on, and then there was Mobile.
Mobile set the pace, leading off a strong two song set with Out Of My Head. The live performance of this song was quite true to the studio recorded version with the two busy guitarists, bassist, and drummer rising out above a synthesized backdrop. They spun from this song right into See Right Through Me. These were a great kick start to what turned out to be a strong night of performances all around.
Next up was Ill Scarlett playing on the rear stage. Their reggae rock sound rang out above a very enthusiastic crowd. Clearly the band has many friends who have all become familiar with the lyrics to the two songs that they delivered. Near the close of their short set, it was wild to watch the DJ on stage scratching along while the lead singer writhed around on the stage floor. Their infectious reggae beat mingled with the strong smell of illicit substances burning near the stage reminded me of the band's influences.
[Pete: Sorry for the lack of Ill Scarlet photos. Too long to explain, but maybe I can make up for it in December!]
Neverending White Lights
Back on the main stage, the Neverending White Lights took charge. They kicked off their set with the anthemic song The Grace, and then followed up with a cover of New Order's Age of Consent. The band delivered both songs brilliantly, but perhaps the cover was too obscure or mellow for the audience who seemed to talk overtop of the music. Ultimately, the band did get a huge rise out of the crowd though, and it’s not hard to imagine why. The music is very well thought out, and the players are skilled. In keeping with their tradition, Daniel Victor invited a guest vocalist to join them for their second song. Based on his recent album and published interviews, he's on a bit of a mission - it’s an interesting concept and can make for unique settings, but he and his band are very talented on their own, so I'd really like to hear a full set without a guest (or minimal guests) sometime.
Over on the smaller stage, announced as the best punk band in Toronto, Hostage Life took the stage and injected some authentic punk attitude into the show. The lead singer exploded onto the stage wielding a Molson Canadian in his left hand and didn't waste any time between chugs. In fact, by the second song, his beer was gone and he had to resort to cracking open a bottle of water. The highlight of their two song set was This Song Was Written By A Committee. It sounded great live, and they displayed loads of energy. The audience definitely got into the spirit, and the marketing folks from Molson must have rubbed their hands together a few times while they looked on.
The next performance was by Champion, whose four guitarists were mixed on stage by DJ Champion himself and accented by the female lead singer's vocal theatrics. This is dance inspired electro-rock, which made it was very hard to keep your body from moving when the guitars started blasting away on No Heaven. Yes, perhaps four guitarists is a little excessive, but they were lined up nicely along the stage and they all seemed to be having a great time, so it didn't take long for just to accept it and move on. I couldn't take my eyes of the one that looked like Bjorn Borg back in his heyday [Pete: Not shown, sorry]. There's no question that this music was a change in pace, but there were clearly quite a few fans present in the audience.
Evans Blue look like much harder rockers than they sound, which could easily be considered a good thing™. They look like they should be playing hard metal, but their music is a bit of a collage of styles, and they don't seem to indulge any particular style too deeply to be forced into a niche. This has likely helped them to reach a broader audience, and their stage performance is true to the sound that you hear being played so often on the radio. The singer's voice is very characteristic. Somehow he seems quiet even when he's screaming, and he definitely adds a lot of soul to the music, but all of the players compliment each other nicely.
Sam Roberts Band
Sam Roberts and his band really know how to steal a show. They opened with the suspenseful song The Gate, which also opens their latest album Chemical City. The foundation for this song is a simple chord progression, which Roberts offsets with an exploratory guitar technique that few musicians today can match. There's no doubt that all of his band members are very talented, but it's hard to take your eyes off of Sam. Even when the lights dimmed and he switched to an acoustic guitar for the second song Bridge To Nowhere, he still dominated the stage. Like many of the bands this night, there was a desire to hear at least a few more songs, but the schedule was tight and it was time to move on.
K-OS headlined the event with his unique brand of music that appears to have broad appeal, both here in Canada and in the United States of America. His prowess as a rhyme-maker and his on-stage accompaniment by a turntable scratch artist may satisfy the rap enthusiast, but his melodic sense and his apparent respect for funk and classic R&B opens the door to a much wider audience. His delivery of the song Sunday Morning easily emphasized that point, and definitely created a memorable highlight for the night. One clue that he is open to a lot of different musical forms came when he removed his hoodie to reveal a Death From Above 1979 t-shirt. He did hit a bit of adversity, however, when his wireless and his wired backup mic both failed causing him to fall completely silent. He wasn't out for long, though. Without missing more than a few beats, he took control of the microphone on stage right and delivered the rest of his performance from there. Unfortunately he was unable to fully express himself from the stationary mic, but it still sounded good. After delivering his last word (I think it was "peace") he tossed his hoodie over his head and walked briskly off the stage leaving the crowd, once again, wanting more. This was only a short sample of what this guy is capable of, and it was a lot.
From a musical and organizational point of view, the evening was a huge success. The performers covered an impressive range of musical styles. It's true that none of the night's performers walked away with a CASBY trophy (most of which seemed to come from the bulk food section of the local grocery store, and at least one from a sex shop). But even if the performing nominees didn't win, their fans sure did. This was an exceptional event and I hope to be back next year.