Reporting from the "St. John's" Junos
By Katie Norman, SNN Editor, Bishops College, St. John's, NF
Check out our Juno Scrapbook
The good things in life take time to plan. It's the anticipation that builds up inside that makes them exciting and forever implants them in your mind. The Junos....Mile One Stadium....St. John's, Newfoundland and an opportunity of a lifetime.
Everyone is tired of hearing how the Junos benefited St. John's and Newfoundland; it's yesterday's news. Yet no matter how much this issue is harped upon it did provide some local people with awesome opportunities. Take for instance producer Mary Sexton, of Rink Rat Productions who produced the Premiers Gala and Awards Ceremony; or, television and music personalities, Seamus O'Reagan and Kim Stockwood, who hosted the Premiers Gala. Let's not forget the many Newfoundland bands who gained exposure to big labels and artists during JunoFest hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Music Industry Association. And of course me, a journalist-wannabe, who bumped elbows with Canada's biggest entertainers as well as reporters and photographers from across Canada at media events during Juno weekend.
This opportunity didn't just fall into my lap; I have been working in radio and online journalism for four years. When I heard that the Junos were coming I just knew I had to be there. So I contacted SNN to find out if there was any chance of getting press passes. Luckily they got access to two Juno press passes and I was the recipient of one. The other recipient, friend and fellow Bishop's College student Johnathan Whitty who covered Juno Weekend with me.
My Juno weekend began even before the weekend officially started. While picking up my press pass at the Convention Center in downtown St. John's on Thursday April 11th, I got nipped by the infectious bug ~ Juno fever had hit ~ ~ downtown St. John's was all abuzz with excitement. I had been planning on popping downtown for a few minutes to pick up the pass, check out the media room and then head home to the suburbs. There may be times of the year when the suburbs are the place to be but this week wasn't one of them ~ ~ everyone was downtown. I spent the rest of the afternoon nipping in and out of high-end boutiques hoping to see some musicians shopping. No such luck.
Friday at school I found myself fidgeting, unable to control the excitement. Rumours were circulating that Destiny's Child and U2 were coming and they'd be performing this weekend, people were talking about what they were going to wear to the awards and teachers were getting thoroughly annoyed.
By the time I got home I was itching to go downtown again. After careful persuasion I talked my family into going downtown to a café for supper. Of course we got the window table. As I ate chicken fingers and garden salad I watched limos drive by but sadly, again no stars.
We walked up and down George Street and even drove around the loop in front of the Fairmount Hotel in search of Shaggy, The Barenaked Ladies and Nelly Furtado but all we found were some local high school graduates at their prom.
Later that night, around 11 pm, I went out for ice cream and drove down Water Street (at 20 kilometres per hour) with my eyes peeled. We spotted people partying in Bianca's, a local restaurant, but we weren't close enough to pick out individual faces. Again another failed attempt at seeing the stars.
Saturday would be my day. I knew it not just because I was attending the Premier's Gala press area but because I was also going to Fan fare at the Avalon Mall. After an hour on the air (myself and a fellow student host a radio show in St. John's Saturday afternoons) talking about the Junos and spinning the nominees' tracks for all our listeners, my co-host and I headed to the mall to try to meet people just like everyone else.
As we were interviewing teenagers who were in line to get autographs we noticed that Bill Welychka from MuchMoreMusic was doing the same thing. A few microphones waves in the air and he noticed us and came over to chat. He talked about how great Newfoundland was but admitted that he thought awards shows were boring.
We met some really nice wranglers (people who organize how stars spend their time at media events) and they let us into the VIP area so that we could get some interviews with the stars. That afternoon we met Thrust, a Canadian reggae/rap group who told me they wanted to meet Amanda Marshall and thought the people in Newfoundland were really grateful for what they had, unlike some other people they had met touring.
We stuck around the VIP area for a while and ‘just happened' to run into Wave. They didn't talk to us but I was shocked by how short they were. Music videos sure can be deceiving.
Master T, a former MuchMusic VJ talked to us for a few minutes and mixed up his own name calling himself Mr. T. It was humorous because I've actually made the same mistake before in conversation. Our last interview in the VIP area was with Bif Naked and it was real short. She seemed really cool and hyper though which only backed up the image that she portrays in her music videos.
A quick clothes change and it was time for the Premier's Gala. When I entered the Media Room I was overcome. There were people from Star, MTV, MuchMusic, EDGE and all sorts of other TV, radio and online media's. It was divided into two areas, the interview section and the photography section. I sat right in the front row, only feet from where the stars would be and prepared myself for an exciting night.
The room was small and intimate giving me the confidence to ask questions. Haitras was the first artist I met and the first to physically accept a Juno in Newfoundland. He seemed like a down to earth guy who was genuinely honoured to win for Best Dance Recording.
Local entertainers the Ennis Sisters took Best New Country Artist; they had the best outfits of the evening in my opinion. It was cool to see people win, who I'd seen years ago playing at celebrations in a local park.
Nickleback were probably the ‘biggest stars' I met on Saturday night. I even got to talk one on one with them (well sort of). During their question and answer period they asked why they only got one Juno to share between four people. I replied, "Because you only put out one album". The bass player agreed but Chad, the lead singer disagreed with me and said it was because they cost so much to make. I am still curious about why this is.
Jann Arden made us laugh with her acceptance speech and her commentary on why people attended her concerts. "It had nothing to do with sex appeal', commented Arden. From her music you would assume she was a very mellow even sad person. Although her songs are very sombre at times, in real life she's a gem and truly hilarious.
As Saturday night came to a close Daniel Lanois and Michael Cohl entered the media room. The biggest shock of the evening came when Michael was talking about eating in Paris with Keith; it took a few minutes before I realized he was talking about Keith Richards. That was probably the comment that surprised me the most.
By Sunday evening the Junos were the only thing being talked about in St. John's. Residents were everywhere in the city ‘star searching'. Late Sunday afternoon people began gathering outside Mile One Stadium where the Junos were being held. Just to catch a glimpse of their favourite band or singer. The city was abuzz with excitement. On the red carpet the stars gave a hugh ‘thumbs up' to the St. John's Junos.
The night's festivities were a less intimate affair in the media room. Lots more reporters, camera equipment and photographers. Media were treated to a meal of lasagna, salads and the most amazing desserts covered in marzipan. We mingled with other journalists and got a feel for what aspects people were going to be writing about.
Alanis Morissette was the first to arrive in the media area Sunday night. Yes, her hair is really that long… it's not extensions. She said she might just cut it off on a whim in India someday. She seemed like the type of person who wasn't really into press conferences and didn't speak with us for very long.
Great Big Sea, who opened the Juno Award show, talked about the pressure that they felt having to open the show while performing at home. They brought with them all the Newfoundland spirit you'd expect.
If anybody took me by surprise it was Swollen Members. Not being a huge rap fan I wasn't all that excited about meeting them, but they were super nice and seemed to be really fun. Now I listen to their songs when they come on the radio instead of changing the channel. I can say the same thing about Shaggy. He was a down to earth guy who sensed the island vibe and felt great about it being from an island himself (Jamaica).
David Usher and Diana Krall seemed to not like the spotlight too much, or maybe they just don't like journalists all that much. I guess having your pictures taken all day and talking about your musical influences everyday can get annoying after awhile.
Nickleback cleaned up at this year's Junos. While talking with reporters, they talked about the music industry. They told the truth about the music scene and I have a lot of respect for that. Chad said that if someone asked him he'd tell them everyone who messed him over so that they could avoid the same people. He tore down the sugarcoated ideal that the Canadian music scene is perfect.
Deborah Cox admitted to being against the "internet monster" of mp3 file sharing. Bif Naked gave us a list of all the things she liked to do and Ghetto Concept made everyone laugh with their t-shirts that said "Ghetto Concept in stores now".
The highlight of the evening was The Barenaked Ladies who had flawless impersonations of the Newfoundland accent and could list every fish and chip place in the city.
After this weekend I took away some tips if I ever find myself in the limelight. One always be honest, two turn a press conference into a conversation by talking to the journalists, and not just asking questions and finally throw in a bit of humour to spice up everyone's day.
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