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JUNO CONCERT SERIES featuring THE ELWINS, THE SADIES, HIP HOP KARAOKE and more at the Horseshoe, Saturday, February 4. Rating: NNNN
The return of the Juno Concert Series brought out a diverse, impressive card of Canadian musicians new and old to celebrate Exclaim! Magazine's 20th anniversary, but nostalgia was the main attraction. Where previous installments celebrated individual decades of CanRock, this version split the night into three distinct genres, which allowed the collected performers to cover a greater stylistic range.
The night's most familiar tunes were delivered in the concert's first set. Affable youngsters the Elwins acted as backing band with admirable versatility and visible glee as they transitioned from covers of Chilliwack to Anne Murray to Tokyo Police Club to Sloan without missing a beat (the latter two with original members on vocals).
Though their own music skews toward the pop side, they also displayed some noisier rock chops in a standout cover of the Constantines' Young Lions with the sweet-voiced Casey Mecija (of Ohbijou). They also welcomed the Rural Alberta Advantage's Nils Edenloff for a Leonard Cohen tune and Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning for a (yes) Remy Shand cover. Canning nailed the falsetto vocals with surprisingly little smirk, though his irony-free pop credentials were already established in the ‘90s when he played as a member of Len. Would a rendition of Steal My Sunshine have been too much to ask?
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's Don Pyle provided the transition to the CanPunk portion of the evening with a slide show of photos from his Toronto punk rock photo-memoir Trouble in the Camera Club (because nothing screams "punk rock" like a slideshow). Pyle's photos captured a vital moment in Toronto's musical history and provided some enlightening context for the evening, but didn't feel entirely appropriate sandwiched between two rowdy cover sets.
Toronto's de facto house band, the Sadies, stepped out of their usual country-western comfort zone to take over from the Elwins for the night's punk set. Seeing the Sadies in t-shirts is a bit like spotting your teacher at the mall, but they would have looked off wearing ties while backing up, among others, modern hardcore legends like Chris Colohan (of Cursed and Burning Love) and the omni-present Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, who donned a vintage Leafs jersey to look the part for a raucus Youth Youth Youth cover (in his words, "a $175 bit").
There was a noticeable audience changeover as regulars of Hip Hop Karaoke charged the stage for the night's final set. Though it's called "karaoke" there's nothing amateurish about the folks who usually take the mic at the event, and on this night they held their own against the legends in attendance, Choclair, Michie Mee and D-Sisive, the latter of which played along with the theme with a straight-faced version of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.
Video by Graeme Phillips