Ottawa -- There's an ice storm on the streets and Snow is playing inside Union Station as I join the schmooze cruise train Friday morning for Juno weekend in Ottawa.I'm dreading being crowded on a platform with hundreds of music industry people who all have a hyper sense of entitlement. How will over 500 music weasels be able to jump to the front of the same line?
But the Rolling Punter Revue is a great idea, further proof the Junos should never be held in Toronto -- or Hamilton -- again. Last year's Newfie road trip was a hit, and so is this weekend of awards, concerts and parties.
Various labels have commandeered cars for the trip, and we're on full schmooze control before leaving the station. By Oshawa, determined revellers are combing the train, hunting for the mythical "smoking car" and secret stashes of martinis.
The ever-desperate reminders from VIA staff that this is a non-smoking train just send more people hunting for the bong brigade. Many a pant leg is scorched as surreptitious smokers hide joints from peering train staff.
Hiphoppers bump tracks in one car while in another Sony Music Canada prez Denise Donlon previews songs from an excellent upcoming peace tribute album -- a fundraiser for the War Child charity.
When spilling drinks down the aisles gets tedious, I do a seat-and-greet as label execs, broadcast big shots and musicians like Sam Roberts, Tom Cochrane, Jully Black and the Rascalz stroll by.
Ottawa is juiced for the Junos with days of activities around what was a one-day show in Toronto. We get the red-carpet treatment at Ottawa's train station as excited locals, politicians, Cabinet ministers and the mayor all smile, shake hands and hand out tulips like the Dutch greeting Canadian troops at the end of the second world war. We're poured glasses of crappy Canadian sponsor wine, and most of us smile lamely at excited fans, sorry for not being someone they actually give a shit about.
The politicians scramble to a stage further up the carpet, and I have to remind myself that Don Boudria is not John Nunziata on heroin while heavy-footed, perky PM prospect Sheila Copps climbs on the platform.
Later that night at a party, Copps screams, "I want to meet Sam Roberts!" in a hose-headed screech that still has the talented Montreal singer glancing nervously over his shoulder.
The politicians all try to pop welcome bottles of decent champagne. Copps grimaces, swinging her bottle madly while the other corks fly. I flash back to the haunting image of the donut-shop-loving candidate, legs spread ballet-style for horrifying wire service photos a few years back. As the madly shaken bottle explodes, I drain my wine glass and hand it to the Heritage Minister. She happily accepts, but I have to give her a determined tap on the shoulder to retrieve my drink after she's loaded the glass.
Later that night I startle another Liberal leadership candidate as someone mutters at the CTV welcome party, "He doesn't look like a future PM."
I make my way to John Manley and assume the bug eyes that greet me mean I'm a little shaggy after a day of greeting and grogging. Others assure me his frightened look is standard, so I grab his hand and mutter, "I'm not a Liberal, but I'm glad you guys aren't making us kill anybody."
Relieved I'm not a drink-hurler, Manley flees to more fresh-faced fare.
The city keeps up its Juno fever throughout the weekend, even as I make my way up the Corel Centre red carpet Sunday with no one asking me who I'm wearing.
Sam Roberts is the Juno buzz guy, and his arena rock take on Brother Down works better live than on TV.
On the quiet train trip back. I'm left remembering musical highlights.
One of the best came Friday night when Ron Sexsmith did his best Chet Baker imitation, singing with the Chateau Laurier bar's jazz band whispered love songs to his girlfriend in front of a room of lucky people. email@example.com