The new, lower case q showcases high-class guests

Bahamas, Tanya Tagaq, Chilly Gonzales, Marc Maron and more usher in a not entirely new brand of CBC's arts and culture show

This morning (April 20), upper case Q was changed to lower, as if to suggest that a new, softer version of the show was launching in CBC’s Glenn Gould studio to a live audience of enthusiastic fans.

The show’s new host, Kenyan-born rapper Shad, is no stranger to taking the mic, and his experience as a Juno Award-winning artist lent itself well to performing in front of a crowd. But the audience was a one-time novelty, and people were there to glimpse the voice that they would be tuning to hear every morning on the arts and culture talk show.

Sparing us from any on-stage banter about how Toronto is feeling, Shad humbly waited out the lengthy applause before expressing his excitement to be taking on his new position. Then, a mere 45 seconds later, it was showtime.

Following the show’s new sleek, plucky theme song, was its composer, Bahamas. The Toronto musician joined Shad for a conversation about writing the theme, becoming a father and, because of his recent win in the Adult Alternative category at the Juno Awards, the abstract categories that the music industry digs out of thesauruses to label artists. Shad was firmly in his comfort zone, and affable conversation about the industry flowed easily – a wise move by the producers.

Next up was a reading from Northwest Territories poet Shane Koyczan, another addition to the lineup that refuted concerns that the new platform would glaze over Canadian talent in favour of reaching a US audience. Shad and Koyczan spoke candidly about the poem’s themes of true beauty, false body ideals and his early aspirations of wrestling. The poet’s responses were tenderly revealing, and at this point Shad was establishing such an assured, charismatic and hospitable style of hosting that it hardly seemed like his first day.

Cellphones flew up like candles in the wind to snap pictures when the pope of the CBC/National host Peter Mansbridge appeared to read a hit-and-miss segment of offbeat news. Learning the ropes was an ongoing theme of the show, with Shad looking to Mansbridge as a mentor and seeking tips from his next guest, podcast host and comedian Marc Maron, on how to construct an interview.

Maron has the boisterous and borderline obnoxious personality of someone who always cuts in line at the bar, and his directness offered Shad his first challenge. It became The Maron Show for the next five minutes as he recounted entertaining tales of his own interview highs and lows (A disinterested Harry Dean Stanton and the now infamously honest one with Robin Williams). But Maron admitted he always wants to hear his own voice and complimented Shad on his attentiveness, a trait that Maron says has taken him years to learn.

After throat singer Tanya Tagaq filled the airwaves with a song filled with intensity, the show rifled through some new and old segments which included: More Than Music, where Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham looks at the context behind his favourite tunes (today it was a 4/20-themed look at Neil Young’s ‘Honey Slides’) a sports panel discussion about the under the radar coverage of the NFL’s convicted murdered Aaron Hernandez and the continuation of comedian Elvira Kurt’s Hall of Shame, which resulted in the most awkward moment of the broadcast when Elvira and Shad aimlessly discussed a cream that makes your hands smell like cat paws.

Canadian composer Chilly Gonzales rounded out the two-hour broadcast with a performance and interview about his self-made persona and the intersections of musical genres. The pianist gregariously gave his stance on the reflectivity of modern rap music (“If people don’t like the rap of today, then people don’t like today”), before playing two songs from his latest output Chambers. | @nowtoronto

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