Updated on the 15th of every month
Polémil Bazar, Les Chiens, Le Nombre…ever hear of these bands? What about Sam Roberts, The Stills or The Dears? This year's Montreal International Music Initiative (MiMi) Gala shed some light on Montreal's lesser known talents, leaving the big wigs hiding in the shadows…but isn't that the point?
The MiMis is not an ordinary awards show, some say it isn't an awards show at all. The intention of the gala is to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of Montreal's numerous music scenes in hopes of putting them under an international spotlight. Although the organizers' hearts seem to be in the right place, they still lack the respect and street cred they seek from the industry. Often criticized for being unprofessional, the gala organizers, Greenland and Sopref, have a hard time getting industry people to even show up, never mind take the awards seriously. Even the presenters that they managed to book weren't exactly enthusiastic. Their slurred speeches and distracted expressions made the gala a bit slow and well, boring. Despite the disorganization, lack of credibility, and obvious minimal production budget, the gala has its charms and definitely serves its purpose as being an alternative to regular pompous music ceremonies.
Anglophone artists were better represented on the nominee list this year than they had been in the past. This however seemed to be more of an effort since the majority of these nominees are no longer considered indie and have already attained international success. This is not to say that only Anglo artists have achieved success at a higher level; Benoit Charest (who was nominated for an Oscar for the "Triplettes de Belleville" soundtrack), René Lussier and Afrodizz also made the list. If the point of the gala is to highlight the efforts of local artists who are not known outside of Montreal then why include Sam Roberts and Buck 65 in categories alongside Collectivo and Vulgaires Machins? Why not exclude them from the running or place them in a category of their own? Most of the nominees realize that these awards are not considered 'make or break', but what artist, internationally or locally successful, wouldn't want a pat on the back from their hometown?
The winners of this year's gala were selected by a panel of judges and by the public in a 50/50 vote. Once the categories were deciphered (the names were confusing, somewhat interesting and often illogical), fans and friends could go online and vote for their favourite nominees. One panel insider pointed out that most of the bands that won had direct links on their websites to the voting poll...coincidence? Regardless of how they won, the winners were definitely not a result of a Montreal popularity contest otherwise local favourites like Arcade Fire, The Unicorns and Syncop would not have gone home empty handed.
Despite the controversy caused by their choice of winners, the organizers managed to make up for these biases by showcasing local artists from each of Montreal's music scenes. Jason Bajada started the performances off with his tear-provoking ballad "Gutterwaltz", followed by Kid Koala's haunting recreation of "Moon River". The Sainte Catherines tore up the stage (literally), while Martha Wainwright tore up the males in the crowd with "Bloody Motherfuckin' Asshole". Reviving performances were given by Les Chiens, Antoine Gratton, and of course the much anticipated Benoit Charest. Dumas experienced some sound difficulties and Atach Tatuq's set was rushed on stage in the middle of a speech, but the performances were by far the highlight of the gala.
Although each act was impeccably representative of the music scenes in Montreal, the majority of the winners at this year's gala seemed to all fall under one segmented category of 'unknown francophone artist'. Not that I'm complaining. The Stills, The Dears, Sam Roberts and even Ramasutra have spent the past year representin' la Belle Province on an international scale. Although I think they are more than deserving of a few props from their peeps back home, I do believe that the attention needs to be placed on the still-untapped francophone artists who will hopefully fill in for them in 2004. After all, the point of the MiMis is not to gloat about the bands that have already made it, but to encourage those who haven't. So I say this to the industry no-shows: "get off your corporate asses, get out to the MiMis and party with your (unknown) people!"
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