Rights management group Ole hosted one of the greatest parties of 2017 Juno Weekend.
The dedicated crowd who braved the blizzard to trek to Gatineau’s La Shoppe at Zibi were treated to a one-of-a-kind show that will be sure to have Ottawa music fans talking for a long time.
Hosted by CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos, Ole’s Playlist Live concert on March 31st featured a who’s-who of Canadian artists, from up-and-comers to genuine music icons. Performances included new and old original songs, unexpected covers, inspired duets, and every genre from folk to rap.
“This is the Great Canadian Songbook,” Stromboloulopoulos declared.
The exclusive evening kicked off with Contemporary Roots and Indigenous Music Album of The Year nominee William Prince performing “The Carny.” The song, which captures the bittersweet experience of working at a carnival, is a moving showcase of Prince’s evocative voice and poetic lyrics: “Fairground littered with happy families, painted faces and cotton candy / the kind of life that would be just dandy / Then who’d run the rides?”
The show then switched gears with a series of electrifying sets from Kingston rock group Kasador, Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz, and husband-and-wife duo Whitehorse (performing the sarcastic “Boys Like You,” which features the line “Boys like you, they live with your mothers”).
In what felt like an iconic punk-rock moment, Canadian icon Carole Pope (of Rough Trade) joined Kowalewicz for a fiery duet of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio.”
Kowalewicz followed up with a Tragically Hip cover, dedicated to Gord Downie. Pope would later re-take command of the stage for an intense performance of her gothic-sounding single “Viral.”
The rock line-up was followed by a lower-key (but no less compelling) performance by Lindi Ortega. She made a point of apologizing for playing slow songs (“I know you guys want to party,” she laughed), but the audience didn’t seem to mind.
Rocking cowboy boots, a fringed top, and black veil, Ortega showed off her fantastic voice with a pair of sardonically mournful tracks, including a gorgeous cover of Towne’s Van Zandt’s “Waiting ‘Round to Die.”
Next was a pair of songs from up-and-coming country sensation Jess Moskaluke, who Stromboulopoulos all-but declared the next Shania Twain (fittingly, she opened with Twain’s “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”).
The country double-header was followed by a pair of scorching performances by Rap Recording of the Year nominee Tasha the Amazon and Canadian rap icon Michie Mee, who then joined forces for an enthusiastic duet.
A visibly-psyched Tasha saluted Mee’s status “pioneer” in Canadian rap, and Mee gave Tasha a shout-out for being the sole female nominee in the Rap category this year (Frankly, with her wicked flow and fierce lyrics, one gets the feeling Tasha could successfully take on any of her competitors).
The night’s first set was capped with Rock Album of the Year nominee Arkells, playing their early hit “Oh, the Boss is Coming” before closing with a cover of Bryan Adams’ “Run to You,” during which they were briefly joined by Stromboulopoulos (how’s that for the Canadiana?)
In the past, I’ve described Arkells as Canada’s greatest live rock act, and every time I see them they prove me right. Lead singer Max Kerman is an expert frontman, playfully interacting with his bandmates and wading into the crowd for some “Punchin’ in / punchin’ out” call and response. Whether they’re playing arenas or small stages, this band always brings their A-game; Junos audiences are certainly in for an awesome show tomorrow.
Much like the Junos themselves, Ole’s Playlist Live showcased every facet of the Canadian music scene.
Playlist Live: Canada’s 150th took place at La Shoppe at Zibi in Gatineau, on March 31/2017.