I know it sounds pedantic to say that it’s the musicians that make the JUNOS so special, but it’s true. I can also say the same about the 2017 Canadian Sponsorship Forum. The musicians, in many expected and unexpected ways, certainly made CSFX17 the most memorable three days as two hundred new found friends could ever have.
Making magic may not be the brand promise of most conferences, but all of our delegates this weekend would confess that’s what they experienced. Then again, was CSFX17 a Forum or a Festival? When the speakers are being showcased on band-ready stages. When the attendees camp out together for days. When our bus drivers let us sneak cases of Steam Whistle on the bus. When the founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie belts out an inspiring mash-up of three classic eighties songs during his keynote. When hours of delegate karaoke is called “the best business networking experience of their life” by a longtime sponsorship vet. When every speaker has their own walk-up music. Uh-huh. That’s no conference, that’s a concert.
I have to personally thank the Arkells for setting the tone for the weekend. You can only imagine how hard it is to play a corporate gig at 1:30pm on a weekday, with everyone sober as a judge. But Max Kerman took on our delegates and had them singing out the chorus to My Heart’s Always Yours in no time. They wrapped up their three-song mini set by fulfilling a spontaneous request from one of our delegates to hear Leather Jacket. The Arkells unplugged from the stage, strolled into the middle of our room, and strummed their ways into the souls of everyone.
When I asked our delegates who was their favourite presenter (oh please let it be me I hoped), there was an abundance of love for Don Amero. The three-time JUNO-nominee surprised the attendees of his Music as Medicine workshop with his intellectual depth and passion for healing. If they had watched my T1 Speaker Series interview with Don, they would not have been surprised. What most delegates didn’t see is how under the weather Don was, battling a six-week bug. He even skipped attending the JUNOS to rest for his performance at our after-party. There is no price you can put on honour or friendship. Thanks Don.
The other musical highlights were not programmed by us, but came courtesy of CARAS, as our delegates attended the jewel of the weekend – the Songwriter’s Circle, and of course the Awards Show.
The Songwriter’s Circle host and Ottawa native, Bruce Cockburn, brought back so many memories for me with his songs. Not surprisingly, his stories were just as thoughtful. Delegates raved to me about Chantal Kreviazuk, who told the story of her best friend committing suicide when she was eighteen and playing the song inspired by this tragedy. Then, her second song was a passion pitch to young artists to follow their own voice and not bow to outside pressures.
The JUNO Awards had me pumped. I love Russell Peters. I can only imagine having the talent of Bryan Adams. I am young enough at heart to know the words to Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. I am old enough to respect an 18-year-old Shawn Mendes. M\I think I am still man enough to still have a Sarah McLachlan crush.
We had the aforementioned-smuggled beers on our bus and great seats thanks to Amazing Andreas Mendoza. But it was two verbal performances I will remember for a long time.
The first, was Sarah McLachlan’s Canadian Music Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Canada is a country “where the rights of girls and women are respected, where people of all ethnicities, genders and sexual identities can stand together as one. Where diversity is cherished. Where the arts are revered. Where people being polite is still an important thing,” she said. “We Canadians, we’re far from perfect, but we have a lot to offer the world and we have to continue to set the bar high.”
The second amazing acceptance speech was from Rob Baker and Paul Langlois of The Tragically Hip. But things got ugly when the show producers inexplicably tried to cut off Langlois, as his speech ran overtime. The situation was unforgettable, unfortunate, and completely unnecessary.
As Langlois’ speech ran past the allotted time, the show’s producers tried to play him off stage with music.
He asked, “Oh, you’re actually going to play me out?” and continued to deliver his speech, while the producers changed the music to the Hip song Ahead by a Century. Langlois continued talking, saying, “Go to commercial, go ahead. This is my arena, not yours.” He proceeded to thank Downie, which was met with thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. Many people took to Twitter to share their disapproval about the beloved Canadian band’s cut-off.
I think Surprise & Delight has become overused in marketing. But the way we ended CSFX17 with a SURPRISE performance by The Lytics, there was unmatched DELIGHT for all who attended the after party. This was a true, funny and random surprise can be. The group was stranded outside the JUNOS and in need of a ride. Not shockingly, our team bartered a deal with them. They could get a ride if they performed on the bus. That was S&D performance number one. Then an invitation to join our after-party for a drink, turned into an uber facilitated scramble for a beats-laden computer and a three song set.
Another shout out to Don who was our scheduled party headliner, performing after Universal Music artist Gabrielle Shonk (who has a voice you need to check out) despite his weary bones. Don had no problem ceding the floor to his fellow Winnipeggers, knowing the Lytics would get the room a jumping!
That’s the type of respect only a talented musician could show to fellow musicians.