I made my way to the front of The Exchange Saturday night, eager to check out Saskatoon’s Shooting Guns, and settled in with the leather jackets and long hairs in front of the stage. My drying contact lenses itched and my beer was warming in my hand, but I felt that all-too-infrequent electrical excitement beginning to crackle in my body.
After the relentless bore of the Saturday night Juno Gala media room, I arrived tired from the string of industry-manufactured award winners filing in for questions, crystal trophies glittering heavily in hand. The beer was cut off early and the winners’ list handed out immediately, so if there was any zing to be had, it was quickly depleted. Also, my spiritual horse in the race Montreal’s epic Ratchet Orchestra, didn’t win for best Instrumental Album of the Year. I expected most of this, of course.
My patience for “industry” had been ground down over years of interacting with it via community radio, FACTOR juries, music playing and music writing. Too often it seems that the bands and artists being rewarded and championed are the ones replicating something else, somewhere else that’s making money but losing out on innovation. As a local musician noted to me over the weekend (in relation to Canadian Content regulations), Canada should be celebrating what we do well instead of trying to shoe-horn Canuck artists into all of the genres doing well abroad. (I feel this lesson reverberate in municipal spheres, as Queen City tears down heritage buildings to make room for mediocre glass towers and parking lots, a gross aping of whatever they think a “real” big city looks like). In summary: the Junos pulled the depleted molars from my jaws, leaving my incisors intact for the flesh-rending business of moving forward, free of burden, hungry for something real and bloody.
Cue my front-and-centre stage stance. I hadn’t had a chance to give Shooting Guns’ records a listen but I liked what I’d heard about them: instrumental, psychedelic stoner doom metal played by veterans of the Saskatoon music scene. It made me hungry.
Shooting Guns delivered deeply satisfying heavy riffs, with body-buzzing volume and hypnotic intensity; the kind of enveloping sound that’s best experienced live. Far from industry-friendly, their set felt more refreshing than any of the effervescent pop songs up for Juno awards. (I’m sure that many of the JUNOfest shows ruled equally hard, as you can read about elsewhere on this blog)
I left shortly after the SG set, about a few songs into The Pack A.D.’s rock n roll party. On my way out the door a couple of dudes grabbed and embraced me roughly. Why leave that in this retelling? Because it’s also a part of the music scene, which isn’t always a pretty picture, and also because I’m tired of glossy reviews, whitewashed press releases and buzz bands.
Edit: Thoughnot all Juno nominees are “industry manufactured”, of course, I find a whole lot of them are playing it unappealingly safe.