A Look Back At The Year In Manitoba Music

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2005 was an incredible year for the Manitoba music industry, with many awards and nominations for homegrown talent and some impressive new deals for local artists. Winnipeg played host to the 2005 JUNO Awards, local acts released over 100 albums, and record numbers of artists showcases at industry conferences in across North America. As 2005 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the great stories from this past year.

January began with several big Juno announcements, beginning months of excitement in Manitoba surrounding the upcoming prestigious awards. Comedian Brent Butt of popular show Corner Gas was tapped to host the festivities and big names Neil Young and Burton Cummings were confirmed to be performing, along with 2005 Music Hall of Fame inductees The Tragically Hip. Singer/songwriter Jaylene Johnson has two songs featured in popular CBS drama Joan of Arcadia while, six local labels headed to Cannes, France to do business at the 29th annual MIDEM conference.

At the beginning of February, nominees for the 2005 JUNO Awards were announced. Manitoba was honoured with 10 nods, including The Wailin’ Jennys, Nathan, The Waking Eyes, Fresh I.E., Longhouse, Robert Turner, James Ehnes, and The Weakerthans’ video director Benjamin Weinstein. Awards were already of everyone’s mind when it was announced that Beautiful Dreamer, a tribute album featuring a cover track by The Duhks, had taken home a prestigious Grammy Award. Shortly afterwards, The Duhks wowed crowds at the North American Folk Alliance conference in Montreal along with The Wailin’ Jennys, Alana Levandoski, Michael Johnston, Easily Amused, Madrigaia, The Dust Poets, Dan Frechette, Greg MacPherson, D.Rangers, and Romi Mayes.

In March, Manitoba’s frequent flyer miles were starting to add up. Six local acts traveled to Toronto for Canadian Music Week, including J.P. Hoe, The Waking Eyes, Telepathic Butterflies, Losing Focus, Inward Eye, and The Brat Attack. Eight Manitoba acts – Doc Walker, The Waking Eyes, Nathan, The Wailin’ Jennys, Tin Foil Phoenix, Malefaction, and ex-pat Randy Bachman - were in the running for CMW’s annual Independent Music Awards. Bachman, The Jennys, and The Waking Eyes brought home awards on March 3. Seven local bands headed to Austin, Texas for one of the world’s largest music conferences and festivals, the 18th annualmSouth by Southwest in March. The Wailin’ Jennys, Mood Ruff, Novillero, The Waking Eyes, Comeback Kid, Telepathic Butterflies, and The Duhks performed in front of industry bigwigs and music fans alike while MARIA and Manitoba Film & Sound joined forces with the North By Northeast conference to bringing one of the hottest parties, the Canada BBQ. Back at home, Juno fever was starting to hit Winnipeg when the Manitoba Social – featuring performances by Doc Walker, Randy Bachman, The Waking Eyes, and Joey Gregorash – kicked everything off and energized the city.

April brought the 2005 JUNO Awards and surrounding events, including the two-night JunoFest, which featured over 100 bands in various Winnipeg venues. Local and national audiences poured into other Juno week festivities, including the popular Songwriter’s Circle featuring host Burton Cummings, the Juno Cup which pitted NHL legends against Canadian music stars, and the Aboriginal Showcase. Music was in the venues, clubs, and on the streets as local trio The Wailin’ Jennys brought home the award for Best Roots and Traditional Album (Group) for its debut full length 40 Days. The awards telecast, broadcast from the new MTS Centre, wowed millions of viewers with great performances, an impressive light show, and an unprecedented tribute to Winnipeg music featuring Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and all the local 2005 nominees. Winnipeg proved to Canada that it was the centre of the country and the heart of the music scene. Hot the heels of the Junos, it was announced that Winnipeg would play host to two other music awards in 2006, the Western Canadian Music Awards and the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Meanwhile, Native Communications Inc. launched the Aboriginal Music Hall of Fame, inducting music legends C-Weed (a.k.a. Errol Ranville, MARIA’s Aboriginal Music Program Director), Ray St. Germain, Ernest Monias, Len “White Buffalo” Fairchuck, and Lucille Starr in front of an ecstatic crowd that included Buffy Saint-Marie, Adam Beach, and Culture Minister Eric Robinson.

May began with the release of several local albums from acts including Novillero, Mike Petkau, and Mood Ruff. The Morning After was triumphant at the Search RA NRG, one of Winnipeg's biggest and longest running band battles while Easily Amused was the first local band to capitalize on new technologies and offer its music as ringtones for eager cell phones. Composer Danny Schur opened his successful musical Strike! based on the infamous 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

Gwen Stefani, 50 Cent, Coldplay, Comeback Kid. Comeback Kid? The top selling hardcore acts was up for a top MuchMusic Powershift video spot in June along with Mood Ruff and The Waking Eyes. A record 18 local acts headed to Toronto for the North By Northeast music conference, including JP Hoe & the Truly Richards, The Perpetrators, Christine Fellows, Vanderveen, Kayla Luky, The Attics, Inward Eye, Tele, Easily Amused, Novillero, The Waking Eyes, Romi Mayes, Greg Milka Crowe, JFK & the Conspirators, The Afterbeat, Michael Johnston, Hurst, and Telepathic Butterflies while MARIA and MFS hosted the ever-popular Manitoba BBQ. Back at home, Alana Levandoski inked a deal with U.S. label Rounder Records and got ready to release her anticipated debut Unsettled Down.

Music fans braved soaked fields for the record-breaking 32nd annual Winnipeg Folk Festival in July, which saw the debut of new Director of Music Programming Chris Frayer. A stunning 11 artists were nominated for the 2005 Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA) held in Wisconsin in September, including Eagle & Hawk, Billy Joe Green, Kimberley Dawn, Burnt Project 1, Spirit of the Nations, Rayne Delaronde, Edward Gamblin, Little Hawk, Longhouse, and Sierra Noble. Bluegrass quintet House of Doc released its debut Prairiegrass, which enjoyed widespread critical success and the band hired on one of Canada'a top booking agencies, S.L. Feldman & Associates, as well as new manager Vince Ditrich (Spirit of the West).

In August, prominent country acts Doc Walker and Foster Martin Band received nominations for the 2005 Canadian Country Music Awards. A new awards show, honouring Canadian folk music, was launched with a call for nominations. The inaugural Canadian Folk Music Awards would be held in December 2005. At the end of August, singer/songwriter, activist, and MARIA president Heather Bishop received the Order of Canada, this country’s highest honour. As one of the top selling independent artists in Canada, Bishop has pioneered the music industry both artistically and as an entrepreneur.

September brought a change in weather and good harvest of new local music releases from Madrigaia, Paris To Kyiv, Matt Epp, Quinzy, Pushing Daisies, Children of Tragedy, Scott Nolan and The Dingleberries. September also brought home two more awards for Eagle & Hawk and Spirit of the Nations the Indian Summer Music Awards in Wisconsin. It was announced that 27 local artists and industry were up for Western Canadian Music Awards while Aboriginal artists received 21 nominations for the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. At the end of the month, four Manitoba schools received funding from CARAS (which puts on the Junos) and its Band Aid Funds to buy new musical instruments and help young Manitobans realize their own musical dreams. Jazz chanteuse Jodie Borle won Project Cool with an incredible a prize$75,000 in funding support for recording, production and release of a new CD. Borle would release her debut CD and then i did… later in December to critical and popular acclaim.

In October, the acclaimed Send + Receive festival of experimental and electronic music celebrated its eight birthday, 18 local bands took over the stage for what might be the last show at famed St. Boniface venue Le Rendez-Vous at the Manitoba Rock Show, and nine local acts showcases in Kingston at the annual Ontario Council of Folk Festivals, including Twilight Hotel, Romi Mayes, Madrigaia, Scott Nolan, D.Rangers, Christine Fellows, and House of Doc. Acoustic pop singer/songwriter J.P. Hoe got ready to head to Virginia to record his debut full-length album with a prominent American producer David Lowery of seminal folk/rock act Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker fame. Hoe also joined a dozen other local acts heading to Vancouver to showcase at the 3rd annual Western Canadian Music Awards. Twelve artists and industry professionals took home awards at the WCMAs, including double-winners The Waking Eyes and Nathan, The Duhks, Ya Ketchose, and Burnt Project 1. Balanced Records beamed some of its music into millions of homes when a track by DJs Kasm and Brace was featured in Fox’s hit drama Prison Break at the end of the month.

As Manitobans braced for the winter, Juno-nominated composer Robert Turner celebrated his 85th birthday in November in a unique evening of music put on by new music concert series GroundSwell. Winnipeg-based Cafesonique.com officially launched its groundbreaking 3-D music site, and young rock trio Inward Eye signed a record deal with major American record label J Records (home to the likes of Pearl Jam, Santana, Annie Lennox, and Billy Joel). Four local acts – including Nathan, House of Doc, The Wailin’ Jennys, and James Keelaghan - were nominated for eight awards in six different categories at the first annual Canadian Folk Music Awards. Seventeen local Aboriginal acts – totaling 32 individuals - headed to Toronto to showcase at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, happening in conjunction with the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Six local acts took home a total of eight awards at the gala event in Toronto on November 25, including double winners Little Hawk and Ryan D’Aoust. At the end of the month, MARIA launched Music is Working: An Economic Impact Analysis of Manitoba’s Music Industry to a packed room of artists, industry, and government officials. The study announced that the Manitoba music industry generated more than $100-million worth of economic activity in the province in 2004. This is the first-ever study to measure the economic impact of key sectors of the music industry on the Manitoba economy.

In December, local Christian rapper Fresh I.E. received his second Grammy nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album, for his acclaimed album Truth Is Fallin' In Tha Streetz. This makes Fresh I.E. the only Manitoban to be nominated for two Grammys in different years. Over in Gatineau, Quebec, local roots quartet Nathan brought home two awards at the inaugural Canadian Folk Music Awards rounding out a year of great successes for the Manitoba music industry.

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