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The Juno Awards are taking over Edmonton for the first time since 2004, and CBC Music is on the ground to catch every thrilling moment. From speeches that leave us speechless to performances from Canada’s rising stars, behind-the-scenes hijinks to Junofest showcases that tear the house down, this Juno Week will be one for the books.
There’s a lot happening, but we’ll make sure you’ll feel like you’re there.
Scroll down for the highlights, and for more Junos coverage, head over to cbcmusic.ca/junos.
March 13: the Juno Awards
The 2023 Juno Awards kicked off with host Simu Liu making his triumphant return. In the cold open, Liu received hosting advice from a number of famous Canadians including Avril Lavigne, David Suzuki and Lilly Singh. Liu then barged into Nickelback’s green room where leader Chad Kroeger said, “Why does it feel like we’re about to do a bit?” – which cut immediately to the band and Liu getting pampered with Liu painting Kroeger’s nails. It was a smooth transition into the night’s first performance by Tate McRae, who opened the show with a row of dancers sitting under hair salon hood dryers. McRae’s pop-punk hit “She’s All I Wanna Be” was a polished, choreographed moment, proving that the Calgary-born artist is truly one of the country’s brightest new pop stars.
Jessie Reyez took home the night’s first award, for contemporary R&B recording for her album, Yessie. In her earnest speech, the Toronto artist thanked her fellow nominees, many of whom she knew personally. Reyez also shouted out Toronto’s Remix Project where she graduated alongside Adria Kain and was mentored there by dvsn’s Daniel Daley. “It’s an honour to be recognized at home,” Reyez added.
Liu performed a charming medley of Avril Lavigne’s hits in honour of the singer, who was sitting in the crowd watching. When Lavigne started to introduce AP Dhillon’s performance, a topless protester hopped onto the stage with the words “save the greenbelt” written on their back. Lavigne swore at them just as security shooed them off the stage.
Chart-topping rapper AP Dhillon took the Juno stage for the first time with his his global hit “Summer High.” Backstage in the media room, Dhillon was asked how he felt about the performance and he replied: “It’s a feeling you can’t buy with any money, you know? I moved here in 2015, with two suitcases and a dream. So that was to inspire people back home and the immigrants and the students that come to this country who opened the same dream,” said the Punjabi Canadian singer. “So for me it was like, I’m glad that I’m representing my community here. And I’m inspiring people. At the end of the day, if I can change the lives of five to 10 people, then it’s worth it.”
Timmins, Ont., native Preston Pablo won his first Juno for breakthrough artist of the year — one of three categories he was nominated in. He joined the ranks of former breakthrough winners and contemporary Canadian music mainstays the Weeknd, Jessie Reyez and Drake. Pablo shouted out Banx and Ranx, the production duo that helped create his chart-topping hit “Flowers Need the Rain,” and Rêve, who he would perform with later in the night.
St. Catharines’ rockers Alexisonfire returned to the Junos stage for the first time since 2007. Performing “Sans Soleil” from the group’s Juno-winning album (and the band’s first release in 13 years), Otherness, Alexisonfire looked and sounded like a much more matured version of the band that first debuted in 2001. Mostly known for his screaming, vocalist George Petit gave a restrained performance, singing and harmonizing next to the band’s other two vocalists, Dallas Green and Wade MacNeil.
Aysanabee’s stirring performance of his single “We Were Here,” a song about the difficulty of reconciling with the traumatic and violent history of residential schools and losing language and culture, was an unforgettable ode to the children whose lives were lost at those colonial institutions. The performance opened with a recording of his grandfather retelling his experience at residential school, and onstage Aysanabee was wearing a custom jacket decorated with 122 feathers with numbers representing the unmarked graves found at residential schools across the country so far. Visuals of dancers in bright-coloured regalia were blown up behind Aysanabee and his band. To breathe even more exhilarating energy into the song, he was joined by Northern Cree, a Grammy-nominated and Juno-winning powwow and Round Dance drum and singing group from Treaty 6.
Backstage in the media room, Kardinal Offishall ran into Aysanabee and put it perfectly: “My man, beautiful performance, hey?”
Onstage in the media room, Aysanabee reflected on releasing his debut album, Watin: “When I made the album, I didn’t expect it to bring me here. And so when I met Ishkōdé [Records] and we started putting it out, I think my biggest fear was that it would retraumatize residential school survivors … and recently there was kind of two residential school survivors who reached out and said they found the album very healing, and it was very nice that our stories are being told by our people. And so I think that’s probably the best feedback that I’ve gotten from the record to date. Since the record came out, my grandfather has decided he’s ready to forgive and move on with his life.
Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds helped induct Alberta rockers Nickelback into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In his pre-taped segment, Reynolds started off confused, believing he was inducting another Alberta icon, Joni Mitchell. When corrected, he asked, “Wasn’t Joni Mitchell in Nickelback?”
The Nickelback tribute also featured a kind message from Michael Bublé, who told the band, “Your dedication, your incredible talent and your hard work have led you here. You are an inspiration to every Canadian kid who dreams of reaching their potential the way that you have.”
Honouring the band in person was Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid, who was greeted by Edmontonians with MVP chants. “Nickelback has brought my family and friends a lot of great memories over the years and kept a lot of neighbours up in the process,” McDavid told the crowd. During the band’s acceptance speech, Chad Kroeger warned fans that they were only given “120 seconds to talk,” before jumping into his speech. “We had no idea what we were doing and most of the time still don’t,” Kroeger said. “But everything we did wound up leading us to this.”
Backstage in the media room, Nickelback had some choice words for the band’s haters: “We have been the whipping boys of the music industry for way too long. It’s nice to see things change … we’re four guys who make music, and we’ve been absolutely ripped through the mud. And worse. For a good 15 years of our 27-year career. So what’s it like? It f–king sucks. What’s it like to win tonight? F–king redemption.”
Another Juno heavyweight added a fifth Juno to his haul tonight: the Weeknd won for album of the year for Dawn FM. That bumps him up above Bryan Adams, officially making the Weeknd the second-most awarded artist in Junos history.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop, a star-studded medley led by Kardinal Offishall and Haviah Mighty brought an electric energy to the Juno stage. Michie Mee, Dream Warriors, Choclair, Tobi, Maestro Fresh Wes and DJ Mel Boogie flawlessly depicted the breadth of Canadian hip hop from the ’80s to the future.
When the posse made their way backstage to the media room, it felt like a love-in, all of the artists showering each other in accolades. Offishall said he didn’t want to do the commemoration without the boundary-pushing duo Dream Warriors, and Maestro Fresh Wes called King Lou “the most original MC I’ve ever heard in my life.” Michie Mee spoke about having to be immaculate performers in the early days of Canadian hip hop because there wasn’t the same industry infrastructure that the U.S. had, which she says is the reason “Canadian [hip hop] artists are the best performers in the world.”
Choclair put it even more simply: “We are dope as f–k.” The younger generation, Mighty and Tobi, were just honoured to be celebrated among so many legends. “I can hardly fathom that, as a young Black girl that didn’t see a lot of representation growing up, that I am here,” said Mighty, who is also the first woman to ever win a Juno for rap EP/album of the year. Tobi talked about the gravity of this performance and the growing respect for the genre: “For hip hop we’ve always felt like we are on the margins of music. Tonight, we put on for the voices around the world that have felt voiceless. We carry a lot on our shoulders.”
Avril Lavigne won the final honour of the evening, the TikTok Juno Fan Choice Award. When Lavigne got up onstage, she addressed the topless protester from earlier, saying, “Now nobody try anything this time or the Canadian is going to come out of me, and I’m going to f–k a bitch up.” Afterwards, she noted the recent 20-year anniversary of her debut album, Let Go. “I’ve seen the industry change so much — music change, the business change, technology change; trends come and go, artists come and go — but the one thing that’s been most consistent for me is my fan base over the past 20 years,” she said.
March 12: Songwriters’ Circle, Junofest and Juno Cup
One of the most anticipated events of the week is the Junos Songwriters’ Circle, and the event at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre really delivered on Sunday night. Hosted by Damhnait Doyle and featuring performances by Adria Kain, Dan Mangan, the Reklaws, Lauren Spencer Smith, Tenille Townes, the Bros. Landreth, Tyler Shaw and Wild Rivers, the Songwriters’ Circle was a captivating night of storytelling and incredible musicianship.
The Reklaws played a beautiful song about their mother’s recent death, called “People Don’t Talk About,” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after their moving performance. The Bros. Landreth performed the now Grammy-winning song that Bonnie Raitt covered of theirs, “Made up Mind,” and once they hit the second verse of their gorgeous performance, Joey Landreth forgot the lyrics. They rallied to finish the song, but when it was their turn again brother Dave Landreth good-naturedly quipped, “Hey do you want me to google the lyrics to this?”
Dan Mangan, who performed his songs “Fire Escape” and “In Your Corner (For Scott Hutchinson),” also backed Adria Kain’s performances with his guitar playing. When asked what he’s learned over his 20-year career, he joked: “I used to get nominated for alternative album of the year, and now I get nominated for adult alternative.”
Before the Songwriters’ Circle, Juno Awards host Simu Liu joined Q host Tom Power for a half-hour interview where Liu talked about his memoir, his imminent hosting duties and the advice he received on how to imitate Chad Kroeger’s signature voice.
Elsewhere in the city, more Juno Week festivities were taking place. Fans descended upon West Edmonton Mall to get photo opps with their favourite artists at Juno Fan Fare. Tenille Townes, Devon Cole, Banx & Ranx, Rêve and Preston Pablo got up close and personal with fans of all ages.
Over at Edmonton’s Downtown Community Arena, the Juno Cup returned for the first time since 2019. The hockey game between professional athletes and musicians is a charity event in support of MusiCounts. In a surprising feat, the musicians won for the third time in 17 years, beating the athletes 4-3. The winning team included Jim Cuddy, Aysanabee, Jenna Walker of the Reklaws, Dom Vallie and more.
Junofest continued at night with even more great showcases across the city. At Soho, North Preston, N.S., artist Reeny Smith and her two backup singers brought high-energy R&B that got the crowd hyped. Next up was Saskatoon neo-soul singer Katie Tupper, who gave lots of love to the Prairies and said she “could just die of happiness and excitement to be here tonight.” In a touching moment, she got the whole audience (which included Dallas Green of City and Colour and Alexisonfire) to help her sing the chorus of her song “How Can I Get Your Love.”
Back at the Starlite Room, recent Juno Award winners Digging Roots gave a rollicking and rapturous show to a packed house for the Ishkodé Records showcase. Their bluesy rock ‘n’ roll had everyone stomping and wailing along. Following the band, labelmate and Juno nominee Aysanabee took the stage and gave a little taste of what to expect from him during his Juno Awards performance on March 13. His arresting voice sounding just as good live as it does on the record, he performed songs from his Juno-nominated album (and one of CBC Music’s top 10 favourites of 2022), Watin.
March 11: Opening Night Awards
The Juno Awards Opening Night began with a moving land acknowledgement, performed by Dougie Rain and followed by a gorgeous performance by the Bearhead Sisters, from Paul First Nation, Treaty 6, Alberta, who would go on to win a Juno for traditional Indigenous artist or group of the year.
“The First Peoples spoke and sang about our history. The stories and sounds of our past will never fade from these lands,” Rain said.
The first award of the night went to an Albertan: Tenille Townes for country album of the year for Masquerades, which is her second Juno win ever.
“There’s just a spirit of home for me that you can’t run from around here … there’s just such a strong love for [country music], it’s in the fabric of who we are,” Townes said in the media room, answering a question about what is so special to her about Alberta’s country music scene.
The Sadies won the Juno Award for adult alternative album of the year, and Travis Good paid tribute to his late brother Dallas Good, who passed away on February 17, 2022, when receiving it: “It’s very bittersweet, this is. I humbly accept this on behalf of my brother Dallas… we love and we miss him and we wish he was here.”
Montreal artist Rêve won her first Juno for dance recording of the year thanks to her platinum-selling track “Ctrl Alt Delete,” that’s been featured on the 2022 FIFA soundtrack and on Canada’s Drag Race. Dance music has long been a boys’ club, and as more women reclaim their space in the genre, it’s still an uphill battle. When asked what it’s been like for her as a woman navigating this industry, she said “You can’t let anybody tell you no. You can’t be intimidated to be a woman in a room full of men. Let your voice be heard no matter how scary it is.”
The Bros. Landreth, who won the Juno for contemporary roots album of the year, reminisced in the media room about the recent Grammy Awards, where Bonnie Raitt won a Grammy for covering their song “Made up Mind.” Joey Landreth set the scene, when he and his brother, David, were supposed to be together to watch it.
“I think it was a great example of how the universe will humble you,” he said. “We were hosting a dinner at my house, and 20 minutes before the category was announced [David’s son] Finn started projectile vomiting … it was an incredible moment, but very grounding.”
Digging Roots, made up of married duo Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish, won the Juno Award for contemporary Indigenous artist or group of the year, their second Juno Award ever. It’s been a big year for Digging Roots, as Kish founded Ishkodé Records with close friend and artist Amanda Rheaume last summer, and their first label signee, Aysanabee, was nominated in the same category as Digging Roots for his first Juno year.
“Chi migwech to our community who are, in my opinion, making the most inspired and cutting-edge music right now… we make music for dreaming and this is a room full of artists and changemakers and I just want to put to all of you that we can become our greatest selves,” Kish said, during her acceptance speech for the Juno Award for contemporary Indigenous artist of the year.
“And I want to dedicate this to all of the little babies who never made it home… we don’t just need allies, we need co-conspirators so that we can begin the healing journey,” Kanatakta added.
The Bearhead Sisters picked up their first-ever Juno, after their powerhouse performance at the top of the show. A trio made up of sisters Allie, Trina and Carly, the Bearhead Sisters were nervous but thankful for their first win. “This one is dedicated to the youth of our community and all the youth who look up to us,” they said in their acceptance speech.
Trina elaborated in the media room: “To win a Juno, I mean, I prayed for days like this for us, since we were little girls. You know, not seeing many Indigenous artists, many Indigenous people, be part of big platforms, I dreamed about it when I was a little girl.”
Longtime promoter Ron Sakamoto received the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the Opening Night Awards, and ended his lovely speech with an unexpected but astounding yodelling performance:
Kirk Diamond won reggae recording of the year for “Reggae Party” featuring Kairo McLean and Finn and in the media room, he talked about platforming the next generation: “After I won my first Juno [in 2018], I made it my duty to bring the people I knew would help the culture along with me.” He then gestured to McLean and Finn and said, “And these two are the best in the world in my opinion.” Fourteen-year-old McLean became the youngest person to ever win in this Juno category last year and he gave props to the veteran of Canadian reggae for taking him under his wing. “It means a lot, these guys are the ones who set the pace.”
The Weeknd’s first Juno win of the night was for songwriter of the year, but it wouldn’t be his last: he won four tonight, making him the second-most awarded artist in Junos history.
When Angelique Francis won her Juno Award for blues album of the year, she came to the media room and lauded all the women making a career in blues today. “I’m definitely seeing a lot of amazing women in blues right now … so I hope with all of these amazing women right now, they help to inspire other women and girls to do what they wish to do. And if that’s in the blues, that would be an incredible thing.”
Later in the evening, musician and producer Kevin Drew won the MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Award, which he shared onstage with Sanaaj Mirrie, who founded the Afiwi Groove School, which aims to empower, educate and inspire everyone from kids to seniors through arts and culture of the African diaspora.
“Ego is not about a playlist; it’s about helping each other out,” Drew said, accepting the honour. Later in the media room, Mirrie admitted that she’d been asked by Drew to accept this award with him, but was unsure.
“It took me until Sunday to say OK, this is really happening,” she said. “Because usually, you know, folks like me are usually not in spaces like these. So it took the past 10 years to invest my own money … to ensure that kids in my own community have access to programs like this. To be recognized, it feels like a dream come true and I feel very humbled and honoured to be here.”
Quebec band Voivod won for metal/hard music album of the year, and when Radio-Canada asked the members backstage if they’re the new darlings of the awards scene, they laughed.
“On dira que 40 ans plus tard, on est plus populaire que jamais … j’ai même acheter un suit,” said guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, saying that the band, which has been working together for 40 years, is more popular than it’s ever been — and that he even bought a suit for the occasion. “We were like a lumberjack,” he said, motioning that he was hacking his way into the awards scene with an axe after only really having been recognized more in recent years.
For the final performance of the night, Dylan Sinclair, who is in the middle of touring his breakout EP No Longer in the Suburbs, took the stage. The R&B singer started releasing music during the pandemic lockdown and mentioned that finally being able “to perform consistently” has been very rewarding.
March 10: Junofest kicks off
Junofest presented by CBC Music started on Friday night, with stellar performances and crowds abuzz. Taking over 15 venues across Edmonton, 50 acts will perform over three nights leading up to the Juno Awards on Monday, March 13.
London, Ont., artist Chad Price brought his rootsy R&B to the Starlite Room, and got the crowd dancing. The whoops and cheers got so loud that the crowd drowned him out at times, and Price shouted out the audience for being so receptive: “Thank you for this lovely welcome, it really means a lot to be here.” Price did a stripped-down cover of Daniel Caesar’s hit song “Get You,” which had everyone singing along, and closed off his set with his CBC Searchlight-winning tune, “Somehow, Someway.”
Other standout moments included Edmonton’s own Cab’ral running through the audience while performing, making sure everyone felt a part of the show. From moments reminiscent of Prince’s funkiness to guttural and abrasive rap, he performed a handful of genres in his 30-minute set. Jamaican-born, Toronto-based singers Ammoye and Kirk Diamond both brought a Caribbean flare to the night, performing energy-filled sets that transported us (mentally at least) from the blistering Canadian cold to a sunny isle. Both artists are up for reggae recording of the year at this year’s awards.
Justine Tyrell played a soulful set of her R&B songs to an intimate crowd, serving up her cheeky breakup track “Warning Signs” as well as incredible covers of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” You can check out her Road to the Junos set from earlier this year, below.
Over at Union Hall, Fortunate Ones played to a joyful, full room of fans. After singers Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan walked onstage, O’Brien shouted, “Any Newfoundlanders here tonight?” and the response was overwhelming. The St. John’s-based band flew through an energetic set of songs off their Juno-nominated album, That Was You and Me, and were followed up onstage by fellow contemporary roots album nominees the East Pointers, from P.E.I. It was the East Coast chapter of the Friday night show, and it was a heartwarming, foot-stomping time.
Simu Liu is back to host the 2023 Juno Awards on Monday, March 13, at 8 p.m. ET. Tune in on CBC, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One and CBC Listen, and stream globally on cbcmusic.ca/junos.