The 14th annual Independent Music Awards (also known as The Indies) took place last night in Toronto at Kool Haus to celebrate some of the best and most promising Canadian talent. Performers at the SiriusXM sponsored event included Ponctuation, The Strumbellas, Born Ruffians, Mounties, Hollerado, The Hidden Cameras and Little Dragon, the last of whom exceeded expectations with a flawless, dance-inducing show that surely satisfied all in attendance.
Little Dragon chose to establish a familiar environment for their Toronto audience by opening with “Please Turn” and “My Step”. This encouraged fans to shimmy and shake to the Swedish-native’s ping-pong electronic rhythms which they extended into club-like instrumentals to transition from one song to the next. This could have easily resulted in awkward dead spaces during the show, but with lead singer Yukimi Nagango bouncing around on stage, shaking her tambourine, and band members Frederik Wallin, Hakan Wirenstrand, Erik Bodin and Arild Werling skillfully facilitating sonic digital bursts, they managed to keep attendees moving. These transitions also coaxed audience members into experiencing new offerings in a more organic manner. By placing performances of music from Nabuma Rubberband, the band’s forthcoming fourth studio album, including “Paris”, “Klapp Klapp” and “Killing Me” between fan favourites, it felt like the newer efforts integrated well with the rest of Little Dragon’s much beloved catalogue.
Colourful digital wavelengths soaked the backdrop as Nagango entranced the audience with her oddly scruffy, but emotion-soaked vocals during the near hour-long upbeat performance. She, along with her fellow bandmates, appeared stoic and controlled as they rolled out classic hits “Summertearz” and “Ritual Union”, which garnered the largest responses from fans. Their sense of performativity translated into a perfect deliverable, which just began to sink in as they closed their set with a performance of “Only One”. Luckily, the passionate pleas and cheers of “One more song!” quickly brought Little Dragon back to the stage for an encore that included a somber performance of their song, “Twice”, from their self-titled debut album. It was an incredibly intimate and powerful way to close a night that they filled with an eclectic mix of national treasures and European flair.
Indies award winners Ponctuation and The Strumbellas kicked off this year’s award show with sets that were unfortunately too short. Each band delivered passionate renditions of their songs that attracted plenty of attention across the nation in the last year. The guitar strums on Ponctuation’s “Belvedere” were sharp and poignant, while The Strumbellas performances of “Ride On” and “Sailing” were even more romantic and serene live than they are on record.
Mounties is the collaborative byproduct between Hawksley Workman, Hot Hot Heat singer Steve Bays and singer-producer Ryan Dahle. Although their offering, an amalgamation of upbeat melodies, whispy indie vocals and intricate drum patterns is at times eccentric, it is also incredibly infectious. Their stage presence and performance reflects this, which found Bays tilting his keyboard and falling to the ground during “Headphones” and Workman speaking in a British accent as they transitioned between songs. When introducing their song, “If the Dance Catches On”, Bays explained that it was given this title “because you write a song and sometimes you don’t really know if it will catch on.” Unfortunately, it did not get the audience moving as the band may have hoped, but at least they were able to induce a dreamy state while they performed “Tokyo Summer”.
It is clear that both Born Ruffians and Hollerado have benefited from frequent touring over the years, as they were confident, genuine and energetic in both their performances and interactions with the audience, which is endearing for groups who have made such a huge impact in the Canadian music landscape within the last decade. While Born Ruffians serenaded the Kool Haus with the slick “Oh Cecilia” and the quirky “Ocean’s Deep”, Hollerado induced a friendly mosh pit with “Pick Me Up” and “Desire 126”. Based on last night’s set alone, it is no wonder Hollerado picked up the Live Artist/Group or Duo of the Year. Between the blasts of confetti and foam, lead singer Menno Versteeg performed as close to the audience as he could, and the way the entire band attacked hit songs “Americanarama” and “So It Goes”, Hollerado ensured that everyone at the Kool Haus had something to scream about.
Unfortunately, indie-pop-folk band The Hidden Cameras was unable to garner the same response during their forty minute set. Although their performance became more enjoyable as it progressed, their use of trumpets and French horns were hidden behind throngs of heavy bass. Audience members also seemed to be unfamiliar with their material, including more popular offerings such as “In the NA” and “Gay Goth Scene”. While their closing number, “Carpe Jugular”, which included a dance to encourage participation, was large and ambitious, it just did not have the same effect as some of the earlier performers in the evening. At the very least, The Hidden Cameras put forth a set that showcased highlights of their monumental career, one which people who attended last night’s Indies award show should familiarize themselves with post performance.
Check out the full list of winners here.