Concert Review // The 2013 CASBY Awards @ Sound Academy

The 2013 CASBY Awards, Presented by 102.1 The Edge @ Sound Academy

Walk off the Earth

The 2013 CASBY (Canadian Artists Selected By You) Awards, presented by 102.1 The Edge, were held at Toronto’s Sound Academy on October 10th. The line-up included performances by Hollerado, Said the Whale, Walk off the Earth, Mother Mother, and Serena Ryder, which were interspersed with award presentations.

Hollerado kicked off the night with their well-loved track, “So It Goes.” The rest of their (relatively short) set featured cool light effects: green, glow in the dark beach balls being tossed and spiked through the crowd; beams of white, flickering stage light; and stage equipment glowing UV-purple. The band wrapped up their set with their new single, “Desire.”

With those green beach balls still floating through Sound Academy, the many, many members of Walk off the Earth took the stage to accept the award for Favourite New Artist. Sarah and Johnny gave one of the most entertaining acceptance speeches, with Johnny thanking, “The lord saviour Jesus Christ, the baby messiah”

“No, no, no Johnny,” said Sarah, going on to remind him that the people vote for who wins.

To which Johnny replied, “I know you guys voted for us, but you actually think that it wasn’t baby Jesus that made us win this award? You’re crazy Sarah, you’re ignorant.” Eventually, though, his odd humour receded and Johnny said “I guess I’ll thank you guys, too.” Passed on his love, and they all exited the stage.

Said The Whale began their set with “I Love You,” the chorus infusing Sound Academy with a beachy-vibe. The way the band switches between vocalists adds a nice texture to their music, especially when Jacelyn Brown’s voice bleeds in, her soprano voice contrasting the others.

“Mother” perpetuated the 60’s beach rock vibe, and with the catchy hook–“don’t, don’t tell my mother until I pull myself together”–and I was surprised that the audience wasn’t more into their performance.

Fearless Fred from 102.1 The Edge got up on stage to introduce the nominees for Favourite New Song, and City and Colour won for their song “Thirst.” Dallas Green, however, was in Austin, Texas, and so Fred went on with a hypothetical situation of taking the CASBY award and hanging in his kids’ nursery, so they would think Green was their dad, sue him, and get lots of money.

After that strange plan, Walk off the Earth made a dramatic entrance: there was a musician at each side of the stage. Lights beamed in on Johnny on the drums, then flashed stage left, where another drummer doubled and echoed the beat. With all of the blue and red flashing lights, it seemed like a broken 3D spectrum. A pause. Lights out. Lights on, and the rest of the band had (silently) taken the stage, like a magic trick. The lighting mimicked cop flashlights scanning a street, highlighting the sheer amount of musicians who were on stage. A few quick xylophone notes before the band started “Red Hands.”

Remarkable was the degree to which the rows of musicians played in synch with one another, and it’s not surprising that Walk off the Earth were the first band to really engage the CASBY audience. Nearing the end of the song, two Canadian flag were waved from stage left and stage right–a nice homage to the band’s roots (and a clear indication that Johnny’s earlier acceptance speech was in jest).

There was a sharing of guitars, and at one point Johnny even threw his guitar across the stage (it was caught), then switched to an acoustic. “This is a song about a song,” said Johnny. He was referring to the lyrically-meta “Gang of Rhythm.”

A crew member had cautioned all photographers from leaning on the stage, and it became clear why, when midway through “Gang of Rhythm” (controlled) explosions of smoke blasted upwards. It was surprising how well that type of rock-metal antic went with a song based around an acoustic guitar.

Hollerado won the CASBY for Favourite Sugar Beach Session. The four band members got on stage and Menno told a story about how Hollerado was up for a Juno against Said The Whale, and Said The Whale won. Being considerate winners, though, Said The Whale claimed that if there was any way they could cut the award in two, they would cut it in two and share the win with Hollerado. Returning the stereotypical, Canadian-kindness, Hollerado brought a saw on stage, though no CASBY sawdust was actually produced.

Serena Ryder came on stage in a studded leather jacket, playing a solid set that opened with “Stompa” and closed with “Merry Go Round.” During that last song, pastel-coloured lights mimicked the motion of the amusement park ride after which the track is named. Ryder did an admirable job of drawing in the audience with just she and the drummer up on stage, and her voice comes across even stronger and more distinct live.

Nearing the end of “Merry Go Round,” you could (just barely) hear Ryder say “no guitar” then give up the guitar completely and just sing out the last few bars of the song. The glitch, though, spoke to her ability as a musician to compensate on the spot, leading to a memorable performance.

Before exiting the stage, she made a statement that aligns with the boldness of her music: “Your amp can stop working, but you can keep singing.”

Mother Mother took the CASBY for Favourite New Record (for their album, The Sticks), gracious in their speech, Ryan Guldemond saying, “Without you, we’d be but an afterthought in this life, this career.” Then, “Let’s rock and roll; thank you very much.”

The band was also the closing act of the show, playing some favourite tracks from The Sticks, including “Let’s Fall In Love” and “Bit By Bit.” They hit a soft spot with the audience, as one guy went so far as to sway back and forth, lighter held high. The band also played a cover of The Pixies’ “Gouge Away;” it was a little less punk rock than I would have liked, but they did it justice.

Prior to their penultimate song, Guldemond said, “Hey this has been fun. See you next time. Scream!”

They closed their set, Guldemond reminded everyone to “be safe, but not too safe,” and cleared the stage.

And then we made our way through a trash pit of crumpled Molson Canadian aluminum cans and beer spills, and watched as some kid–not minding the trash pit–got down and started break dancing. He pulled girls and guys in to dance with him. He was shirtless. And maybe it was a dance against the consumerism of award shows in which Josie Dye has us hold our Molson Canadians in the air and cheers the corporate gods, or maybe the he was just really drunk.

For photos of The CASBYs, click here.

Leah Edwards | @leahhedwards

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