MusicWest '97
Cosmic Debris Issue 41
byMonte Nordstrom


        I had a vague foreboding about this year's MusicWest that started gnawing at me a few weeks ago. Strangely, I had started to dread the event that I have attended as a delegate for the past five years. I wondered if the goldmine had been worked out. It seems that each year it gets harder to locate the 'trace' nuggets that are so elusive... let alone the Motherlode. Oh well, dig we must!
        Fortunately attending this year's event with Debris Captain, Barry Newman & Debbie made the proceedings most enjoyable and socially interacting with several Cosmic staffers, Jessica, James, Tina & Maxx provided several new viewpoints or angles to adopt and enjoy. I believe all of us found our share of raw ore to refine and assess.
        My own agenda was to attend the Pacific Music Industry Awards show, catch some panels, schmooze the conference, check out SOCAN's songwriter series and peruse the festival showcases. It was the "1st annual" PMIA Awards that gave me the first trembles. The whole concept of an awards show bothers me somehow. Self?congratulatory industry-driven backslapping, preening & posturing are natural extensions of a culture based on egomania, but it has to be done flawlessly. I will list the winners & categories at the end of Part One.
Part 1: The 1st Annual PMIA Awards:
        6 PM, May 8,'97 - The cocktail culture of the PMIA Awards began nicely in the lobby of the Capilano College Theatre in North Vancouver. Hors d'oeuvres & refreshments were served to a who's who assortment of industry shakers & makers with background music provided by jazz pianist, David Priest.
        Terry David Mulligan opened the evening presenting the first awards with help from his daughter Kate and from David Priest. An auspicious beginning. Too bad Terry David didn't emcee the rest of the show. It would have benefited from his professionalism & savvy.
        At 7:PM the crowd was ushered into the theatre for a rousing intro by the West Vancouver Youth Band bedecked in their royal blue satin and gold uniforms. The stage was framed by a beautifully constructed motif of the PMIA acronym. Nice touch. The next act, Cloud 9 tore the place down with a glossy gospel experience that really got the crowd going.
        The next changeover was to Molly's Revenge a five piece group fronted by singer/songwriter, Yvette Narlock. This is where the first gremlin in the programme appeared. It's hard for a singer to perform with a bad monitor mix & even harder for an audience to enjoy that singer's performance when the lead vocalist is inaudible in the mains. Narland to her credit, kept her cool and was eventually heard & greatly appreciated by the attendees.
        FACTOR sponsored the next award for Best Rock/Pop album ? Independant Distribution followed by the Best Folk/Roots/Trad Album award presented by the illustrious Jeff Hyslop to a deserving Wyckham Porteous (who got extra points for plugging his post?show performance at the non?MW97 venue of Jake O'Grady's... it worked, we went). Hyslop reappeared to sing "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" accompanied by the Ed Henderson Group. Very classy except the stage crew neglected to provide him with a microphone so he had to adlib some 'business' while the band vamped til a handheld mic was produced. To Jeff's credit, it was carried off but eyes were rolling, believe me.
        Jeff & Ed then presented the Best Classical Album award followed by Bill Henderson joining his brother Ed on stage for the first time for some amusing sibling repartee. SOCAN president, Bill then awarded Song of the Year & was replaced on stage by the show's producer, David Marsden who had to fill time for Larry & Willy who were late arriving. Hmmm.
        The comic radio duo presented the Best World Music award to Alpha Yaya Diallo who they corralled into announcing the next 2 presentations. This was humourous since Alpha has a very thick accent but was hard to understand. So much for recognizing the nominees with a gag.
        The Texas swing unit, Tumbleweed performed with a sweet rendition of a Beatles tune which featured a barely audible fiddle solo. Great sound on the dobro, tho. Am I being picky? The "Live Performer of the Year" award was presented by Province music writer & PMIA president, Tom Harrison with PMIA executive director, Ellie O'Day, two of the most supportive music industry people in the country. This was followed by the presentation by Mega?mogul Bruce Allen of the Best Engineer & Best Producer awards. Now here's a heavy honcho in the international scene. He's pretty unassuming in spite of his position. Has Bruce mellowed???
        The next presentation was the most emotional & heartfelt moment in the show. Longtime Vancouver producer/artist Claire Lawerence took the stage to honour an old friend with the Volunteer Spirit Award which went to his former "Collectors/Chilliwack" bandmate, Bill Henderson. It was a beautiful reunion and Henderson's acceptance speech was poignant & gracious. Good on you, Bill.
        "Farmer's Daughter" were up next with an excellent segment. If you wonder what happened to sophisticated song structure & polished pop performance you should check out some of the fine writing & musicianship in the so?called Country genre. These women are stars of the first order. I hope they go far.
        The Vancouver Musician's Association presented the Musician of the Year award to Robbie Steininger except he wasn't there. Neither was Sarah McLachlan, Bif Naked or Jim Byrnes who were also winners in various categories. This will happen due to artist's scheduling, but the presenters should be aware that they have to accept the award themselves if no proxy is apparent. Otherwise someone might get an award for returning from the bathroom which just about happened. Good wave, guy!
        Todd Butler performed his parody routine next and culminated his entertaining performance with a comedic Rap presentation to Music Journalist, Tom Harrison.
        A song by Renae Morriseau and Coyote ensued and the dreaded Mic Problem reappeared to an obviously upset lead vocalist, who's feature performance was unfortunately marred. She then presented the award for Best Blues/R&B Album, sponsored by Cosmic Debris. Congrats to Colin James! Woohoo!
        Farmer's Daughter picked up Country Album of the Year next followed by an interminable, verbose introduction for the Industry Builder Award which eventually went to Bruce Allen. Who else. An aborted standing "O" was attempted and followed by a low?key, sincere thankyou speech from Bruce. Love him or hate him, he the biggest starmaker in this country. Just don't piss him off.
        The final award to Best Pop/Rock Album?Major Distribution was presented by MusicWest Producer/CEO, Maureen Jack, an entertainment business empresario of the 1st order. It was good to see The Odds get their due finally. In triplicate. The show could have ended here and in my opinion, I wish it had.
        The so?called finale number featured a poorly amplified male choir with a band fronted by Will Sanders & Sybil Thrasher of Cloud 9. Perhaps the monitor mix had something to do with the murky definition and the wallowing beat but the "Showstopper" devolved into a unison sendup of the Village People's "YMCA" as far as I'm concerned. People didn't know whether to watch the stage or to attack the in?house sound man at this point.
        At the end of the segment, Silence... Darkness... more silence... people struggling towards exits in the pitch black... a disembodied request over the P/A to remain seated...
        Then to alot the audience's consternation, a pair of Dragon dancers replete with oriental drumming & cymbal bashing ensued for a bit that just went on too long. This ended with the revelation that "the demons were now exorcized". Judging from the glitches in audio & pacing for the show, these performers should have gone on first... perhaps leading the audience into the theatre from the lobby reception. Demons begone!
       Overall I enjoyed the 1st PMIA Awards Show in spite of the aforementioned criticisms and appreciate the difficulties of producing a variety program. I think that a show of this nature needs brilliant writers, a charismatic emcee that can adlib through any glitches and a producer that will pay attention to the details of pacing & technical requirements. I'm looking forward to the next awards presentation & feel that the PMIA should be commended for recognizing the diverse efforts of our burgeoning West Coast musical community. And the winner is... all of us!
& THE WINNERS ARE...
o Best Rock/Pop Album?Major Distribution: "Nest" by the Odds
o Best Rock/Pop Album?Indie: "Last of the Ghetto Astronauts" by Matthew Good Band
o Best Country Album: "Makin' Hay" by Farmer's Daughter
o Female Vocalist of the Year:
Sarah McLachlan
o Best Folk/Roots/Traditional Album: "Looking for Ground" by Wyckham Porteous
o Best Blues/R&B Album: "Bad Habits" by
Colin James
o Best Jazz Album: "Red & Blue" by
Hugh Fraser Quintet
o Most Supportive Journalist of the Year (Print or Electronic Media): Tom Harrison
o Best Classical Album: "Stravinsky & Somers" CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra
o Best Dance/Hip Hop/Rap Release: "Introspection" by Mythos
o Best World Music Album: "Futur" by
Alpha Yaya Diallo
o Best Children's Album: "Raffi Radio" by Raffi
o Song of the Year: "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan
o Producer of the Year: "Nigel the Cat" (AKA the Odds: Drake, Northey, Elliot, Steward)
o Engineer of the Year (Tied): Steven Drake & the Odds: "Nest"; and Mike Plotnikoff: "To the Faithful Departed" by the Cranberries.
o Volunteer Spirit: Bill Henderson
o Musician of the Year: Robbie Steininger
o Live Performer of the Year: Bif Naked
o Male Vocalist of the Year: Jim Byrnes
o Video Director of the Year: Tony Pantages "Cornfields or Cadillacs" Farmer's Daughter
o Industry Builder: Bruce Allen
Part 2: MUSICWEST97: the Festival
        After the PMIA Awards show, Cosmic Debris staff rendezvous?ed at the non?MW'97 venue, Jake O'Grady's on Hastings at Boundary on the edge of Burnaby. Jake's is a fine club that has made a habit of supporting the singer/songwriter community on a regular basis. These people are to be commended for this entertainment philosophy. PMIA Award winner, Wyckham Porteous & his band were hosting a songwriter open stage & we took the time to enjoy some fine tunes.
        We then made our way to The Yale to catch Zakiya Hooker. Her sophisticated, sexy R&B was supported by a funky blues unit that was really cooking. Unfortunately there were some nasty sound problems during her delayed set. Bloody gremlins! Anyways the next night these problems were rectified as we were treated to a smoking set from Nigel Mack & the Blues Attack (see CD review). This was followed by the Jukin' Louis Jordan stylings of Tenor Saxman/vocalist, Johnny Ferreira & the Swing Machine. Talk about natural dance music. The joint was jumping!
        This is the first year that MW has featured R&B/Blues & the Yale was a very appropriate venue. It felt to me however, that it was a separate entity from the rest of the festival & I would have appreciated a couple more strictly Roots designated venues with emphasis on the singer/songwriter genre. I know there were several performances of this nature but they seemed to be too spread around to focus-on effectively.
        Another thing I noticed this year was the lack of an artist of stature representing the Boomer Generation. "There are many here among us, who feel" the need to relate to perspectives of Rock's founding generations. In fact, believe it or not, there are we among that peer group that are still productive AND trying to get a break. Hello!
        In the past we have interacted with Robbie Robertson & Thomas Dolby; and have interacted with & been entertained by the likes of David Byrne, John Cale, Colin Hay, J.J.Cale & Tom Wilson. For the price of a delegate pass there should be more carrots.
        As far as the Trade Show goes, there was Tom Lee in heavy evidence, 5 CD manufacturers, Trebas Institute, Next Level Internet Productions, SOCAN, 2 Publication exhibitors & 1 Artist Management group. Oh, & the Cancer Society. The trade show had better not indicate the state of the Retail Industry. I see however that, most businesses chose to advertise in the good old PRINT MEDIA!
        The Webcafe put on by the Vancouver Film School was prominent & buzzing throughout each day. I had the opportunity to go through my own website with its main designer, Thomas Terashima. Thomas is a recent graduate of VFS & teaching some classes there while he gets his own "ZONE 5" happening. Check him out at Http://Griffin.multimedia.edu/~tterashi. Add /monte/ to that URL & you can view my site too! Web on man...
        The conference featured addresses, panels, seminars, demo critique sessions, master producer sessions as well as Drum & Guitar clinics. Some of the most helpful & productive sessions were sponsored by SOCAN. Their "Songwriters In the Round" concert on Friday afternnoon, put some fine perspective on the craft of songwriting as described by the writers themselves. Paul Hyde, Ron Sexsmith, Randy Sharp, Yvette Narland, Bob Mould performed their own tunes to an appreciative audience.
        Randy Sharp popped one myth balloon when he said that "One big hit does not a career make", & he's had several #1's. "You have to do it because you want to, be honest and keep going." He said that "the most honest songs seem to stay the longest & sometimes take years to be noticed, but are the most satisfying."
        So don't give up!
        My favorite part of the conference was the "Chill Out" sessions that went on all day in Room 13. Here you could enjoy a snack or refreshment & sit at round table discussions with whoever happened to come in. Panelists, Publishers, Producers, A&R Execs & musos mingled & chatted during these informal meetings.
        This is where the business cards were exchanged & future contact was discussed. Also where information was freely shared.
        I recommend attending MusicWest or a similar conference if you are serious about gathering data & keeping up on the business of music. I don't know of a more concentrated opportunity. I hope I see you next year!

ATTENTION! NxNW takes place October 16?18 at the Portland Hilton in Oregon.
        It features the same kind of opportunities as MusicWest with a more American flavour (flavor). If you are in a band or represent one interested in showcasing, send a post card postmarked by June 27 with ALL of the following info included:
- Name of Band & contact person.
- Address/Phone/Fax & Email
- Type of Music         Send this completed info to NxNW, PO Box 4999, Austin TX 78765         Your name will be put on a list and sent to nominators from your area, including talent buyers, music writers & DJs from local stations. The bands with the most nominations are asked to showcase. Obviously this weeds out the bands that need to get better established, but if you're interested in attending as a delegate, ask to be put on the mailing list. Cheers!
[Editor: Monte Nordstrom will be performing at this year's "Yukon International Storytelling Festival", June 20-22 in Whitehorse.]
Note: Author, Monte Nordstrom has recorded 8 albums to date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at: mojano@shaw.ca or

Back To Articles List

Back To Homepage