Your picks for top Victoria talent in this year’s M Awards
Can you smell that? That’s the aroma of freshly brewed, sustainably grown local talent. For nine years in a row, Monday has called upon you, the readers, to hand-pick your favourite performers, bands, books, festivals and what-have-you of 2010. What started as a relatively small event has grown to be a significant date in Victoria’s cultural calendar. Every year, we get great feedback on how the M Awards are one of the few times a year folks from every facet of our city’s cultural community get to cross-pollinate and hear about the diverse range of work that is being created right here in Victoria.
While last year’s tomato can awards were a statement about the unfair cuts the B.C. arts community had been served (thanks to those who updated us on what they did with their awards — we helped make many a pot of spaghetti sauce) this year, we opted to dole out bags of beans from Fernwood Coffee Company. Why? Well, the company itself is an inspiring homegrown success story, and we figured arts groups could use a bit of a pick-me-up. After all, many of them survived brutal funding cuts by doing things like laying off staff, so why not give the folks left a bit of a caffeine boost, now that they’re doing two peoples’ jobs?
While the provincial government hasn’t been overly kind to arts groups the past couple of years, Monday readers — who make up a good chunk of the folks who patronize our city’s cultural events — came out in droves to vote in this year’s M Awards. Once again, we saw thousands of people cast ballots. The winners were formally announced at our annual shindig on Tuesday, April 5, where formerly local funny guy Mike Delamont delivered the bags of coffee — and a few laughs — to the solid crowd at the Victoria Event Centre. Singer-songwriter Amy Lee Radigan also offered up a couple tunes from her forthcoming album (read more about it, and Delamont’s upcoming God show, in this week’s issue).
So why not brew a pot of your favourite bean blend and curl up with our readers’ picks for the top acts of 2010? M
Favourite Solo Artist:Dreamboat
When an artist’s music is self-described as “gay ‘80s,” you know it’s got to be good — or at least outrageous. 2010 saw the release of Buddies (a title that just has to be an homage to Scott Thompson), the debut full-length of this electro-licious solo project from Aaron Bergunder. It’s nine songs of imperfect-but-sincere, synth-heavy pop ballads that obviously captured the hearts of Victoria music fans. That being said, this was a neck-in-neck race; Dreamboat only won the category by four votes, and the difference between first-place and fifth-place finish was 40 votes.
Runners-up: Gareth Owen, David P. Smith
Favourite Band: Rocky Mountain Rebel Music
Wow, another tight race. Only one vote separated first and second place here, but Rocky Mountain Rebel Music came out on top in this year’s battle of the bands. This 10-piece ska/funk/reggae/dancehall/rock/kitchen-sink fusion band has been working hard at pleasing crowds since 2008, incorporating everything from sax to didgeridoo to keyboards into the mix. It’s like an instant party: just add a sound system.
Runners-up: Bucan Bucan, Versa
Favourite Jazz/Blues Artist or Group: Maureen Washington
This golden-voiced chanteuse had no problem clinching this category — and given her busy schedule in 2010, it’s no wonder. Last year, the Victoria-via-Prince-George singer released Blues in the Night — a 10-song voice-and-piano collection of some of her mom’s favourite jazz and blues songs — and Here We Go Again, a project of original songs with guitarist and songwriter Daniel Cook. Add to that her seemingly endless string of gigs around the city and it’s obvious Maureen has worked hard to earn this well-deserved accolade.
Runners-up: Bill Johnson Blues Band, Skyla J and the Vibes
Favourite Classical/New Music Performer: Kenji Fuse
While he may be best known as the principal viola player for the Victoria Symphony, Kenji Fuse is also a composer, holds the substitute viola position for the Toronto Symphony and a founder of the Island Biodiesel Co-op — not to mention a frequent Monday letter-writer. It’s no wonder Monday readers picked him as their favourite performer in this vote.
Runners-up: Yariv Aloni, Joanna Hood
Favourite Hardcore/Punk/Metal Artist or Group: Unleash the Archers
While this four-piece metal outfit relocated to Vancouver partway through 2010, their Victoria roots run deep. Their sound runs the gamut of metal sub-genres; you’ll hear hints of everything from melodic death metal to thrash in their tunes, all served up with some seriously kickass femme-fronted vocals. Watch out for their second record, Demons and AstroWaste, due out in May, complete with some hometown CD release gigs.
Runners-up: Reaver, Start with the Cobra
Favourite Roots/World Artist or Group: The Sweet Lowdown
This old-timey string trio has garnered quite a local following, and it’s no wonder; their sweet harmonies and sweeter playing make for timeless music that transports one directly to a sunny front porch. This past year saw the three ladies embark on a cross-country train tour to Toronto to work on a new album, which we hear will be forthcoming in May. Want to get a preview? Head down to the Fernwood Inn on a Tuesday night, where you can find the trio performing every week.
Runners-up: Children of Celebrities, Sara Marreiros
Favourite Band Name:Lesbian Fist Magnet
When the powers-that-were started the M Awards nine years ago, we can’t imagine they envisioned a band with a name like Lesbian Fist Magnet becoming a multi-year award winner (they won the Favourite Punk/Metal Group award in the 2008 awards). Still, Ange Trash’s band of hooligan’s deserves props for this, uh, creative band name (which, rumour has it, was bestowed upon them by Murray from the Dayglo Abortions).
Runners-up: Ballgag ‘n’ Chain Gang, Handsome Distraction
Favourite Album of 2010: Versicolour, Aidan Knight
This all-too-short eight-song collection was the debut release from Aidan Knight, the young multi-talented musician, label owner, and all around swell guy; as Said the Whale’s Tyler Bancroft once said, “He’s got rock and roll coursing through his veins.” From the slow harmonic build of opener “Sun” to closing track “Jasper,” which just begs you to pick up a guitar and strum or sing along, this release garnered a lot of well-deserved critical love. Last year also saw Aidan embark on a bicycle tour of parts of B.C. with Jeremy Fisher and Hannah Georgas as well as release a three-song Friendly Fires EP. Here’s to hoping 2011 holds more studio time.
Runners-up: Homes, Jon and Roy; Let Go, Carol Sokoloff
Favourite Record Producer: Wynn Gogol
The proprietor of 1 Ton Studios continues his winning streak, having taken this honour last year (which was the first time we had a producer category in the M Awards). Gogol’s 2010 studio credits ranged from heavy metal (Sonic Doom) to reggae/funk fusion (Buena Buya) to heartfelt singer-songwriter (Jamie Carrick).
Runners-up: Joby Baker, Steven Klipper
Favourite Vocal Ensemble: Ensemble Laude
For the second year in a row, Elizabeth MacIsaac’s choir takes home the trophy for Favourite Vocal Ensemble. Specializing in early music and modern compositions for all-female choirs from all over the world — many of which are arranged by Ensemble Laude themselves — they held eight concerts around the Island this past season. Catch their spring concert April 10 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
Runners-up: Balkan Babes, Vox Humana
Favourite Professional Ensemble: Victoria Symphony
It’s no big secret that Victoria loves its symphony. From perennial favourites like Symphony Splash to innovative concerts incorporating mariachi music, oddball Halloween themed compositions and even legendary a capella group the Nylons, the Victoria Symphony continued to make Mile Zero proud, even in these tumultuous times B.C. arts groups are facing.
Runners-up: Lafayette String Quartet, Vox Humana
Biggest Supporter of Local Music: Hermann’s Jazz Club
What a great present for this long-time music venue on its 30th anniversary. From its humble beginnings in the Bastion Inn to its current cozy location on View Street — where it has been located since 1986 — Hermann Nieweler’s club has been a haven for jazz fans for three decades now. That’s not a small feat, considering spots catering to the jazz scene are hard to find even in big centres like Toronto and Vancouver. Here’s to 30 more years.
Runners-up: Atomique Productions, Logan’s Pub
Favourite New Play:The Life Inside (The Belfry Theatre)
The largest and most expensive play the Belfry has ever produced, The Life Inside told the sorrowful story about how a 19th-century village in Belgium deals with the untimely death of a child. With provincial arts cuts abound the past couple years, it was exciting to see the Belfry take on such an ambitious project — and obviously, Monday readers felt the same way. This was just one of several M Awards the Belfry garnered this year.
Runners-up: Public Confessions of a Public Servant (Not Your Grandma’s Poetry), Smalltown: A Pickup Musical (Theatre SKAM)
Favourite Overall Production: Where the Blood Mixes (The Belfry Theatre)
Kevin Loring’s Governor General Award-winning tale of the multi-generational impact of residential school on First Nations people in Canada was everything you could want in a play. Hilarious and heart-wrenching, this was simply a beautiful piece of theatre, expertly written, performed and produced. This was one of the highlights of the Belfry’s 2009/2010 season.
Runners-up: A Streetcar Named Desire (Blue Bridge), The History Boys (Langham Court Theatre)
Favourite Musical:The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (The Belfry Theatre)
A smashing success for the Belfry —after being held over, it became the longest-running show the theatre has ever had — Spelling Bee was a play that was impossible not to like. Awkward-but-adorable kids, showy song-and-dance numbers, clever music, a way-cool set and audience participation? Yep, Spelling Bee had it all. Still, this was a mighty close race; Spelling Bee only edged out VOS’ Grease by three votes, and Fringe favourite Z-Day only trailed by 14 ballots.
Runners-up: Grease (Victoria Operatic Society), Z-Day: The Anthem for the Post-Zombie Apocalypse (Bring Back Pluto Productions)
Favourite Performer: Chelsea Tucker (Wizard of Oz/Grease)
We take a break from the Belfry’s winning streak to present you with Chelsea Tucker, the singer/actor/dancer dynamo to take this year’s Favourite Performer award. Whether she was landing in Oz or leading the Pink Ladies, Tucker was a charismatic stage presence with the Victoria Operatic Society this past year. (Monday wrote that she “brought the house down” with her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Can Do” in last May’s production of Grease.) Catch her on stage next with VOS during their Broadway: Decades in Review show next month.
Runners-up: Thea Gill (A Streetcar Named Desire), Benjamin Butterfield (Rodelinda)
Favourite Director: Michael Shamata (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee)
It’s a wonder that Michael Shamata finds time to be the artistic director of the Belfry, given all the directing he’s done the past year and a half — not that we’re complaining about his excellent work in either role. Making the dynamic Spelling Bee, with all its dance numbers, moving set pieces and unpredictable audience volunteer variables really pop on the Belfry’s stage was no minute accomplishment, and Shamata edged out stiff competitors Brian Richmond and Matthew Payne to take home the Favourite Director prize.
Runners-up : Matthew Payne (Smalltown: A Pickup Musical), Brian Richmond (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Favourite Dance Performance:Carmina Burana (Ballet Victoria)
This dance piece, set to Carl Orff’s famous cantata and featuring a 110-voice choir, live instrumentation and choreography by Ballet Victoria artistic director Paul Destrooper, really was a sight to behold. Destrooper drew on the original medieval poems Orff based his composition on to craft some cheeky choreography, and the Victoria Choral Society really made the iconic “O Fortuna” soar.
Runners-up: The Nutcracker Suite (CP Ballet), Say WhaT? (Suddenly Dance’s Romp! Festival)
Favourite Comedy Performer: Wes Borg
You might know him as the host of Phillips Comedy Night at the Victoria Event Centre, a regular at Atomic Vaudeville, one of the guys who penned the hilarious history lesson The War of 1812 or the guy behind last year’s 4-Play Intrepid Theatre fundraiser. The wild-haired Borg is one of the city’s busiest — and most ubiquitous — comedy performers, so it’s no wonder he captured this category.
Runners-up: Mike Delamont, Dave Morris
Favourite Spoken Word Performer:Missie Peters
Utter “spoken word in Victoria” and Missie Peters’ name immediately comes to mind. The woman behind Not Your Grandma’s Poetry, Peters spent much of 2010 expanding spoken word beyond the slam with events like the Videogame Poetry Show, Keep in TXT and the annual Poetry in the Raw slam team fundraiser. In 2011, Peters launched the inaugural Victoria Festival of Spoken Word, which drew slam artists from all over North America. There’s no question the charming, charismatic and hard-working Peters is an integral part of our spoken-word community.
Runners-up: Dave Morris, Jeremy Loveday
Biggest Supporter of Local Theatre: Joan Mans
A bittersweet award if there ever was one. Affectionately dubbed “Victoria’s cultural grandmother” by her close friend, Theatre SKAM’s Matthew Payne, you’d be hard-pressed to not see Joan Mans out at a local theatre event — even in her later years, when her health and memory were failing. She passed away last November at the age of 85 — but, as this award demonstrates, her spirit lives on in Victoria’s arts community.
Runners-up: Ian Case, Intrepid Theatre
Biggest Supporter of Local Dance: Stephen White
In addition to presenting high-profile shows like the recent Alvin Ailey and Royal Winnipeg Ballet performances, Stephen White and the Dance Victoria team also do a lot of work in the local dance community. Development programs such as the LOLA Projects, bursaries, mentoring programs and the new Chrystal Dance Awards initiative — not to mention the community-oriented Dance Days festival, which launched in 2010 — all contribute to Victoria’s local dance community.
Runners-up: David Ferguson, Treena Stubel
FILM & VISUAL ARTS
Favourite Artist:Megan Dickie
While this was one of many close races this year (only nine votes separated first and second place), we’re not surprised Megan Dickie’s whimsical sculptures captured the imaginations and votes of Monday readers. Megan’s obsession with novelty was taken to new levels at Contact Games, her exhibit of serigraph prints and sculptures at Deluge this past June.
Runners-up: James Gordaneer, Caleb Speller
Favourite Art Show: Kent Monkman: A Triumph of Mischief (Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Louis Vuitton-print dogsleds, sharply dressed native dandies and seances with long-dead Canadian artists; Kent Monkman’s exhibit at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria had it all. The showcase of the prolific Canadian artist’s work, much of which deals with ideas around colonialism, museology and two-spirted people in indigenous communities, was thought-provoking, engaging and just a heck of a lot of fun.
Runners-up: Contested Landscapes (Open Space), iMygrate (Oilo Artists and Workers Cooperative/Anteism)
Favourite Art Event: Paint That Bridge!
The fate of the Blue Bridge was a dominating issue of 2010. When the borrowing referendum rolled around last November, the pro-preservation camp opted to organize an art exhibit celebrating Big Blue in all her faded glory — and the submissions poured in. From video projects to suggestive sculptures, there was no shortage of local artists who had drawn inspiration from the iconic landmark. Alas, Victoria voters came out in favour of borrowing to replace the bridge, so the art show ended up being a bit of a farewell salute.
Runners-up: Off the Grid Art Crawl, Victoria Emerging Art Awards
Favourite Multimedia Event:Jazz at the Gallery
It seems a natural idea: bring some of the region’s best jazz players to perform in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, so patrons can enjoy quality music along with quality visual art. Launched early last year, the program saw people like Kelby MacNayr, Ian MacDougall and Marc Atkinson perform in its inaugural season, with folks like Daniel Lapp and Louise Rose joining the fold in 2011.
Runners-up: Pecha Kucha, Scene + Heard
Biggest Supporter of Local Visual Arts: Joey MacDonald
The driving force behind the Olio Artists and Workers Cooperative, Joey MacDonald has been a longtime staple in the local arts and music scene. The Cooperative, which is the latest cultural initiative from the Aaargh! Records founder, just celebrated its second birthday this past month. Here’s to many more.
Runners-up: Exhibit V, Open Space
Favourite Filmmaker: Maureen Bradley
This decorated local filmmaker and UVic writing instructor has had her work screened at festivals all across the country. She also had a tenure as president of CineVic, which celebrated its 20th birthday earlier this year. Recently, you might have caught her as a judge at CineVic’s Reel to Reel music video competition, or seen her short film, Wild Woman, as part of the Scene + Heard screening with Puente Theatre.
Runners-up: Denver Jackson, Jim Knox
Favourite Film Event: Victoria Film Festival
This 10-day festival of all things film has grown to host 60 feature-length movies during its 16-year tenure in Victoria. Given the size and scope of this ever-expanding festival, it’s no wonder that Monday readers chose it as their Favourite Film Event of 2010.
Runners-up: Antimatter, Open Cinema
Biggest Supporter of Local Film: Bryan Skinner/CineVic
When it came time to tally the votes for this write-in category, Bryan Skinner and CineVic were tied for votes — which seems appropriate, given Skinner is the current executive director of the filmmakers’ co-op. Whether they’re hosting workshops, providing low-cost equipment rentals or just taking a phone call from a filmmaker who has a few questions, CineVic has been supporting local film for 20 years now — and multi M Award-winner Skinner has been a part of the organization in some capacity since 2001.
Runners-up: VIctoria Film Festival, MediaNet
Favourite Fiction Book: Master of Happy Endings, Jack Hodgins, Bedtime Story, Robert J. Wiersema
Talk about a nail biter. Robert Wiersema’s tale of a cursed book that lures its young readers into a coma and Jack Hodgin’s story of a retired west coast teacher who ends up tutoring in Hollywood came out of this neck-in-neck race in a total deadlock — with John Gould’s 7 Good Reasons trailing by only 15 votes. We’d like to think the close race is a result of the first-ever M Awards author panel, which Bolen Books organized this year.
Runner-up: 7 Good Reasons Not to be Good, John Gould
Favourite Non-Fiction Book: Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada – Andrea Langlois, Ron Sakolsky and Marian Van Der Zon
While there were a lot of close races in the M Awards this year, this was one of the few where the winner was clear right out of the starting gate. It seems this book documenting the history of pirate radio in the Great White North really captured the attention of M Awards voters this year — and, given that it’s the first book to do so, we’d say it’s deserving of the support.
Runners-up: Island Kids, Tara Saracuse; Walk Myself Home, Edited by Andrea Routley
Favourite Book of Poetry: Deepwater Vee, Melanie Siebert
Melanie Siebert’s beautiful collection of poetry about Canada’s northern rivers was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry this past year, so our little M Award does seem kind of small potatoes. Still, Monday readers were happy to heap on the praise for this talented author’s debut book of poetry in what was one of the closest five-way races of the M Awards.
Runners-up: Red Erotic, Janet Marie Rogers; Witness, Patrick Lane
Biggest Supporter of Local Literature: Bolen Books
Bolen Books’ reading series has long been an M Award favourite, having won five times in the awards’ nine-year history, so them taking this award wasn’t a huge upset. While the beloved Hillside bookstore brings in a lot of heavy-hitting out-of-town talent, they also regularly provide a venue for local authors to launch their latest works. This year, they graciously hosted an M Awards fiction nominees panel, an event we hope becomes an annual tradition.
Runners-up: Richard Olafson, Munro’s Books
Favourite Foodie Event: Dine Around Victoria
Victorians were feasting in a variety of venues from Feb. 17 to March 6, thanks to this year’s collaborative efforts of Dine Around Victoria, sponsored in part by Tourism Victoria. The event saw foodies travelling around town to dine with passion, and the menu launch was a huge success, with over 200 mouths filled to the brim with a culmination of wine, nibbles, deserts and main course samples. Best of all, Monday readers have officially named this a favourite. We’ll look forward to next year’s menu.
Runners-up: Feast of Fields, Island Chef Food Fest
Favourite Boozy Event: Great Canadian Beer Festival
The votes are in, and Monday readers have decided that the Great Canadian Beer Festival is officially one of the worlds’ best must-attend boozy events. It’s true — people from all over the globe seek out Victoria and the GCBF every year, just to watch brewers from as far as Australia and England collaborate with beer lovers from all over. GCBF won runner-up for the 2003 M Awards, but the September event — which was first held in 1993— has now blossomed into an international award winner. Cheers to that.
Runners-up: Art of the Cocktail, Victoria Whisky Festival
Favourite Annual Music Event or Festival: Victoria Electronic Music Festival
This was another almost-too-close-to-call race. Despite some ups and downs in press at last year’s event, Victoria still says VEMF is the official favourite when it comes to annual music festivals. The fest won its first M Award in 2009 for their 2008 year, but it’s still making victory laps, having completed its seventh year last August. After all, where else can you go to hear over 70 artists with names like Veela, Grooverobber, Beatfarmer, Joshua & Wookie, Gumbootz and Basilisk electrify your ears? Trust us, it’s a good time.
Runners-up: Rifflandia, JazzFest
Favourite Annual Event or Festival (Non-Music): Victoria Fringe Festival
There’s nothing fringe-like when it comes to how Monday readers feel about the Victoria Fringe Festival — the event has won an M Award (or at least runner up) almost every year since the awards started in 2003, with the exception of the last two years, which saw the Fringe bow to Luminara and Folkfest. Fringe Fest has taken back its legs this year again, however, delivering all those late-summer theatrical comedies, dramas and spoken word needs. Fringe, we — and our readers — say thank you.
Runners-up: Luminara, TD Gallery Paint-In
Favourite Artsy Fundraiser: Casino Royale
We might not see 007 himself at the M Awards event, but James Bond is certainly the theme when Monday readers said yes to Canadian College of Performing Arts’ fundraiser, Casino Royale. This year’s event just revolved by in February, but the award goes to the 2010 launch, where a Bond-style night of cabaret entertainment and gaming had participants rolling their dice and their wallets to sponsor the college. We’ll take that — shaken, not stirred.
Runners-up: Artists For AIDS, Poetry in the Raw IV
Favourite Publicist or Promoter: Atomique
The group that’s brought us everything from Jon And Roy to Kid Rock, Leonard Cohen to The Killers, is now being awarded for their efforts for the second year in a row. Atomique, which was founded in 2000, has a mandate to bring a sparkling array of talent to Victoria — though it’s since expanded throughout B.C., with an average of over 150 concerts per year in venues with capacities ranging from 200 to 10,000. Let’s see if this year’s line-up will have the productions crew score their M Award three years running.
Runners-up: Mark Dusseault, Dane Roberts
Most Welcome New Addition to the Victoria Arts Scene: Madrona Gallery
Monday readers have declared it: Madrona Gallery is the freshest brush of paint Victoria has seen in some time when it comes to historical and contemporary fine art offerings. The gallery — located on View Street — showcases art from both established and emerging Canadian artists, as well as from local and international visitors. While Madrona prides itself on providing a “welcoming environment” to new and established art collectors, we pride ourselves on being able to award such a revolutionary gallery with the recognition it deserves.
Runners-up: Olio Artists and Workers Cooperative, The Well M