Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

And the giant novelty cheque goes to…

Patrick Watson was the happiest man in Toronto last night as he left the Phoenix Theatre with the Polaris Music Prize’s $20,000 cheque under his oxter. The judges decided that the Montreal man’s “Close To Paradise” album was the one …

Tue, Sep 25, 2007, 04:50


Patrick Watson was the happiest man in Toronto last night as he left the Phoenix Theatre with the Polaris Music Prize’s $20,000 cheque under his oxter. The judges decided that the Montreal man’s “Close To Paradise” album was the one for them, beating off Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible”, Feist’s “The Reminder”, Miracle Fortress’s “Five Roses” (a glorious album, it must be said) and six others.

Watson claimed he was giving the cheque to Budget Car Rental seeing as he owed them 16,000 loonies for a van he wrote off outside Fargo, North Dakota. At least, he’ll have some change left over after that transaction to buy some poutine and Steam Whistle for his band.

The Polaris gala made for a grand night out, it must be said. Six of the 10 nominated acts played two songs apiece and there was much singing and dancing from various members of the media before each act. While all of this was going on in front of an invite-only audience of about 400 or so, 11 judges were locked away in a room having a good old fashioned row. The fact that they finished their deliberations a good 45 minutes before the deadline means Watson was a clear-cut winner.

You can argue the toss over these prizes all you like, but the truth is that “Close To Paradise” will enjoy a promotional and sales bump in the coming weeks and months because of this win. Any of these album prizes (even the humble Choice Music Prize, to make sure declarations of interest are declared and all of that) result in a spate of publicity for an artist and an album. But it’s up to them and the general public to take the affair to another level.

What was also enjoyable about last night’s soiree was the chance to chew the fat with some Canuck writers and label folk about the state of their musical nation. While there is no doubting just how buzzy (some) Canadian bands are right now (or just how much monetary aid is available from the government under the enviable Canada Music Fund), there were some observations from the gallery about the domestic infrastructure which made you stop and think a little.

For instance, many see an urgent need for more dedicated local labels to operate and grow alongside Arts & Crafts and Last Gang. This would ensure that the likes of the excellent Born Ruffians, Tokyo Police Club and others from the new, new school will be able to benefit from the development afforded by local labels and intelligence rather than just signing deals abroad.

Then, there’s the sheer size of the country which makes domestic gigonimics a bit of an ordeal: there may be a population of 30 million to support the acts, but they’re concentrated in wide flung metropolitan pockets which often take a day or more to reach. And that’s not to mention the way in which many in the industry constantly look abroad for validation in the first instance of homegrown artists and albums. It was only when Arcade Fire made a splash abroad, after all, that the industry in Canada started to pay attention to them.

None of this will bother Patrick Watson too much as he celebrates his win at the Drake Hotel aftershow. Time enough to start thinking about how to make the most of this when he wakes up sometime today and checks to make sure the extra-large cheque is where he left it before he turned off the light. Then, he’ll probably put the phone back on the hook and start talking over and over again about how awesome all of this is.

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