The Verge Music Awards touch down in Toronto

Hannah Georgas has performed at Lilith Fair, wrote a jingle for a Walmart commerical and has received props from Taylor Swift. But last night, she had to make sure she brought her mom’s car home at a decent hour. Georgas was one of three rising Canadian indie acts feted on Tuesday night at the annual Verge Music Awards. The show, presented by XM Canada and held at The Mod Club in Toronto, celebrated Canadian music talent in three categories: Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year.

“It’s amazing,” Georgas said after receiving the nod as the Emerging Artist of the Year (as decided by XM Canada satellite radio listeners). “I’m really excited and surprised and very happy. It’s surreal. It’s good.”

Georgas may have beat out Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski and Kingston-based PS I Love You for the $5,000 prize, but she’s not letting success get to her head just yet. The night’s festivities included performances by Gord Downie and The Country of Miracles, Tokyo Police Club, and The Acorn, but Georgas had other priorities. “I’m going to stick around here for a bit and then I’m probably going to go back to Newmarket later – I’m going to be lame,” she confessed. “I’ve got to bring the car back.”

Down the line, however, Georgas isn’t going to let a car curfew curb any of her plans for making more inroads into the Canadian music scene. “I’ll be making a record and I’m just demoing and writing and I’ll be in Toronto for the next little while playing some shows,” she told OurFaves. “The focus for me right now is just working on new material.”

How will Georgas know when she’s hit the big time? She’ll be standing in the same spot her idols The Cranberries and Sarah Harmer stood when they took to the stage at Massey Hall. “I’ve been living in Vancouver for the last four years, but I was born in Newmarket and I came out to Toronto a lot when I was growing up,” she said. “One of my favourite venues is Massey Hall. I want to play there. Maybe it’s just the people I saw there, but I was just blown away. The sound there is amazing and I just love the venue itself, the look of it. It’s beautiful.”

Young artists like Gerogas are working towards their dreams, but others like Zeus, a Toronto-based hip hop band, are already living and reveling in them. At the awards show, Zeus took home a $25,000 bounty and bragging rights to the Album of the Year title. Asked where their dream concert hall to play in would be, Zeus frontman Carlin Nicholson responded, “We just played it. It was the last show in the Broken Social Scene tour. It was Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa and it was unreal. It was a beautiful place.”

Of their Album of the Year accolade, Nicholson purred rhythmically, “It’s sweet. Super sweet. It’s the sweetest treat.”

“It’s the kind of thing that spreads you out and allows you to do more things and I think that’s the objective XM has – push bands forward that they believe in and we’re just thrilled that they hallowed us in that, and that our fans did as well,” he added “It’s a beautiful thing. We’re going to move forward. All the money’s going back into the band.”

Well maybe not all of it.

“We’re going to buy some gold-plated jocks,” Nicholson confessed. “But after that, it’s all going to go back into the band. A band costs a lot of money to put out and it’s like Queen did with their light show – they just kept making it bigger and bigger.”

It wasn’t a long time ago when the band couldn’t even conceive of gilded athletic undergarments for its members. According to Nicholson, the road to success was an arduous and unromantic one. “A lot (of the material) came from pure frustration,” Nicholson said. “We have a huge friend circle of musicians and bands and we were all sort of steamrolling in a circle for a long time. We worked really hard. We recorded a record, we got signed on that record and then we went on the road with that record and we graciously received many wonderful reviews on said record and now here we are at Verge.”

Well maybe not the whole band.

“Twenty-five g-notes, boy!!!” guitarist Neil Quinn squealed into the phone. Drummer Rob Drake had a prior engagement in Barrie and had to be notified over the phone that the band had just won out against Tegan and Sara for the prize.

“He had to work,” Quin informed OurFaves. “He teaches drums. The kids are important, you know.”

“I’m very excited,” Drake told us over speakerphone. “It’s awesome. My wife called and screamed in my ear.”

“You sound like a hunk on the phone,” Quin asserted after a pause on Drake’s end. “He’s speechless.”

While one Zeus band member may have been rendered silent by the 25 g-note prize, another was less so.

Asked about his take on the Toronto music scene, Nicholson had plenty to say. “I think it’s alright,” he said. “I think it’s a little congested. It’s a little tapped in the same region. Everything’s in the same sort of Spadina pocket. There’s a lot of great bands in Toronto, a lot of hardworking bands, but I wish it was a little more spread out. I think it’s harboured a lot of great stuff and it’s still a hub that all bands come through. Toronto is a beautiful place, I love living here but I wish the whole thing was available to more hip hop artists who are doing things in between what’s quote-unquote ‘mainstream.'”

In May, the band will be touring Europe and working on their next album set to be released in the fall. Last night, however, their plans were more of the short-term variety.

“We’re going to check out Peter Elkas, a good buddy of ours, playing in the Dakota,” Nicholson said. “We’re going to go down there and celebrate like it’s nobody’s business. Like 1992-styles, you know what I mean?”

XM Canada also awarded $25,000 and the Artist of the Year honour to Windsor-based Michou.

Photographs and story by Maria Cootauco


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