Recapping JUNO Week in Edmonton: Downtown hums with music and festivities

“Welcome to the 52nd annual JUNO Awards!”   

Viewers from coast to coast tuned in to watch the biggest night in Canadian music from Rogers Place in Edmonton on March 13, 2023. Hosted by actor Simu Liu, the two-and-a-half hour broadcast included a tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and Nickelback’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Oilers star Connor McDavid presented the honour to the rock stars from Hanna, Alberta. 

“Wow!” yelled Chad Kroeger, the band’s frontman. “Wow! How badass is it to be in Edmonton and have the best hockey player in the world give that award to us?”

Connor McDavid, left, and the (past) and present members of Nickelback on stage at the JUNO Awards in Rogers Place. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.

“An energy in the city” 

The awards capped off JUNO Week, a five-day celebration in downtown Edmonton and throughout the city. Thousands of artists, music industry members and fans from across the country took part in the festivities, which included dozens of concerts at bars, clubs and halls, two awards ceremonies and a hockey game. 

Hotels registered 8,500 nights of bookings, according to Explore Edmonton. In total, the local economic impact of JUNO Week is pegged at more than $12 million. 

“Edmonton has just been the most amazing host,” said Allan Reid, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and The JUNO Awards. 

“There’s an energy in the city that’s happening that we certainly feel.”

 Fans attend a JUNOFest show at Union Hall. Photo credit: CARAS/Ivy Jane Photography.

“Warm welcome” 

Edmonton first hosted the JUNOS in 2004. A bid to bring them back began in 2017 and, five years later, the city was awarded the 2023 JUNOS. A local host committee organized and ran JUNO Week events with the help of CARAS and 300 volunteers. City of Edmonton employees also contributed to the festivities—from putting up JUNO Way signs on 104 Avenue to hosting events in City venues. 

“You have not disappointed,” said Reid. “This truly helps to define a city, the way you host major events, the warm welcome you provide.”

Photo of JUNO Way sign on 104 Avenue.

Cultural and economic vibrancy 

The success of JUNO Week highlights the importance of the arts to the cultural and economic vibrancy of Edmonton, particularly downtown. As part of the event’s legacy, the JUNOS Host Committee donated funds to create a Musician In Residence program at the Edmonton Public Library to help mentor the next generation of Edmonton’s musicians. 

“Large-scale events shine the spotlight on our city but also light a fire under our butts to get out there,” said Aimée Hill, one of the co-chairs of the committee. 

“Support our venues, our live music industry (the promoters, managers, event planners, talent buyers, publicists, agents). [The JUNOS] can serve as a reminder that the music industry is a viable industry that makes Edmonton a great place to live and work.” 

Singer-songwriter Damhnait Doyle hosted the JUNOS Songwriters’ Circle at the Winspear Centre. Photo credit: CARAS/Ryan Bolton.

March 9, 2023: JUNO Week Kickoff 

Hundreds of local music fans and musicians gathered at City Hall for the official start of JUNO Week. Indigenous artists drummed and danced. The McDades, one of six nominees from Edmonton, performed a Celtic folk tune. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi read an official JUNO Week proclamation.  
“The City of Edmonton recognizes the incredible impact that arts and culture have on the overall vibrancy of our communities and will continue to support artists and their craft,” he said.

Allan Reid, president of the JUNO Awards, and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi hold the JUNO Week proclamation.

March 10, 2023: JUNOfest begins

More than 50 artists, including local singer-songwriters Martin Kerr and 2020 JUNO winner Celeigh Cardinal, performed in more than 15 venues..

Martin Kerr and his band perform a sold-out show at Union Hall. Photo credit: CARAS/Paula Kreba.

Altameda, a folk-rock group based in Toronto, played to a packed house at 99Ten, a cozy basement venue. Frontman Troy Snaterse and drummer Erik Grice started the band in Edmonton and were excited to attend the JUNOS in their hometown as nominees in the Adult Alternative Album of the Year category.

“It’s a full-circle moment,” Snaterse told the crowd.

Troy Snaterse, front, and Erik Grice of Altameda play to a capacity crowd at 99Ten.

March 11, 2023: Opening Night Awards

More than 40 statuettes were handed out during the Opening Night Awards at the Edmonton Convention Centre. 

The Bearhead Sisters, a trio of siblings from Paul First Nation and Edmonton, won Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. Tenille Townes, a country artist from Grande Prairie, picked up Country Album of the Year for her latest release, Masquerades.

“I went to my very first JUNO Awards the last time they were in Edmonton [in 2004] ,” she said. “I sat in the second row from the top, watching the show, just dreaming how cool it would be to be a part of that. I feel like I carry the dreams of that kid, sitting in that seat, with me everywhere I go.”

The Bearhead Sisters accept the JUNO Award for Traditional Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year at the Opening Night Awards. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.

March 12, 2023: JUNO Cup, Fan Fare and more 

Musicians and retired hockey players faced off for the JUNO Cup at the Downtown Community Arena. Music fans got a chance to meet some of the nominees—including Calgary singer-songwriter Devon Cole and Montreal producers Banx & Ranx—during JUNO Fan Fare at West Edmonton Mall. 

Ben Scrivens jokes around with players at the JUNO Cup, an annual event organized by Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy to raise money for MusiCounts, a music education charity. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.
Fans wait in line to meet nominees Banx & Ranx, Preston Pablo and Réve at JUNO Fan Fare in West Edmonton Mall. Photo credit: CARAS/Ryan Bolton.
Fans take a photo with Banx & Ranx and Preston Pablo at JUNO Fan Fare in West Edmonton Mall. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.

Downtown venues hummed with live music and sold-out crowds. Youngsters sang along with children’s entertainers as part of the Junior JUNOS at the Stanley A. Milner Library.

Dan Mangan, The Bros. Landreth, The Reklaws and others shared tunes as part of a Songwriters’ Circle at the Winspear Centre. The final night of JUNOfest featured more than 25 artists at six showcases, including local singer-songwriters Lucette and Rellik. 

Taes Leavitt of Splash’N Boots entertains the Junior JUNOS crowd at the Stanley A. Milner Library. Photo credit: CARAS/Paula Kreba.
Tenille Townes takes part in the Songwriters’ Circle at the Winspear Centre. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.

March 13, 2023: The JUNO Awards

JUNO nominee Cikwes, from Bigstone Cree Nation and Edmonton, was one of the first to arrive on the red carpet at Rogers Place. Hundreds of stars, celebrities and dignitaries followed.

Cikwes, in the blue dress, arrives on the red carpet. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.
Chad Kroeger, left, takes a selfie with fans on the red carpet. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.
From left to right, Jeremiah McDade, Shannon Johnson, Solon McDade and Allan Hillhouse of The McDades pose on the red carpet at Rogers Place.

Six JUNOS were awarded during the telecast, plus Nickelback’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Calgary pop star Tate McRae and her dancers opened the show with she’s all i wanna be. Singer and rapper AP Dhillon performed Summer High, making it the first performance in Punjabi at the JUNO Awards.

Aysanabee, an Oji-Cree artist from Ontario, performed his stirring single, We Were Here, with the help of Northern Cree, a group of singers, drummers and dancers from Maskwacis. Rappers Michie Mee, Choclair, King Lou and Capital Q of Dream Warriors performed a medley of their hits to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

“Wow, what a night!” Liu said at the end of the two-and-a-half hour show.

“Thank you for joining us for Canada’s most important night in music.”

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows actor Simu Liu hosting The JUNO Awards at Rogers Place on March 13, 2023. Photo credit: CARAS/iPhoto.