Taking the stage to accept the award, Dutcher spoke first in native Wolastoq — the near-extinct language of the winning album — then in English: “Canada, you are in the midst of an indigenous renaissance,” he said to cheers and claps.
After thanking the people that helped him on his five-year journey to create and release the unique album, he praised all the nominees. “What you see on this stage tonight, this is the future. This is what’s to come.” He then checked his notes, but simply declared, “This is the greatest moment of my life."
As the 11-member grand jury — selected from the larger jury pool of music media — debated the artistic merits of each title in an on-site closed room and voted on their faves, all 10 acts were honored onstage with video testimonials, such as Tanya Tagaq for Weaves, Babyface for Caesar and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler for Pierre Kwenders.
Most of the nominees performed two songs apiece: Blais, Dutcher, Lenoir, Kwenders, Partner, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, U.S. Girls and Weaves. Caesar was in attendance but did not perform due to his busy tour schedule (he played the previous night at Denver’s Grandoozy Festival), and Alvvays couldn’t attend due to previous commitments (young band Deep Waters from non-profit Girls Rock played one song in their place).
The awards were streamed live on several CBC Music sites.
Emceed by Raina Douris, a radio host on CBC Music Mornings, the audience of 900 was mostly comprised of industry, artists, sponsors and jurors with a small quantity of tickets sold to the public. The new Polaris Community Development Program also gave tickets to users of nine not-for-profit music organizations.
Alvvays, U.S. Girls and Weaves have all previously landed on the Polaris Music Prize short-list.
The albums are judged solely on artistic merit, without consideration of genre, sales or professional affiliation, according to the Polaris mandate. The eligibility period for the titles is June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018.
The nominated albums had been selected by a two-part calculation process. This year’s 191-member jury — made up of music journalists, broadcasters and music bloggers from across Canada — selected 225 titles on the first online ballot, which asked for their top 5 picks ranked in order. The 40-title long list was then determined and the same jurors picked their top 5 from those 40 to determine the 10-title short-list.
Slaight Music again donated the prize money, $50,000 for the winner and $3,000 ($2,300) for each of the short-listed acts. All 10 acts also received a framed custom-designed limited-edition silk screen print interpretation of their album, created by a Canadian visual artist (also for public sale here).
Last year, Pimienta was awarded the Polaris Music Prize and in May she signed with ANTI, which will reissue her winning album, La Papessa, on vinyl for the first time this fall.
Other past recipients are Kaytranada’s 99.9% (2016), Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power In The Blood (2015), Tanya Tagaq’s Animism (2014), Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2013), Feist’s Metals (2012), Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (2011), Karkwa’s Les Chemins de Verre (2010), Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life (2009), Caribou’s Andorra (2008), Patrick Watson's Close To Paradise (2007), and Final Fantasy / Owen Pallett’s He Poos Clouds (2006).