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The Tragically Hip Wins Big, Paul Shaffer Freaks Out at Canada’s Live Music Awards

Beloved Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip and its managers Bernie Breen and Patrick Sambrook were celebrated with two awards at the second annual Live Music Industry Awards late Wednesday (April…

Beloved Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip and its managers Bernie Breen and Patrick Sambrook were celebrated with two awards at the second annual Live Music Industry Awards late Wednesday (April 20) afternoon in Toronto, as part of Canadian Music Week.

The band, which formed in 1983, played its farewell concert tour last summer after frontman Gord Downie revealed he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  The perennial arena draw was given the Legends of Live Award and the team of Sambrook and Breen declared Manager of the Year.

“To our music industry and our colleagues here,” Sambrook said. “It’s been a really tough year for us on a lot of levels and we’ve received a lot of love and support from people, so I really appreciate that.”

Held at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, and presented by the el Mocambo — the hallowed venue rescued by merchant banker and Dragons Den’s TV panellist Michael Wekerle and currently undergoing significant renovation — the addition to CMW’s roster of award shows (indies, radio, broadcasting and industry) celebrates the live music industry in more depth, including festivals, teamwork, venues, agent, manager and music city.

Hosted by Canadian Paul Shaffer, the former musical director on David Letterman‘s late-night talk show and “pride of Thunder Bay,” the event began with a performance by Ruth B of her new song “Superficial Love.”

“This is the country, where I first felt alive on a stage,” Shaffer said, reminiscing about playing The Uptown Motor Hotel in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario many decades ago, “where you could just feel the electricity in the air but that could be because the wiring was knob and tube and everything was soaked in beer.”


He then prefaced the 25 awards to follow on a more serious note. Noting the “panic” in recent years about the state of the music industry — from downloading to auto-tuning — he said, “I’ll tell you the one thing that has come from the disruption of the business model that live performance is now the only dependable thing that we do.”

Some of the winners were announced and listed on a video screen and many other were invited on stage with Shaffer, who was a welcoming and funny host.

Among them were RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa for Not for Profit Festival of the Year; Montreal’s Bell Centre for Best Teamwork in an Arena; Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall for Best Teamwork in a Major Club (1000+ capacity); FMAV for AV Production Company of the Year; and Julien Paquin of Paquin Entertainment Industry, for Agent of the Year.

Shaffer received his own surprise. CMW president Neill Dixon joined him onstage and thanked him for hosting, calling him a “true Canadian icon in this international business.” 

He was then announced as the recipient of The Global Creators Award by a video message from his pal Nile Rodgers, who has given the honor to only two people before: Tony Visconti and Spike Lee.

“You have been an inspiration to myself, and millions of music and television fans throughout the world,” Rodgers said. “When we think of David Letterman, we think of Paul Shaffer. Twenty-three years of entertainment and creativity on one of the top-rated TV shows in history.” 

The Tragically Hip Wins Big, Paul Shaffer Freaks Out at Canada's Live Music Awards | Billboard
Paul Shaffer at the Live Music Industry Awards as part of Canadian Music Week on April 19, 2017. Grant W. Martin Photography

“Isn’t this a beautiful award?” Shaffer said, holding it. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it so much and it’s a Nile Rodgers award.  Nile is a wonderful poet, as you know. The leader and composer of Chic, he wrote this beautiful lyric that always gives me pause and makes me think [yells] FREAK OUT! LE FREAK, C’EST CHIC. FREAK OUT!”

The other major award was Legends of Live, which went to The Tragically Hip, “Canada’s band,” as Live Nation Canada chairman and award co-presenter Riley O’Connor called them.

“From their beginnings in the 1980s, the Hip epitomize the ethic of hard word, honing and practising their live performance at clubs and small concert halls, they set the stage for how to build and grow a career. Their focus, always guided by integrity, honesty, fairness, made all who worked for them never want to see a tour come to an end. And that’s the god awful truth,” O’Connor began. 

Co-presenter Eric Hoffman, Live Nation Canada’s president, Toronto, called it “a privilege to honor The Tragically Hip, Canada’s most iconic band. The best part of today is we are honoring their live career,” he said. “Arguably this is what makes them so special — the live show. That’s where they grabbed us all. Whether it was a bar in [their hometown of] Kingston or to see a young kid that discovered them the past year, The Tragically Hip transcends generations.”


After a video highlight and tribute video that included old clips of the band, Breen and Sambrook returned to the stage and made a point to acknowledge “the work of [former management] Jake Gold, Shelley Stertz and Sarah Osgoode — a lot of years of keeping them on the road and that includes Wayne Forte who was their agent for many years.

They then introduced “a little something” from The Hip’s guitarist Rob Baker and bassist Gord Sinclair, a video message of their own, thanking CMW, their crews, managers, agents “who kept us rolling — and kept lining their pockets” and a special shout out to O’Connor and the musicians they shared the stage with, “and the fans who have been coming out for all these years.”

Below is the complete list of winners:

Major Festival of the Year: Wayhome Music and Arts Festival

Small Festival of the Year (6000 and under): Rifflandia (Victoria)

Medium Festival of the Year (6001 to 15000) TURF Toronto Urban Roots Festival 

Family Program of the Year: Fieldtrip Music and Arts Festival 

Green Operations Festival of the Year Sponsored by Stageline: Osheaga (Montreal)

Not for Profit Festival of the Year: RBC Bluesfest

Best Teamwork in an Arena: Bell Centre

Best Teamwork in a Major Club (1000+ capacity): Danforth Music Hall

Best Teamwork in a Soft Seat Theatre/ Performing Arts Centre: Sony Centre For The Performing Arts 

Best Teamwork in a Medium Club (300 to 999 capacity): Horseshoe Tavern

Best Teamwork in a Small Club (less than 300 capacity): Carleton Music Bar and Grill (Halifax)

AV Production Company of the Year: FMAV

2017 Licensed to Play Award: The Drake Hotel

Agent of the Year: Julien Paquin (Paquin Entertainment Industry)

Global Creators Award: Paul Shaffer

Concert/Club Talent Buyer of the Year: Mark Russell

New Touring Artist of the Year sponsored by Slaight Music: July Talk

Production Manager of the Year (Festivals/Concert) sponsored by Access Event 

Solutions: Larry Fitzpatrick 

Road Warrior of the Year (Tour Manager): Dave Gardner 

Manager of the Year: Bernie Breen and Patrick Sambrook 

Festival Buyer of the Year: Paula Perri

Brand/Music Program of the Year: TD Jazz Festivals 

Legends of Live Award: The Tragically Hip 

Music City of the Year, Canadian: Québec City