The MuchMusic Video Awards is the local television event of the year—this is what it looks like from behind the scenes.
I know enough about how the MMVAs (and its overlords) operate to know that the media room is for suckers. But, with 15 minutes to red carpet, there we were, all seven or so of us, in a hallway flanked by a buffet of grilled chicken and vegetarian Sheppard’s pie and a barren room awaiting us where hardly any A-lister rolls through for press questions. Seriously: the only thing to do with a white wristband is to stay holed up on the third floor of the CHUM building and drink. It’s what I imagine Saskatoon to look like, or a JUNO Award ceremony. So how, exactly, does one measure a year in Canadian music? Well, by the number of 4-oz. plastic cups of passable Chardonnay consumed at the MMVAs, naturally:
One. In five seconds, you’ll learn the assigned white press wristband will get you nowhere. After five minutes on the outdoor-media smoking balcony, staring at a decidedly more jumpin’ balcony across alley, I exchange fretful glances with blogger-cum-fame monster Jay Strut. This just isn’t going to process. Granted, the media playpen has all the accoutrements any first-timer here would want/need, but I want to be where the people are. I want to see, want to see them dancing… Ooh, but I can see Demi Lovato from up here! (Still, I could probably see her better from the other side.)
Two. I end up in one of those cluster of desks you often see in the background on Much with other media-in-waiting to find one of them wearing a peculiar, bright red wristband. “What is that?“, I mini-meltdown. “It’ll get you to the action, you know, the real party,” he says, half-smug. Oh helllll no, I’m going to sort this right out, I tell myself. “If you don’t see me again, you know I’ve succeeded…or been escorted out.”
Downstairs, at the check-in counter, I walk with gusto as Jay Strut, well, struts. “Let’s YOLO this,” he says. Our entitlement is fierce and frightening and sickening all at once.
“What do I gotta do to get a red wristband?” I lean over, asking half-sweetly.
“Nothing, you can’t do anything,” responds the PR-in-charge, amused that I’m even trying.
“What do you mean? I can’t…”
“It’s just not possible.”
We argue back and forth for a few minutes. Well, “not possible” is not in my damn vocabulary. At that second, my Degrassi pal Cory Lee walks through, donning a silver wristband and my eyes open wide, like an anime character. Whether she knows it or not, I have a plan! With me holding one hand, and Jay holding the other, we latch on to her creating a flurry of wrist-wear so confusing—between wristbands and friendship bracelets and watches and, ugh, “bling”—that we roll right on into to the land of VIPs: Very Important Pricks. Like us?
Three. Once we realized that we’ve successfully fooled security (which, trust me, isn’t a hard thing to do), we disperse—and fast. It’s an entirely different world in here, on the ground floor of Much HQ where, instead of soggy grilled chicken, there are goat-cheese cupcakes and mini-boxes of Chinese noodles, beef, and spring rolls. And a direct view of the outside crowd filled with ravenous tweens looking to get a glimpse of the action in here. (This must be what it’s like to have an Intimate & Interactive.) Of course, there’s no one to know here, and that’s fine because at least there are people—beautiful, sneaker-heel-wearing, short-short-rocking, over-accessorized people.
Four. With 30 minutes to air, everyone is ignoring the pre-show and making connections. “What does the white wristband stand for?” asks newly-minted songstress Vita Chambers, who is humble and lovely and all that good stuff for a Canadian who has over a million YouTube views. “It stands for peasant,” I laugh as I explain the silly ordeal. She promises to “keep my secret” as we bond over the musical stylings of Anjulie, looking fierce from the red carpet. Two blonde pompadours situate themselves in front of the monitor. Oh hey, it’s Jedward, the identical Irish twins-turned-X Factor sensations in identical white blazers and red bow ties, appearing pretty pleased with their red carpet performance. “You guys are from Alberta, right?” asks one girl with the same hairstyle. Oh, I’m so very, very happy to be here indeed.
Five. When you sneak in anywhere, you live in perpetual fear: of being sussed out, of having to use the rest room. I’m sitting with a table of girls devouring the pink-frosted candy corn who look more bored than me sitting through co-host Psy‘s opening number. But the crowd, from where I’m standing, seem to love the affable Korean viral star and, well, fine. Okay, 90 minutes to go. We can do this. I’ve hung out at far shittier cocktail parties than this for far longer.
Otherwise: Much VJ TRexXx is looking aight. But OMG: Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift. But what I really want is Feminist Taylor Swift. Every other boy in here looks like Bieber, except Cody Simpson—he just looks like a tool. Random label bros are dripping in ridiculous “statement jewellery,” although the only statement they’re making is, “Hey, I don’t know how to dress.” The girls, probably executive-mommy or -daddy’s date for the evening, are dressed for Bellwoods. And will the real Danny Fernandes please stand up?
One of the 50-inch-plus flatscreens in this bustling lounge tells me that Avril Lavigne won an award. Trust me, anytime Avirl wins it’s because she showed up. (And let’s not even talk about whoever at E-Talk should have been cut for pronouncing the punk pre-schooler and beau Chad Kroeger the “King and Queen of the #MMVAs.”) Canada, this is the kingdom you live in. A kingdom that includes former VJ-turned-musician (LOLz) Jesse Giddings being interviewed in the BlackBerry Lounge. Spare me.
Six. God, have I really had six plastic cups of wine? Totally. But I’ve also had about six dozen spring rolls, so I can still spell s-o-b-e-r. We’re more than halfway through the telecast and this coveted lounge is starting to thin out. Duh, that’s because everyone’s upstairs on that other balcony I so desperately wanted to be on two hours earlier. So, game faces on, we scurry up the stairs, past the security, and into our second restricted area of the night. Immediately, the air is damp and sweaty, and you hear the fans, restless, and relentless. That guy looks so familiar. Duh, it’s Revenge‘s Josh Bowman looking like every other Toronto guy, minus the leather jacket he wore to present an award to I forget who. I keep making eyes with that bartender from Red Light. Oh wait, that’s actually one of the Walk Off the Earth guys. Now there’s a game for ya: Canadian Bartender or Canadian Rock Star?
Oh, oh! Drake sighting, Drake sighting, Drake sighting! The 416′s illustrious rap progeny makes a surprise appearance, slinking through the back alley with a 20-strong entourage. “My night is complete,” says every guy on this balcony. (Wait, does that mean there’s weed up here?) Eventually, I find myself in a circle with Serena Ryder‘s musical director—“’Stompa’ is my jam,” I laugh—and a Sony exec who convinces me he’s The Original Aubrey Graham. But can we talk about the boys from Billy Talent for a minute? Like WTF happened to them, and I mean that in the best way? I’m getting total Brain Setzer vibes. Eventually, a loud pyro explosion reminds us that Psy has performed once again, thus ending the show with no real fanfare.
Seven. So what now? I heard there was an even more exclusive Bell Media Greenroom Room with an onsite after-party. Turn the corner and you’ll stumble right in. Here’s where everyone else is: Karl Wolf; Brittany Snow on the couch looking like it’s about time to be anywhere but here; MTV’s Nicole Holness channeling Amanda Bynes. In this room, the wine is served in glasses, even though Marianas Trench continues to screw up my vibe for just existing. There’s Austin Mahone. I do not, or will not, get Ed Sheeran. (What’s his appeal?) Somehow, we catch the eye of Australian YouTube favourites-turned-boy-banders The Janoskians (a terribly unappealing acronym for “Just Another Name of Silly Kids in Another Nation.”) They’re known in their hometown for pranks and other junk that gets you 65 million views but, in Canada, my guess is that they’ll best be known for taking off their pants on the MMVA stage and trying to lock lips with the girl escorting me to the rest room. (She declines their epic advances, repeatedly: “We know you’re not One Direction, okay?”)
With the awards beginning on loop again and my shitty-Chardonnay quota met, it’s time to pack it in and rejoin the un-wristbanded world. But not without Armin van Buuren running around, asking: “What about the after-party?” Been there, done that, bro—and, well, you already know how that turned out.