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It’s an honour, et cetera 

Roche Uhntraal smells like teen spirit.

The Juno nominees were announced on February 15, determining the calibre of talent we can expect to see in town in six weeks. Adult contemporary stars Michael Buble and Diana Krall have five nominations each, with other multiple nominees including Arcade Fire, Neil Young, Nickelback and, ratcheting up the shriek quotient come awards night, Kalan Porter. Congrats to local nominees Joel Plaskett (songwriter) and Classified (rap recording) and Jud Haynes and James Meija, who snagged a nod for their artwork on Wintersleep’s latest.

Wide awake, in town

Wide Mouth Mason’s bio on the Maple Music website, which compares the Saskatoon trio’s sound to that of Nirvana, may have shot the credibility of music marketers everywhere, but who cares? As frontman Shaun Verreault asserts, the only way to really experience a band is to see them live. “I’ve heard board tapes of us playing live before, and I have a feeling if people heard them, people would feel differently about them,” he says from home. “There’s nothing like being there, and the kinetic energy between the band and the crowd…between the band members and themselves, the volume…and Earl’s sweat flying around as he dances all over the stage. It’s something that is really hard to capture.”

The group — whose live performance has earned rave reviews for its energetic fusion of funk, blues, soul and pop — is now back on the road following management and record label changes and touring in support of Shot Down Satellites, WMM’s first album in three years. During its downtime, the band — also including drummer Safwan Javed and bassist Earl Pereira — concentrated on separate projects. Guitarist Verreault performed a solo tour of Canadian bases in Afghanistan. “We said hey, let’s not be monogamous,” he explains. “I had never really done any solo shows before, but if you’re going to jump in, you may as well with both feet in the deep end.”

At first glance, the new record appears void of the starry-eyed romanticism of “Companion” in favour of a more cynical approach to lyricism with harder riffs, but still with the familiar catchy sound.

“I guess it depends on the song. There have always been songs that were dark, a la ‘My Old Self’ or even ‘Midnight Rain,’ kind of. And then there are other songs that are joyful, or infatuated or any of those different things,” Verreault says. “There may be a general tone shift that I am too close to to be aware of, but you just try to write about what’s going on in your life. Some of the old songs are easily as angry as some of the new ones.”

Wide Mouth Mason makes its Halifax return on February 18 at The Attic with Matthew Barber supporting.

Spring zing

It’s time to bust out the raincoats and build our arks — the first trickles of what will soon be a downpour of Junofest confirmations has begun, with Broken Social Scene setting things in motion on April 1 at the Halifax Forum. One can pick up tickets for the wet/dry engagement on Friday for a reasonable $25 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Rastafarian-Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu will supply the international flavour to the party, playing the McInnes Room the same evening. Tickets for this show are available now for $17.50. Exciting announcements this week weren’t completely Juno-centric as acclaimed activist and Spearhead singer/songwriter Michael Franti makes Halifax part of his cross-nation tour at the Cohn. The March 18 screening of his film I Know I am Not Alone will be followed by a Q&A and a Franti solo performance, with a ticket price of $24.50. There will also be something for the emo kids, with Dallas Green’s non-Alexisonfire side project City and Colour on the Dartmouth side of the harbour on April 3. Tickets for the intimate all-ages show go on sale Friday for $15 at the Alderney Landing Theatre.

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