Turn your eyes east, as Vancouver observes the Junos

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The RoomsThe Rooms art gallery, museum and archives is juxtaposed against the much older Basilica.

For the West Coast observer, the “right coast” - host of the 2010 Juno Awards - can seem even further than that line drawn straight across the map, 7248 kilometers from one end to another.  The sophisticated Vancouverite knows that he or she really lives in the “best place on earth,” and is prone to forget that beautiful British Columbia is not the center of the earth. 

It is with this in mind that we’ve titled our Junos in St. Johns series “Turn Your Eyes East,” echoing the words of the great Aga Khan when he advised a young traveler on finding “the last great unexplored area.”  True, Khan was referring to Arabia, but the near east is perhaps as great an untapped resource.  Having recently doubled its tourism budget, Newfoundland is ready for travelers to lose and find themselves in its beautiful terrains.  Between the culture, the music and the open-hearted people, it won’t be hard.

It doesn’t take a long time to get around St. Johns, but nearly every step of the way one finds a thing of beauty and distraction.  The brightly colored homes border the sea, stacked like tins of soup on the rocky cliffs. A mural depicts what looks like a hard but happy life in “the olden days,” whenever those may be.  The window of a small shack reflects jagged shards of granite on its sheer surface. There are no plain spaces in St. Johns.

Its architecture is varied and interesting, a mash of small houses, large churches and enormous ships which slip in and out of the skyline. The Rooms Museum and Art Gallery houses an old concept in a modern space: traditional fishing rooms were where families would meet to process the day’s catch, whereas this visually stunning tribute shelters art, artifacts, and a seafood chowder to die for.  Perched opposite the Basilica (circa 1834) The Rooms creates a visual contrast of the old and the new on the St. Johns’ landscape.

The music of St. Johns is no less complex that its scenery: sea tales, death tomes and the old hag are recurrent themes as the more heritage-driven music pays homage to the ocean.  Ruckus on the Edge featured a heritage music night, and The Once provided an excellent example of intricate Celtic music.  Clad in a bright red dress with a hand drum and foot tambourine, Geraldine sang while Phil and Andrew played a variety of stringed instruments.   “The sense of history to the song is an important part of the place that they represent,” explains a fan, Kevin Kelly of the Newfoundland Herald.  “A lot of these songs are passed down from generation to generation and they express that sense of past and present in a very unique way.”

History is an integral part of any culture, but here in Newfoundland it seeps out of every facet of existence, expressing itself around each bright corner.   Thus, we turn our eyes to the mesmerizing palette of an age-old culture, just a few thousand miles to the east. 

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