HAMILTON - Kiesza's breakthrough year continued its breakneck pace Saturday, as the fleet-footed Calgary singer picked up her first two Juno Awards.
The 26-year-old won dance recording of the year for her debut album "Sound of a Woman" and video of the year for her mesmerizing viral smash "Hideaway" at a non-televised gala ceremony at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Born Kiesa Ellestad, the dance composer and classically educated guitarist still held two more nominations that will be contested during Sunday night's Junos broadcast — where only six more trophies will be handed out — but she wasn't reserving her enthusiasm Saturday.
"I came up with this song, I had no means to create a video, no money, I called my brother from Canada and said: 'Can you please film me while I illegally run down the street in Brooklyn with no permit?'" she said of the notorious one-take video, which has more than 200 million views on YouTube.
"Our whole budget was his plane ticket and somehow this video came of it," added Kiesza, clad in a reflective gold dress and heavy-looking earrings, her fiery hair piled atop her head, before proceeding with an exhaustive list of thank-yous, poking fun at herself at the end.
"Thank you to my dog and my hamster," she joked. "And thank you to the Junos."
Kiesza is set to perform during Sunday's telecast, and she wasn't the only first-time performer to take home some Juno hardware early.
Toronto's reggae-dusted pop outfit Magic! — leading nominees entering the weekend with five — won their first Juno for breakthrough group of the year, Toronto alt-R&B paramour the Weeknd won his third career Juno (for R&B/soul recording of the year) a night before his first-ever Juno performance, and local rock favourites Arkells won group of the year, their third Juno.
"I know it's that time of the hour that everyone's drunk as a rat right now so I'll make this brief," said frontman Max Kerman. "Seriously, this category, everybody in this category does music better than we do in every single way.
"Let's party in Hamilton tonight!" he added.
Toronto folk-pop singer/songwriter Bahamas (real name: Afie Jurvanen) won his first two career Junos for his lushly immersive "Bahamas is Afie," taking both adult alternative album of the year and songwriter of the year, beating out a field that included Katy Perry hired gun Henry (Cirkut) Walter and Magic!
"This is a real honour," Jurvanen marvelled. "I've been making these albums for a few years and it seems like nobody cared there for a while.
"I brought my mother the last two times we were nominated and we lost," he added. "I'm sorry, she's not here tonight. I'm sure she's streaming it on her — well, she's not doing that, actually. I'll call her after."
Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq also procured her first Juno for Aboriginal album of the year for "Animism," which also won the Polaris Music Prize — though she lost alternative album of the year to Toronto quintet July Talk, also inaugural winners.
Other notable winners included critically lauded Caribou (masterminded by locally reared Dan Snaith) for electronic album of the year, Toronto electro-pop songwriter Lights (for pop album of the year) and alt-rock howler-turned-country crooner Dallas Smith, who won his first solo Juno 13 years after winning best new group as frontman for post-grunge sludge-slingers Default.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, an absent Sarah McLachlan wrested her ninth career Juno for adult contemporary album of the year, veteran violinist James Ehnes (from Brandon, Man.) took his 10th Juno in 18 years, Toronto's Exco Levi snatched a fourth straight win for reggae recording of the year and hirsute children's troubadour Fred Penner won his third out of 10 nominations (dating back to 1981).
"I'm really quite overwhelmed. I really thought Raffi was going to pull this out," said the 68-year-old Penner, before attesting to the influence of his 66-year-old peer.
"Raffi, I do love you."
And the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award was presented to Toronto power-prog trio Rush for their long (and intentionally quiet) history of philanthropy.
Frontman and bassist Geddy Lee accepted on behalf of the veteran band, who are soon heading out on a 40th anniversary tour.
"There are awards and then there are awards," said Lee, 61. "It's one thing to be honoured with an award that celebrates an achievement in one's work — as you can justify the slight embarrassment of its acceptance that it's something you spent your entire life perfecting.
"But it's quite another thing to accept an award for something you should do and it should be a natural part of how we choose to live our lives.
"Nonetheless I stand here somewhat awkwardly accepting this humanitarian award on behalf of my fellow bandmates."
Categories set to be determined during Sunday's telecast included album, single, artist, breakthrough artist and rock album of the year, in addition to the Juno Fan Choice Award.
Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Alanis Morissette, Deadmau5 and the Weeknd are expected to perform at the show, to be hosted by Hedley's Jacob Hoggard.