History is sketchy on the details of the musical entertainment involved with 100 years of the Grey Cup, but there is every reason to believe that this year’s lineup surpasses any raccoon-coat-wearing lower classman playing Irvin Berlin on ukeleles, as might have been the case when the Varsity Blues took the silver chalice in 1912. A day-by-day breakdown is your playbook for the Grey Cup Festival’s best bets, from Can-Rock heroes to a Baby-singing Bieber to a legendary troubadour named Lightfoot.
The Halftime Show
Justin Bieber flinched noticeably when unreasonably smooched this week at the American Music Awards by 40-year-old Jenny McCarthy, but he may be more comfortable if attention were paid by the B.C. pop starlet Carly Rae Jepsen, who, famously, is sometimes receptive to phone calls. Those two stars will recruit young audiences (and Ms. McCarthy), as will the telegenic West Coast pop-rockers Marianas Trench. Drawing in the other end of the demographic will be Gordon Lightfoot, the songwriting giant who sang Alberta Bound but who will be cheering for his hometown Argonauts, if we read his mind correctly.
Though the American singer Chris Willis is not exactly a household name, he’s aligned himself with electro-pop DJ and star producer David Guetta to help three of his singles find their way to the top of U.S. dance chart. Songs in his repertoire include Love is Gone and Gettin’ Over You , which indicate the man has known loss and risen above it, a quality to which a pro footballer could relate. With Brad Mates, the frontman for the much-awarded Alberta-born country band Emerson Drive, Mr. Willis headlines the Scotiabank 100th Grey Cup Gala. Though the gourmet dinner takes place directly on the field at Rogers Centre, drinking directly from a water bottle will be considered poor form.
Wavin’ Flag , from the superstar K’naan, is not all a reference to a pigskin-related penalty (though at times his backfield has been known to be in motion). The decidedly upbeat Somali-Canadian rapper is the main attraction to the Telus Players Party, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Also on hand is Kardinal Offishall, the Juno-winning dance-hall rapper who rarely plays second string. Rounding out the talent are New Brunswick’s Mia Martina, who agitates dance floors in three languages, and Kreesha Turner, the stylish urban pop songstress whose biggest hit to date is Don’t Call Me Baby . Are you listening, Justin Bieber?
The three-day Molson Canadian House Concert Series begins at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The headliner is the Sam Roberts Band, led by the namesake Montrealer who was an idie-music darling for his breakout 2000 hit Brother Down. He’s a charismatic, high-energy fellow, absolutely at home in the red zone. The recently reunited pop-punksters Treble Charger share the under card with British Columbian Matthew Good, a talented alt-rock songwriter and enthusiastic blogger.
Possibly the liveliest (not to say off-sides) action happens at the three-day Telus Street Festival, which takes over Front Street from Simcoe to John streets. It’s all free of charge, with the middle day of the three offering the most substantial talent. An all-day affair includes sets by Fefe Dobson (a major-label pop singer who shouts out to Scarborough), Said the Whale ( bright-eyed Vancouverites), Zeus (gifted indie rock-and-pop tunesmiths) and Our Lady Peace (veteran rockers led by the socially conscious, idiosyncratic vocalist Raine Maida).
The tailgate-style Nissan Pre-Game Party is captained by Burton Cummings, an iconic singer-songster-pianist whose facial hair indicates that Movember is like every other month to him. The Winnipeg native and Guess Who legend has sung anthems at Grey Cups previously, and if you bump into him at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and wish to share a warm beverage with him, remember that he prefers no sugar with his coffee or tea. Kathleen Edwards, the gifted Ontario songstress who at turns can be affecting and sparky, is enjoying a stellar year, thanks to her lauded album Voyageur .