Monday, November 28, 2011

Award ceremonies... groan... 25th ARIA Awards

"Critically acclaimed across the world, that's why Grinderman 2 is nominated for album of the year. Next up Delta Goodrem and the Wiggles..."

I've said this before: if there is a music awards show on, I'll watch it even if it's the 83rd Annual Pan Flute Awards. So it was last night I was watching the Australian music industry's "night of nights,"™ the ARIA awards, now in its 25th year. For a culture that can either engage in cloying parochialism or cringe inducing displays of "we're a small country making it big on the world stage," the 25th Aria awards were largely bland, probably in reaction to the disastrous ceremony last year where they tried to make it off the cuff and casual which led to a shambolic breakdown of proceedings. As with all award shows, it turns good comedians into bumbling unfunny presenters while the crowd is treated to awkward acceptance speech after acceptance speech - "I didn't really expect this so I haven't prepared anything..." Really, you were nominated, it didn't occur to you to do something just on the off chance you won...

To be honest, I'd never heard the big winners Boy and Bear before (probably because I've been overseas for the half the year) and am less than enthused by Australia's big buzz artists such as Cut Copy and Gotye. I was delighted to see Grinderman nominated, cutting a volatile edge of danger through the antiseptic proceedings even if it was the bearded presence of Jim Sclavunos looming ominously in background of the occasional camera shot or was that Noah Taylor? (all those bushman beards start to blend into one...) It also led to that little voice over throw away quoted above which would be surreal in any other context than an awards show. Another band I love dearly, The Middle East, were nominated but missed out. Usual suspects the Living End won for best rock band and burned so bright in their live performance that their was an energy and anger that seemed to be in spite of the evening itself. Kylie and the Wiggles were inducted into the ARIA hall of fame which I have no problem with - Kylie has been consistently producing above average pop songs for years while the Wiggles have been consistently acting as a babysitter for almost everyone I know with a kid forever.

You may ask yourself, why do you bother to watch these shows if they're so annoying? The reason is simple: occasionally something that is truly unexpected, moving or simply transcendent sneaks past the carefully stage managed sterility of the event. It has happened at the ARIAS before. For example, following the suicide of Crowded House drummer Paul Hester, Neil Finn came out to sing Better be home soon as tribute to his fallen comrade. The agony and confusion of one man and his guitar transforming a love song into a plea for his lost friend is incredibly moving - it's heartbreaking to see him almost stumble on the first line. Its a moment that moved beyond the event and highlighted that music can be a vehicle for emotions greater than we can convey with words. His performance is below:

The closest last night got to being amazing was when best female artist award winner Kimbra came out to duet with Gotye. I had only heard of her after seeing her on Rockwiz a few weeks ago but she is definitely a talent to watch. Sharing the physicality of PJ Harvey - a small woman with a big, big voice, she practically stole the show. Watch her performance on Rockwiz below for a taste of her sound.

Anyhow, as the ARIAs stumbled on, I eventually got sleepy and decided to go to bed. Most of the categories seemed to have predetermined winners and when I read the results this morning, things had transpired pretty much as I'd imagined (I'm still shocked to see Front End Loader had won something - one of the greatest underground bands in Australia in the 90's). Anyhow, another awards show, another wasted night - what can you do?


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