Youse all know I’m an old Generation X-er. The first Gulf War was our Vietnam. The Live Aid Concert was our Woodstock. So I’m too old for the popular music that is promoted by the Australian Rock Industry Awards aka the ARIAs. But not too old to give it a detailed, curmudgeonly recap. Enjoy.
The Red Carpet Special had been pretty much a bust (click here), with all its overly-rehearsed professionalism, so would the show itself be any better? Launching with a non-Idol act was a good move, Silverchair were the openers and did a good version of their Straight Lines single. The crowd were pumped.
Rove McManus the host of the evening, came out and did some fairly standard gags about it being the 21st birthday of the ARIAs and therefore the evening would be about getting drunk, embarrassing speeches and throwing up in a pot plant. Then he reminded us all about former channel 10 presenter Axle Whitehead‘s shenanigans last year when he exposed himself on stage. Would the night bring forth similar champagne television? We would have to wait and see,
Missy Higgins got up to present something called Best Breakthrough Single with Rove who thought gags about munchkins (they’re both short, see) would be funny. Operator Please won for their song Just A Song About Ping-Pong. Just like the Oscars there was a Voice-Over Dude giving we, the viewers at home, further details about the acts – like f’rinstance the average of Operator Please was 16 years old. The young whipper-snappers were rather overwhelmed by it all. Gen Y was doing good.
Best Breakthrough Album went to Sneaky Sound System who unusually enough put their album out independently and subsequently had to kiss less record company arse in their thank you speech. After being congratulated by Chupa Chups in the ad break, the Sneakies played live. The kids loved ’em.
Supermodel Megan Gale did a perfectly good job of lone presenting. She announced the award for best country album, which was won by Keith Urban for Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing. EMI were thanked. Nicole was the inspiration. Then James Mathison and John Butler exchanged quips about how the music industry was all about dreams coming true.
In the ad break, Big W congratulated Keith Urban, which seemed a good moment to bring on Andrew and Chris from The Chaser. They played nice-ish. They said the music industry needed to lift their game because 2007 was the first year that more footballers than musoes were in the news for drugs charges. Andrew said there was also a problem with originality in Australian music. He didn’t mind Jet sounding like ACDC or Wolfmother sounding like Led Zep, but why did Shannon Noll have to sound like Shannon Noll? This got a big laugh and the show’s director cut mercilessly to Shannon Noll‘s table to show us the only guy in the room who didn’t find the gag funny. Noll actually looked a bit hurt.
The Chaser boys gave the Best Urban Award to the Hilltop Hoods for The Hard Road: Restrung. Best Independent Release was won by the John Butler Trio for Grand National. Butler maintained his PC cred when he whipped out an acknowledgment to the traditional owners of the land on which Acer Stadium stood. He then went on to sincerely appreciate being part of the music industry or “community” as he called them. He paid tribute to all his fellow nominees and the likes of Silverchair and Powderfinger. Peace Out.
In the ad break, well-known vegetarian outfit and green employer KFC congratulated the John Butler trio on their win.
Then Kate Miller-Heidtke played live. Her act was as oddball as expected and near the climax she rose from the stage on a platform hung with red ribbons while dancers in lederhosen (?) writhed around her in a circular formation. This Von Trapp family fantasy seemed to go down really well with the crowd. It was different, alright.
However, the night’s creeping slickness continued. Every winner’s ARIA stats were given by the Voice-Over Dude. He explained who the band were, how many units they’d shifted, where they had charted and said just about everything except get down to your local Big W on Monday and buy the album. In the ad breaks it became clear that we could stay at home and download ARIA award winning product like Silverchair’s Young Modern album onto our PC or mobile phone, right now. Wait until Monday? That’s what Gen X used to do.
Gay for Natalie
In a genius piece of casting Darren Hayes and Natalie Bassingthwaite shared the presenting task for Best Pop Release. Bassingthwaite was wearing a short tight silver number and couldn’t really walk. Hayes said he had a gay crush on her, which was fair enough. The award went to Sarah Blasko for What the Sea Wants The Sea Will Have.
Rove introduced Clare Bowditch and after some shakey badinage they gave the award for Best Blues and Roots Album to the John Butler Trio for Grand National.
All through the night there were best album compiles giving us background on the five noms. I only note the one at this point of the evening because it was for Powderfinger’s Dream Days at the Hotel Existence. Surely a contender for most pretentious album title ARIA. Then The Powders or the Finger or whatever they’re affectionately known as, took to the stage with a gospel choir to do an okay version of their song Lost and Running.
Dave Hughes was up next to hand out the award for Best Dance Release. He had won an ARIA for his comedy album in the part of the night that wasn’t televised. He said that ARIA awards are like kids, you don’t care about them until you get one. He went on to say that without dance music, people in night clubs would have nothing to do and then they’d turn to drugs. The award went to Sneaky Sound System.
The night wore on, curiously with less Rove and more Silverchair, who began picking up ARIAs left, right and centre. Like Best Rock Album for Young Modern. Chris, Ben and Daniel from Silverchair had a running gag about losing at rock, paper, scissors and so took turns at doing the thank yous.
A compile of their career was shown and we were reminded that twelve years ago, they were considered this freakish kid band (average age fifteen). So in some ways they were what Operator Please is now. But for ageing viewers like myself who had already spent most of the evening wondering who all these teenagers were and why young people’s music was so loud these days, the Grand Canyon-like width and depth of the generation gap was made clear by the appearance of two figures from my era – Mark McEntee and Chrissie Amphlett of the Divinyls.
McEntee and Amphlett were there to present an award, but first felt the need to pay tribute to three Australian musoes who had made their “transition”. Amphlett named the late Lobby Loyde, Ian Rilen and Billy Thorpe. There was nary a peep from the kids in the crowd who, naturally enough, didn’t have a clue who those people were. You have to pick your moment for this kind of thing and this wasn’t it.
The Big W ads kept playing. I was getting a little tired of their slogan. “Don’t settle for little – live big for less”. Didn’t these guys know that the War Against Climate Change was happening? Did I just coin that? Was nearly three hours of the ARIAs and their incessant glad-handing, back-slapping and self-promoting getting to me? Surely not.
The Australian Music Industry has never been healthier the Voice-Over Dude said, then cited Rogue Traders, Eskimo Joe, Wolfmother, Keith Urban and Missy Higgins and their accumulated greatness. They had performed in all sorts of exotic climes and locales. It was all a bit naff. It was more of that “we’re such a small nation but damn if we haven’t made an impact on the rest of the world” nonsense. It sounds superficially positive when politicians and media types say it, but it is really only the 2007 version of the Australian Cultural Cringe.
Missy performed and was good. Operator Please performed and were even better. But weren’t they the band of sixteen year olds? So naturally they had energy to burn. Bloody Generation Y. Damn them their youth and their own teeth.
Sunglasses At Night
The Chair took out Best Group. Daniel was doing a lot of lurching around the stage. Hugging his fellow band-mates. Keeping his sunglasses on. It was good.
James Mathison interviewed Wally de Backer aka Gotye and said, “Drummers who sing -Don Henley Karen Carpenter, and to a lesser extent Phil Collins were you influenced by any of these?” The Artist Known as Gotye said he was influenced by the drum-playing gorilla on the Cadbury’s ad.
From here on in, I had trouble staying awake and taking notes as all the boring corporateness took hold of my tired brain. Ben Lee and Delta Goodrem entered stage right and were possibly the oddest paring of the night. Delta, half a head taller than Ben and seemingly covered in gold leaf and buffed to a dazzling shine, attempted some comedy with her co-presenter. None of which survives in this document. They gave the Best Female Artist to Missy Higgins for On A Clear Night. Ben said to Delta, “That Missy can sure write a song”. Delta didn’t say, “Are you having a go at me, punk?”
Best Male Artist went to Gotye for Mixed Blood. At this point, those of us who remembered the Countdown years, probably thought this made Wally and Missy analogous to our era’s King and Queen of Pop; like Mark Holden and Marcia Hines were (among others) about – oh – thirty years ago. See Oldies? Some things have improved.
Gotye, who had been on stage playing live explained this was why he had no shoes on, just socks. The camera zoomed in to his stockinged feet.
Finally the end was in sight. Kylie sent best wishes for Nick Cave being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame which whetted are appetite for this event. But first, a final burst of live music as the ARIA award winning John Butler Trio and the ARIA award winning Keith Urban played a pretty damned good version of Funky Tonight.
Then it was time for Nick Cave’s moment in the limelight. After a quick recap of his solo work and his bands The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, Nick came out looking a little peeved.
He said, “I can’t accept this until I get a few things straight.” Some cheers in the crowd. Then he said, “Why me and not the Birthday Party?” He also asked this about The Bad Seeds. If you want to get all nationalistic about it, the Bad Seeds had several members of other nationalities over time, but Nick Cave had a point. He then said, “I’d like to do a bit of inducting myself.” And then he named Mick Harvey, Warren Ellis, Conway Savage, Martin Casey, Tracy Pew and Roland Howard as worthy of the ARIA Hall of Fame. And he was absolutely right.
The boys from Silverchair took out the last big awards of the evening. Whatever these were. Highest-selling single and best video, I believe. Daniel Johns began to go really strange and a little obnoxious. “How good is Australian music at the moment – – we are killing it bi-atch!” he said. Then moments later when he was back on stage he leant into the mic and said, “I forgot to mention Julian Hamilton – we co-wrote the single of the year, bi-atch!”
Finally, things were looking up for some disgraceful behaviour, but schoolmaster Rove came in and rounded up the fifth graders with this rather pallid shout out, “Let’s go make our parents ashamed of us!”
Thanks, Rove, and say hello to your Mum for me.