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Ego Takes a Stage Dive: The 2014 NZ Music Awards Report

Joseph Moore reports on last night’s Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards from the safe confines of his VIP couch. //

Grab your tuxes and gowns everyone! And by tuxes and gowns, I mean your track pants and delivery-Thai food, we’re doin’ these awards from the couch! Who needs a fancy invitation or VIP table when you’ve invited yourself to your own house to watch three hours of kind-of celebrities wearing kind-of nice outfits in standard definition on FOUR. It’s time for the most exciting music-television event of the New Zealand Calendar year (just ahead of that time you watched J2 on mute at Queen St Burger King for about an hour in May) – the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards!

I’ve watched these things for years now, and didn’t have huge reason to get excited. Mainly because it’s hard to get excited about televised living nightmares. But something about this year seemed different – there was a list of nominees pretty worthy of celebration, there were production values that were a few steps up from a Stage Challenge broadcast, and a somewhat deserved burst of confidence in the local music industry. So how the heck did it all go down?

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top hat full of mentos, probably

The night kicked off with the “Mentos Red Carpet”, because nothing says glitz’n’glamour like chucking a giant chewy round mint in ya gob. Sharyn and Clint from the radio ambushed a bunch of celebrities on their way in and chatted to them about their clothes and what upcoming Mediaworks projects they were involved with. There was an endearingly naive school-ball vibe about the whole thing, with all the celebs seemingly finding it pretty funny that they were wearing nice clothes.

Stan Walker kept rubbing himself awkwardly through his see through shirt, Sharyn from the radio compared everyone’s boobs to her own, Jono from Jono and Ben took off his pants for the first of two times in the evening. No one seemed to know what to do with themselves, which made it infinitely more watchable than any self-congratulatory E! equivalent.

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Kills it on the finger carpet

Also, for some reason there was a red carpet for you to walk your fingers on. Disappointingly, there was no-one from the radio’s fingers walking around to interview the fingers.

Inside Vector Arena, David Dallas opened the show with a pretty awesome rendition of “Running”, and set the tone early for the night’s ongoing live-performance motif – “more guitar solos than on the CD”.

Dai Henwood then began the formalities by running through a giant picture of his own face. “That didn’t go as planned,” he announced to the crowd apologetically after. How did it not go as planned? You seemed to run through that picture of your face just fine! Dai and his co-host Shannon from The Block NZ didn’t seem to have much to do after that – apart from introduce the guest presenters, who would come out to middling applause. Was anyone in there actually watching the show? Or were the mics just not very loud? It really seemed like no one clapped ever? The good news is, you can make up for it with your own loud clapping at home.

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get rich or dai laughing

The highlight of Shannon’s performance was when she was relaying the key moments in the riveting narrative of Benny Tipene, and included when “he got a hat.”

The show continued, broadcast entirely LIVE for the very first time in VNZMA history. That meant the awards not deserving of our critical and celeb-hungry television eyes, like “Best Electronic” were shoved into the cobwebbed Harry Potter cupboard of the ad-break.

One time they accidentally came back from a break early when a guy was delivering a heartfelt tribute to legendary composer and Best Classical winner Jack Body, and everyone at home was obviously like, “booooo, shut up! Show us Maree from The Block NZ or something!” Later they showed Maree from The Block NZ.

The first awards up were the highly sought after Highest Selling awards which, despite being pre-determined, delivered one of the only genuine surprises of the night – Stan Walker’s “Bulletproof” has more radio airplay than any Lorde song? Still weird how there is an award for commercial success though. There should have been an award at the end of the night for “Most Awards”.

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“let me be your siiiibliiiing (sibling)”

Lorde won most of the awards. She was on stage for basically half the show and I don’t think anyone begrudged her that. She was wearing a white jacket and a bra, which I would make some sort of sarcastic comment about – but she probably knows more famous fashion designers than I do.

As she returned to the stage for the 70th time on the night, you started to feel like she really might be running out of “thank you” material. But she managed to spin it a different way each time, with anecdotes from the road, shout-outs to her bf, and even bringing up her little brother and sister on one occasion. She better bang out another cracker album before the cut off of July next year, or the 2016 Awards are going to feel very subpar without her legit star power.

2015's finest

2015’s finest

There were other highlights. Future X-Factor judges and fake last-name enthusiasts, Willy Moon and Natalia Kills presented the Best Pop Album award. Despite reservations from the public about their questionable fame (I’m more familiar with Willy Moon’s work from our 5th Form German class than anything else…), the married couple proved that they are going to be killer talent on the talent show.

With both of them tossing out the script, Willy saying the words “Mr David Dallas” like he’d never heard of him, and generally being assholes, the zero fucks they gave about New Zealand music or anyone else bodes very well for the six months or so of X Factor Live Shows. I hope they get absolutely no media training between now and then.

Blindspott then returned to the stage after however many years, with their new name (Blacklistt), their new haircuts (Dad style) and their not remotely new genre (still nu metal). I was pretty blown away that they still have record scratching in a metal song! I wanted David Dallas to join at some stage and create New Zealand’s very own version of “Collision Course”.

They won Best Rock album so I guess there is still a market for this stuff? Full credit to them and I congratulate them in advance for their inclusion on the Transformers 5 soundtrack.

mi-o my

mi-o my

Other performers included a beautifully minimalist Tiny Ruins, Benny Tipene doing “Make You Mine” complete with a Jimmy Page guitar riff at the top, Sol3 Mio nailing the genre of “opera with sight gags” and brother-sister pop duo Broods being dealt the “you have to do this with an orchestra” card. They were uniformly quite good!

Later Broods won the award for Breakthrough Act (their album missed the Best Album cutoff. I imagine they’ll be front runners next year unless Lorde accidentally records herself sneezing) and said that being in a band together evolved their relationship from sibling to “best friends”. Cute. But take it from me, it’s easy to be friends with your sister, just take them to Food Truck once a fortnight and maintain social media contact. You don’t have to get Joel Little involved.

Two and a bit hours passed, the winners were generally deserving and well received, there was almost a moment where the show was at risk of being too polished. Luckily that was remedied by Paul Ego straight up falling off the stage into a sea of semi-bored teenagers.

In the dying moments of the show, Shannon quipped to the crowd “I wish there were more awards to give out!” No Shannon! There were heaps already! Everything is going surprisingly well! Quit while you’re ahead!

Luckily they did, closing the show on a rad Supergroove medley performed by the no doubt hastily named Hollie Smith led SuperSistaGroove. Chatty crowd and the odd misfired comedy bit aside, the VNZMA’s were a worthy celebration of a pretty extraordinary year for local music. The televised show can keep being this good, all we need is another 12 months of tuuuuuuuunes to back it up.

Watch the VNZMA’s on FOUR Now here