It was the 30th ARIA awards last night in Sydney, an anniversary that saw some reminiscing on past glories included throughout the show. The event was top and tailed by some dead-set Aussie legends (mate), with Barnsie (alongside Jessica Mauboy) starting the show, and none other than Farnsie himself finishing the show with a stirring (as always) rendition of You’re the Voice. In between these two, we saw Crowded House inducted into the Hall of Fame, and clip packages highlighting a variety of other classic acts (Midnight Oil! Kylie! Silverchair! Powderfinger!).
So how did the current crop of Aussie musos hold up in the midst of all the canon-creation going on around them?
While The Veronicas were perfectly adequate as hosts of an Australian awards ceremony, their glitter-encrusted performance of In My Blood was a definite show-stopper, and made up for some of their general awkwardness otherwise. Flume came out on top award-wise, grabbing five ARIAs, with Troye Sivan also doing well. The real winner, though, was causes.
A common way for artists to create a bit of controversy at awards ceremonies is to make a political statement of some sort. It’s a neat way to get a bit of extra publicity – both for yourself and the cause you’re discussing. This probably only works, though, if everyone isn’t doing the same thing, which is what we saw last night.
Let’s go through the politics artist by artist…
Flume started off early with a statement against the lock-out laws in Sydney when accepting his award for Best Dance Album. On point, certainly, and relevant to the crowd, this was warmly received.
Troye Sivan talked about the importance of making LGBTI youth feel accepted, and giving them ways to express themselves. Given that most of his career so far has been about getting this message out there it actually would have been sort of weird if he didn’t mention this, and his comments seemed the most natural of any of the statements made. He pretty much became the nation’s adorable younger brother last night, if he wasn’t already.
Later, we had Angie Green from Marriage Equality Australia accepting the Best Female artist on behalf of Sia. Green got a standing ovation from the crowd for her message that (and I’m paraphrasing somewhat) maybe it’s time for politicians to stop dicking around and just get marriage equality done.
This was then backed up by Kylie Minogue and her fiance Joshua Sasse. Fun fact - looking up Joshua Sasse led me to discover that he stars in a “fairy tale-themed musical comedy” TV series, which I then had to go watch some of. Learn from my mistake - it is truly appalling. Thanks, ARIAs.
We weren’t done yet though for causes! Ben Lee and John Butler (of course) let us know that they stand with Standing Rock, while John Butler’s hat let us know it was against fracking. Hilltop Hoods also let us know that they are all about helping out Canteen.
The most bewildering cause-embracer, and one of the highlights of the evening, was Montaigne. When accepting the Breakthrough Artist award, she took to the stage with “People over profits” scrawled across her chest Riot Grrrl-style (respect).
On twitter, #peopleoverprofits is connected to Standing Rock, but before the ceremony, Montaigne made some statements that were maybe about the lock out laws. Confusing her message further was her speech, which was somewhat about philosophers, but mostly about butts and poop, and included the revelation that she only goes three times a week. Montaigne, please see a doctor.
Despite the number of different messages that we were getting, it was great to see so many Australian artists being prepared to use the platform they’ve been given to try to make a difference to something.
While there are always some people who think entertainers should stay out of politics, music has had a long history of being connected to activism. These ARIAs might be an indicator of a new resurgence of political music, maybe prompted by some of the worrying social trends away from tolerance that have become obvious recently.
What was disappointing, though, was the way that despite Matt Okine being “controversial” in taking the ARIAs to task last year for not including enough women, last night, despite an improved representation of women among the nominees, we again saw almost every award taken home by men - sixteen out of twenty, to be precise. More work might still be needed closer to home in the Oz music industry.
And, finally, mention has to be made of the least political, but (according to Twitter) most “Australian” moment of the night - Violent Soho being down in the bar having a beer instead of on stage accepting their award for Best Group.
Onya blokes, that’s the true ARIAs spirit.