Live Review: Carlton Dry Independent Music Awards 2014

9 October 2014 | 4:16 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Host Dylan Stewart looks exactly the same as when he hosted Recovery except he’s taken out the eyebrow ring.

The vibe of Meat Market (part of the Arts House space) is similar to last year’s venue, Revolt, although streamlined and more exclusive.

Guests mill about in the large assembly hall playing Spot The Muso and taking in the digital photography exhibition, curated by The Music’s own legendary photographer Kane Hibberd, rotating on a couple of giant screens on the venue’s walls. Since the subjects of the selected shots are all nominated acts, the exhibition serves as a reminder of who we’re likely to witness collecting transparent trophies this evening.

"Tonight she has been asked to share a few words on what it means to be independent and her speech is captivating."

There’s a mad, last-minute rush to the bar as we’re ushered into the awards ceremony space; attendees remembering the (too) long time between drinks last year when the bar was closed for the duration of the ceremony. A masterfully designed chandelier made out of Carlton Dry bottles sparkles above the prize podium. Our host Dylan Lewis appears and a girl behind us asks her boyfriend, “Who’s that?” We laugh at Lewis’ jokes throughout the ceremony and he labels these “the cool awards” (compared to?). Stewart looks exactly the same as when he hosted Recovery except he’s taken out the eyebrow ring. Opening act Meg Mac’s performance causes a flurry of, “Who’s that?”s and with an edgier haircut to match what she brings she’ll go far.

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Few who were present at the 2012 awards ceremony could forget Adalita’s closing performance. After taking out Best Independent Album that year for her self-titled debut album, Adalita performed Fool Around after dedicating the song to her late Magic Dirt bandmate/lifelong friend, Dean Turner. Tonight she has been asked to share a few words on what it means to be independent and her speech is captivating. We learn that Adalita’s first gig was as a clown and that she continues to struggle with confidence issues. Her Turner tribute is touching and this insight into the lady who is widely regarded as our very own Rock Goddess elevates her even further in our eyes.

There’s some amazing album titles amongst the classical (Psychosonata by Michael Kieran Harvey) and jazz (Permission To Evaporate by Joseph Tawadros) nominees. Lewis announces he’s delighted when Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingul takes out Best Independent Classical Album (His Life And Music) before Gurrumul’s collaborator/Skinnyfish co-founder and co-director Michael Hohnen accepts the award. Winner of Best Independent Jazz Album (Paul Grabowsky Sextet’s The Bitter Suite), Grabowski takes to the podium and opines jazz “has to be independent because no one wants it, really”, which elicits many LOLs from the audience.

There’s a technical glitch at the beginning of Sheppard’s performance when a couple of their mics don’t work. One of the female Sheppards colour-coordinates to the extreme with matching neon pink guitar strap, earrings and stars on guitar. Later on, when the band accept Breakthrough Independent Artist Of The Year, one of the boys jokingly checks that the mic is working before their acceptance speech, which is a fun moment. 

In his absence, Dan Sultan, winner of Best Independent Blues And Roots Album (Blackbird), sends Music Victoria CEO Patty Donovan to deliver/read his acceptance speech. Sultan reveals he feels fortunate that his album was nominated in this category because if it were up against Violent Soho’s Hungry Ghost he reckons they’ll romp it in. 

Safia’s performance is stunning and definitely wins industry peeps over. Singer/producer Ben Woolner has a glorious falsetto and we’ll hear a lot more from this trio. No doubt. RÜFÜS accept their award for Best Independent Dance/Electronica Album (Atlas) via video message as does Courtney Barnett (Best Independent Single/EP – Avant Gardener). Following Barnett’s clip, her partner and fellow Milk! Records artist Jen Cloher adds a few words of praise. (Later on, Barnett also takes home Best Independent Artist.)

"Lewis panics and asks for hand sanitiser to avoid catching Ponniah’s highly contagious condition."

Sultan’s prophecy comes true when Violent Soho’s mighty Hungry Ghost cleans up in two categories: Best Independent Hard Rock, Heavy Or Punk Album and Best Independent Album. During the acceptance speech for the latter award, it’s revealed that guitarist/vocalist James Tidswell nearly wasn’t let on the plane due to his attire – a Painters & Dockers t-shirt that reads Eat Shit Die plus thongs on his feet – which apparently make him look like a terrorist. Turning his t-shirt inside out rectified the issue, but Tidswell hilariously points out, “Same person!”

Violent Soho’s I Oh You labelmates DMA’s perform Delete and sound smashing up there. One of them really does look like Home And Away character Matt Page as well. 

Best Independent Label goes to I Oh You and its mastermind Johann Ponniah complains during his acceptance speech about “a lot of people taking photos” when he has a bad case of conjunctivitis and “looks like a fourth member of Dune Rats right now”. Lewis panics and asks for hand sanitiser to avoid catching Ponniah’s highly contagious condition. 

After taking out Best Independent Hip Hop Album for Raw x Infinity earlier in the evening, Remi is announced as the recipient of this year’s Carlton Dry Global Music Grant – $50,000! The smokin’ hot artist with star quality to burn remarks that Saskwatch could have used the money to feed the band since it has “14 people in it”. He closes the night with the roof-raising Tyson, which boasts beats as dark and innovative as those on Plan B’s Ill Manors. His henchman N’fa twirls a sweater above his head like a helicopter and all bums on seats are floored.