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Queensland Music Awards

Review by Alice Wheeler

Photos by Stephen Booth

The seventh annual Queensland Music Awards are held on the Ekka public holiday this year, and the cream of the crowd streams into the Old Museum for the ceremony. I was lucky enough to win tickets to this (and several other festivals and events) thanks to the QMA Courier Mail People’s Choice Awards portion. I will report to you kind Internet folk my extravagant, free year of music; this is the first instalment.

The evening begins — we sip complimentary wine, nibble some complimentary nibbles, and ponder what to do with the whole pineapple on our table. Hosts Katie Noonan and Sarah Howells (of Triple J) introduce the first performer: Marialy Pacheco, a stunning Cuban pianist in a bright pink dress. Pacheco loves every moment of her ridiculously complex piano pieces. Then, onto the awards: The Lamplights (Children’s Music Award) have the audience clapping along even before the band has found the stage.

Noonan quickly exposes an endearing habit: after each winner’s speech, she says, “Yay!” before continuing. She also repeatedly mentions her appreciation for “boys in suits” and “boys who thank their mothers.” As Sarah Howells introduces another Triple J announcer to present the next award, it occurs to me that — at an event sponsored by 4ZZZ — this might be a little odd. The Js’ voices are certainly doing their jobs, plugging their own shows between awards and everything.

Next, Cairns brother-sister duo The McMenamins’ tight harmonies and skillful instrumentation endear even the hardest anti-country music person (me) to the style. They are very snappily dressed — we’re unlikely to see a man in a suit playing a fiddle with such verve anywhere other than a formal occasion such as this one.

Another five awards and what felt like several hours of speeches later, hip hop artist Rainman commandeers the stage to perform his freshly Urban Award-winning song The Valley. Before he starts, Rainman suggests that audience members who do not like hip hop should probably make their way to the bar. An amusingly large number of people comply.

The rebellious audience returns promptly for the next award: Jazz. It feels like the evening is getting serious now. But after Jazz and the confusingly named World Music (isn’t all music from the world?), we have Rock, presented by, finally, 4ZZZ representatives. They had to turn up eventually. Jeremy Neale, the winner of this category, accentuates the smallness of the Brisbane music scene, announcing that he lives, socialises or performs with most of the other nominees for his award. The winners of the Heavy category, A Breach of Silence, come onstage dressed like, well, a metal band. Apparently they are performing in the valley later. They make up for their shabby-chic appearance by calling upon one of their members to show off his “falsetto”, with which he shatters several eardrums and glasses, causing Noonan to look rather impressed. What did he scream? “Thank YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!”

The number of people per band is increasing: Marialy Pacheco (one), The McMenamins (two), Rainman (three), and now Art of Sleeping (five). Velociraptor, playing last, topped out at 12 members. Ball Park Music (who ruin my theory with only five members) take a while to get used to the fact that the audience here is definitely not going to get up and dance. But frontman Sam Cromack soon gets into it, pulling rock ‘n’ roll poses with his huge acoustic guitar. Their set ends twice, the curtains half-closing before their last song. “I’m not sure if we’ve done really badly, or really well,” Cromack says, requesting another slow curtains-down for a “cool fade-out” at the real end.

The next three awards are the first really big ones: the Export award, for bands who have taken their music to the world, the Grant McLennan Lifetime Achievement award, and the Billy Thorpe Scholarship. By this time, I am still not sure if Katie Noonan’s habitual “yay” is taking the piss or not — but it’s still endearing. The audience is starting to trickle out. Astrid and the Asteroids bring their galaxy pants onstage to receive the Billy Thorpe scholarship, and then photos of their alcohol and awards start showing up on Instagram. Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side perform an uninspiring tribute to Ed Kuepper, Grant McLennan award-winner; then Kuepper himself, a seasoned performer, takes the stage.

The night’s act is Velociraptor (including, amongst its monstrous regiment, Jeremy Neale). When I hear that a band has a lot of members, I imagine that they also have a lot of instruments. Not the case with Velociraptor. They’re a classic drums/bass/synth/guitar/vox setup — only with seven guitars. And a tambourine player who starts a one-man dance party in the gaps in the wall of guitarists.

I leave with my ears ringing, but glad to have heard a showcase of Queensland music.

The Winners:

  • School Award: Sahara Beck — You Could Be Happy
  • Indigenous Award: Sue Ray — Red Roses
  • Regional Award: Jordan Brodie — Rainstorm
  • Children’s Music Award: The Lamplights — The Hopping Mouse
  • Blues and Roots Award: Band of Frequencies — Golden
  • Country Award: Harmony James — Precious Little
  • Folk/Singer Songwriter Award: Mosman Alder — Raisin Heart
  • Urban Award: Rainman — The Valley
  • Electronic/Dance Award: Bec Laughton and Bure Godwin — M&R
  • Jazz Award: Marialy Pacheco — Dresden
  • World Music Award: Luke — Panini Fandango
  • Rock Award: Jeremy Neale — Winter Was The Time
  • Heavy Award: A Breach Of Silence — Dawn To Rise
  • Pop Award: Cub Scouts — Do You Hear
  • Courier Mail Most Popular Male: Pete Murray
  • Courier Mail Most Popular Female: Kate Miller-Heidke
  • Courier Mail Most Popular Group: The Grates
  • Export Achievement Award: DZ Deathrays
  • Grant McLennan Lifetime Achievement Award: Ed Kuepper
  • Billy Thorpe Scholarship: Astrid and the Asteroids
  • Song of the Year Award: Cub Scouts — Do You Hear
  • Album of the Year Award: Ben Salter — The Cat
  • Most Boring Speech of the Evening Award: Courier Mail Guy
  • Best Fun Had On Stage Award: Velociraptor’s Tambourine Man
  • Best Hair Award: Katie Noonan

ALICE WHEELER curates, plays in more bands than you can poke a stick at, studies linguistics, and doesn’t sleep nearly enough.


About Zenobia Frost

Zenobia Frost is a Brisbane writer. Her work has been published in Voiceworks, Overland, The Lifted Brow and The Guardian. Her debut poetry collection, Salt and Bone, is out through Walleah Press. @zenfrost


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