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TGTF Does ARIA Week 2012: The Red Carpet at the 26th ARIAs

 
By on Friday, 7th December 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

I suppose it’s quite possible to do the same in London for a similar awards show. But for an American, it felt very surreal having Indian food (and really good Indian food!) at a food court for lunch right before reporting to the Sydney Entertainment Centre to cover the red carpet at this year’s ARIA Awards, the 26th year for the Australian music industry’s highest honours. While it may seem like quite a hike from Washington DC to Sydney, I had booked my flight – a birthday present to myself – to the Land Down Under before I found out the inaugural ARIA Week and the famous awards show was taking place the exact same week. When in Rome…

Covered in a high SPF suncream, I thought I was covered when it came to standing for a couple hours outside with the late spring sun blazing down. (Ehh, not so much: I saw later after everything was over, when I went to the ladies’, that I had an unattractive unilateral sunburn on the right half of my body, with tan lines around a ring and a bracelet I was wearing. The battle scars are now unattractively peeling…) As noted through photographic evidence at a Filter Magazine showcase at SXSW, I always wear a hat when it’s sunny, and this was no different: I brought two hats for the occasion, thinking that I better have a fetching looking one while on the red carpet, chatting effortlessly with the celebs, and one for when I was off duty, getting boiled by the Australian rays.

Well, the first half of that plan didn’t really come together. Maybe I had made the wrong fairytale assumptions of “working the red carpet” from all the years watching local girl Giuliana DePandi of e! News on the red carpet at the Oscars. First off, the red carpet wasn’t even red, it was black. (Eh?) Second, we were corralled behind metal barriers for the duration of the red carpet portion of the event. I never wear high heels – with my clumsiness, I always worry I’ll fall – but I had to laugh internally in my sandals thinking about all the precarious, multi-inch footwear I’d seen coming in with all the other members of the media. From behind the metal barrier, I could have been wearing jeans, sweatpants…no-one would ever have known. Ah well. (For the record, I tried to glam it up with a gold skirt.)

Fits of screaming would erupt at one end of the carpet or the other, making us wonder if someone famous had arrived. There were of course loads of false alarms, but also there were some ‘canned’ moments when the official tv crew asked the young fans, who had been standing there for hours for their favourite artists and were therefore severely dehydrated and also sunburnt, to scream wildly for the cameras. We watched as presenters from various shows were shepherded through to the carpet to make their introductory appearances for their corresponding programmes and then later, snagging some artists for impromptu interviews as they headed down the carpet.

Probably the most exciting moment at the beginning was when a table was set out on the carpet and someone with a ball cap (not sure who) on did a one-handed stand and other physical tricks. The weirdest moments? Bananas in Pajamas came by and wanted to take pictures with or pose for everyone, as did Dorothy the Dinosaur.

As explained by our AU Review friends in their report here, some other members of the media were less than, shall we say, thoughtful. We were on opposite sides of the aisle of carpet, so we had different challenges for the afternoon. I was a little weirded out by other people taping my interviews with their recording equipment (aren’t there journalistic rules against this?), so if you hear my voice on an Australian Web site, they’re one of the offenders. When event staff determined a disabled section was to suddenly encroach our side of the carpet, I totally understood and was ok with this decision, since the area would be to my left.

However, with the media to my left forced to decamp when the area was widened, what ended up happening? We were practically on top of each other, having to fight for real estate at the barrier. Being a single person, without large camera equipment, I probably should have kicked up a bigger fight and not gotten pushed out by other media, but I wasn’t too pleased having earlier being talked down to by someone who I think was from a fashion blog. I wasn’t pleased when a video crew were practically on top of me when our friends the Temper Trap passed by and I couldn’t get a word with any of them, I was able to see them later in the media room (stay tuned for that report).

All things considered, getting a brief interview with Example, who was attending with his new fiancé, Australian model and presenter Erin McNaught (the woman in the green dress with her back to us; a better photo of her is after the Soundcloud widget below), was a coup. I had hoped he would speak more about his new album ‘The Evolution of Man’ but I think he was more interested in having a night off, basking in the celeb glow of his woman being photographed by a million flashbulbs. I also would like to point out that the man must not sweat, as he was wearing a leather jacket and looked cool as a cucumber as he made his way down the carpet. Thanks, Example, for being my first interviewee at the ARIAs!

As a bit of a joke, I nabbed two loudmouths, waiting for their wives (whose famous identities are still unknown), for some off-kilter comedy.

I also nabbed an interview with the chaps in sleepmakeswaves, an instrumental, post-rock band that I guess could best be compared to Mogwai and Sigur Ros. Really nice guys and although one of them was really, really excited to see Taylor Swift perform (the most anticipated performer of the night, judging from the screams when Ms. Swift went quickly past us), they seemed just really pleased to have been nominated for Best Hard Rock / Heavy Metal album. (Unfortunately, they lost to popular Brisbane thrash band DZ Deathrays.)

Matt Corby, who I caught at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary at SXSW and I had hoped to talk with, was a no-show. So that was a bit of a disappointment. All in all, while it would have been great to have I think it was a good introduction to the madness of the ‘red’ carpet and I think we’re in much better position, just with my own experience from the ARIAs, to cover the BRITs in the future. Fingers crossed!

 

SXSW 2012: Day 4 – Communion showcase at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary – 16th March 2012

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

While the catchphrase of most returning SXSWers to newbies is “pace yourself”, mine would be “be sure to factor in some downtime”. And “don’t apologise to yourself if your body says to go home”. Before I went to see the Burning Ear showcase on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped into B.D. Riley’s (not knowing I’d return for an interview on Friday, then later for the Music for Ireland showcase) for a lazy pint of Harp and a plate of fish and chips. Sometimes I regret not rushing over to see Lionel Richie at the Moody Theatre on Wednesday, or not extending my gig-going over to Creekside at the Hilton Garden Inn to catch a 1 AM show in the wee hours of Friday morning to see Ed Sheeran. I was just too wiped. So I looked forward to Friday night immensely: hours of Communion Records artists all under one roof, the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary. I even stopped long enough to have a meal at the Roaring Fork on North Congress – some of the best corn bread I’ve ever had, to boot – before sauntering over to the church.

That was when I realized I probably should have arrived early so I could get the correct instructions on how and where to queue. After being directly incorrectly and having stood in the wrong queue for at least a half hour, someone kind finally sorted me out and sent me to the right door…and straight into the main room.

Matt Corby from Sydney, Australia had already begun his set, so I shuffled quietly into an empty spot next to a guy who was studying his iPhone. And then started taking photos with it. With flash. The nerve. I don’t have an DSLR, and unless I’m given specific approval to use flash, I avoid using my flash as much as possible. And here was this guy just snapping away! I guess our pew was too far back for security to notice. I knew nothing about him before seeing him and even know as I’ve been writing this, I had to look up for more information on this bloke: he was a runner-up in an Australian Idol competition, so I guess he’s reasonably well known back home. But boy, when he announced he was going to play ‘Brother’, the crowd let out a big whoop. Guess they know him here too! Below is a free mp3 of his song ‘Winter’ that you can listen to.

The Staves, three sisters from Watford, were second on the bill. They were really disarming, joking about things that had happened to them the last time they had played in Austin, opening for the Civil Wars the previous autumn. Judging from the cheers, many of those people were present, but we could all join in with a giggle as a sister explained that a burly looking man stood up after one song and said (done in an exaggerated Texan accent), “did anyone else cry?” Haha (evidence near the end of the video below). But early in their set, one of them claimed Matt Corby was the devil and warned us, “don’t look into his eyes”. The audience laughed, but I had a “err…” moment, figuring that had to be some inside joke between the sisters and him. ‘Mexico’ had many fans already; new song ‘Tongue Between My Teeth’ was so beautiful in its harmonies, it gave me chills. They ended with the sad yet so beautiful song ‘Winter Trees’. Good work, girls.

Next up is a man who longer needs an introduction in the UK: singer/songwriter Ben Howard. He came with his own cheering section. Seriously. Somehow I ended up in a pew with two Englishwomen and their guys, and the two women made it very clear they were there for Ben Howard, screaming every time he talked in between songs and squealing every time he played the first note of a song on his guitar. Watch ‘Black Flies’ below.

Before Ben Howard took the stage, there was a low yet noticeable murmur going through the crowd. I didn’t know what was going on until a teenage girl across the aisle pointed towards the far wall and shouted at her brother, “it’s Mumford and Sons!” And it was – Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Country Winston and Ted Dwane were just chilling out on the side, as if you cheer on their folky friends’ performances. I was so sure that there was going to be a Mumford collaboration at some point during the night but sadly, there was not. The closest we got was an impromptu John Martyn cover performed at the end of Howard’s set, when he invited the Staves and later performer Michael Kiwanuka. I apologise for the quality of the visuals on the video below; the couple in front of me could not decide if they were going to snog (argh), talk (argh) or break away from each other.

Willy Mason had the unique (dubious?) characteristic that of all the Communion artists performing I this showcase, he was the only American. I’d not heard of him until he had been associated with Communion, so I had mistaken him for an Englishman. He has a Johnny Cash aura about him (“man in black”) but a bit of rough and tumble like the Jim Jones Revue too. The coolest thing about his performance? His drummer’s kit was connected to a strange looking contraption that stood in the middle of the stage, so that whenever the drummer hit something on the kit, something else was set off on the contraption. Sorry to say, I wasn’t moved by his performance at all.

But I was adamant about staying put for the next act. The band I was most excited to see in this showcase was Daughter. As soon as I saw their name on the SXSW bands list, I was ecstatic. And I was not disappointed one bit. Unlike the teasing nature of the Staves earlier, Elena Tonra was so shy and soft-spoken but was adorable in her shyness. “Our name is Daughter. Nice to meet you. This one’s about death.” Laughter from the peanut gallery before they started into ‘Landfill’.

That’s when I just about lost it. I think had I not been in such close proximity to strangers, I would have been a bawling mess on the floor. Through her words, it’s obvious she’s been dumped, she’s been hurt, she’s gotten her heart broken. In the song ‘Love’, she asks the lover that jilted her for some easy skirt, “did she make your heart beat faster than I could? / did she give you what you hoped for? / oh, loveless nights / I hope it made you feel good”. It’s like what they say, a woman scorned… All I can say is…wow. In my top 3 performances at SXSW, for sure.

After that emotional reaction to Daughter, BBC Sound of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka was a safe, if not super remarkable choice to watch after. Before he came out onstage, Ben Lovett, dressed to the nines in a debonair suit, gave a short and stirring speech on how appreciative he was of everyone coming to this showcase and their warm responses to all the performers. Kiwanuka was confident, broadly smiling through his short set. (Six songs. SIX SONGS? That’s it???) From the opener of ‘I’m Waiting’ to the song everyone knows him for, ‘I’m Getting Ready’; from ‘Tell Me a Tale’ to set closer ‘Home Again’.

I had a wonderful buzz from the magnificence I heard in that acoustically sound room, but my mind was in a state of relaxation that could not be matched anytime else during all of my time at SXSW. Thank you, Ben Lovett, for putting this showcase together and thank you, bands, for bringing me to an incredible moment of zen in Austin.

More high-res photos can be viewed on my Flickr.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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