by / March 9th, 2012 /

Top Story: The Meteor Choice Music Prize: surprise, bizarre interludes and a gold lamé jacket

What’s going on with the Choice Prize? It’s gone all shiny! It’s become a phone company prize! Paul McLoone has a fancy lectern!

We’re in the Olympia sitting in cinema seats and feeling like a giant judging panel on a warped reality talent show. Nothing kills off frivolity and spontaneity quicker than making everyone sit down and have a nice, regimented, quietly fun time. People were still fumbling to open their packets of Malteasers when Tieranniesaur were ploughing through their day-glo bright set with the enthusiasm of hyped up toddlers.

As disconcerting as the atmosphere is, it possibly describes the very essence of the Choice Prize, it’s an ever-so-polite, very mannerly, love-fest. No bun fights here, just plenty of respect, admiration, head nodding and beard stroking. All the bitchiness and honesty is kept firmly behind the judging panels closed doors or hidden in knowing grins. Insults are whispered or spelled out in a roll of the eyes, lest someone hear you and get their ego punctured or awkward conversations need to be had. Maybe they do or we will forever be stuck in an infantile state of grudging admiration. Maybe we need to have these awkward conversations to stop the Choice Prize becoming a festival of whatever takes the judge’s fancy that year or whatever names they can come up with to finish off their end of year list.

As the bands are ushered onstage like a human version of the conveyor belt memory test from the Generation Game it becomes a popularity litmus test. Massive cheers for Lisa Hannigan, muted response for Cashier No.9, it’s the only way the public (the fans and more importantly the consumers) can make their feelings known. Obviously they can’t be trusted with picking a winner or even a short list, leave that important business to the taste makers. Well they did get some input with the new mini prize, Irish Song of the Year which was awarded to Royseven in a bizarre interlude where the band didn’t even get as far as Adele did in her Brits speech…they didn’t even make the stage.

Other than that it was business as usual with all the acts doing their ‘best in show’ performances, on occasion evoking a wonky end of term school concert. This is where the ethos of the competition is supposedly put into place, to shine a light on all the acts nominated. Unfortunately even with press interest this can still be people’s first introduction to some of the bands which is frustrating given the opportunities that should come from being nominated for an established award in an extremely small country.

This is where bands can explode in a frenzied moment of genius or dissolve into pleasant background music and unfortunately the judges are missing this vital part, this missing puzzle piece that could prove invaluable to assess a work/band as a whole. Yes, most of the panel may have seen the acts live hundreds of times before but there are some, and there will always be some, that would rather stick to listening to the albums from behind their tinted car windows rather than step outside their comfort zone.

Thus they missed the intoxicating, paranoid, party-for-one brilliance of Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands. The songs break open live, offering shards of light from the disco ball that were not always visible through the isolated murkiness on record. Briefly they offered an escape from the predictable, the bland, the disappointing. They sailed head and shoulders above the depressingly bog standard indie of Cashier No.9, they twirled around the relentless trudge of ASIWYFA and floated off on a magic carpet made of gold lame jackets over a sea of chattering 808s.

They were a perfect palette cleanser for the victorious Jape who unleashed a frenetic version of their tribute to everyone’s favourite Simpsons’ villain ‘Scorpio’ complete with Richie rolling around the stage after his guitar strap broke. By the time he’d finished his human fly dance there was no way he was leaving without the prize…

Not even Lisa Hannigan and her cutesy pie ‘lovely girl’ jigging could stop the Jape juggernaut which surprised everyone not least the band themselves. He may not have been wearing a feathery headdress and he wasn’t clutching an autoharp but last night he managed to do a PJ Harvey and win a coveted music prize twice. A prize that everyone has an opinion on but ultimately theirs are not the ones that matter.

Photos: James Goulden

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  • Tony Clayton-Lea

    “there will always be some that would rather stick to listening to the albums from behind their tinted car windows rather than step outside their comfort zone.”
    What a ridiculous thing to write – nonsense, utter nonsense. And you can quote me on that

  • danielharrison

    after reading the garbage that was written in  the irish times by brian boyd the other day, i think it’s pretty spot-on.

  • colm

    It’s a valid point but a minor one at that… obviously
    touched a nerve.

     

    ‘You can quote me on that?’ Tony perhaps you ought to have a
    little lie down. 

  • Johnnyobcork

    Lisa hannigan was robbed… The awards are predictable Jape are a great live band but did not deserve to win

  • Well said, the media mafia in Ireland are running the show, free into gigs, free into the likes of this event while others judge it, most havent bought an album in years! The likes of clayton lea making up a list of Best Irish Albums  when most aren`t even the bands best.The likes of Nadine has intergity but others are just voting for their mates.

  • Hil

    … And no mention of Pugwash, Mrs Gannon! I suppose you don’t like puppies either…

  • Lauren Murphy

    Hi Jennifer,

    I was on the panel for this year’s Prize and I resent the implication that I “would rather stick to listening to the albums from behind their tinted car windows rather than step outside their comfort zone”.  You don’t know how much time any one judge spent listening to any album, so you have no right to make such sweeping (and insulting) statement just because your favourite album didn’t win. I put in many, many hours to each album – both my own favourites and the ones I wasn’t initially so keen on – and I can assure you none of it was done behind tinted car windows or with a fear of stepping outside my comfort zone. You don’t know me, so please don’t make that assertion on my behalf. And by the way, the albums that were on my own shortlist were certainly not there because they were “names they can come up with to finish off their end of year list.” I agonised about my top ten for a long time, and even then, only half of them showed up on the final shortlist. That’s the nature of having 11 different opinions on any list of any kind, there has to be some compromise.

    Also, I have an issue about the judges missing the live performances. The award is one for Best Album, not Best Live Performance, so it doesn’t make a difference whether a band is amazing live, or whether the songs take on new meaning. The album should be judged by the album alone – not taking into account the artist’s previous work, their aptitude for live performances, how often they bring their mammies out for Sunday lunch or how much they donate to charity every year. Just on how good their album is.

    Lauren

  • Jennifer Gannon

    Hi,

    Just to clarify my statements, I did in fact say that not ALL judges could be accused of this and that most have seen the bands live many times but there are some judges (past ones included) that would not be as clued into the Irish scene as others and might not make the industrious trek to seek the short list out.
    The comments about ‘the end of year list’ came from me witnessing a judge on Twitter asking their followers to name more albums released at the end of last year…

    I never said I had a problem with who won or why they won

    I am sure most judges do their job and do it well but I just think perhaps it would be nice to give the listening public a little bit more insight.

  • Patrick

    Lauren, it’s ridiculously ironic to read you accusing someone
    of making a “sweeping and insulting statement”… finishing the actual sentence in which you do so with
    “just because your favourite album didn’t win”. You have zero foundation for that
    claim. There is nothing to suggest the writer is unhappy with the Choice Prize
    winner from that piece and you have admitted you don’t know each other
    personally.

  • John_jaws

    yeah man!, you know they got JFK too? Oswald was just a patsy!

    Jesus, it’s an open vote by 10 different people, with very different tastes, not everybodys gonna be happy and I lost 50E cause Jape won, but if it sells some more albums what harm is there?

    In fairness the line that Tony singled out above is pretty bad.

  • Afterthegoldrush

    I think you all need to calm down and have some camomile tea J
     
    Three points I’d like to make:-
     
    First, I thought the show was fantastic. Great value and an important showcasing exercise demonstrating some genuine indigenous talents. Well done to all involved.
     
    Second, all things considered, I thought the shortlist was as good a selection as you could realistically get from 11 fairly disparate judges that covered most areas of the Irish indie alphabet from 2011. Although I’d sooner gouge out my eyes with a rusty nail that go to an ASIWYFA gig, I do believe Choice should aim to be as democratic as possible, so fair play for their inclusion alongside more AOR acts like Cashier No 9 and established veterans like Pugwash. (Not sure I’d have included Bell X1 AGAIN, have to say). Jape are a supreme talent, especially live, but I was curious of the judging panel’s motivation to select Richie et al. as winner for a second time given the high standard of the shortlist this year. It could be argued that past winners should be precluded from winning future awards to give other acts a chance. Can’t deny ‘Ocean of Frequency’ is great though.
     
    Third, perhaps there should be a (third) award for best live performance of the night? If so, Patrick K should have been victorious – an inspired ten minutes of musical exorcism.

  • Afterthegoldrush

    I think you all need to calm down and have some camomile tea J
     
    Three points I’d like to make:-
     
    First, I thought the show was fantastic. Great value and an important showcasing exercise demonstrating some genuine talents. Well done to all involved.
     
    Second, all things considered, I thought the shortlist was as good a selection as you could realistically get from 11 fairly disparate judges that covered most areas of the Irish indie alphabet from 2011. Although I’d sooner gouge out my eyes with a rusty nail that go to an ASIWYFA gig, I do believe Choice should aim to be as democratic as possible, so fair play for their inclusion alongside more AOR acts like Cashier No 9 and established veterans like Pugwash. (Not sure I’d have included Bell X1 AGAIN, have to say). Jape are a supreme talent, especially live, but I was curious of the judging panel’s motivation to select Richie et al. as winner for a second time given the high standard of the shortlist this year. It could be argued that past winners should be precluded from winning future awards to give other acts a chance. Can’t deny ‘Ocean of Frequency’ is great though.
     
    Third, perhaps there should be a (third) award for best live performance of the night? If so, Patrick K should have been victorious – an inspired ten minutes of musical exorcism.