So the NME Awards have been unavoidable of late. Artists have been pleading to their fans across social media sites to vote for them, and it almost feels like the lack of rock acts nominated at the BRIT awards this year (and the resulting furore that ensued) have given the awards more attention, not necessarily upping their worth, but enforcing the evening as a celebration of a somewhat under-appreciated art form. A whole host of gigs have also been put on across the Capital throughout the entire month of February, showcasing both up and coming talent as well as more established bands.
I'm not an active NME reader, but nor do I avoid it, so when tickets went on sale, I never purchased them on behalf of the organisation running it, or the promise of the celebrities and artists who would be in attendance, I simply bought tickets because the line up looked great. The initial announcement promised Royal Blood, who had one hell of a year in 2014, The Vaccines, who are back on the campaign trail ahead of the release of their third album, and the mighty Run The Jewels, who I have longed to see live. The tickets for the 'Pit Standing' weren't cheap to say the least (I paid £47.50 per ticket), but the lineup made it worthwhile. It honestly wasn't until talking to the friend I ended up going with later on that I realised the awards would actually take place on the same stage. I'm slowly beginning to realise that sleep deprivation can dull your senses.
Upon arriving at the venue, it was clear that this wasn't any old night in Brixton. Photographers hoarded around the red carpet, hunting their celebrity prey as they tried to secure a shot. Us commoners were quietly ushered in another door, and I was confused as to why we were being forced upstairs. The small crowd who had paid for the privilege of pit standing were made to queue and wait in an upstairs corridor while the guests they cared about were shown to their tables. It was during this time we were made promises of free beer and told that we were the lifeblood of the event, and I won't lie, I got pretty excited. When we were eventually escorted downstairs, we found that the pit was essentially a 10 foot wide gap in between the stage, and the elevated platform which housed all the tables, laden with food and drink, on which the stars sat. I love to be in the thick of things, so when Royal Blood took the stage and got the proceedings underway with their single 'Figure It Out', I thought I was in for a night to remember. That feeling proved to be short lived however, as they turned and walked away after just one song. "Maybe they'll come back out later" I told myself, and they did, several times, but sadly only to receive awards, not playing a single note again.
The second performance came from Charli XCX, who was only recently added to the lineup. She came out with her all girl band and put in their shift, but didn't really make much of an impact on me. I was a bit confused by her involvement with the event, as she's definitely more pop than rock, but I'm sure some people in attendance would've been equally as confused with rappers Run The Jewels, who were up next. Killer Mike and El-P were with bustling excitement, but a non-responsive crowd meant they fell a bit flat. I was one of a few people rapping along, and I was gutted that it just wasn't the right environment for them to shine, but still enjoyed it.
The Vaccines debuted a new song called 'Dream Lover' which sounded alright, preferring it over the first single 'Handsome' but it's not exactly like anyone could sing along. Frontman Justin Young also marched off stage before the song had even finished, so I take it he wasn't having the most fun either.
The awards themselves may have moved quickly, but were horribly rigid, with the guest presenters basically saying 'Watch this video' and the majority of winners barely saying a word before leaving with their tasteful one finger salute trophy. I know that these rock stars have to maintain their delicately crafted personas of being moody and mysterious, but a bit of happiness or excitement wouldn't have been amiss. Jarvis Cocker was one of a few people to bring some personality to the stage, and Kasabian seemed delighted to win their awards, so much so that guitarist Serge dived into the crowd, and I somehow caught him, leading to a very bizarre moment of cradling him in my arms while everyone around just watched in disbelief. The video below misses the initial dive, but highlights me grinning like a fool whilst holding onto him at the 2 minute mark.
I'm not going to base my opinions on the evening in the awards that were handed out, because they would just be my opinions of another person's opinions, and at the end of the day, I wasn't there for the awards or the glitz or glamour. I was there for the music, and yet even that didn't save me from frustration and disappointment.
The organisers even had the sheer cheek to show a video of one of the songs that the Foo Fighters had performed at the 2011 NME Awards. I can't even begin to explain how offended I was by that. Of all the talent gathered in that room, you're telling me you couldn't fill that time gap by, god forbid, performing more than one song, or even have somebody just talk on stage instead of rehashing old material? It felt like a slap in the face.
Suede were the final band up, and in recognition of their 'Godlike Genius' Award that they were presented with that evening, they performed a medley of hits and one new track to bring the proceedings to a close. I'm not the biggest Suede fan in the world but I was desperate to see a band tear up the stage, and that's exactly what they did. Brett Anderson really went for it, giving his all in the space of 6 tracks.
On the way out, I did bump into and briefly shake hands with Tom Meighan (Kasabian), Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), and Peter Crouch (Stoke City) so while there was an interesting array of people in attendance, I never bought tickets for a meet and greet.
Should I have expected any more than what I received? If I had researched the awards a bit more, then probably no, but as a paying fan, then definitely yes. While I'm not annoyed at any of the artists who played on the night, I can't even say that any of them, permitting Suede, actually 'performed'. One song is not a performance; it's not even a warm up. I sold the dream of performances, and received mere cameos, musical interludes between the dry commentary.
While it was undoubtedly an interesting experience, any intrigue was matched in equal measure, and then topped, by disappointment.