The Meteor Choice Music Prize was decided at the Olympia last night and Cormac Duffy went along to cast a critical eye on proceedings this year
Another year, another Choice Music Prize, this year sponsored by Meteor, bringing that uncomfortable mix of corporate branding and Irish music to the tight-jeaned masses once more. Weeks of speculations and arguments have led us to this one night extravaganza, with performances from the ten nominated Irish acts who supposedly made the best album of last year. They faced a crowd of friends, fans and industry insiders as the judges who put them there hid in a hotel and argued which of them would take the coveted trophy and a 10,000 euro cheque. In the end it went to Jape, winning for the second time, for Ocean of Frequency, but before that it was a stellar night of music.
Having been ranked as if by a teacher unconcerned with their pupil’s feelings, the acts played in ascending order of fame, leaving poor Dublin co-ed septet Tieranniesaur to open. While their self-titled debut was easily the boldest, most inventive album considered, their taut, danceable post-punk jams felt in need of a packed, sweaty nightclub rather than a half-full theatre and a disinterested chatting crowd.
We Cut Corners made a strong case for their underdog debut Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards, with gentle lilt of ‘A Pirate’s Life’ and the slow-burn rock of ‘Go Easy’; both earnest, instantaneous and unabashedly sharp.
The Japanese Popstars’ disconcerting presence in this setting mostly just warranted noting that the throbbing monotonous house belongs elsewhere. It seemed clear they were as unlikely to win as seated raves are to catch on.
At this point the event detours to announce that Royseven have won the inaugural Irish Song of the Year award. No one in the crowd cares, and the band members climb onstage only to awkwardly leave without saying anything seconds later. It was the biggest non-moment in award show history.
Cashier No. 9 and Pugwash are a fitting pair to play one after the other, each with their backwards looking guitar-pop. Although Cashier No. 9 came in among the favourites, Pugwash excelled on the night. Frontman Thomas Walsh, a previous nominee with the Duckworth Lewis Method, endeared himself and his cohorts to the crowd with his quintessentially Dublin manners, Adele-related banter and some undeniable sunshine pop in ‘Fall Down’.
Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands, like Tieranniesaur, were a left-field, but wholly deserving, shout for the award tonight, with their retro synth pop and cold-wave making for a surprisingly rowdy performance.
Entering the lineup’s higher strata, And So I Watch You From Afar were the first act to earn roars and cheers that finally seemed rooted in enthusiasm rather than etiquette. The Northern Irish math-rockers need to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated, as what seems heavy-handed and clunky on record is brought to life with the help of a wild, topless drummer and venue wobbling amplitude.
Despite being the inevitable winner, Jape’s appearance is tough to peg. Sure, the moping grooves of ‘Scorpio’ and ‘The Oldest Mind’ are enjoyable, but the performance felt shy and uninvolved. For the latter’s coda, Egan’s rockstar moves left him on the ground soloing, only to be sitting cross-legged like a bored school boy seconds later.
No matter how the call went, Lisa Hannigan was the act of the night. Contrasting the gorgeously plucked hush of ‘Little Bird’ with the jovial full-band stomp of ‘Knots’, she only cemented a fervent crowd’s seeming conviction that Passenger was the only sane vote.
Bell X1, on their third nomination wit this year Bloodless Coup, decided to stake their claim with a mix of the chirping electronic ascent of ‘Hey Anna Lena’, and the catchy pop-mush of ‘Velcro’. The crowd obliged, and we heard the only sing-along moment of the night.
The acts done, we sat through several inevitable minutes of thanks to people we don’t know from people we don’t care about. Upon the announcement, Richie Egan is met with cheers, celebrations, and murmurs of surprise. He uses his speech to say “Holy shit!” a lot, and receives an embarrassingly large cheer of agreement for asserting that maybe Lisa Hannigan should have won it. Awkward.
With that, the ceremony was brought abruptly to a close. As always, there are questions left to be unanswered, and not just whether or not the call was right. Jape’s second win raises questions of whether the prize should do anything other than giving a pat on the back and cash in the pocket to acts who already have a significant amount of both, as was the case with Two Door Cinema Club last year. These concerns, however, are ethereal to the real matter at hand; a lingering, insatiable regret that we didn’t put a score on Jape when he was at 16-1 to win.