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Sampa the Greatest as national awards laud our live musicians

Culture

Melbourne-based rapper Sampa the Great claimed the Best Live Act award  at the fifth annual National Live Music Awards (NLMAs)  in Brisbane last night in a gala event at the Triffid.

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The awards, which were hosted by Tape-Off drummer and 4ZZZ broadcaster Branko Cosic, were also live-streamed and accompanied by unofficial screening parties in Adelaide, Perth and Canberra.

The theme of this year’s NLMAs was “Saying Thanks”, with five special achievement awards given in recognition of initiatives and organisations that have made a positive difference in what has been the most difficult year for the industry in living memory.

Tyrone Noonan kicked off the night’s entertainment, performing songs from his forthcoming album Utopia, including recent singles ‘Black Dog’ and ‘On My Knees’. Other performers included JFDR, Emily Coulston, The Beamish Brothers and Buttercats.

Singer-songwriter Tyrone Noonan performing at the National Live Music Awards gala at Brisbane venue The Triffid. (Photo: Lachlan Douglas)

Brisbane City Councillor and Nighttime Economy Chair Vicki Howard introduced Noonan and said council “is going to be doing its very best to do whatever we can to get the industry back and running”.

“I always like to tell people that I reckon we built this city on rock ‘n’ roll,” she said.

Three of the special achievement winners – online music festival Isol-Aid, music industry crisis relief charity Support Act and Australian Live Music Business Council chair Stephen Wade – were announced in advance of the awards.

A further two winners were revealed last night, mental health charity Listen Up Music and Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, a tech start-up designed to connect artists and communities through music and technology that has raised more than $700,000 for musicians through live-streamed performances since March.

Adele Schonhardt, chair and co-director of Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, said she was honoured to be flying the flag for classical music at the NLMAs.

“If you’d told us six months ago that we would have live-streamed 170 performances from around the country, or that we would have built up over 10,000 supporters who were there when Australian classical musicians needed them most, I would have told you [that] you were dreaming – and yet here we are,” Schonhardt said.

“So to the 350 artists who’ve appeared on MDCH around Australia so far, this one’s for you. We’re here to tell you that we are the creative sector, to remind you that we have always adapted to the circumstances and we will always continue to do so, even now. The future can be bright if we work together.”

It was a sentiment echoed by MDHC co-chair Chris Howlett, who also thanked “all the people behind the scenes”.

“Thank you to all the donors and the sponsors and all the partners, because Adele and I are only two people with two laptops and we couldn’t have presented 170 concerts, without their support,” he said.

Guy Sebastian took home the inaugural Musicians Making a Difference (MMAD) Live for his work with The Sebastian Foundation, contributions to Firefight Australia and helping raise $200,000 with The Sony Foundation.

Sebastian said he was “extremely humbled” to accept the award.

“Whenever there is crisis, musicians are called upon. I think about the bush relief concert, and so many different events that I’ve been called upon to do charity and fundraise… music has always been seen as a haven for people, a safe place.

“Musicians have such big hearts and they’re always putting their hands up to do stuff. So this award, really is meant for all of us.

“Even through all this adversity we’ve still been generous and still wanted to help out, and a lot of people are in a particularly vulnerable place. But they’re still always putting up their hands to reach out and help and heal people through music. I’m extremely humbled by this award.”

Sampa The Great took home the biggest award of the night, Best Live Act, becoming the first solo artist and female musician to do so in the event’s history.

“I just want to thank my band for touring [album] The Return around the world, and sharing it with everybody,” she said.

Zaachariaha Fielding from Electric Fields won Live Voice of the Year, G Flip took home the award for best drummer, Jennifer Aslett was named Live Bassist of the Year and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was named Best Live Guitarist.

“I’m not the best guitarist in Australia, I’m not even the best guitarist in King Gizzard,” Mackenzie said via video. “Nevertheless, I’m flattered and humbled by the gesture.”

Woodford Folk Festival won Live Event of the Year and Frontier Touring’s Michael Gudinski accepted the accolade for Best International Tour on behalf of US band TOOL, who beat out acts including The 1975 and Elton John.

First-time state-based winners included Tasmania’s Slag Queens, NSW’s Caitlin Harnett and the Pony Boys, veteran Melbourne musician Warren Ellis – who won Instrumentalist of the Year – and rising star Jaguar Jonze, who was presented the Best Live Act in Queensland award by Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.

“I want to thank all of you for keeping music alive despite the challenges of coronavirus,” Cr Schrinner said.

“We know that music has the power to bring people together, whether it’s creating positive social change, connecting people or prompting an entire room of strangers to dance or sing in chorus.

“The National Live Music Awards are about recognising and celebrating our live music industry. And that’s something Brisbane City Council has been incredibly proud to support for the past three years.”

First-time NLMA winner Jaguar Jonze was named Best Live Act in Queensland.

Jaguar Jonze thanked her live band, saying it would have been “impossible without them”.

“I feel like I had a very short window at the start of this year and the end of the last year to prove myself as a live act before COVID took away my health,” she said.

“I spent the rest of the year fighting that and recovering and obviously the music industry itself is recovering from the pandemic as well, so this just blows my mind. Thank you so much.”

Ellis, who accepted his award via video from France, dedicated the win to “anyone I’ve ever played in a band with”.

“Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Dirty Three – Mick [Turner] and Jim [White] – who kind of held my hand in the beginning and then let me take the training wheels off, thank you very much.

“It’s an absolute honour hopefully you’re all OK and I hope you’re well in this time. We will see you on stage – thank you very much.”

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Dirty Three multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis.

NLMAs director Larry Heath said he was pleased the NLMAs was able to proceed this year in order to recognise the achievements of artists, individuals and organisations who had helped make a difference when the industry was particularly vulnerable.

“When the NLMAs board had its initial conversations in April, our first instinct was to can this year’s awards,” Heath said. “But we started looking around at the industry and we really saw how so many people were stepping up.

Tonight we had a unique opportunity to give thanks to a few of those in the industry who have been helping keep the lights on for so many in our industry who have been having it so rough this year. It’s often a thankless task and we were honoured to provide them with some much overdue praise.” 

“But beyond that, I hope everyone left the awards feeling hope for the future. We have one of the finest live scenes in the world – if not the finest – and while we’re facing our darkest days, a bright return is just around the corner. And that’s all thanks to the talent awarded tonight, and the people behind the scenes who keep those engines running.”

Visit the NLMAs website for a full list of winners or to watch a stream of the awards

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