Speaker by Various Artists

Dub is the new rock

by Peter McLennan

Friday was the annual madness that is the bNet Music Awards, the alternative to the official NZ Music Awards, or the Tuis. Having attended a few of these loose affairs (the bNets, I mean), I was curious to see what they came up with this year.

Last year's event was hosted by Otis and Slave, who were great, but had the unfortunate handicap of an onstage minibar that slowed them down significantly as the night wore on. Drinking spirits will do that to you.

This year's host was dapper young man about town Hugh Sundae (or as one talent agency lists him, Huge Sundae). Hugh arrived by being lowered onto the stage from the rafters of the Bruce Mason Theatre, holding a guitar and miming to 'God Defend New Zealand' in a Hendrix-anthem style. How tasteful.

Then straight into the first live act Shapeshifter, with guest vocals from Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots / Fat Freddys).

The quality of the live performances during the night was exceptional. You get the sense that the bands chosen to play at this event know that they're playing to their peers and pull out all the stops to get themselves noticed. The Mint Chicks leapt around with punk rock fury that was charming. Dimmer battled with gear problems that nearly defeated them but Shayne Carter rose above it, delivering a blistering guitar attack on 'Seed' as soon as his guitar roared back to life.

Scribe and P-Money blasted into their tunes, including 'Stand up', the number one single in the country last week. Sola Rosa noodled away and the D4 tore through two songs before pausing for breath - just long enough for Dion to blurt out "we're the D4 - thanks for coming - good night" and BANG: straight into 'Get Loose', absolutely ferocious. I'm lukewarm to the D4 on record but live there's no denying that they kick serious ass.

There was a live cross to John Peel, a fan of the bNet. Someone described this as very CNN but it didn't really work due to poor audio. Hugh's MC battle with the Decepticonz (sitting at a table down the front) was hilarious. After being heckled by Savage of the Decepticonz, Hugh took to him, getting DJ Logikal to give him a beat and going off in most impressive form, rapping something about "Think you know more than me? Bet you don't know Scribe's out the back with the chick from Lucid Three." Then Hugh passed the mike to Mareko (NZ's best freestyle MC) and it was all on. Mareko dropped a line about "Hugh Sundae, who you tryin to fool? You probably think I named my album after you" (Hugh was wearing a White Sunday T-shirt). Hugh grabbed the mike back and said "You wanna see how white this Sundae is?" and turned to face the back of the stage and started to drop his trousers! Thankfully, he spared us the full glory of his naked butt. I mean, people were eating, after all.

So, some people won some awards and Concord Dawn's Matt made a terrible joke: "How do you turn a triangle into a straight line? Shave it." Oh, very nice. Still they get 'mad crazy props' for showing off Evan's Shore boy tattoo - MSA tattooed in large gothic letters across his back - Shore boys representing, apparently. MSA stands for something like Milford Society of Alcoholics.

Rhombus won lots of awards, proving that Welli dub is taking over the country. The Datsuns won a few too and - oh, I don't remember it all, but it was bloody good fun. Aussie Michael Gudinski of Mushroom Records presented the International Achiever Award and told the assembled musos to "get off your asses and get out there" - good advice. Michael loses points however for mentioning his own company twice while presenting the award. Nice to see Karen Hay up there too, presenting. The presence of Brent Hansen from MTV Europe also lent some prestige to the event, not that anyone there really cared about that - they were more concerned with where the next drink was coming from. Fair enough.

As I headed off to the car I ended up following the Mint Chicks loading out their gear. One of them was singing something, going la la la la - it sounded like 'Clav Dub' by Rhombus - while one of the other members suggested that maybe they should change their name to the Dub Chicks. Smart marketing move boys, but Punk rock is coming back into fashion any day now. Honest. It's really big with hairdressers.