The stage was awash with fiddles, tracksuits, drunken rambling speeches, acceptance songs and tears (well almost), as our first ever UK Festival Awards ceremony unfolded without a hitch at Islington Academy – yeah right!
Paltrow, Berry – You Ain’t Seen Nothing!
Virtual Festivals editor Ross Purdie delivers a candid account of what happened the night VF discovered that putting on live events is actually much harder than running a website…
“It’s not the Brits”, shrugged compere and presenter Steve Harris as no one came to pick up the award for Best One Day festival (we later discovered that Live Nation boss Andy Copping had been unable to fight his way through the crowd to receive the award for his victorious Monsters Of Rock). The Brits it most certainly wasn’t, but it was arguably more entertaining. Even Virgin Radio DJ Steve Harris, making his awards presenting debut, was smiling throughout.
As Virtual Festival’s Chris McCormick put it as he introduced the night (with founder Steve), “We do websites, you guys put on events, so let’s see where this goes.” And, inevitably, it went in a slightly chaotic fashion, kick-started by the suitably erratic, unpredictable and totally wonderful Brakes. Opening with ‘Hi How Are You’ – perhaps with a subtle dig at the chattering arrives with its chorus line “Won’t you shut the fuck, I’m just trying to watch the band” – the set included first live airings of new material from their forthcoming album ‘The Beatific Visions’, including the pondering and pounding ‘Porcupine Or Pineapple’. Think about it … or alternatively just listen to it here.
With VF’s web developer Jon Cox taking to the decks for an impromptu ten-minute set, the Cuban Brothers smoked cigars and drank champers in their dressing room gearing up to introduce new character Barry Peters (from Halifax Radio) – think Jimmy Saville meets Saxondale. Bazza handed out the first two awards – Best New Festival (End Of The Road), which went without a hitch, and Best Breakthrough Artist, which err got slightly hitched. Here we have to rewind a few hours to when a lovely chap called Martin dashed across London with a video camera to capture winners The Kooks accepting the award as they sound checked for their gig at Shepherd’s Bush (they wouldn’t cancel). Anyway, for some reason the sound failed initially, prompting Barry to improvise and mimic what they’d probably be saying until the sound suddenly kicked in again just in time to hear singer Luke Pritchard say a final thanks. Well, they talk funny anyway.
Boogie shoes on for the first time
The rest of the Cubans then converged on stage for a cartwheeling carnival of head-spinning hedonism as the front rows got their boogie shoes on for the first time, before Barry introduced Steve Harris as Iron Maiden’s bassist (they share the same name), making repeated references to the “number of the beast”. Unfettered, Steve glided through the first section of awards, with festival organisers in jubilant form, waxing away with thank you speeches that made Gwyneth look ungrateful. By far the best was Guilfest’s Tony Scott breaking into a solo performance of ‘We Are Family’ as he picked up the award for ‘Best Family Festival’. I think the idea was for the rest of his team to join in, but it seems stage fright might have kicked in. I was to discover this sensation first hand later on.