NME Awards, Brixton Academy, 23 February 2011: The View From The Bar

It started with walking through the Production Doors of Brixton Academy and bumping into Nick Grimshaw. This was not going to be an ordinary night’s work. The grubby slope that is the stalls of the Academy was transformed into a large area of decking rammed with delicately arranged tables being stocked with free booze.

Having been told to look smart, all of the staff were promptly forced to don either a large or extra large T-shirt that screamed ‘SHOCKWAVES NME AWARDS 2011’ – just in case anyone should forget where they are.

The fun began with the unfortunate experience of watching My Chemical Romance sound-check. I’m pretty certain they’ve been at least nominated for the ‘Worst Band’ award several times, so the fact that they performed this year was difficult to comprehend.

I found myself on the ‘Red Bull Bar’, disseminating free Jagerbombs to hangers-on and corporate types who, when they realised this alcohol was free, went mad for it. The following hour was chaotic, stressful, and nail-breaking. We were metres from the ‘red carpet’ but, after the Foo Fighters gracefully left and re-entered the building to be photographed, didn’t see a single celebrity.

Then came table service – once again serving corporate types, but this time charging £85 for a ten quid bottle of Smirnoff. This was a new level of glamour – I was adorned with an apron and almost immediately became trapped between Matt Bellamy, Kate Hudson and a group of fans wanting a photograph with the newly-crowned ‘Hottest Man’.

It wasn’t long before Michael Eavis wandered through the tables in my direction. With as much restraint as possible, I grabbed his attention to congratulate him on winning ‘Best Festival’ for Glastonbury once again. His reaction was unexpected: “Yeah they think they can beat us but we win it every time!” he grinned, and continued to gloat in an almost charming way, before I was forced to get back to work by a customer demanding more booze.

My attention was soon distracted again as Foals stepped up to receive a well-deserved ‘Best Track’ award for Spanish Sahara. I was then blown away to see Mick Jones arrive on stage to announce PJ Harvey’s Outstanding Contribution To Music Award. I spent the rest of the evening looking for Mick, to no avail.

The rest of the night was surprisingly dull. Award shows are terribly repetitive – if it weren’t for the free drinks and the promise of a Foo Fighters performance it seems likely people would leave after collecting their awards.

In the end, however, the wait was well worth it. NME Editor Krissi Murison gave a forgivably nervous speech about why Dave Grohl is a ‘Godlike Genius’, before the man himself took to the stage with none other than Roger Daltrey. How one was expected to pay attention to the average customer with such megastars on stage, it is difficult to say.

Foo Fighters launched into a performance with enough energy to launch a jumbo jet. Anyone sat at a table began gradually to move forward as the band performed their new album in its entirety. By the time they got to new single, Rope, a wealth of rock stars and music industry types were stood on tables and chairs moshing their hearts out.

I gave up pretending to work at this point and went forward along with everyone else. ‘Best New Band’ winners, Hurts, were celebrating hard just in front of me. On hearing hits like All My Life, they jumped up and down and tried desperately to thrash their slicked-back hair around, only to carefully smooth it back down when the song was over.

Meanwhile, Jarvis Cocker was mobbed as he attempted to weave his way through the crowd. Naturally, I followed suit and grabbed him as he walked past to express my appreciation. By this point he seemed in a bit of a daze, having had similar compliments yelled at him by around 50 other people en route.

Things got raucous as Dave Grohl strutted through the crowd, climbed onto a table and played his guitar like there was no tomorrow. The likes of The Vaccines, We Are Scientists and Kyle Falconer from The View were amongst those gathered around him and rocking along. There was something very odd about seeing bands as part of the audience. Watching We Are Scientists, preppy as ever, punch the air and bang their heads in appreciation of Grohl was entertaining indeed.

As the Foo Fighters’ set went on and on (lasting over two hours in total), drama ensued within the audience from the cast of Skins. Dakota Blue Richards (who plays the androgynous Franky) attracted attention when the table she was dancing on collapsed, sending her sliding to the floor in a drunken heap. She was picked up, revealing her back to be covered in blood. A colleague went to check on her, but it turns out the blood came from her rescuer’s hand. Things were getting violent.

Finally, after two encores, Dave had used up enough of his adrenalin to retire. And we were left with broken glass, collapsed tables and left-over goodie bags.


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