I’m certain that when Meryl Streep stepped up on stage to claim her third Oscar this year, the other actresses up for the prestigious award weren’t entirely in the best of spirits. While Streep’s performance in The Iron Lady was her usual high calibre stuff, it wasn’t like the old gal needed another naked golden man to balance out the feng shui of her mantelpiece. Still, the other actresses remained silent, cameras fixed on their reactions as they lost and watched a respected peer take the top honours from them or whoever else they felt deserved it. And they did it all with a smile and light applause to boot.
So, yes, the MKs are a far, far cry from the Oscars.
For one thing, the MK Awards is about music, so maybe I should be comparing it to, I dunno, the Grammys? For another, the votes aren’t decided by a massive faceless organisation like “The Academy” (who count at least one nun among their membership, if what I saw on the red carpet was to be believed), but by the fans at home. This may be considered a somewhat more accurate gauge of who deserved which awards, but that’s like saying the US’ Republican Party is right every eight years because the people who weren’t demotivated enough to not vote still showed up at the polling stations.
The MK Awards were held at Pretoria’s State Theatre and, once we braved the “Dawn of the Drunk, Cat-Calling Homeless” to get from the parking lot to the front doors, it was a nice venue. I know Pretoria kids are already out for my blood after the Hotbox Foam Party post, so I’ll say no more about their city other than that it was an appropriate place to host awards targeting a primarily young, white, Afrikaans audience that can smell art and talent a mile away.
The show as a whole was a neat production. I don’t know what kind of budget MK was working with, but I assume it wasn’t tremendous, and so they made do with what they could. The show was definitely targeting the viewers at home, so awkward moments like the request for random people from the back to fill up the front row or Jack Parow’s seeming ability to host an event while not actually addressing anyone in the live audience could be overlooked with ease. The stage was designed to rotate 180-degrees, dropping off each new live act.
Electro duo Double Adapter introed the event with their live band and a small group of breakdancing, Thriller-style zombies, which worked relatively well to get the crowd pumped. Unfortunately, rock ‘n roll and being glued to a theatre seat don’t always go too well together, so we were resigned to bop our heads when I’d have rather been right upfront for later performances by Bittereinder, Van Coke Kartel and Jack Parow & Gazelle. Die Heuwels Fantasties and Inge Beckman seemed bored and removed from the crowd, so I felt bored watching them, despite liking their music.
As a quick aside I’d like to know … who in Jim Morrison’s name are Moses Metro Man and why should I care? MK seems desperate to find the next big Afrikaans rock thing and they’re on the offensive with these guys. They were nominated for “best newcomer” and “best radio hit”, included in 2012’s MK MVPs and they got to perform live during the evening’s proceedings. They’re not the worst band I’ve ever seen take to a stage, but they’re not exactly a musical revelation either, so I’m just wondering … what’s the hype about, MK?
Apart from Double Adapter’s zombies, other performances tried to incorporate a little flair with dancers or, in the case of Mr Cat & The Jackal, limp bodies in bird masks strung up on puppet strings. The worst of these attempts at showmanship by far were the inclusion of some of Joburg’s resident roller derby girls, called in at the last minute to sex up an otherwise unmoving performance by Good Luck’s lead singer. Having a bunch of girls who normally beat the shit out of each other in a rink simply circle two overenthusiastic DJs and try to avoid a singer in mid-performance – and the various cables draping the stage – was a recipe for disaster. The girls did their best with what they were given, which looked like very little time to prepare.
And then there were the winners, and the egos that eventually came along with them.
Jax Panik took home Best Radio Hit for Dinosaur and also Best Dance for Get Up, but that meant fans overlooked the talent behind PH Fat in the latter category.
In a category that makes no sense to anyone at all, Adele took home Best International Hit, but she couldn’t be there to accept the award because she’s likely never heard of MK.
Van Coke Kartel cleaned up with THREE awards – Best Group, Best Rock and Best Live Act – and while they deservedly earned all three, their wins revealed a strong voter bias that meant they’d likely have won Best Newcomer if the fans had anything to say about it.
Not only were Shadowclub – easily one of South Africa’s best bands by a mile – overlooked in the Best Rock category, but they missed out on Best Newcomer, too, which went to, you guessed it, Moses Metro Man.
Even more baffling was Jack Parow’s win for Best Hipster. Now while I’m sure that word doesn’t actually describe any one thing or kind of person anymore, it sure as hell doesn’t describe Mr Parow. And really, MK, is there no room for a Best Rap/Hip-Hop category in 2012? Really!?
Mr Cat & The Jackal deservedly took home Best SFX for Bad Man He Comin’.
And then there were the categories that stirred a little tempest in our cups of Red Heart rum: Dance, You’re On Fire surprised even themselves when they won Best Indie for their song Boxes of Tigers. Playing the role of resident Kanye West, Wrestlerish frontman and fellow nominee Werner Olckers barely let the stunned Joburg band offstage before tweeting that anyone who’d been monitoring the votes would know that The LA Els should clearly have won that particular category.
While absent from his Twitter account today, the tweet was representative of the general culture of local musicians on display on Friday night. While as people and purveyors of our craft (whatever the craft) we may not like someone else’s work, there’s a level of disdain we tend to shelve so we can clap and smile when someone earns their keep. I’m not the biggest Dance, You’re On Fire fan in the world, nor was I into half of what went down at the MKs, but I still clapped between thumbing my FutureFone because it was respectful to do.
And believe me, when that last winner was announced, I wanted to keep my hands buried between my legs. While Spoek Mathambo’s Control was the clear winner for Best Video category, Locnville – of all people – took the final award of the night in an anticlimactic thud that saw Snakehead (of aKING and Fokofpolisiekar) lead a small walkout of the mostly-empty front row. The Fans had spoken and the director seemed happy, but the Brothers Chaplin couldn’t even be there to accept their little hunk of glass. I wonder if they were with Adele?
The general lack of applause for their peers, the awkward tweet and the walkout are all what contributed to my feelings of a rather strange sense of the event. This isn’t MK’s fault obviously, and has a lot more to do with the individual egos (and pretty obvious insecurities) of some of South Africa’s top musical talent, but they left a dirtier taste in my mouth than the tequila I eventually used to wash away my sorrows over Spoek’s loss. That takes me back to the Oscars I mentioned above, and the sense of decorum Michelle Williams had to hold on to while watching an old battleaxe take her damn award right from under her. The bruised egos are masked well with fake smiles and soft claps for successful peers, because even to be counted among the “best” of something is still pretty sweet.
You might argue that the MKs are a far cry from the Oscars or the Grammys or whatever else … you’d be right.