Chatterbox: And the most downbeat is...

It's the awards show which started as an alternative on the margins and is now a major event on the New Zealand music calendar. Yes, the annual b-net New Zealand Music Awards - which celebrate the breadth of local music from best unreleased song and best turntablist to best event and best electronic release - return for the fourth year.

What started as a student radio station experiment to acknowledge styles and artists not included in the main music industry awards is now a bona fide, all-growed-up awards event - and a night of fun.

The awards, which feature live acts, off-the-wall presenters, lots of jokes and plenty of noise will take place at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna on Friday, September 7.

Before then the public can vote on the www.b-net.co.nz site from next week, or use voting forms in selected magazines, in Vodafone stores and some record shops.

The list of artists and bands in the various categories is as diverse as you might expect. For example: Che, Shayne Carter of Dimmer, Demarnia Lloyd of Cloudboy, Sandy Mill (who featured on the sjd album), and Lotus all rub shoulders in the best vocalist category. And names such as Shapeshifter, Sheelahroc and Kingsland Housing Project are unlikely to appear on any awards list other than the b-net one.

And what categories are you voting in? Heaps, mate. As well as those already mentioned, these: best cover art; music video; New Zealand music website; live act; most outstanding musician; best releases in downbeat, hip hop and rock; best compilation album; new act, song, independent album and best album overall.

Rock the vote before August 21, and take a pen to September 7, in your digital diary.

NEIL RECRUITS, ROWLES GETS FUNKY: Meanwhile, elsewhere in New Zealand music ... Neil Finn is taking the "solo show with volunteers as back-band" idea to England next month ... Auckland pianist-producer Mark De Clive-Lowe has a track on the latest of the celebrated Cafe Del Marchill-out compilations ... Wellington Christian pop-rock band the Lads have two songs on the soundtrack of the forthcoming season of American teen television drama series Dawson's Creek ... and John Rowles is planning a comeback (not that he ever went away) with an album entitled Nu Soul Man. The first single is a cover of Jimmy "Bo" Horne's disco stomper Dance Across the Floor, which will also come with a remix by DJ Greg Churchill. The aim is to "reinvent a world-recognised male singer into a relevant and contemporary dancefloor artist." Well, New Zealand On Air at least is convinced it might work. There's Rowles on the new Kiwi Hit Disc, right between Tadpole and King Kapisi. Betcha Tom Jones is worried.

LIFE IMITATING ART.COM: Overheard from some fellow patrons walking out of Startup.com, the excellent fly-on-the-wall doco about the boom and bust of an American e-business screening at the film festival: "Well, we started our company with only $24 million and at least we had something to sell."

AND TO FINISH: Some thoughts on what's become the burning issue for the cinemagoer - five reasons why the allocated seating that Village cinemas are introducing in some of their multiplexes just isn't a good idea:

* Because if you go to a movie with small children, adults sit in front of them.

* Because it can get you into arguments with strangers in the dark if they are sitting in your seat. And they will always be bigger and ruder than you.

* Because it will mean annoying ushers using torches to guide latecomers to the right seat number.

* Because peak-hour multiplex ticket counter queues will get longer as people ponder where they want to sit.

* Because if it's there to help forward-thinking, credit card-wielding, online-booking cinemagoers get the best seats in the house (as the advertising says), shouldn't the seats that are less than best not cost as much?

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