Russell Baillie: A rewarding night out

By Russell Baillie

By virtue of the time-warp of newspaper deadlines, this column is possibly feeling better than I am right now.

For last night I attended Apra Silver Scroll Awards. I write this about 24 hours before the event but I am sure I had a very good time. I always do.

The Scroll is the greatest awards events of the season - well until the next invite arrives anyway - for many reasons.

Firstly, so few awards are given out - just five, plus an induction into the NZ Music Hall of Fame which was opened last year with Jordan Luck and Johnny Devlin.

Last night - I knew this ahead of time because telepathy goes with this job - the Topp Twins were directed to take up their rightful positions in the hallowed corridor.

And at next month's NZ Music Awards, a resuscitated Straitjacket Fits will arrive at the top of the hall's front stairs and then go down in splendour. Which is pretty good going for the first two years - unless you were big in the 60s and 70s, but you're probably too busy organising a reunion tour to care.

The other reason the Silver Scroll is a seriously good night is the performances. Traditionally, the five nominated songs are given makeovers by acts who don't sound anything like the tune's originators.

So your pallid singer-songwriter ballad can be metalled to the stage, your cellphone-selling punk-pop anthem can be hip-hopped into oblivion, your rousing rock hit can be stripped bare by gypsy-dub-folk madmen and left to defend its dignity only with the ripped remnants of a decent tune.

The thinking is that a strong song should hold up to multiple mutations. Good theory. Watching the live experiment trying to prove that sure makes Silver Scroll a fine night out for those of us in the cushy job sector.

Talking of which, the Silver Scroll isn't the only awards ceremony on this week - it's the Qantas Film & Television Awards at the Civic on Saturday. I would like to care as much about the honours system in our televisual arts as our musical ones, really I would. But they sure do make it hard.

Having already dispensed with 21 technical awards tomorrow, they will be giving out 37 awards on Saturday, a few to people who don't even work on Outrageous Fortune.

Looking at the finalist list, which combines awards for broadcast journalism, television programme making and film, it has the look of a long, long night. If you are feeling the onset of insomnia, it's on TV3 from 9.30pm on Saturday night for a crisply edited 90 mins.

It is sure to be entertaining to watch, if only to see Robyn Malcolm and her fellow wild Wests collapse under the weight of their collective QFATAs.

The film awards do have some legs this year (Out of the Blue vs the rest, basically). But most of the TV awards are a roll call of familiar names and familiar shows - there is some smart, solid inspired stuff in the doco categories, programmed-into-late-night obscurity art series The Big Picture should sweep all before it, though frontman Hamish Keith is up against Jason Gunn and Petra Bagust in that vital category "best presenter entertainment/factual programme". Could make for a great scrap in the alley afterwards.

But just a thought inspired by the Silver Scroll to make the QFATA evening fly by. Maybe the organisers could get a band to set the nominated shows to song. Like, there's this local group called Flight of the Conchords who could so do it. They actually have their own TV show offshore somewhere where they and a mate play New Zealanders. Actually, it's really good.

Perhaps, one day, like when they're really famous, or even funnier, they too might get a QFATA nomination.

Here's to that.

- NZ Herald

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