By Graham Reid

Awards functions are usually much the same: people dress up, take themselves far too seriously, then drink too much and end up confessing, "I've always admired your work" - or worse, "I love you" - to people who have been total strangers up until that night.

The 1999 New Zealand Music Awards at the Mandalay on Saturday night put a pleasant spin on most of that. People got the dress-up part right but went past the taking-themselves-seriously bit and headed straight for the, "I love you man, I really do."

It was a night for university radio stations and their audiences to salute their New Zealand music heroes. Can't say I heard TrueBliss mentioned, but the real purpose of these awards is to acknowledge a whole culture of music not recognised by the more chart-driven Recording Industry Association awards.

Salmonella Dub were the big winners, walking away with awards for best album and best live act.

A lot of people in the heartland might not know them, although if they'd listened carefully around 10 pm they would have heard them. Salmonella Dub played a couple of Richter-scale-registering songs.

Music and its makers were hailed for their contributions, and in the case of Trevor Reekie, who received a thoroughly deserved Lifetime Achievement award, that contribution stretches back decades.

This celebration of music which often exists just below the radar of the charts is now a significant night on the awards calendar.

And it must be nice to hear, "I've always really liked what you do," even if the face is a little unfamiliar.

Winners included: Best album: Killervision, Salmonella Dub; best independent release, Starlifter, Fur Patrol; best song, For the Love Of It, Salmonella Dub; best hip-hop/reggae/dub release, Killervision, Salmonella Dub; best electronica release, Futureproof, Pitch Black; best rock/pop release, Blue Light Disco, Shihad; best live act, Salmonella Dub; best new act, Polaar; best vocalist, Che Fu, best guitarist, Tom Watson, HLAH, best drummer, Isaac Tucker, The New Loungehead; best bassist, Mark Tyler, Salmonella Dub; best keyboardist, Paddy Free, Pitch Black; best independent record label, Kog Transmissions; best international achievement, Shihad; lifetime achivement award, Trevor Reekie.