: The Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards

Where & when

: Vector Arena, Auckland, October 8


More info:

Masterton could just be the country's new rock'n'roll breeding ground. For two years running, the Wairarapa town has produced the leading finalists at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.

Last year Flight of the Conchords dominated, with Jemaine Clement - one half of the comedy folk duo - born in the town. This year Masterton-raised rock chick-turned-synth-pop-queen Ladyhawke leads the field with six nominations at the Tuis, which will be held at Vector Arena on October 8.

The guitar-wielding, 80s-influenced songwriter - whose real name is Pip Brown - is up for best album, single, female solo artist, breakthrough artist, and dance/electronica album, as well as for the people's choice award which is decided by public vote.

Like the Conchords last year, Brown, now based in London, also has a shot at taking out the International Achievement Award with her songs Paris Is Burning and My Delirium making it big overseas, and her self-titled debut album selling more than 100,000 copies in Britain and 35,000 in Australia.

Chart-topping Auckland rockers Midnight Youth also have six nominations this year. Their debut album The Brave Don't Run spawned hits including last year's breakthrough song The Letter, and more recently All On Our Own, which is up for single of the year.

However, Ladyhawke and Midnight Youth have heavyweight competition in the album of the year category from past winners Fat Freddy's Drop, nominated for their second album Dr Boondigga and the Big BW, and the Mint Chicks for the snappy arsenic-laced pop of third album, Screens. Rounding out the best album list are newcomers Cut Off Your Hands with the jagged dance rock debut You And I.

This year's awards may not have the intrigue and wild card factor that the Conchords brought to the 2008 Tuis, but it's a diverse list and highlights what was a solid year in local music.

That's despite two of the top releases in the best urban/hip-hop album category - Tourettes' rebellious and poetic Who Said You Can't Dance To Misery and PNC's innovative and catchy Bazooka Kid - missing the cut in favour of Ladi6's soulful beauty Time Is Not Much, Savage's sophomore release Savage Island, and Smashproof's The Weekend.

In total, Smashproof get five nods, including being one of the front runners in the people's choice award thanks to the popularity of the single Brother, which in April set the record for the longest consecutive run at No. 1 by a New Zealand act.

The Mint Chicks, big winners in 2007 for Crazy?Yes!Dumb?No!, and Fat Freddys, who won four awards in 2005 for debut Based On A True Story, are both up for four awards each, including best group.

This year's finalists were announced at a ceremony last night at the Langham Hotel, along with the winners of the technical awards.

Best album cover went to Ruban Nielson of the Mint Chicks for Screens; veteran engineer Andrew Buckton won best engineer for Midnight Youth's The Brave Don't Run; and Fat Freddy's Drop took out best producer for Dr Boondigga.

Also announced last night were the recipients of this year's New Zealand Herald Legacy Award, Ray Columbus and the Invaders, who will be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

The winners of the highest selling New Zealand single and album, the NZ on Air Radio Airplay Record of the Year and the International Achievement awards will also be announced at the October ceremony.

If album sales are any indicator it could be another big night for Fat Freddys with Dr Boondigga selling 27,000 copies since being released in May. That's well ahead of nearest rivals Midnight Youth on 8500, and Ladyhawke at 8000, who are also in the best album and people's choice categories.

The Tui for single of the year will be close with P Money's Everything (featuring Vince Harder) and Kids of 88's banging party anthem My House offering stiff competition for favourite Brother by Smashproof.

Old hand Dave Dobbyn won his first Tui back in 1979 for Th' Dudes Be Mine Tonight and is nominated 30 years later for his latest album Anotherland in the best male solo artist category, alongside fellow stalwart Don McGlashan (for Marvellous Year) and South Auckland hip-hop star Savage (for Savage Island).

In a 2005 interview with TimeOut Dobbyn had fond memories of the 1979 awards ceremony: "We were touring Australia, skinny as rakes, living on beer; we flew back from stinking hot Brisbane.

"They gave us the award - a mock microphone on a piece of wood, it was quite neat.

"I walked off stage, somebody grabs the award, pulls the sticker off with my name on it and puts another sticker on it for the next person. They had one award."

Oh how times have changed, and winners this year can rest assured there will be enough trophies to go round.

* Click here for the full list of nominees.