BBC Four's continuity promises us that "anything could happen" at the "most controversial music prize in the world". Controversial? Sure, it's not like there's many actually controversial music awards - nobody's ever gone to war over the Junos, for example, but The Source Awards surely are more fractious?
Jo Whiley and Jools Holland are presenting, as bloody ever - can't they find someone, anyone different for this? Dizzee Rascal's always there for no reason, they could get him to do it, surely? Make the trip worth his while.
The View are the first live band - "truly fantastic", says Jo. After their song, Jools has to announce them twice before the audience realises they're supposed to applaud.
Maps. It's hard to make mainly electronic music seem exciting in a live context, and great though Maps are, it would probably be wearing to sit through much of this at a gig. BBC Four try to perk things up by using an effect to make it look like you're actually watching him on a television. It doesn't help; nor does the low-budget version of the digital dotstream Nine Inch Nails had at Reading, to be honest.
BBC News Online have blown the one surprise of the evening - Amy Winehouse does turn up. Oh, so it's not live, and so, erm, the claim that "anything" could happen is a bit of a fib. If anything surprising, like bombs or evisceration had happened, they could have edited it out.
Jamie T does Salvador. He looks astonishingly like a young Stuart Adamson this evening; and his vocals are completely swamped in the mix, which means that anyone taking this chance to judge Jools Holland's praise for his wit and wisdom would be out of luck. The audience look a bit bored, but then every act at the Mercury is greeted with something akin to half-stoned indifference.
Picking up his nomination prize, Jamie T mutters some thank yous.
Ooh! New Young Pony Club!
Tahita's gone for a Davina-esque red dress; Lou has an ill-advised neck decoration that reminds me of Mrs. Macey, the school secretary who always seemed to be wearing a neck brace. Latterly, I've come to suspect she might have had a fetish rather than a neck problem.
The sound is pretty poor for them, which is a pity, but at least they had the wisdom to not do the one from the telephone commercial.
They're on the 'second stage' so they don't get to shake Jools' hand when they get their prize.
Radio 3's Charles Hazlewood (who's helping judge) and Holby City's Adrian Edmondson are now talking to Jo Whiley.
Hazlewood is telling us what a "massive job" listening to all the records "in theory" was. He looks a bit like Keith Allen tonight - he's always smarter when he's doing stuff about Tchaikovsky. He reckons the Mercury is "more esoteric" than The Brits, which is true, in the same way that having your arm cut off is less painful than having a red-hot poker put in your eye.
Adrian said New Young Pony Club were "more like a normal band" this evening than a group of children "on vodka".
"Songs are very hard to write" observes Adrian. Luckily, before he can elaborate, The Young Knives are taking the stage with their "misfit anthems" (as Jools explains.)
It's interesting that wearing some cheap-looking suits is enough to constitute a gimmick these days.
More than ever, tonight, The Young Knives prove to be the British Weezer.
Jools muffs reading out the name of Bat For Lashes' album. They're "wonderful and incredible", but he was clearly reading that.
She's already got her nomination award sat on her keyboard - I wonder if you get to choose if you'll be touching Jools Holland or not?
Being mainly vocal is a big plus, with the dreadful sound mixing not working against BFL.
I wonder if those are real peacock feathers.
Jools details The Arctic Monkeys' current tour schedule, leading into a bit of film of them holding a prize in Tokyo. They've abandoned doing amusing or interesting acceptance videos, then.
By not being in the room, they've left the choice of track representing them to a BBC Producer. Which is why the last thing the judges will hear from them prior to voting is, erm, Teddy Picker, from Glastonbury, a track whose filler-status was so obvious it's being offered alongside baked beans and cheese in the Spud-U-Like chain.
Fionn Regan has been called "a modern day Irish troubadour" says Jools. Why not just spit at him, Jools?
It was a character on A Bit of Fry and Laurie who first observed how distressing it is to have the harmonica played badly at oneself. To be fair, judging by how much Fionn is blinking, he's very, very nervous. Perhaps he realised that it's not a good idea to throw hungry critics a line like "be good or be gone" to play with.
He's got FR in blue sticky tape on his guitar, presumably because he's afraid that it might get muddled up with one of Amy Winehouse's guitars backstage. He might also have his name stitched into his underpants. The audience does cheer him, though, slightly lukewarmly. But it's a cheer, nevertheless.
Is Spud-U-Like still going?
Jo is now on the balcony getting the names of The Young Knives wrong. They don't seem to be bothered, though, giving off the air of men who;ve just completed a successful audit.
Natasha is also up there with them: she says the Mercurys are like a giant hamster wheel.
Apparently, there are still about two dozen Spud-U-Likes around the country, and a couple in Dublin. "There are only 25 calories per ounce in a spudulike potato" they tell us.
Dizzee Rascal is "a unique voice" says Jools - presumably meaning unique in the sense of the "only British black artist they can think of at shortlisting time". His DJ is doing something to the turntable with his mouth, which may or may not be a tribute to Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. Dizzee loves it, apparently, when he sees a pretty girl.
Spud-U-Like's website also boasts that "spudulike potatoes have value as a supplementary source of good quality protein", which is one of the few claims that Dizzee Rascal doesn't make during his track. Maybe in next year's Mercury nominated album, eh?
Amy Winehouse - "we're thrilled that Amy's here" says Jools, as in "surprised". She's wearing a beach towel, so presumably rushed here straight from that Caribbean Drug Getaway. It sounds like she knows she's got to do a shut-'em-up-performance, but doesn't quite make it.
Still, the record industry audience applaud like Jesus has just brought a round for them all. They'll be turning to each other and saying "and they say we don't support our artists..."
Basquiat Strings. My wife takes one look at the hair and calls a bathroom break.
Since bands like this never win the prize, but are there purely to allow the organisers to pretend they're eclectic, shouldn't they get an extra award alongside the standard nomination trophy? Or at least their cab fare paid. Or something.
Actually, it's like Prince Harry with Charlie Chuck on drums.
The Klaxons. "Exhilarating" pronounces Jools, sounding more relieved we've finally made it through the shortlist acts. Blimey, an act that sounds halfway decent. Could the mixing desk have advance intelligence of the judge's decision and are attempting to give the winners a secret hand by making them sound better than their peers this evening? Or are they just so relieved that Winehouse didn't vomit into the monitors they're able to concentrate on the affair at hand?
Briefly, Jools Holland looks like a man who is going to have to hold up a copy of today's paper and read out a list of his captor's demands.
Jo has now been joined by Adrain Edmondson and "friend of Bono" Neil McCormick from the Telegraph (he hasn't yet mentioned if people he doesn't know are still trying to kill him.)
McCormick tells us that Jamie T is "so now" but burbles on instead about how great Winehouse is. He then says before the Mercurys "we hadn't heard about Bat For Lashes before", which might be the case, we guess, if you spend most of your time hanging out with Bono.
Whiley cues up the obligatory package of previous winners, the only time the name "Roni Size" is ever heard on television all year.
Adrian Edmondson is still there. Now, I loved his adverts for Nat West as much as anyone's sell-out commercial work, but in a room supposedly full of the cream of the UK music industry, can't they find anyone else to share an opinion? Surely Conor McNicholas will be there with his hair washed and a clean shirt?
McCormick is bloody obsessed with Jamie T.
There's a comedy posh bookmaker doing a show of the odds now. He offers a "maybe the Klaxons" but Bat For Lashes leading the betting.
Jools is going to announce the winner: "only one can be the overall winner tonight" he helpfully reminds us. In case we've not quite got the idea of how a prize for best album might work.
Jools has two envelopes - one with a cheque in, one with the name of the winner in. Nationwide pay the winner by cheque?
Blake Idiot is in the audience.
It's The Klaxons. They are, it's fair to say, more surprised than they are drunk. And they're very drunk indeed. The microphones are unable cope, so they trash the microphones.
Lauren Laverne has now popped up on the balcony. Neil is slightly shocked - "they were always on the outside of who I thought would win" he says, forgetting that, erm, he hadn't mentioned them as possible winners in his earlier interview.
Oh, Lauren's been a judge again. The Klaxons have run onto the balcony - be careful, lads, she's pregnant. Jools has run after them with the cheque - which, if Nationwide used chip and pin technology to make the transfer, could have been avoided.
The Klaxons are being very happy and pleased, as if it's not quite sunk in that this, for them, is going to be the high water mark.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007