We sent Sam Wolfson down to the Mercury Prize awards ceremony last night to sketch the whole scenario with words. This is what he came up with.
17:30 Oh hai. It’s the start of our night at the Mercurys. By the time you read this, I hope to be doing the walk of shame back from a Major Label afterparty, clutching a bottle of champagne and wearing nothing but unsold Michael Kiwanuka merch. But for now I’m sitting in the press bit of the Mercury compound, waiting for things to kick off. There’s not a lot to do except drink champagne and stare over the balcony to see which members of the music community are fellow sufferers of male-pattern baldness.
17:45 It’s not exactly a vintage year. Most of the nominations are safe guitar records listened to by trendy dads (who presumably make up most of the judging panel). There are some good albums on there. Alt-J and The Maccabees are especially listenable, but as a list it’s just a bit blah. Only the Plan B and Jessie Ware records could be described as forward-thinking.
At this point I should declare an interest. Before the show I put a couple of bets on:
£5.00 on Plan B – because I think he will win it.
£2.50 on Jessie Ware – because I want her to win it.
£2.50 on Alt-J not winning it – because they’ve been the favourites since the beginning and it just seems too obvious.
18:30 Oi oi, it’s Lauren Laverne. Not Jools. And I was so looking forward to a boogie woogie solo. She’s explaining that our entry wristbands have £20 of booze on them. I’m sucking on mine like a teet but nothing’s coming out.
18:35 And we’re off! Lauren is reminding us of the records that were nominated. Forgot about Field Music. If you read their NME interview last year you’ll know they could really do with the £20,000 prize.
18:40 Plan B is on first. He’s playing on a letterbox stage above Lauren’s head. It’s really got a lovely aspect ratio. ‘iLL Manors’ is blistering, and briefly makes this year’s Mercurys feel important and forward-thinking. Also it’s nice to hear Plan B sing “you bloody rich kids” at a room made up mostly of the 1%.
18:45 Now it’s Django Django – the soggy biscuit at a Franz Ferdinand and Foals sleepover (We’ll stick that one in the bank – Nightmares Ed). They are wearing matching chinos and on-trend print shirts. They’re a good representation of the trouble with this year’s list – a fine record, but not one that feels especially important.
18:48 God they are rattling through them. Ben Howard up next then – the Damien Rice of our generation.
19:00 Alt-J, it must be said, sound marvellous. The pointed sexual advances of ‘Tessellate’ have a special charm in a room of low-cut dresses and sharply dressed blokes. If I was on the judging panel this evening, this would be swaying me – although if I was on the panel this evening, Rustie and Kindness would have been nominated and I would have invited Jo Whiley only to refuse her entry at the door.
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19:10 Lianne La Havas does an 11/10 performance from her record. It’s understated, soulful and if this was The X Factor she’d walk away with it. Perhaps that’s another issue with this year’s awards – they’re judged on Jools Holland performances rather than the albums themselves.
19:15 Richard Hawley is afforded Plan B’s letterbox. There’s no doubt he’s earned a special place in British alternative culture, but this song is boring as hell.
19:30 Field Music, making the case not only for the Mercury Prize but also NHS dental care. I would be into it if they won, even though this isn’t their best album.
19:35 It’s the token folken. Sam Lee is bringing me back to my youth at Womad festival. His performance has a didgeridoo and a bit of dancing – making it the liveliest performance of the evening.
19:40 Micky Kinicky! He’s doing his Marvin Gaye thing in the letterbox. Another lovely voice doing a lovely performance from a very boring album that no one will talk about in two years. I wish Klaxons were here, gak…(sniiiiiiiiiiiiip!)
19:45 Jessie Ware is astonishing. Her album, far more than anything else on the list tonight shows the direction pop music should be heading in. Her voice sends tingles around the Roundhouse and for four minutes chattering record executives finally shut their gobs.
19:50 Roller Trio, the jazz thing, are on now – so we get our boogie woogie solo after all!
19:55 The Maccabees. I’d forgotten how good this album is. And how fit Orlando is looking at the moment (Get on with it – Ed). Well here they are, setting the Roundhouse into a smoulder. This a bloody brilliant song from a bloody brilliant band. Oh god, I wish I’d put some money on them.
20:00 Break time. People in the posh seats are getting a five-course meal. We’re going to Marathon Kebab.
20:10 I had the Kofte Shish if anyone’s asking.
21:00 And we’re back. Lauren’s got an envelope in her hand… It has the winner’s name in it …Isn’t this exciting? Not really, because by the time you read this you’ll already know who won. But let’s build up some suspense anyway……..
Massive congratulations to the boys. And massive commiserations to me, I’ve just lost a tenner. Thank god my wristband is loaded with cash.
That means the bookies’ favourite has won for the last three years. The judges are obviously still reeling from the Speech Debelle debacle. Still Alt-J deserve it, it’s a good record and they are all lovely. Still feel a bit sadface for Field Music though. One of them’s a Labour councillor. Imagine rolling that award into Sunderland Town Hall on Monday.
23:00 I’m at the afterparty at The Box but there is no one famous here 🙁
00:00 Hot gossip! Marina and the Diamonds are doing a sexed-up set at The Box afterparty. Earlier this evening a dwarf dressed as a smurf simulated sex with a fat lady dressed as a smurf. It’s that kind of night.
03:00 I got on the 38 bus home, fell asleep, woke up in Walthamstow Central. This is not the night I dreamed it would be. I’m home now and really fancy listening to some music. In my state I just want something easy on the ears, pleasant but not too boundary-pushing. Anyone know where I might find some suggestions?