I traipse into the Pretoria State Theatre just before Jean Jordaan and Bouwer Bosch (the two most dapper-looking and highly entertaining MCs you ever did see) start the evening. Anne Hirsch and her special brand of comic relief (how many MCs do you need, really?) then arrive to introduce fan favourites, Al Bairre.
They kick off the entertainment, clad in black, performing a song of theirs nobody knows amidst awful sound conditions, but all is forgiven as they collect the first award for the night for Best Budget Video. Check out that viral sensation, hey? And rightfully so.
Wait. What’s this? Best venue? Since when is this a category?? But we roll with it as The Assembly and Arcade Empire tie for the award. The owner of Arcade appears but no one from Assembles is there to fly the flag. Pity. Then Shaun Jacobs takes to the stage and I’m left scratching my head at his inclusion sans nomination.
Afterward, Shortstraw pick up Best Album as the auditorium breaks out into a sea of nodding heads. Oppikoppi win Best Festival for the second year running and my dream of seeing Dawid Fourie from Ramfest pull a Kanye is shattered as I realise none of them are even at the Awards.
Wrestlerish’s new line-up perform ‘Battle Ground’ and while it’s a solid single the performance falls a bit flat as the subpar sound claims another victim. Then the Nuweling (Newcomer) award is presented and when Al Bairre’s name is announced, an eerie silence covers the crowd before I catch a boo or two. Come now people, where’s the decorum?? This ain’t Kendrick versus Macklemore. Although in all honesty, I did think Matthew Mole was a shoo-in for this, you know, having made SA iTunes history and all that… never underestimate the voting power of tweens.
Die Skynmaagde perform and it doesn’t help lighten the sour taste in most people’s mouths. The Best Afrikaans award is given to Van Coke Kartel who incidentally is the only Afrikaans band to win an award. Remember the days when only Afrikaans bands won MK Awards?
Haezer, Jack Parow and Tumi perform and as great as it is, no one seems amped. Tumi spots this and bravely attempts to evoke some sort of reaction out of us with a call-and-response – he gets a half-hearted fist pump in return. Clearly, all the boets are at Ultra.
The highly contended Best Live Act is then given to Jeremy Loops, who makes a cutesy speech punctuated by some choice swear words. It’s an entirely different type of “live” as opposed to the shredding blues-rock powerhouse of 2013’s winner, Black Cat Bones (who weren’t even nominated this year, weird), but you show me another nominated band that has refined their craft to sold-out audiences in India, France, America and England in the last year.
Suddenly the circular backdrop rotates to give us Shortstraw in all their ‘60s pastel tuxedoed glory. They perform ‘Wedding Blues’ with Shane Durrant and miraculously, every aspect of their performance can be heard and appreciated without too much fuss. The first Legend award is then presented to Haddad Viljoen, the ex-marketing and publicity manager for kykNET, MK & Koowee. I later hear someone ask, “Who’s that?” I want to shriek, “HE IS MK YOU DOOS.” But I refrain. Kids these days.
Shortstraw pick up the last award of the evening for Best Video (‘Waterworks’) and Russell Grant makes the most eloquent speech of the night about Alastair Thomas being too humble at having written the song and directed the video. Just your regular lurrrve fest up in here.
The bastion of SA rock ‘n roll, Fokofpolisiekar, bring the Awards to a close with a new song (much better than that “Ons Doen Dit Vir Die Fok” nonsense they premiered at Koppi) and a glorious performance too boot. The Awards are over all too soon, as we migrate to the three bars to mourn the fact that they’re only selling Jagermeister and debate which Protea Hotel to take the after party to.
If this year’s MK Awards have shown me anything though, it’s that the pendulum has very clearly s(w)ung. The once thirsty and thriving Bellville Rock scene is no more. Now, it’s a blatant and infectious indie pop that lives on.
And to everyone who trashed the fact that MK continue to have an Award show despite being off-air, I leave you with these parting words from Moving House’s Rob Davidson: “[The MK Awards work] to keep musicians motivated as well as reward them for hard work in a very small alternative SA scene. Good on MK.”
All photos courtesy of Henno Kruger Photography.