eGigs at the NME awards

a rockstar lifestyle...?

Next to me sits Mark Beaumont, NME’s long serving and much admired King Rock Hack, compiling the ‘What We Have Learnt’ column for the magazine’s coverage of 2007’s NME Awards, mere moments after the ceremony has taken place. Chain smoking, tapping the ash into a recently necked glass of red wine, if he’s not stressed right this moment, the wince in his eyes suggests he’s going to be before long. As strung out journalists come and go, taping frantically at their laptops, working against the clock to document the stories and the scandal (or try to cover for a lack of stories and scandal with ‘lots of cock jokes’), I stop for a moment to consider what I’ve learnt.

I feel a bit out of my depth. I’m new to all this. Having only been working freelance for the magazine the past nine months, it’s been a surprisingly fast-paced transition from those easy first 100 words, casually documenting My Scene in Nottingham, to being sat backstage at the Awards ceremony, feeling the pressure of section editors leaning over you, anxious for you to whip out your copy so that the next writer can get onto the laptop and whip out theirs.

When I arrive on site at the Hammersmith Palais at two in the afternoon, The Killers are sound-checking for their evening performance. They’re horribly out of tune. We set up the laptops in the production office and I prepare for my brief. The stars are arriving from 4pm, dinner is at six. Up until that point, I’m free to run about, rubberneck the celebs, make ten entrances on the red carpet, hoping to confuse the Paparazzi that are baying at the doors outside, and generally feel overwhelmed by this bizarre affair. Jarvis Cocker, Girls Aloud, Primal Scream file by me without fanfare. There’s an Arctic Monkey to my left, admiring the stage. It’s only when Kate Jackson, the gloriously attractive lead singer of The Long Blondes saunters through in a skirt not much thicker than a heavy duty elastic band that I get giggly, slipping back into school boy crush mode for the first time since 2001.

Come seven o’clock the awards ceremony starts and with it, my work. I’m positioned in the pub next door to the Palais, reporting on the events that unfurl there (So, yes, basically I miss the actual awards). The idea is that a load of next year’s big names gather here for a big piss up, and I write a hilarious timeline of all the mad hijinks that these rock star types get up to. When I get there, there’s not a rock star in sight. There are some desperately awful posers who call themselves ‘The Vivians’ loitering about, trying to get the photographer to snap them, but that really is as good as it gets for the first hour. I start to panic, wondering how the hell I’m supposed to write a column about something that isn’t actually taking place. ‘Make stuff happen’ cryptically advises a section editor who pokes his head in to see what’s going down. Just when I’m about to give up hope and resign myself to losing the job, Forward Russia, one of The Mystery Jets, The Scare, My Luminaries, one of Hadouken! and the ostracised Klaxons drummer, Stefan, all make themselves known and I realise I have something to work with.

Ok, so it’s hardly rock’s glitterati, but it’s a start. I introduce myself to them all, they all seem pretty nonplussed and I start to introduce them to each other, hoping for Motely Crue-worthy rock antics to suddenly materialise.

Of course, nothing much happens, and come nine o’clock when I’m due back in the production office to write up my coverage, I’m stumped. I’m told to fill in for the lack of activity with lots of gags, but it soon becomes clear that the gags are hinged on nothing, as nothing happened, so my copy gets cut brutally in half. It’s around this point that I spot Mark Beaumont sat next to me with his fag and wine, and realise he’s written three paragraphs in the time it’s taken me to write three sentences (three great sentences I’ll have you know, but that’s beside the point). I know I’m holding things up by being slow, so force out my copy with fewer decent gags that I’d have liked. I guess writing well under pressure will come with time.

Once my relatively small task for the evening is finished (200 words for all that time!), I’m free to do as I please. Downstairs the Palais after-party is kicking off with The Draytones playing live, but word gets back that all the stars are heading over to the K West hotel - you know, the one on the cover of Ziggy Stardust. When we walk through the door, Beth Ditto from The Gossip is falling about the place in a drunken stupor, as is Jamie from the Klaxons, who grabs me after recognising me from a previous interview a few weeks ago. He makes an unprintable slur against another member of the musical alumni, at which point I spot James from Hadouken!, the only person not completely fucked out their head. Atlantic records have booked the band a suite for the night, we go back there for a bit, but – hey – I’m just not made for this rock and roll lifestyle. So, rather than get involved, I take a wander round the hotels many floors, taking in all I see. The bloke from Hard-Fi (I could google them to find his name, but it’s not really worth it), is slumped against a wall struggling to stand up straight. Pennie from The Automatic walks down the corridor with a couple of young girls. Sure, there’s lots of famous people there, but don’t be seduced by that romantic image of the rock star lifestyle. Yea, they’re pissed and they’re having fun with all their mates, but it doesn’t feel much different to how any non-celebrity would make the most of an evening.

Activity doesn’t seem to die down until around 5am, and as I’m yet to be in a band signed to a record label, I have no room to retire to. I get a taxi home and fear tomorrow’s hangover.

When I wake my throbbing head tells me it wasn’t really worth it, and even after paracetamol has numbed the pain I still feel disillusioned. Working at the awards was an insightful experience that I valued and enjoyed, but the vague emptiness of people at the K West afterwards exposed me to that Nathan Barely world of media vacuousity that no one would be proud of. I love music and I love writing about music, but the industry beyond that? Nah, not for me, thanks...

article by: Alex Hoban

published: 06/03/2007 12:07