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Monday, August 28, 2017

Heavy Music Awards 2017: Celebrating the Alternative

Monday, August 28, 2017

Share it Please

With a two month break behind me to concentrate on a busy period in my music career, i’ve returned, ready to share more great content, for anyone currently in, or interested in succeeding in, the Music Industry.

More on that at the bottom of this post, but first – last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the Heavy Music Awards…

(Title image by James North Photography)

House of Vans

Crowd Queuing - Photo: James North Photography
A short walk from Waterloo leads me to House of Vans, under the graffiti-covered Arches, where a young giddy crowd lines up patiently for entry, eager to watch a strong billing of Dead!, Vukovi, Venom Prison and Creeper, not to mention a miscellany of potential award winners for this, the first ever Heavy Music Awards.

Dim passages lead me to the raised concrete bowl in Tunnel Four where a group of skaters are on display; filmed. Opposite, the wonderful team behind Safe Gigs For Women are sharing their message to guests; a message condemning sexual harassment and assault at gigs, encouraging safe concert spaces, a notion that I am strongly behind and hope you too will support.

It’s my second time visiting and House of Vans is rapidly becoming a favourite venue of mine here in London. The sense of community between skaters, staff and guests is infectious. It feels like an underground bunker of creativity and it is no surprise that it is the hangout of choice for so many young people. I love it.

The alternative community

Creeper - Photo: James North Photography
The same sense of open society stretches to alternative and punk music too. While the ‘mainstream’ is, these days, more tolerant of alternative music (as can be seen in the inclusion of their punk rock alumni on TV and radio), the need for an inclusive community supporting one another will never go away, which is why it is clear the Heavy Music Awards will now be a staple event in the annual music calendar; one which will grow in size and stature every year – that I am sure.

Having grown up within the music community, through punk gigs, alternative concerts and indie festivals, I’m now at an age where I see young men and young women with the same wide-eyed wonder at being in the same room as their musical heroes, keen to do all they can to connect with them on an equal footing, just how I was in my formative years.

That’s special. That’s the reason creativity is so valuable. Not to the GDP, not for profiteering or delivering the 20% commissions, but in the growth and connection of us all.

The venue fills up

To my mind, the main room seems subconsciously split in 3 sections. The dedicated fans at the front, pressed against the stage barrier for the best view of their favourite bands. Half way back, my peers in the Music Industry watch, silent and still, drink in hand. Then there’s the bar at the back with guests conversating, gesturing wildly while keeping a stray ear out for the festivities and ensuring their alcohol of choice remains in its beaker.

Vukovi perform - Photo: James North Photography
In this social media age, walking around the event feels like my Twitter timeline has taken human form, all coming to the same party. Likeminded individuals - some I know personally, some I’ve yet to meet - so it’s a pleasure to natter with them and finally have a word. It can feel isolated moving away from the city you grew up in, away from your tight-knit friendship groups, but the Music Industry, events like this and being just a little outgoing rapidly turns peers into pals.

I sit briefly in the cinema room where the ‘Slipknot: Day of the Gusano’ documentary plays, detailing the iconic bands Mexico City set before the live music and presentation of awards begin.

Having seen Vukovi at Camden Rocks last year, it was exciting to see them after the rapid rise in popularity their music had deservedly received. Mischievous and engaging, capped off by the on-brand blue-and-pink clothing and the cheerleading of  ‘Animal’, taken from their debut self-titled album. Good set; good band.

Creeper are a band I’ve followed for quite some time, having been fascinated by their murder mystery marketing campaign (“Where is James Scythe?”) culminating in the track ‘Suzanne’. With so much hype around a band, I often fear that I’ll finally see the artist and be disappointed with what they have to offer but the same cannot be said about Creeper.

There’s something about lead singer Will Gould, a self-assured confidence that you only find with artists destined for a long stay in the mainstream. Their music is hungrily devoured by the alternative music scene, but even the most ardent of mainstream music fans revel in the pop hooks of their punk hits. Add to that the gothic black-and-purple colour scheme adorning their clothing, videos and branding, not least the obvious owning of the stage as headliners and it’s discernible: Creeper are massive.

The Awards

The awards presentation themselves flew by. Best venue (won by O2 Academy Brixton) was a celebration of just 7 of a very long list of incredible venues the UK has to offer. (Recommended reading: Independent Venue Week – why we need it)

Enter Shikari pick up their award - Photo: James North Photography

Enter Shikari rightly took home the Best Live Band award. A band I’m very fond of having watched their ascent first hand; their incredible career continuing to go from strength to strength. I still vividly remember them touring to promote ‘Take To The Skies’, watching them at the UEA in Norwich, sometime in 2007, over a decade ago. Live for them now means arenas, huge light shows and a set list cherry-picking from 5 critically acclaimed studio albums. Plus they’re bloody lovely chaps.

The H award, given in honour of late Kerrang! photographer Ashley Maile, was an opportunity for the crowd to show their love and appreciation for a gifted photographer taken far too soon after a battle with cancer. The video presentation shared a glimpse of how passionate, how respected and well liked Ashley was. So please take the time to honour his talent by visiting his website.

It was a joy to attend the awards night and many thanks to the team at Heavy Music Awards and House of Vans for not only inviting my own attendance but for celebrating the alternative, a music community that is often overlooked, kept within niche groups, often seen but not heard.

If you were at the awards, let me know how your night was and what your highlights were. I’ve already chatted with guests via Instagram (see my photos from the night – search @sunnynorwich) but would love to hear from more of you.

Near 100,000 votes were cast earlier this summer for the awards with seven finalists in each category chosen by a panel of over 300 judges from across the Music Industry. The full list of winners are as follows:

The Winners

BEST ALBUM (presented by EMP)
Architects: All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us


Given in honour of late Kerrang! photographer Ashley Maile

BEST UK BAND (presented by UPRAWR)
Black Sabbath


BEST LIVE BAND (presented by Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Enter Shikari

BEST BREAKTHROUGH BAND (presented by House of Vans London)
I Prevail

BEST ALBUM ARTWORK (presented by The Pit)
Ghost: Popestar (Zbigniew M Bielak)

BEST PRODUCER (presented by Believe)
Fredrik Nordström & Henrik Udd

BEST PHOTOGRAPHER (presented by Olympus)
Ben Gibson

BEST FESTIVAL (presented by Jackson Guitars)
Download Festival

BEST VENUE (presented by Scuzz)
O2 Academy, Brixton

Coming Soon

Coming up on the blog is Episode 06 of Such Great Heights, my in-depth Music Industry video podcast where I sit down with experienced professionals and artists to discuss their experiences and lessons learned.

There will also be details of next months European Tour with Prey Drive and Mountains To Move across Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, and my new video series, ‘The Promise’ where I interview emerging artists breaking into the mainstream about their connection to music, their careers and goals for the coming years.

All of my content is for you, to help with your development and understanding of the Music Industry, as well as documenting the fun I have being involved within it. I do this whilst juggling a full time job and other responsibilities which is why my content isn’t as regular as I would like. I will never compromise quality for quantity.

Here’s a simple guide of how YOU can get involved and stay in touch:

1. Want daily music industry news? Like my music blog page on Facebook or Twitter
2. Want in-depth music discussions? Subscribe to my YouTube channel for Such Great Heights
3. Want to be considered for Such Great Heights or ‘The Promise’, like on Facebook then message me
4. Want to chat about your music, want advice or to just hang over a cuppa? Sure! Get in touch. It’d be a pleasure.

Until next time… (Such Great Heights coming in the next week)

Heavy Music Awards 2017: Celebrating the Alternative - Sunny Stuart Winter


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