Hard News by Russell Brown

Zaoui Sings

So the first person I see when I get into the New Zealand Music Awards is Ahmed Zaoui*. His is becoming, ironically, one of the more recognisable faces in New Zealand public life. I've never met him, so I bowl up and introduce myself to him, and to his lawyer Deborah Manning.

It turns out that for the evening, the High Court has granted him his first extension to his curfew. It'll be midnight before he turns into pumpkin or a threat to national security or something, and between now and then he will shake hands with a great many New Zealanders.

The NZI foyer throngs with good-humoured early arrivals. Helen Clark arrives, in the green outfit. She will spend the next hour being greeted by young men and women, who take each others' picture with her on their cellphones. There's something quite remarkable about living in a country where boys with eyeliner and girls with tattoos can just stroll up and make themselves known to the leader. I couldn't even see the DPS guys.

Dick Hubbard is also present, wearing a shirt with no tie and a big disco collar. His Worship is clearly Superfly to at least one buxom young woman, who testifies that she "loves" him. Don Brash is present too, along with Katherine Rich, but, somewhat inevitably, is not quite so in demand. At all …

By the end of the evening, however, Dr Brash will have the sympathy of most of those present, after sitting through a show in which barbs from the stage are tossed his way at least five times. It's not a conspiracy, just a series of people independently deciding they'll have their say, but the cumulative effect is unfortunate, and the "coming second" jibe by Anthony Starr of the Outrageous Fortune cast is plain boorish.

It might initially have been a revelation to Brash to find out how strongly this community feels about the tone of National's campaign, and how aligned it is to the Labour vision, but enough is enough.

Anyway, Brash sat through it all and even came down to the after-party, long after Helen Clark had delivered The Music Speech (a couple of new lines this time, and a bit about diversity) and departed. Good on him for that.

The show was as well-produced as it has been in recent years, and Mike Hodgson's video work was excellent. It started late and - inevitably, given its length - flagged in places, but it really is quite an event. The D4, the Checks and Fat Freddy's Drop were among the performers, but the standouts for me were Pluto, who played 'Long White Cross', and the closing ensemble version of Dave Dobbyn's award-winning 'Welcome Home', where among those taking lines was Ahmed Zaoui, whose case was a partial inspiration for the song itself. Yes folks, he can sing too, and really quite nicely (there's a picture here). Were it up to me, I'd simply welcome Zaoui to settle, become a New Zealander, bring his family here, contribute. (In the interests of maintaining balance, we could send Tony Ryall to Algeria. Admit it, it's appealing isn't it?)

Fat Freddy's Drop cleaned up with four awards, providing a fascinating lesson about the power of grassroots organisation. It's not just that their album Based on a True Story is on an indie label - nearly everything local is these days - but that it's independently distributed. There's a story waiting to be told about the way these folks run their thing.

The after-party in the lower NZI foyer was still steaming along when I (mindful that I oughtn't push it given that I'm still not quite a gout-free zone) left just after midnight. I can only guess what time they threw everyone out, but it was a bloody good do.

Anyway, I was really pleased with the interviews I did on my 95bFM Wire show yesterday, with the outgoing MP Nandor Tanczos and the incoming MP Tim Groser (links are MP3 files, 22 min and 17 min respectively). I enjoy far more finding out who politicians are than just hammering them with the issue of the day.

*Actually, the first person I saw was Garth Bray, but that doesn't work as well as an intro. I'm sure Garth understands. After all, he works in TV and they make shit up all the time.