When one of the world’s greatest music towns also happened to be the most locked down city in the world during the pandemic, you’d expect a fair degree of pent-up energy to be released when finally given the chance to gather together again. However, at the 2021 Music Victoria Awards, staged at the beautiful Melbourne Recital Centre, it wasn’t so much about unabashed partying but more an emotional reconnection with the people and the industry we love, an act of defiance, a check-in on how everyone’s doing and an expression of hope for the future. But yeah, we partied a little too.
Rather than beginning with a cliched ‘bang’, the 17th annual Music Victoria Awards kicked off with a performance of great beauty from Mindy Meng Wang x Tim Shiel, presenting their stunning, evocative piece Hidden Qi. It set the tone perfectly for the rest of the evening, acknowledging the diversity of the Victorian music scene and celebrating such a high quality of composition, musicianship and stage presentation.
Held during Melbourne Music Week , the ceremony was live-streamed on Youtube and broadcast via Channel 31 to award the 16 industry-voted categories, seven public-voted categories as well as formally induct the 2021 Hall of Fame inductees.
Undoubtedly the night belonged to the much loved and respected soul outfit Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, who took home three awards for Best Soul, Funk, R’n’B or Gospel Act, Best Group, and Best Album for their long-awaited and utterly powerful Crossover LP, winning a pool of prizes thanks to public-voting including a $5,000 media package from Plakkit and a $2,000 voucher for Yamaha gear.
There were tears aplenty tonight as award recipients recalled the hurdles they navigated and the journeys they travelled during the past year to get their music out and heard. Emma Donovan was particularly emotional in the acceptance of her award for Best Album, ‘Crossover’ as she spoke of the joy of learning and recording two indigenous languages which were close to her heart.
In one of the most diverse lists of winners Music Victoria has ever seen, no other artist took home multiple Awards this year. The band were also one of the night’s captivating live performers, sharing the stage with fellow award winner Maple Glider who the public voted the year’s Best Breakthrough Act sponsored by Soundmerch and Bakehouse, as well as Kerryn Fields and Mindy Meng Wang x Tim Shiel, with Mindy taking out this year’s public-voted award for Best Musician sponsored by Yamaha.
In a truly massive feat, half of the industry-voted winners in 2021 were first-time Award nominees including Female Wizard (Best Electronic Act), The Weeping Willows (Best Country Act), Candlesnuffer (Best Experimental or Avant-Garde Act), Dr. Colossus (Best Heavy Act), JahWise Productions (Best Reggae and Dancehall Act), CIVIC (Best Punk/Rock Act), Ajak Kwai (Best Intercultural Act) and Eliza Hull who took home the inaugural Arts Access Victoria Amplify Award (for Deaf and Disabled Acts) with $3000 cash from Arts Access Victoria and a rehearsal package from Bakehouse. Eliza has been a mainstay of the Melbourne music scene for a while now and spoke of the years of hiding her disability due to the fear and the stigma involved. The award she said, “was one step forward in eliminating these barriers so that young people that have a disability can feel like this is possible.”
Other first-time wins in the industry categories included seven-time Awards nominee, DRMNGNOW who was crowned the year’s Best Hip Hop Act, Best Blues Act winners Dan Dinnen & Shorty, Best Folk Act winners Charm of Finches and the inaugural Best Pop Act winner Alice Skye. Solo artist Allara was awarded the Archie Roach Foundation Award for Emerging Talent taking home $3000 cash thanks to the Foundation plus a Bakehouse rehearsal package, while 2019 winner Andrea Keller added 2021 Best Jazz Act to her winnings, and former multi-award winner Baker Boy received $3000 cash from Bendigo Bank for his Best Regional/Outer Suburban Act win. Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, Danny Pearson announced a total of $6,500 of support for the 13 genre awards winners. The Victorian Government is a generous supporter of Music Victoria and of the state’s celebrated music industry. Thanks to this additional support, 2021 marks the first Music Victoria Awards where every winner takes home a prize.
In the public-voted categories, Hiatus Kaiyote claimed the year’s Best Song for their 2021 single ‘Red Room’ taking home a $500 cash grant from Music Victoria, Sampa The Great took home a $1000 Yamaha voucher for being voted the Best Solo Artist and Amyl and The Sniffers were awarded a $3,000 outdoor billboard package from Civic Outdoor for their Best Live Act win. 2021 Music Victoria Hall Of Fame inductee, Kylie Minogue accepted her induction via video message and was formally inducted by music journalist and podcast writer for LISTNR, Cameron Adams. Kylie spoke of her fondness for her home town Melbourne and expressed gratitude to her friend and mentor Michael Gudinski, who passed away earlier this year.
Fellow 2021 inductee Pierre Baroni was presented his posthumous induction by close friend Ginger Light, PBS 106.7FM presenter Vince Peach and Australian Music Vault’s Olivia Jackson, with close friends Jimmy Barnes and Archie Roach sending in video messages in honour of his induction.
It was apt that the evening finished up with an incredibly soulful performance from the 3 time award winning band Emma Donovan and The Putbacks. After a wonderful evening of sentimental speeches, powerful musical statements and a celebration of a Victoria’s amazing music culture, it was afterparty time and indeed a chance to finally let it all out.
AND THE WINNERS ARE:
Music Victoria Awards Winners 2021 (industry-voted)
ARCHIE ROACH FOUNDATION AWARD FOR EMERGING TALENT (FOR FIRST NATIONS ACTS)
(prize: $3,000 cash from Archie Roach Foundation + rehearsal package from Bakehouse)
ARTS ACCESS VICTORIA AMPLIFY AWARD (FOR DEAF AND DISABLED ACTS)
(prize: $3,000 cash from Arts Access Victoria + rehearsal package from Bakehouse)
Eliza Hull – (Castlemaine)
BEST REGIONAL/OUTER SUBURBAN ACT
(prize: $3,000 cash from Bendigo Bank)
Baker Boy – (Ocean Grove)
BEST BLUES ACT
Dan Dinnen & Shorty
BEST COUNTRY ACT
The Weeping Willows
BEST ELECTRONIC ACT
BEST EXPERIMENTAL OR AVANT-GARDE ACT
BEST FOLK ACT
Charm of Finches
BEST HEAVY ACT
Dr. Colossus – (Surf Coast)
BEST HIP HOP ACT
DRMNGNOW – (Shepparton)
BEST INTERCULTURAL ACT
BEST JAZZ ACT
BEST POP ACT
Alice Skye – (Warrandyte)
BEST REGGAE AND DANCEHALL ACT
BEST PUNK/ROCK ACT
BEST SOUL, FUNK, R’N’B OR GOSPEL ACT
Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – (Castlemaine/Melbourne)
Music Victoria Awards Winners 2021 (public-voted)
(prize: $5,000 media package from Plakkit)
Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – Crossover – (Castlemaine/Melbourne)
(prize: $2,000 voucher for Yamaha gear)
Emma Donovan and The Putbacks – (Castlemaine/Melbourne)
(prize: $500 cash grant from Music Victoria)
Hiatus Kaiyote – Red Room
BEST SOLO ARTIST
(prize: $1,000 voucher for Yamaha gear)
Sampa the Great
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACT
(prize: $1,000 value of custom-made merch from Soundmerch + rehearsal package from Bakehouse)
(prize: $1,000 voucher for Yamaha gear)
Mindy Meng Wang
BEST LIVE ACT
(prize: $3,000 outdoor billboard package from Civic Outdoor)
Amyl and The Sniffers
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Watch the 2021 Music Victoria Awards here