Banana lounges lined the lawns in front of Adelaide University's UniBar on a balmy November evening (3 November) for the 2020 South Australian Music Awards.
The tropically festive setting juxtaposed with the sombre proceedings that took place on the spacious outdoor stage, as a music industry reeling from tour cancellations, bans on dancing and vertical consumption of beverages, and the deaths of industry stalwarts, searched for the silver lining around the filthy, black, COVID cloud.
One of the night's big winners, Best Solo Artist and Song award recipient, Jess Day described her pair of trophies as "the pot of gold at the end of the sewerage farm of a year".
Jess Day - image © James Murphy
Yep, that turd rainbow loomed large above the entire music scene from the end of Mad March and its stench continues to linger, although the sweet perfume of live music has begun to cleanse the air again, but not as quickly as many would like.
As another of the evening's multiple award winners, Motez, pointed out, the live performance industry hasn't been granted the same concessions, the same life lines, as the footy, and the acclaimed electronic artist bristled with the sheer hypocrisy of it all; you can't drink and dance, but you can gather in the tens of thousands at an AFL game.
Motez - image © James Murphy
While the South Australian Minister for the Department of Innovation and Skills, Hon. David Pisoni MP, announced an additional $820,000 in support for the industry, on top of the previously announced $1 million; this accounts for just a small portion of the $183 million dollars that the live music industry contributes to the state every year.
As Best Innovation award recipient Luke Penman, from Play/Pause/Play, articulated during an impassioned and fearless acceptance speech, the support offered to creatives is not enough to keep going.
The live music industry is not a production line that can be switched on and off with the press of a button
. It is an ecosystem of musicians, sound technicians, crew, booking agents, venues, publicists, producers, studios, managers and more.
All of these wondrous species that populate the SA music habitat were represented and acknowledged on the SA's industries night of night's.Complete list of 2020 SAM Awards winners.
The evening's MC Isaac Selby from Three D Radio needed to encourage greater verbosity from most of the winners (with the notable exception of Towns's Daniel Steinert, whose acrobatic entry and exit to the stage was maybe COVID safe but not OHS safe) because what can you say after a year like this one?
It's perhaps best to let the music do the talking. Performances showcased regional voices, like Mount Gambier's Chelsea Manor, Indigenous voices like J-Milla, LGBTIQA voices like SEABASS, non-binary voices like Lonelyspeck.
Lonelyspeck - image © James Murphy
While J-Milla's BLM anthem protesting the death in custody of Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker was a stirring reminder of the power of live music.
It's been a rough year, but we can take solace that we have arrived at a point where 400 people can gather, drink, unite, celebrate and, most importantly, crank the live tunes.
Here's to hopefully not going backwards. Here's to resuscitating the industry. Here's to acknowledging artists, not just with awards, but with financial support of a magnitude that recognises their social and economic impact.