Underground Music Awards 2011

author PP date 03/05/11

When Underground Music Awards was first formed three years ago as Mirza Radonjica's (Siamese Fighting Fish) bachelor project, the mission statement was to give a voice to the wealth of talent that exists outside the recognition of the Danish mainstream media. The point was to give credit and encourage innovation within the different music scenes in Denmark, and help nourish some of that talent by giving them a platform to boost themselves into the knowledge of the wider Danish public. After all, promoting yourself becomes a hell of a lot easier once you can smack a "winner of Best Rock act at Underground Music Awards" on your marketing material going out to the labels; we all know how easily the majors like to latch onto anything they perceive as having fast-rising momentum and potential sales value.

The status quo prior to the arrival of UMA was a bleak one for a starting artist: you needed to know someone, be at least on a medium-sized label, and preferably also in heavy radio rotation to have a shot at being nominated in any of the existing awards ceremonies, many of which seemed seem little more like transparent you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours favours between industry insiders. So in that sense, Underground Music Awards perfectly filled a void in the music industry, and hence the debut arrangement in 2009 at Pumpehuset was a resounding success in every possible way (plus the after party was amazing).

But just as it seemed like the ceremony was gathering momentum for what was going to be an even bigger and more glorious sophomore event, Pumpehuset declared itself bankrupt less than a week before UMA 2010 was meant to take place. With so little time to book a new venue of equal size, the organizers decided to throw in the metaphorical towel for a larger event, and held the ceremony behind closed doors at Rust with only the judges and the nominated bands present. It was an unfortunate setback for the progress at UMA, and one many thought could have catastrophic consequences motivation-wise for planning a new event in 2011.

It turns out we had nothing to worry about: the 2011 edition of Underground Music Awards exceeded all expectations by a long shot - and then some.

UMA 2011

Lets start with the venue. Bremen, located smack down in the center of Copenhagen right behind the Imperial cinema next to Vesterport station, is a theater with capacity for a maximum of 644 seated guests. Its interior decor is classy, with red velvet carpeting and comfortable sofa chairs for the audience, clearly designed for lengthy comedy shows and other events which require no crowd interaction other than thunderous applause, of course. When you descend down the steps to the venue from the entrance, UMA had set up a classic MTV-style backdrop designed for photo opportunities for the would-be celebrities (yours truly in the middle), which together with the seated theater setting fortified the feeling that this year's event was a real awards ceremony instead of just a show where some prizes are to be given out.

The attendance was impressive, too, with just about 600 crowd members and nominees packing themselves into the venue tonight, resulting in a nearly sold out arrangement. And because the theater felt full, the importance and prestige of the ceremony rose exponentially from the expectations to a point where being there felt like attending a gala of some sort, minus the hipster hoodie and t-shirt clad audience, of course. Job well done.

Shortly after 21:00 the lights dimmed and Mirza, the mastermind behind the arrangement, walked on stage, and talked a little bit about what UMA is and thanked everyone for being there, and started orchestrating the show. The audience was then shown an introductory video on the big screen, which consisted of interviews with random people from around Copenhagen where the questions asked were along the lines of "what is underground?" and "what does being in the underground mean", with some interesting answers from the unsuspecting interviewees.

Just like in the years before, each nominated artist was given instructions to make a short video clip of their choosing, introducing themselves to the audience and what the band is all about. While some bands opted for a simple spoken word introduction with background tunes from their back catalogue, others merged together live clips from their performances and dubbed nominated songs on top, and a few allowed their creativity to flourish by creating small sketches and mini-music videos tailor-made just for this ceremony.

As something new for the 2011 edition of UMA, the mini-performances in between presenting the nominees for each genre consisted of mash-ups between two entirely different genres. Last year's metal winners The Interbeing kicked things off with their modern hybrid electro metal, pretty much making sure that the first few rows of seats were sure to have tinnitus the following day, which seamlessly transitioned into the super hipster electronica from previous electronica winners Harpcore. It was an interesting combination that worked surprisingly well, apparently the two bands have more in common than they realize. But perhaps even more interesting was the collaboration between rock winners Stream City and hip hop champion M-Cnatet. Stream City played their three song folk punk set without other surprises than me wondering why they are all dressed as tennis players, but then M-Cnatet took to the stage, and demonstrated that the two polar-opposite artists had clearly collaborated together into merging Stream City's folk punk into M-Cnatet's hip hop. It was a wonderful experience and underlined exactly what Underground Music Awards is all about, the breadth of talent in the underground and how we're all a big family, regardless of our genre preferences. The Danish punk/rock/metal scene at large could learn something from that in Copenhagen, at least.

In Memoirs closed off the show after all the winners had been announced, leaving most people with smiles on their faces and a feeling that they had just experienced the Danish underground taking a step closer to the mainstream. My favorite part about UMA anno 2011 is, just like in 2009, the way they mix genres like pop, rock, metal and electronica together under one big umbrella term of music, essentially forcing the crowd members to check out all the bands and styles, even those that they otherwise might never even think about exploring (read: pop fans meeting metal for the first time). Finally, it has to be said that this year's event showcased the Danish underground in without a doubt its biggest and fanciest form to date, so all in all the event was a great success.

Let 2012 be even better!

Winners 2011

Best Alternative act: Dad Rocks!

Best Metal act: Cold Night For Alligators

Best Rock act: Paper Tigers

Best Electronica act: Kúra

Best Hip Hop act: Peacefull James

Best Pop act: Le Klik

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