Bethan Shuff || February 17th
2016 was a jam packed year for the REBEL team; the first ever Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire, countless reviews on Rebel Bear, developing with REBEL and branching out to more cultural aspects in the community and establishing The Honey Box. Alongside all of these major projects, Mr Lee Barber was quietly working behind the scenes planning for 2017’s bigger and better MASC’s event.
The Music Awards night aims to bring an entire music scene together, where people can celebrate the wealth of talent we have county-wide, discover new music and meet extraordinary people.
This year, the MASC’s were sponsored by Music Store Pro, and featured 13 awards including Best Music Video, Best Act and Best Album. The wide range of categories meant that there was something up for grabs for everyone. All of the nominees were announced in the run up to Christmas Day (when voting opened) and there were 108 in total. Tickets sold like hot cakes and votes were flying in all through January as musicians waited in anticipation for the big day.
On February 11th, The Kings Hall, Stoke, was dolled up will fairy lights, huge projector screens and funky little vinyl centrepieces, awaiting the arrival of the nominees, their friends and families, and all other lovers of music.
The first live act for the night was The King’s Pistol, a folk act with a punch from Crewe, who welcomed everyone into the room and provided a warm, gravelly start to the evening. The King’s Pistol were nominated for Best Album, and showed the crowd exactly why they deserved to be nominated.
Honey Box presenter, Wavemaker maker, ex-Friends of Ken member, and all-around good egg Benedict McManus hosted the event again, because we all loved him so much last year. Ben promised us no talk of politics or Friends of Ken and introduced John Gold, speaking on behalf of Music Store Pro.
Jamie Cartlidge and Grant Foster of Gray Wolf Records presented the award for Best Young Act. Nine incredibly talented artists in the category, including last years’ winner Callum Jackson, but this year Vidorra took the title, who said he felt ‘amazing’ and ‘did not expect to win’.
Best New Act was presented by The Sound Savage which featured nominees that emerged on the scene in 2016. Best New Act was a vibrant category of various genres including electronic, blues and indie. Taking home the award was 10oclock Chemical, who actually played their first gig at the Music Awards last year at very short notice and instantly gained a room full of fans. The band has recently recruited a new member, Patrick Barwick on the drums, and told me that they’re planning something very big, however, their lips are sealed.
Presented by Gold Disc Co. was the award for Best Single. The audience roared as a snippet of each track nominated was played on the projector. The Inevitable, by Release was the winner, and the five lads bounded down the centre of the room in bewilderment as they went to claim their trophy and a framed copy of their winning single. Frontman Caleb said he spoke for everyone when he said they were ‘buzzing’. Release added ‘thank you, everyone who listens to our music; likes our music; voted for us; people who took the time out of their lives to do this for us.’
A short interval allowed the perfect opportunity to dash to the bar and for the second live act, The Overcast, to set up. Meanwhile on the projector screen, the PH Productions crew were streaming a live interview with 10oclockchemical, conducted by Leah Hamer.
Pop-punk 4-piece The Overcast stormed the stage with their fiery angst. After taking a year off, The Overcast returned at the end of 2016 with The MASC’s being their first live appearance with a brand new set since 2015. The lads posted on Facebook, ‘we're stoked that we get our comeback show in front of some of the best people in the local scene doing great things.’
OYB Records presented Best Urban Act. Charlie Blaze, who releases beats under the name of Blazer, won the award and his gratitude speech was ‘thank you, if you know, you know; init’. I’m not sure what we’re meant to know, but I do know that he makes some brilliant tracks, and definitely deserved to be a part of the nominations.
Best Electronic Act was presented by The Honey Box’s Leah Hamer. Macious took the title, and it was lovely to see him presented with an award by The Honey Box after appearing on their first ever episode. Mark Crawford (Macious) exclaimed ‘this is the Best Day Ever!’ and the smile on his face said it all.
Presenting the award for Best EP was Riff Factory. This was an incredibly tough category and anyone could have taken it home. ‘Into The Dark’ by Oli Ng was presented to Oli in a shiny frame. He said that the Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire is ‘a really great night; really great turn out’ and that there’s a potential new EP for 2017.
The award for Best Music Video was one of two awards that were not voted for by the general public. The Best Music Video award was judged by a panel of professionals. Nominations included Thieves Asylum’s psychedelic IKYKIK video, which turned social media orange for weeks, Onyda’s chart-worthy No Answers, but the video that took the city by storm was John Dhali – Only One, which featured John bravely prancing around Piccadilly Station without a care in the world. A very humbled John picked up his prize, bringing onstage with him two of his friends, Matthew Jeffrey and Chris Lawton that made the video happen.
Another interval saw Macious join Leah Hamer for another projected live stream. This time, RINSE were setting up on stage ready to perform a knockout set including firm favourites Not Too Late (released the day after the MASC’s last year) and With You. At the end of the set frontman and joker, Josh Hollingworth ran towards the edge of the stage as if to launch himself at Delamere’s table before stomping to a halt. I think everyone’s hearts were in their mouths for a split second.
Keele SU Entertainments, hosts of many a brilliant gig this year, presented the Best Rock Award, and as Mark Askew pleaded ‘please be a name I can pronounce’ as he tore open the envelope, he let out a sigh of relief as he announced Alter Eden as the winners. The band practically skipped to the stage, filming a vlog all the while as the accepted the award.
Best Metal Act was presented by the huge Your City team; a team of innovative and creative individuals with music and culture in mind, doing big things to get the City of Culture 2021 title for Stoke. The team were then joined onstage by Black Coast, who won the award. Black Coast said that the MASC’s is ‘a really good thing for the city. There’s a lot of good talent that needs to be heard as well.’
The next award was the second award that wasn’t voted for by the public: The Contribution Award. This award goes to someone that the team thinks truly deserved it, last year it was Rob Adcock, from BBC Introducing Stoke, for getting our local music on the airwaves and listened to by thousands. This year, the award went to a man that dedicates his free time to supporting the scene and taking photos of local bands, spending his Saturday night with Rob Adcock and publicising talent: Chris Hollingworth. As Lee Barber read out each and every reason as to why the person who won was being awarded with The Contribution Award, you could see the moment that Chris twigged that it was him. He lowered his camera from taking photos of Lee, with a huge smile on his face; that taken aback that he had to sit down for a moment and take it all in. I think there was nearly a tear, too.
A third interval saw Leah Hamer interview Release about winning best single and surprised the lads by playing the track ‘The Inevitable’ to the huge room of people.
Sam Bloor, local record producer of Lower Lane Studios in Fenton, presented the award for Best Album. He produced four of the ten nominations in the Best Single category and one of the albums in Best Album. The self-titled album by Delamere was announced as the winner, and their friends and family leaped from their seats to hug the lads. Delamere danced onto the stage to accept the award and their framed copy of the album. The lads said they were ‘really, really happy’ about winning the award, and were equally as chuffed with their order from Sangams takeaway prior to the awards. Top night – can’t beat a takeaway and then taking the title for Best Album of 2016.
The award for Best Solo Artist was presented by Darn Bad Bro Productions. Collecting his second award of the night was John Dhali, who was completely and utterly gobsmacked. It was the second year running that he won this award, and in his acceptance speech told everyone about how he can be his own worst critic and compares himself to others a lot, so winning the Best Solo Act award was a real pat on the back for his efforts. He came off stage completely speechless and celebrated with his family and friends.
The final award for the night was for Best Act. Which band had stolen the hearts, minds and souls of the music scene in 2016? It was the award that everyone was waiting for. The Situation presented the award, and there was much anticipation as we watched the short clips of each band. Nine nominated bands sat with fingers crossed and the winner was anybody’s guess. 5-piece psychedelic, dreamy synth indie band Psyence won the award and screams of ‘YES! GET IN!’ were probably heard down the road! Each of the lads took a turn on the microphone to thank everybody, as Sam Bloor was thrown into the air, alongside frontman Stephen Pye. It was a well-deserved win for a band with big things coming this year, starting with their EP launch in March.
SPQR played the fourth and final live set, so everyone got up on the dance floor to celebrate with each other. The punky trio have so much attitude and strength and were the perfect act to conclude the evening.
Every single artist that was nominated went home a winner that night. The Staffordshire and Cheshire music scene are doing some massive things, and it will only continue to grow, especially with the support of teams like Your City and REBEL, alongside other likeminded musicians. There is no doubt that The Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire 2018 will only be bigger and better, I can guarantee that Barber’s already planning away.