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The Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize – Live Blog

Before we begin I’d like to make it quite clear that this is not esteemed editor James Hurley writing this (even though you can see his handsome face in the corner). This is Tom Townshend taking over the MSN Music blog for a few hours (and you really don’t want to see my face). I’ll be here for the night, live blogging from the Grosvenor House hotel in that there London where lots of bands your dad hasn’t heard of are gathered to find out if they’ve won the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize (and will therefore sell a lot more records than they previously have – that’s how it works).

I’m currently perched awkwardly on a balcony typing this because it’s the only place I could find where I can both,
a) See all three stages where the bands will play and,
b) Get a decent wi-fi reception.
It’s not glamorous, even though I’ve made an effort and put a nice shirt on for the occasion.

What’s happening now is Jools "boogie woogie" Holland is rehearsing his spontaneous adlibs, and we’ve just seen La Roux, The Invisible and The Horrors play their soundcheck. None of them have any make-up on. The Horrors look like very nice boys, underneath all that muck.

Now I’m going outside to watch all the nominees pretend they’ve just arrived on the red carpet when actually they’ve been here all day. I hope that hasn’t ruined the magic of showbiz for anyone.
I’ll be back when stuff starts happening…


Right, we’re back. Everyone’s now being shouted at to take their seats but we know for a fact that The Gossip are still outside. Callamity! Hang on, The Gossip aren’t even nominated. Someone should tell them or it could be very embarrassing.

The red carpet was nice, as these things go. Natasha Khan looked lovely in crushed velvet. Well, it wasn’t crushed till we got hold of it… No, sorry. It’s not going to be that sort of blog.*

We think Florence has won on the glamour stakes, though. She was also pulling off a catalogue of poses for the cameras, specializing in hands-on-hips, which a ‘stance’ expert tells us means she’s feeling ‘aggressive’. Oh blimey.

*It so is.

Jools just did a quick ‘cheer check’ to see who’d been here before and apparently more people have not been here before than have. There’s a fact to impress your friends with.

We can see they’ve put Beth Ditto and Noel Fielding  on the same table. That’s not going to end well. 🙁


Kasabian had some nice lights. If you watch this on the telly you’ll see that. They performed pretty well too. Do we think they’ve upped they’re game now they know all the bereft Oasis fans will be flocking their way and looking to them to take the torch? That’s a genuine question by the way. Can they fill the Gallagher’s shoes? Let me know. It’s a bit lonely up here on the balcony.

If the winner is decided by the biggest cheer during the intro film then Speech Debelle is going home a rich lady.


Friendly Fires went down well with the crowd and they’re not even drunk yet.

The crowd that is, we have no idea if Friendly Fires are drunk and it’d be wrong to speculate.


Lisa Hannigan is now playing that one off the advert. You know the one.

Kasabian just walked past, on their way to do some interviews about how they “don’t expect to win but it’s nice to be nominated.” Serge is wearing a black vest top. Even for a man as stylish as him we’re questioning if it’s a good look.

Lisa Hannigan makes lovely ‘beard stroking’ music, doesn’t she? As if to prove our point a man is literally stroking is enormous bushy growth in front of us.


Brief technical interruption while Florence and her Machine get on stage. Anticipation is high. We could do with some crisps.

Couldn’t find any crisps but did find a nut bar. It’ll have to do. Come on Florence! There’s a lot of waiting around at things like this, you know. The Grammys actually goes on for four days.


Noel Fielding and his female companion have taken this opportunity to go to the toilet. Very wise.

Jools is wearing red and black buckle shoes but from a distance it looks like sandals and red socks.

Florence is on! Ooh, it’s very classy. We think she might be trying to ditch the whole “I’m mental me” shtick. Good career move. Being insane gets tiresome quite quickly.

This is a very powerful performance of Dog Days. She’s really earning her status as favourite with the bookies. Which is a shame since we’ve bet on Bat For Lashes and The Horrors.

No new bicycle for little Timmy Townshend this year, then… 🙁


Led Bib are up now. The celebs have barely enough time to pop another cork. We can’t help noticing Noel Fielding isn’t back from the loo yet. Perhaps someone should go and check. He could be stuck. It’s a worry.

Crikey, what a racket. We like jazz as much as the next man but there are limits. We’re not even sure the pianist is playing the same song as the rest of the band.

Phew it’s over. We think. It was difficult to tell it had even begun. Imagine a school orchestra being attacked by baboons. It sounded a bit like that.


Sweet Billy Pilgrim now. There’s no messing about or links from Fearne Cotton at this award ceremony. Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s record is extremely lovely. if you only buy one album this year then you’re probably not that fussed about music, but if you buy more than one album this year then we recommend theirs.

Noel and his friend are back at their table. They look flushed; obviously ran back so as to not miss any of Sweet Billy Pilgrim.


Glasvegas are this year’s band who have to be represented by a video (there’s always one). They’re all here except the singer. Get well soon, fella. Er, that is if you’re ill. Maybe he just didn’t fancy it. Is there anything good on the telly tonight?

Uh oh, Noel’s off again.

Beth has stayed in her seat throughout. Doesn’t she go to the toilet?

From where we are on our balcony we can see the lovely Charlotte Hatherley, formerly of Ash and now of a brilliant solo career AND the Bat For Lashes band. There are only a few minutes in every day where she’s not playing the guitar. And even then she’s thinking about it.


More cutting edge music journalism for you: Speech Debelle was very good and had live saxophones.

Bat For Lashes now. Blimey she’s gorgeous and talented and amazing. Wearing a chain headband, fashion watchers. Chaz Hatherley on backing vox and clapping. So not guitar after all. We feel foolish now.

Is there anything any of you would like to know. Mainly about the Mercury Music Prize. I can’t promise to solve your relationship problems. Though I could have a go. You probably just need to listen more.


There’s quite a loud argument going on near me about whether someone said that Peaches or Pixie Geldof is here. One person is adamant they said it was Pixie (because it is) the other is convinced they said Peaches. You might want to check the nine o’clock news as it’s sure to be the top story. 🙁


La Roux’s quiff looks like topiary. Her sub-bass is literally floor-shaking. She is about 6 months away from being a really great live performer. And that’s not long to wait is it?

The Invisible’s table is getting quite rowdy. Perhaps this is because they think we can’t see them.

Boom Tish.

True Fact: La Roux’s drummer used to perform with top folk musician Jim Moray. He is also good but has normal hair.

The Invisible’s drummer appears to be wearing a big sheet as if he’d come dressed as a ghost. Perhaps this is because he thinks we can’t see him. Oh no, we’ve done that one.

Beth Ditto is dancing at her table. Still no toilet break though. Perhaps she’s doing it in a bag?

We predict The Invisible will be the band most people will come away from The Mercurys being surprised by how much they like. If there’s not an award for that sentence then there’s no justice in the world.


Crikey, it’s the last performance before the judges go off and have a drunken argument about whether to give the prize to Bat For Lashes, The Horrors or Speech Debelle. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. It is.

How do we all feel about The Horrors? They’re certainly a lot better than they used to be, but we miss Spider Webb’s weird mime/dance. We don’t even think he’s called Spider anymore. 🙁


We were going to go look for a sandwich but brilliant comedian Josie Long just walked past. If you’ve not heard of her, look her up.  Comedy tip there.

Beth Ditto has gone to the toilet! Thank heavens for that. We were worried she’d burst.


Bit of a fuss going on as one artist (who we’re not allowed to name) apparently looked down at their table during their performance to see that all their guests had nipped out for a fag. Charming. We’ll let you guess whose table. 


Uh oh. Kasabian just took Noel Fielding and his friend back to their dressing room. This is definitely not going to end well. Beth Ditto’s still at their table. Not even started on dessert.


La Roux’s drummer just had to pop out to the BP garage to get a Snickers* because the band weren’t given a meal. And you think rock n roll is glamorous?!

*Other confectionary is available.

22:17 And the winner of the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize is…

Speech Debelle

What did we tell you back at the start, eh? An amazing win for an artist most hadn’t heard of till the nominations. It’s a beautiful and clever album and (apart from losing £20 betting on someone else) we’re over the moon. It’s the kind of win that really justifies the existence of the Mercurys. Hoorah.

Would you like to see the moment when the announcement was made? Of course you would. Many thanks to the BBC for this.



  And here she is talking to Lauren Laverne shortly after discovering she had won.




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