A Night at the ACRAs

Peter Saxon has been to all 30.

After 30 years of trial and plenty of error, the 2018 ACRAS went as smoothly as any I can remember – except for a couple oops moments from two of the presenters.

For three years now, it’s been at the same venue, Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, affectionately known as Jeff’s Shed – the brainchild of former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett. Sydney’s new venue at Darling Harbour, not known affectionately to anyone as yet, I’m told, is more interested in renting out its facilities to larger overseas crowds than the paltry 1200 or so the ACRAs bring to the party. So, Jeff’s shed has remained CRA’s venue of choice for three years – time to hone the production the running order, the sets the lights and the sound.
The music from the latest contemporary acts Conrad Sewell, Amy Shark, Vera Blue and Cyrus backed up what some of our top music and content directors had to say a day earlier at the Radio Alive conference about the quality of the current crop of Australian music talent. In short, they all agreed that it’s the best they’ve heard and seen in ages.

For the third year in a row Triple M’s Radio Chaser boys Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor have played host with the polish and charm of Billy Crystal’s ugly stepbrothers. There were plenty of in one liners, including:
“The very thought of the same team doing the same job for three years in a row just blew the minds of anyone who’s ever worked on 2DayFM Breakfast.”
 “Trial by Kyle, a show where the rhyme in the title was the most creatively ambitious thing in it.” 
“triple j made waves by moving the Hottest 100 away from Australia Day. Then Triple M saw a gap in the Australia Day market and counter-programmed with a countdown of Australia’s most culturally insensitive beer drinking songs – pretty much all of them by Shannon Noll.” 
“Just some housekeeping: Remember, no smoking inside the room. No drinking outside the room. But smoothfm people, you can take your Valium and Ambien wherever you like.”
Yet, as seamless as their performance was going, they stumbled in the home stretch by introducing Hughesy and Kate as from the KIIS Network. Oblivious to the faux pas, they walked off while Hughesy and Kate – who, as everyone knows are at SCA’s HIT Network – handed out some awards. By the time they returned to the stage, they’d realised their mistake and sheepishly apologised, admitting it’s something they should have known given they regularly bump into H & K at SCA where they all work.
The other oops moment was produced by Christian O’Connell who missed the cue for his entrance and the chance to make a positive first impression on his peers. The Chaser boys expertly filled the gap handing out awards with aplomb but try as they might, could not sell a tough room the old Don’t worry folks, it’s all part of the act line.
O’Connell finally bobbed up in the next session to become a sudden co-host for Bianca Die – herself, a last-minute inclusion to cover for Kyle and Jackie O, who, once again were a no show. O’Connell explained that as he was waiting in the wings to be called on stage, his 11 year old daughter, at home with a babysitter, had called to ask him if it was okay for her to dye her hair. By the time he’d convinced her it wasn’t such a good idea and hung up, he’d missed his cue.
The audience forgave him and after making a very gracious acknowledgement of Lee Simon’s induction into the Hall of Fame he compared the UK radio awards to ours saying, “I thought three hours for the United Kingdom was a long time… this is less of an awards do, more like a hostage situation.”
Speaking of Lee Simon, there could not have been a more fitting choice for the Radio Hall of Fame. A true professional, admired by both the radio and the music industries he was introduced with a video compilation of tributes from Molly Meldrum, Glenn Wheatley, Craig Bruce, Paul Kelly, Eddie McGuire, Michael Gudinski, Guy Dobson, Richard Stubbs, Peter Harvie, Mike Fitzpatrick, Denis Handlin, Jimmy Barnes and Grant Blackley as well as Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner.
One of the highlights among many for me was the choice of Steve Price (left. Photo: Life Portraits Photography) from Triple M in Townsville as an award presenter. Great to see one of the unsung heroes of the business – a big star in north Queensland, virtually unknown in the rest of Australia given a platform with his city cousins.
And he didn’t disappoint with his camouflage dinner suit and a rousing speech that reminded everyone in the room about how lucky and privileged we all are to be working in radio.
As good as the show was and the food very adequate for a mass produced meal, there were, some nit pickers. It is radio, after all.
Some complained that the music, though excellent, was too loud.
The main complaint – and it’s been around a long time – was that not enough winners got to make a speech like they do at the Oscars.

I heard two different remedies for this. 
1. If all the winners were gathered in one area with close access to the stage, they could probably make a 45 sec speech with the time they’d save by not having to thread their way from the back of the room to the front to get their award.
2. Lose the sales and integration categories and pare down some others so that only the talent and production awards remained – like most other awards such as the Logies, Oscars and Emmies.
If you’re a subscriber, we’d love to hear your opinion on that, which you can express through the comment field below.
BTW, another solution is to listen to radioinfo’s recording of the speeches that those in the room never got hear – straight from the winners’ mouths as they left the stage, right after they collected their awards.

Peter Saxon