So apparently the official after party of the ARIA Awards is a pretty big deal. Tickets to the VIP event will cost you 500 dollars a pop if you are a member of the public. Otherwise you better be a top-selling Aussie artist, industry executive or Angela Bishop (a hot shot entertainment journalist in other words). Alternatively, you could just gate-crash.*
A colleague and I had media access to the red carpet and the media room backstage at the Opera House where we could interview the stars after they won their awards. We had an opportunity to ask our pressing questions to Australia’s hottest music acts and were even given complimentary gourmet sandwiches. While this was a pretty awesome perk – we were hungry for more.
After the awards ceremony, we made friends with a few folks with ‘ARIA Gold Passes’ – meaning they had VIP access to the after-party. Then, pretending to be deep in conversation with them, we followed closely behind them to the door to where the invite-only soiree was being held.
To our surprise security waved us through. By security, I mean one burly bloke who was distracted by having to take a photo of Richard Wilkins with two fans (and no, surprisingly, we didn’t pay them as a decoy). After breathing a sigh of relief we made a beeline for the bar. The bar served Pure Blondes, Crown Lagers, and moderate quality red and white wines – not bottles of Crystal champagne on ice as I had imagined. Most importantly, it was all free, of course.
After downing a few glasses, we were ready to track down some celebs. Most of the guests were dressed to the nines in glamorous designer frocks and suits – though the majority of guests were just rich, rather than famous. We spotted Ricki Lee near the bar introducing her new boyfriend ‘Jason’ to some other guests. Not all that exciting although he did look like a toy boy (robbing the cradle eh, Ricki?).
Next, we spotted Aussie music icon Molly Meldrum – the distinctive hat was a giveaway – entertaining a crowd of guests who had gathered around him like a bunch of wide-eyed school kids. I tried to convince my colleague to come and hassle him for a photo but Molly looked like the most popular guy at the party, so we decided to save him the effort.
We spotted an enticing outdoor tent with a canopee filled with fairy lights and decided that this must be where the dancefloor and the action is. We were afraid of being checked for Gold Passes upon entering the tent but after raiding the bar again and gaining some good old Dutch courage, we headed for said tent.
On the way, we encountered Aussie rock royalty – Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning who had just pulled the plug on his band and vowed never to do a comeback tour. He was quietly chatting to a small group of friends, red wine in hand, but there was no sign of the rest of the band. The music was also too loud to listen to Bernard’s conversation although we tried to hang out as close as we could to him without looking like deranged stalkers. Bernard’s mobile rang and he went off to take the call privately – but again I resisted following him with a tape recorder. I guess I’m too big a Powderfinger fan to disrespect him like that. After all, it was Powderfinger’s moment of glory – their very last ARIA Awards after picking up 18 pointy silver trophies.
My colleague visited the men’s room and came back with some juicy goss. Apparently, four band members from a music act that was nominated for several awards that night all went into the same cubicle in the bathroom and mentioned an ‘eight ball.’ Guess who don’t sue! One of the band members later walked past us looking pretty off his head. So ARIA-nominated musicians do cocaine? Wow, what a surprise!
After that bit of excitement, off to the tent we went. Instead of finding dancing, most people were sprawled out on white chaise lounges sipping champagne. This was an incredibly laid-back party. We headed to the bar inside the tent for more free drinks. I sampled the champers – the Opera House’s finest Cuvee. It ended up being a letdown and I left my barely sipped glass on an empty table.
About 200 glamorous people were spread out on ivory sofas engrossed in private chats but we really couldn’t spot any celebs – apart from Video Hits host Dylan Lewis weaving his way through the crowd. There was no sign of Washington, John Butler Trio or Angus and Julia Stone although I imagined they were probably all smoking joints in the back of a Kombi van with Isabel Lucas.
Well if we couldn’t find celebs, sampling the cheese platter was the next best thing. There must have been about 50 huge platters of them spread throughout the party. We sat down on a lounge with a large platter of camembert and brie. I’m not usually a cheese person but if you crash a party people pay half a week’s wage for, I was going to take full advantage.
The champagne was a let-down but the cheese was to-die-for. Halfway through gorging on the plate of the exquisite cheese, we were interrupted by a casually-dressed guy and his female companion. “Is this your cheese?” he asked. As much as it would have made me feel like a rock star to say “yes, this platter has our name on it”, I admitted we were gatecrashing and didn’t have dibs on the cheese plate. “Haha, so are we,” they replied. Our fellow party crashers were photographers from two big newspapers (a gatecrasher never dobs in a fellow intruder though!). It felt good not being the only uninvited guests in the room. After helping us finish off the cheese platter, they bid us farewell.
I considered taking the remaining cheese as a souvenir (a successful gatecrasher always takes a memento), but couldn’t find anything to put it in. Deciding that there must have been a better token to remember the night, I noticed some chic ceramic candle-holders scattered on tables around the room. I discreetly knocked one onto the carpet before tossing it into my handbag. For the record it was from Ikea – it’s not as though I stole the Crown Jewels of England.
With my stolen candle in-tow and the realization that the bar had closed, we saw Dylan Lewis leaving and decided it was probably time for us to go too (that guy looks like he knows when a party has lost its lustre).
We passed Angela Bishop deep in conversation with a gal pal and left the low-key party. We high-fived as soon as we got down the steps and I heard my new candle holder clink in my handbag. Woot woot we successfully crashed the ARIAS afterparty! Back next year, I hope (I meant to the ARIA Awards Ceremony, of course)!
BEST PART: Seeing Bernard Fanning; and the cheese platter.
WORST PART: There weren’t many well-known artists there – mostly glammed-up rich people who flitted around acting important. Many of the musos end up skipping the official after party and head to their own private parties in hotel rooms with their record companies so the official after party usually lasts only a few hours and has a lot of no-shows.
WORTH PAYING FOR? 500 dollars will get you VIP seating at the awards and access to the official after party. I wouldn’t pay 500 dollars for it unless you just won lotto or really like cheese.
SHOULD YOU CRASH NEXT YEAR? Probably not. As reporters, we had access to backstage and could mingle with VIP guests but it would be a lot harder if you were simply an audience member. Still, we wouldn’t advise against trying your luck. Nothing says gatecrasher quite like being thrown onto the pavement by bouncers.
* NOTE: The term gatecrash implies that we were somehow a nuisance to other party-goers but this is far from the truth. We behaved politely and appropriately to all guests and refrained from violence, drug use and indecent exposure.
© Camilla Margolis