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After a glorious montage of brilliant Birthday Party and Bad Seeds live clips and videos amped the capacity crowd, the dark, sharp-dressed man himself took the stage to accept his dangerous-looking PLUG Impact Award. In what was perhaps his best joke of the evening, comedian Patton Oswalt pointed out, “This is what thirty years of innovation gets you… a butt plug designed by David Lynch.”

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Cave stepped out of a slit in the curtain to accept his award with a barely-discernible nod and a quick thanks, yet this brief moment was more than enough to get the crowd ready for the Bad Seeds’ headlining set.

For the most part, the evening’s comic relief fell flat, yet some bits received a few titters, like Oswalt’s self-effacing reference to comedians getting off on the smallest of smiles from their audience, (it went something like this): “smiling’s good [for us sad comedians] with our tiny penises and weak backs…”.

No wonder the night rightly belonged to the musicians at hand.

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St. Vincent’s Annie Clark

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José Gonzalez

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Dizzee Rascal

Mini sets by White Denim, St. Vincent, Dizzee Rascal and José Gonzalez sped by and awards were presented without much fanfare (Oswalt did fall flat with a few one-liners, like calling Iron & Wine, who won for “best Americana album of the year”, “bearded & sad”). This innocuous three-hour show didn’t seem to pose a problem for most of the audience since the evening’s worthy spotlight rightly belonged to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The Bad Seeds played a nearly 50-minute set which included a sextet of new material like “We Call Upon the Author” and “Midnight Man”, which Cave coyly introduced as a song from their “monstrously good new album for whoever you are, whenever you are, wherever you are…” The new songs from Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! were powerful indeed, but the finest surprises of the night had to be the band’s rumbling version of their barely-played-classic “Tupelo”, a slow-burning “Red Right Hand”, and dark and dirty closer “Stagger Lee”, (Cave led into this tune by dubbing it a “sobering, cautionary tale”).

For a mere ten bucks, and though you didn’t get to see Sentimentalist Magazine win for “Best Zine” (hey, at least we were nominated for the second year in a row), tonight’s ticket was the best music bargain in town.

— MVW/photos by Tear-n Tan

PLUG 2008 Winners List

Female Artist Of The Year: Annie Clark of St. Vincent, presented by SNL’s Fred Armisen

Song Of The Year: The National for “Fake Empire,” presented by Tiny Masters Of Today, the 11- and 13-year-old Brooklyn-based duo who released their debut album last year

New Artist Of The Year: Justice (also winner of Electronic Album of the Year), presented by El-P -producer, multi-nominated artist multiple years for PLUG and co-owner of Def Jux nominated for Hip-Hop album of the year

Indie Rock Album Of The Year: Animal Collective, presented by Tyondai Braxton of BATTLES who were nominated for 7 PLUG Awards this year and the winner of the 2008 PLUG Music Video of the Year

PLUG Impact Award: Nick Cave

Album Of The Year
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (Merge)

New Artist Of The Year
Justice

Female Artist Of The Year
Annie Clark (St. Vincent)

Male Artist Of The Year
Andrew Bird

Indie Rock Album Of The Year
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (Domino)

Americana Album Of The Year
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (Sub Pop)

Metal Album Of The Year
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works (Relapse)

Hip-Hop Album Of The Year
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass (Definitive Jux)

Punk Album Of The Year
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)

Electronic/Dance Album Of The Year
Justice – † (Ed Banger/Vice)

DJ Album Of The Year
Hot Chip – DJ-Kicks (!K7)

Avant Album Of The Year
Liars – Liars (Mute)

Artist Of The Year
Radiohead

Song Of The Year
The National – “Fake Empire” – Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

Live Act Of The Year
Arcade Fire

Music Video Of The Year
Battles – “Atlas” (Warp)

Album Art/Packaging Of The Year
Menomena – Friend And Foe (Barsuk)

Label Of The Year
Merge

Live Music Venue Of The Year
Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY)

Music Festival Of The Year
Coachella Valley Music Festival

Music Website Of The Year
Pitchfork Media

Music Blog Of The Year
Stereogum

Magazine Of The Year
Paste

Online Radio Station Of The Year
KCRW

Record Store Of The Year
Other Music (New York, NY)

Zine Of The Year
Wax Poetics

Online Record Store Of The Year
iTunes

College/Non-Comm Radio Station Of The Year
KEXP (Seattle, WA)

Specialty Show Of The Year (Commercial Radio)
Sirius: Left Of Center – Blog Radio (New York, NY)