Music by VICE

X Factor Rejects and Free Fanta: What It’s Actually Like to Go to the Brits

Behold the ham sandwiches, nosebleed seats and red carpet jostling of this year's awards.

by Ryan Bassil
Feb 23 2017, 3:22pm

I wasn't sure what to think about the 37th edition of the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards – aka the Brits. It's the one night of the year where members of the music industry come together to drink champagne and wear fancy clothes while the media spends four hours in a press room eating cold sandwiches and drinking cans of orange Fanta. Like the last few years, the 2017 awards took place at the O2 Arena – a great bastion of large pop concerts and the one place in Zone Two where it's possible to enjoy the delicacies of Harvester's unrivalled salad bar. In a way, the venue epitomises the duality of British culture, swerving between the luxury of dimly lit cocktail bars and the opportunity to cash that 2-for-1 Pizza Express voucher. Still, the ceremony has always felt like a less cool relative of the Grammys – the younger brother who inherits all the best clothes after they've been worn out in public a few weeks earlier.

In the last few years the Brit Awards has come under fire for its poor representation of the varied spectrum of British music. This year, in its more #woke edition, both Stormzy and Skepta performed (although did not win the awards they were nominated for). Like you, I normally slump in front of the Brits with a gut-threatening takeaway meal, ready to recline onto the opposite end of the sofa. But I've always wondered what it feels like to go. What happens when you're on the red carpet and in the arena hosting British Music's Biggest Night?

This year it was brought upon to me to experience the whole shebang first-hand, to bring you, dear readers, the minutiae of what it feels like to attend an award show (albeit one that involves an iPhone with a depleting battery, rather than sitting backstage and rolling dangerously long L-plates with Skepta). Here is the exclusive ins and outs of the Brit Awards 2017.


Upon arrival in the glittering backstage corridors of the O2 Arena, I am greeted by this branded A5 notepad. A useful tool for any budding young journalist, this piece of property can filled with a variety of notes – from liberal, lengthy scrawls that will be indecipherable come tomorrow morning to the odd word written in SCREAMING CAPITAL LETTERS. As a fan of trees, I opt instead to take notes on my iPhone and head out onto the red carpet. Still: a free notepad! I can only hope the world of fame and fortune awaits.


And here they are: the well-trained social media managers of all your favourite websites, clinging to the front rail for upwards of three hours in the hope of taking a quick Snapchat of Frank Lampard as if their careers (and future living prospects) depend on it. These guys know their worth; it's impossible to muscle past them, really. They are like limpets to corrugated iron. Thus: these are the only three OK-ish images I am able to take.

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Here's one of the few bands with a name capable of causing a metallic taste to form in my mouth and acid to pump through my stomach: Biffy Clyro;


Nick "I'm drunk" – his words, not mine – Grimshaw;


And your MCM interviewing Charlotte from Geordie Shore for MCM. In a better life this picture would be of a higher quality so as to allow you to look at the man's haircut properly. I also see a guy from X Factor boy band Union J who I went to sixth form with (known to 17-year-old me as Josh Cuthbert, now rebranded as "Joshy") but refuse to take a picture of him or look him in the eyes because he once posted a Facebook status about me and I won't let my pettiness and integrity within it slide – even for popstars. Still, he's come a long way from sitting on the boot of a Vauxhall Astra in the college car park and so have I. Perhaps now, we're one and the same.

I continue waiting here for ages but it's boring, this waiting lark. I'm sure some good people will at some point walk onto the red carpet and have perhaps already but I can't be bothered to wait any longer. While the Daily Mail reporters upload their photos to Twitter, I crawl back to the press area in search of more showbiz freebies.


A selection of Raynors' finest sandwiches have been placed on offer. If you dream of one day becoming a showbiz journalist, think: is this for you?


Do you enjoy a good squirt of alcohol hand gel on your supple yet weather-beaten hands?

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Would you like to spend intermittent Wednesday evenings in rooms like this eating ham sandwiches for the next 20 years? Don't let me hold you back, son. Don't let me keep you. Go get that Journalism BA, baby!


Outside the media room and away from the red carpet – and all the other rooms I am not allowed into – is a world of opportunity. Along the weatherproof high street I run into X Factor 2008 contestant Andrew Perity. I know this, because he announces it to me when he sees my swanky MEDIA lanyard. He has two words for Simon Cowell – "Fuck you". Sadly he will absolutely not be attending tonight's awards and is only here at the O2 in a non-vocational capacity.


After walking the length of the O2, visiting bathrooms at different locations and returning to the red carpet no less than four times, I realise I have done everything it is possible for me to do with my wristband access before the show starts. With no money to spend on luxury food or alcohol, I return to the media room and stare at what appears to be a shrine to the fierce passion and great art of rock'n'roll for half an hour. Leather, white smoke, guitars. This spread has it all.


Finally the show begins and I take my seat far above the glamour of the star-studded tables, which you can see lit up above. At this point I attempt to open a bottle of water between my legs and it spills under my seat, ensuring I'm sitting on a damp piece of cotton. As it soaks into my perineum, I realise this might be the most interesting thing about the night's first performance that I saw, from Bruno Mars.


A small TV screen pops up above my head which makes the experience sort of like watching it on TV but with live sound and a screen that's further away than the television in the average person's living room. I leave my seat and head back to the media room to watch from a television that's closer to my face.


Yet even this screen doesn't quite compare to the experience of stewing under a film of takeaway grease on the sofa, so I decide that I'm done with showbiz reporting. It's sofa journalism from me for now on. I would like to say I went back in and watched more but in all honesty that would be a lie, so this is the best I could bring you from the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards. When it ends I leave to go to a party hosted by a record label. It's sponsored by the vodka Ciroc.


Thank you Diddy / Puff Daddy / Sean Combs / Diddy Dirty Money / Bad Boy Records and the related entertainment family for bringing this drink into my life and an end to my evening. I solely enjoy Ciroc until it gets later than I thought it would be and return to the office the next morning to bring this service to you. Thank you to anyone who made it this far. You have my undying love.

You can find Ryan Bassil on Twitter.

(Lead image by JMEnternational)

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