Boy & Bear Surprise Big Winners at ARIA Awards
Boy & Bear Surprise Big Winners at ARIA Awards

On a night which saw Kylie Minogue and the Wiggles inducted into Australia's hall of fame, it was newcomers Boy & Bear who proved the surprise big winners Sunday at the 25th annual ARIA Awards.

The Sydney folk outfit collected five trophies from seven attempts, including the coveted award for best group. During the ceremony, Boy & Bear's debut "Moonfire" (Island / Universal Music Australia) won album of the year, breakthrough artist album, best adult alternative album, and the five-piece grabbed breakthrough artist single for "Feeding Line," which they performed live from the stage.

It's been a dream rise for the group. A year ago this month, Boy & Bear were being hailed as the "next big thing," having snatched the 2010 Triple J "Unearthed" award, while Rolling Stone Australia would go on to anoint the group as 2011 "Artist to Watch." "Moonfire" opened at No. 2 on the ARIA albums chart in August and its exposure at the ARIAs will almost certainly push its sales well ahead of its currently gold certification (35,000).

On the grand occasion of its 25th anniversary, the ARIAs had a lot to lose this year. Organizers had last year tried to reinvigorate the show with an experimental format on the forecourt of Sydney's famous Opera House. It was a rank failure, and TV viewers fled in droves.

This year, the ARIA Awards got back to basics. In what turned out to be a sensible move, the show returned to familiar turf, with the event again taking place at the Allphones Arena (formerly Acer Arena) in Sydney's Olympic Park district.

Broadcast partner Network Nine this year shifted the broadcast from its prime time free-to-air station, to its "GO"-branded digital station. The delayed telecast pulled a credible 369,000 viewers, ranking it the evening's 19th top show across all digital stations.

The night will be remembered for many things but, unlike last year, few of them were negative.

One highlight occurred when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard inducted pop star Kylie Minogue into the ARIA Hall of Fame. In her speech, Gillard described the Minogue as "someone who to 100s of millions of people around the world is the face of Australia." Minogue is "so famous," she added, "we only need to say her first name."

Globally-popular children's entertainers the Wiggles collected their 10th ARIA Award with the best children's album gong for "Ukulele Baby!" (ABC Music). But it was their golden ARIA Hall of Fame trophy which they will cherish most. During their acceptance speech, Murray Cook (the "red" Wiggle) admitted the band worked as hard now as they ever had. Indeed, the group had played two shows earlier that day in the country's capital, Canberra.

Searing-hot singer Gotye was a three-time winner on the night, receiving trophies for best male artist, best pop release and single of the year for his smash, "Somebody That I Used To Know" (Samples 'n' Seconds Records/Eleven: A Music Company), featuring Kimbra. Not to be outdone, New Zealand-born Kimbra earned female artist of the year honors, and the rising talent joined Gotye on stage to perform the multi-platinum hit.

Also on the night, Art vs Science's took out best independent release for "The Experiment" (Green/MGM Distribution), West Australian MC Drapht claimed the best urban album with chart-topper "The Life of Riley" (The Ayems/Sony Music Entertainment Australia), Cut Copy's "Zonoscope" (Modular Recordings) was named best dance release, and the late rocker Billy Thorpe's final album "Tangier" was declared best adult contemporary album.

And there was live performances from the likes of Art vs Science, the Living End, Drapht, Guy Sebastian, a duet featuring Gurrumul and Missy Higgins and a surprise appearance by Delta Goodrem, who performed a tribute to the artists who have passed away since the Awards began a quarter-century ago.

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