Tones and I cleaned up at the ARIAs
Tones and I cleaned up at the ARIAs

Tones and I cleans up at ARIA awards

Last year Byron Bay's Toni Watson was a busker who watched the ARIAs from her van.

One year later, the artist better known as Tones and I led the night, taking out the most awards.

The 26-year-old's hit Dance Monkey broke the record for the longest-running number one single ever on the ARIA chart and launched her into the spotlight, landing her a coveted spot on the US Jimmy Fallon show.

Fresh from opening Australian music's night of nights wearing a purple beard and a puffer jacket, the singer made an emotional acceptance speech saying she didn't always feel like the most relatable female artist.

"I'm not into makeup or dresses or typically girly things but to me these things don't really define what it is to be a female artist in this industry," she said.

"It's being brave and courageous and true to yourself."

Tones and I said nothing could have ever prepared her for the judgement of the whole world and the comparisons to other artists that come with being in the spotlight.

Byron Bay busker Tones And I. Picture: Elise Derwin
Byron Bay busker Tones And I. Picture: Elise Derwin

Tones and I won four awards overall: female artist, pop release, breakthrough artist and independent release.

Host Guy Sebastian won the award for best song for his hit Choir, while Dean Lewis took home the award for album of the year for A Place We Knew.

"Four years ago I quit my job and moved in with my Nan, she had a spare room, I had a thousand dollars," Lewis said.

"I'm glad I did."

Earlier in Wednesday night's event, Robert Irwin kept things colourful by arriving on stage with a black-headed python named Larry.

The son of the late Steve Irwin was joined on stage by Sophie Monk who said she felt like the "Bogan Britney Spears" with the snake draped around her.

Host Guy Sebastian kicked off the night poking fun at guests in the audience - making a memorable reference to The Veronicas' recent ousting from a Qantas flight over their carry-on luggage, begging people not to touch the pop duo's bags.

"Just leave it, for God's sake it's not worth it."

It wasn't the only controversy of the night, with a shocking comment from the recipients of the very first award.

Jaws dropped as Aussie hip hop group Hilltop Hoods member Suffa accepted the gong for best live act.

"And Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself," he said.

But the comment was eclipsed by Triple J's Veronica and Lewis, who announced Paul Kelly had won best independent release, an award the veteran Aussie songwriter wasn't nominated for.

"It's Moonlight," Lewis joked, referencing the infamous Oscar's moment in 2017 when La La Land was mistakenly read out for best picture, before quickly re-announcing Tones and I as the victor.

Australia’s Human Nature will enter the ARIA Hall of Fame this year. Picture: Supplied
Australia’s Human Nature will enter the ARIA Hall of Fame this year. Picture: Supplied

Human Nature was inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame after 30 years crooning to audiences in Australia and most recently Las Vegas.

The group said it was a moment in history for the ARIAs as the first time a boy band had ever been inducted.

"For the longest time we refused to be known as a boy band, so maybe that kept us together but now we're happy with it," Human Nature's Andrew Tierney told AAP.

"It's actually 30 years tonight that I asked these three guys to sing with me, which for schoolboys in the late 80s was pretty radical."

The night had other milestones, with best hip hop release winner Sampa the Great saying while her win was amazing it was also bittersweet given she was the first woman of colour to win the category.

It was also a surreal moment for The Teskey Brothers from rural Victoria, who received their first ever ARIA from Irish rockers U2 who presented the award live from Perth.



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