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Metro Choice: The new Gene genies

Music awards. Who needs 'em? "I don't see why the Mercury exists, it's just a bunch of critics having their say - they have their say in the papers every week. And the Brits is just a TV-oriented industry bash - nothing to do with the music.'' Fig hting words from Steve Sutherland, editor of NME. So what's he doing about it? Er, running once again the NME Carlsberg Brat Awards. These awards, however, are decided by the people who read the music papers, go to festivals and actually buy records. The real idea behind the awards is not just to give away tasteful statuettes of a fist with an upturned finger, but to put on music that might have trouble getting into the mainstream media. Last year's Best Album winner, for instance, Boo Radleys' Giant St eps, came from nowhere to sell 20,000 copies in the fortnight after the award was announced. This year, NME and Carlsberg have put loads of cool new bands on a bus and driven it round Britain, to counter accusations of music industry London-centrism. The ceremony, of course, is in London on Tuesday and will be broadcast live on Radio 1FM. Several showcase gigs this weekend give everyone an opportunity to see the hot new bands: Veruca Salt (below), Echobelly, Gene and loads more. "It's a cheap ticket to see all the bands we blather on about,'' Sutherland says. "We're being wonderfully altruistic, really.''

21 Jan: Gene, Rub Ultra, Supergrass, The Blue Tones; 22 Jan: Veruca Salt, Marion, Skunk Anansie, 60ft Dolls. Astoria, Charing Cross Rd (071-434 0403). 20 Jan: Renegade Soundwave, A Guy Called Gerald, Dread Zone, -Ziq. The Rocket, Holloway Rd (071-700 2421). Brat Nominees Show, 23 Jan: Menswear, Echobelly, Galliano. Forum, Kentish Town (071-284 2200)