Held on Cammeraigala country on a semi-circular stage that jutted from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo – harbour and bridge glinting in the sunset – the 2021 ARIAs were a condensed but satisfactorily shiny affair.

The event lasted just one hour (we very beg your pardon?), and was hosted with aplomb by the wonderful Brooke Boney.

There were plenty of ace performances and formal speeches, but we’re counting out our favourite moments that just popped off with no prior warning – some goofy, some gorgeous, some profound.

Budjerah gets emotional

Who didn’t get teary when they saw how gobsmacked 19-year-old Budjerah was when announced winner of the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist Award? A few words into his speech, his voice started to crack. “I didn’t expect to cry, but I’m crying, and I sound weird,” he said, as the camera cut to his mum in the audience, dabbing her eyes. WE LOVE YOU BUDJERAH.

YouTube chat is mental (as per usual)

Quite frankly, the YouTube chat comments deserve their own entry in this list because they were chaotic-good. Here are some of our faves (that are actually publishable):

“I think the reason why the arias aren’t on tv this year cause home and away is going for 90 mins instead of 30 mins”
“why does alfoil have one shinny side and the other side is not”
“my head hurts why are some of you like this”

Liam Finn isn’t listening to Dad

Crowded House accepted their award for Best Adult Contemporary Album (for Dreamers Are Waiting; read our interview with Neil Finn about that corker right here) via multi-screen Zoom, each bandmember sitting and smiling obediently in front of their webcam… except for Liam Finn, who was furiously thrashing at a drum kit on mute throughout the entirety of his father’s speech.

Genesis Owusu shouts out Goons everywhere

Having just declared himself “lost for words” (with a very adroit self-correction from a certain swear-word to “sugar”), Genesis Owusu rolled out the quote of the night in his acceptance speech for Album of the Year (for his incredible record Smiling Without Teeth): “Goon Club worldwide, eccentrics, Black people: Know that it’s not up to us to to change for people, it’s up to them to catch up, and see what they’ve been missing out on.”

Prior to this, he said: “I used to get side-eyed when I was a kid for the way I dressed and the things I did. But all the people I loved stayed firm, immovable, unshakeable, because we knew the power of what we created.”

Owusu picked up a total of four pointy statues over the course of the night, from six nominations.

Hannah Joy is full of joy

Middle Kids’ Hannah Joy looked a vision in blue backstage, and was spitting straight-up poetry: “Sometimes you have to steal your heart to protect it,” she nodded sagely, then burst into giggles.

Baker Boy’s dinner was better than yours

No one looked as stoked to be at the ARIAs as Baker Boy, who presented in a dope houndstooth jacket and a state-wide grin. When co-presenter Peach PRC asked what he was planning to chow on post-Awards, he beamed: “Chilli crab in a dilly bag, not even lying.” Okay, we’re crashing your next dinner party, mate.

Vance Joy: not afraid to be a nut

The winner of Best Video was Missing Piece by Vance Joy who, in his extremely neat suit, looked like a vacuum cleaner salesman next to BB and Peach. But after his acceptance speech while Brooke Boney had already started introducing the next segment he ran straight in front of the camera with a fratboy whoop, forcing camera guy to perform a slam-zoom-out.

The Kid LAROI makes Brooke go ‘aww’

It was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it was brilliant: Brooke Boney’s adorably touched expression as the camera made a super-quick cut to her during The Kid LAROI’s pre-recorded acceptance speech for Best Artist. Camera dude was obviously clued-in and ready for the moment LAROI expressed his “special thanks to my sister Brooke.” Well done again, camera dude.

For the full list of ARIA nominees and winners,hit up the official ARIA website.