DUBLIN'S Vicar Street venue was pulsing with the best of Irish musical talent last night as the fourth annual Choice Music Prize awards went off with a bang.
One man band Jape walked away with the gong for Irish Album of the Year 2008 for 'Ritual', decided by a secret ballot at the end of the night.
His victory was announced at the climax of the live event, which featured sizzling live sets from Fight Like Apes, Messiah J & The Expert and others.
Taking to the stage to accept his award Jape, aka Ritchie Egan, said his win came as a huge surprise. "I wasn't expecting to win tonight because all the bands were totally awesome," he explained.
"They all deserve the award -- sure my mother even told me that Mick Flannery was going to win, she said you're good, Ritchie, but he's gorgeous," he joked.
On a more serious note, Egan observed that life in the music industry is getting increasingly difficult for emerging artists.
"It's getting harder to make a living as a musician today but it's a fight you have to fight if it's in your heart," he said.
"It's much better to be a sinking ship after all, rather than a rat jumping off."
He received a cheque for €10,000 and a commemorative trophy from the judging panel, which included well-known luminaries of the Irish music world Today FM's Ian Dempsey and 2FM DJ Ian Wilson.
Bookies' favourite Jape beat rival contestants Fight Like Apes, Mick Flannery, Halfset, Lisa Hannigan, David Holmes, Messiah J & The Expert, Oppenheimer, RSAG, and The Script to win the coveted prize.
Corkman Mick Flannery won't be too devastated at last night's result, however, with another chance to hit the big time at the Meteor Music Awards coming up on March 17 with his nomination for Best Irish Male.
"Our titchy little maverick event has morphed into an event that is prominent on the musical scene," said co-founder of the Choice Music Prize, Jim Carroll.