The 2009 mtvU Woodie Awards penetrate dorm-room televisions this Friday night. Now, mtvU is a campus-only cable network, so this awards show is targeted to those seeking higher education: i.e., it is something kids watch before leaving their rooms, finding a party and making some questionable decisions.
So if you wanna know what your missing, here it is: Woodies are golden logs given to musicians based upon student votes from across the country. According to MTV, the Woodies give us the pulse of the trend-setting campus crowd. Some of the featured artists at the ’09 Woodies are indeed of the up-and-coming variety—Passion Pit, Never Shout Never—and some were alt-music standbys present, like Death Cab for Cutie, Jack White and Clipse. But there was one thing I know for certain: You should question the indie cred of any show that provides two separate bottles of hair product on every sink in the bathroom.
All questions of “alternative-ness” aside, however, the performances were top notch. The show’s fantastic kickoff featured moving cameras following the Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim as they biked through the heart of Manhattan (in real time) and into the Roseland Ballroom, where they hopped off their bikes and jumped right into singing their college-radio hit “Lessons Learned” as audiences cheered along.
You might remember that song from its infamous music video—the indie twosome walk through Times Square shedding layers of clothing until they are completely nekkid in front of droves of gawking tourists. But in case you forgot:
In keeping with their motif of American Apparel-styled sexiness, the duo and their chorus of background singers stripped down to their skivvies while chanting out the thunderous da-da-da-da’s of the songs chorus. (Naturally, “Lessons Learned” earned them the Woodie for Best Video of the year: What college kid can say no to public nudity?)
Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz was one of the more entertaining star presenters—he strolled out, shared some of his booze with kids in the audience and presented the breaking artist of the year Woodie to Never Shout Never, a one-man courier of sunny-sounding acoustic depression pop. Passion Pit injected some dance fever into the crowd with the playful synth vamp from their falsetto-tastic single “The Reeling,” and Clipse kept the momentum by bringing Cam’ron and Rick Ross out to perform “I’m Good,” the first single from their upcoming third album.
Death Cab wooed the melancholy Twilight crowd with “Meet Me on the Equinox,” their contribution to the New Moon soundtrack. The song, which I thought a bit frail on record, was actually great in concert—lead singer Ben Gibbard and co. gave it some muscle and speed the official version lacks. They even treated longtime fans with a Transatlanticism favorite, “The Sound of Settling.” (Speaking of NOT settling, Gibbard’s indie-heartthrob wife Zooey Deschanel was also a presenter at the event).
The most exciting non-musical moment was when Cyndi Lauper bopped onstage as a guest presenter—her hawk-swoop hairstyle still screams “She’s So Unusual!” after all these years. She helped announce that Kings of Leon (who were not present) had been voted Band of Year, which is hardly surprising—it’s difficult to think of another band that has risen from the red dirt of the South to the top of the pops.
The Dead Weather closed the night with three killer songs, and even though their album is a bit uneven, Jack White never fails to deliver in concert. “Hang You from the Heavens” brought the first touch of genuinely hard rock fuzz to the evening, and during “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” co-lead-singer Alison Mosshart pranced and prowled around the stage sounding a bit like a modern rock version of Billie Holiday.
The indie rock supergroup gave the undergrad crowd the best performance of the night, but aside from one brave stage-hopping fan, no one seemed to let loose and shimmy as much as you might expect. Why? Most of the crowd was too sloppy drunk by the time the show came to a close. Which, when you think about it, indicates that maybe the Woodie Awards do represent the college crowd as much as mtvU claims…
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