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Inside the MTV Woodie Awards 2009: The Awards Show That Parties Like a Dorm Party

Nick Anderson | Monday, December 7, 2009

Behind closed doors, there are whispers that MTV has finally been found guilty of at least one of their many, many crimes against humanity (“The Hills,” we’re looking at you).  After a long but secret trial, MTV was sentenced to thousands of hours of community service and thinking about what they’ve done. While this may not be true, it is the leading theory explaining the existence of the MTVU Woodie Awards, the leading college music awards show.
MTV provided necessary stage, performers, music and bar with little respect for the legal drinking age declaring boldly, loudly and in its own edgy manner, “This ain’t your father’s award show.” The night quickly transformed into a manic display of uninhibited college antics, over-hyped musicians, malfunctioning Teleprompters and unrefined hipness.
Matt & Kim, backed by some incredibly confident back-up singers, opened the show, bursting onto the main stage on fixed gear bicycles. An inspired performance, backed by nearly naked singers started the show on a high note, capped off by Kim’s stage dive off her bass drum.
Never a network to miss an opportunity to force more commercialization into an event, Matt & Kim were followed, for the first and likely final time in their career, by Pete Wentz, who opened with a toast. In a normal situation, the hipster-heavy audience would have alternatively booed or laughed the Fall Out Boy front man off-stage. They instead welcomed him loudly cheering heavy with enthusiasm and alcohol. He’s a celebrity; he deserves at least the much respect.
The presenters, equipped with shoddy but high concept jokes, mainly fell flat, either from bad writing or a clear lack of celebrity. All presenters were vexed by a slow Teleprompter, leading to either awkward pauses in their speeches or clear and inappropriately interjected vulgarity.  David Cross’ extended scientology introduction for Death Cab for Cutie left the audience confused and disappointed. The pairing of Cyndi Lauper and Leighton Meester proved that knowledge of one is mutually exclusive of the other. Pac Div and Janelle Monae clearly had the best agents. Both acts somehow made it on stage without anyone in attendance actually being familiar with music of either. 3Oh!3 were the only presenters who clearly energized the crowd, largely thanks to their imitation Lady Gaga apparel, which both wore with pride and elegance.
The musical performances were a completely different matter. Every act that played was a veteran of the college circuit, navigated the stage smoothly and worked the crowd despite the availability of a limited set list. Drawing solely from indie rock and rap, and clearly mined from the depths of the college music scene the selection was a perfect match for a packed room of college kids.
Death Cab for Cutie provided an incredibly important lift around the midpoint of the show. Performing “Meet me on the Equinox” from the New Moon soundtrack. A favorite of the college crowd for the last decade, Death Cab played a strong, indie-worthy though short-lived show. Following closely on the heels of their performance, Clipse also kept the crowd on its feet, assisted markedly by guest spots from Rick Ross and Cam’ron. While rap often comes off as a novelty to the college crowd, Clipse stuck to a street-worthy persona and performance, showing a strong argument for the conversion of many nonfans.
While Matt & Kim provided a more than adequate start to the show, Jack White’s latest side project, The Dead Weather, absolutely killed to end the night. Always a strong presence on the stage, White finally found a female vocalist who can match his intensity, dynamics and style and only slightly some off as a complete carbon copy. Pasty and marginally crazed, The Dead Weather ripped through three songs, culminating in “Cut Like a Buffalo.” Dancing crowds, frantic performance and thrashing guitar provided the perfect end point. Following the show, one could only agree with Cindi Lauper’s assessment, “We make music because music is awesome.”