Nearly everyone agrees MTV's Video Music Awards are a lost cause when it comes to offering up what its viewers actually want (live performances! cool presenters!) as opposed to what they unfortunately get (clips of live songs! footage playing up the glitz and glamor of the event! people partying who are not you!). But the VMAs' little brother, the mtvU Woodies, are thankfully far more in touch with its college-age audience. Last night the fourth-annual show taped at New York's Roseland Ballroom, and the lineup was packed with fan-voted nominees and performers who've carved out their own niches in hip-hop and rock, like Spank Rock. The Academy Is... and Tokyo Police Club. Lupe Fiasco and Rilo Kiley filled in for original headliner Amy Winehouse, who may well have been the Woodie's Britney in Vegas had she not bailed last week due to visa troubles.
Highlights ranged from Lupe Fiasco's opening performance of "Superstar" with guest vocals from Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump (in the house with his band to present Best Video Woodie) to onetime RS Artist to Watch The Academy Is... performing their breakthrough power ballad "Everything We Had" with a string section of Julliard students adding tear-jerking accompaniment. The performance-heavy lineup allowed most acts to play two full songs, as though mtvU was offering a mea culpa for the VMAs' hotel-suite snippets.
Peter (of Peter, Bjorn and John) was spotted headbanging along with members of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus during "We've Got a Big Mess on Our Hands," The Academy's guitar-heavy rocker of a second song. Also seen: Spank Rock -- who performed "Loose" and "Rick Rubin" with Santogold and half-dozen girls in glow-in-the-dark bikinis -- dancing dirty with one of the girls in the artists' seating section; members of Say Anything (Best Video Woodie), The Academy Is... (Best Viral Woodie), Gym Class Heroes (Woodie of the Year) and Fall Out Boy cheering each other on whenever one of the bands was nominated or scored a trophy; and Best Music on Campus nominee Show Me Action generally stoked just to be at the show -- even if they lost to Duke's Stella by Starlight -- and passing off their CD to Stump.
Most out-of-place star? It was a three-way tie between Kenan Thompson of Saturday Night Live, who proclaimed "Fuck the police" as an introduction for Canadian buzz band Tokyo Police Club's set; Annie Lennox, who was on hand to present the Good Woodie to the band who has had the Greatest Social Impact; and Guster, who won the Goodie despite the lead singer of fellow nominees Red Jumpsuit Apparatus standing on a table and encouraging cheers.
Rilo Kiley's closing performance of "Moneymaker" (done acoustically with a guitar case doubling as a drum) and "Breakin' Up" got the crowd, including various MTV staffers, really grooving. Despite the power-to-the-people mentality of the show, the people part of that equation (college kids decked out in their finest clubwear) seemed remarkably unenthused for the majority of the evening, which is about the only way in which the Woodies ultimately did resmble the VMAs.
The Woodies air on mtvU and and mtvU.com on November 15th at 8 PM ET.
• MTV's New Video Strategy To Highlight Bad Lyricism, the Corruption of America's Youth
• Alternate Takes: VMAs Are DOA
• VMAs Wrap-Up: Kanye's Tantrum, Kid Rock's Punch, Timberlake's Pleas
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