mtvU’s Woodie Awards have become something of a SXSW tradition over the past few years, with a day party, nighttime showcase and the awards show broadcast on MTV all dedicated to celebrating the tastemaking musical choices of college students across the country. Last night, co-hosts Machine Gun Kelly and Tegan and Sara led the crowd through performances by headliner Zedd and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, pausing between performances to hand out awards. The showcase will be edited down to a half-hour telecast set to air Saturday night at 8 pm.
The day party included sets by Pusha T, Atlas Genius and Travi$ Scott (who brought out T.I. for a cameo appearance). Tegan and Sara took the stage to kick off the award show just as the sun set over downtown Austin. Opening with “Back in Your Head,” the twin duo with a four-piece backing band ran through a short four-song set (which included “Body Work” and “Closer”) before heading to the small host’s stage, where Machine Gun Kelly delivered the Breaking Woodie to Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Earl, whose major label solo debut Doris is set to drop this year on his vanity imprint for Columbia, jokingly thanked R. Kelly for getting him to come down to SXSW.
The awards show gave the showcase a bit of a stilted feel, with a few longer waits between artists and the bizarre sight of MGK and Tegan and Sara speaking into cameras from the host’s stage without being able to hear a word they were saying. Danny Brown was on hand to collect his Woodie Award for Best Music Video (for the coming-of-age tale “Grown Up”), while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis shared the Branching Out Woodie and MGK himself took home the Woodie of the Year honor, delivering a prepared speech in which he decried the backlash against him from critics and journalists and thanked his fans for sticking by him.
The average age of the crowd unsurprisingly skewed young, with a number of fans crowded near the backstage barricade before the show started, trying to get a glimpse of Macklemore and Lewis. But the band that surprised most was the Ohio-based SXSW newcomers Twenty One Pilots, who caused more than a few audience members to utter a double-take “Who?” But their genre-mashing electro-pop-rap-rock combination was received with enthusiastic praise. “I know you don’t know who we are,” said singer/keyboardist/aerial stuntman Tyler Joseph self-deprecatingly before he and drummer Josh Dun jumped all over the stage – Dun executing a backflip off a raised dais – and performing their song “Holding On To You,” a Passion Pit-inspired indie synth-pop track with rapped verses.
The crowd packed in for Macklemore, who appropriately came out wearing a poncho he claimed to have bought at an Austin thrift shop, a story he related to the crowd after performing his near-ubiquitous chart-topping hit “Thrift Shop.” “Same Love” was a sermon tearing down homophobia in hip-hop and the church, while Schoolboy Q and Hollis emerged to help out with “White Walls” and Macklemore went walking out on top of the crowd’s hands a la Method Man during his set-closing “Can’t Hold Us.”
Much of the audience streamed out after his last song – another unsurprising twist, considering how rabid his fanbase has become – leaving plenty of space to dance around during Zedd’s closing set. His massive screen and video game-esque light show helped energize the crowd, which wound up covered in beach balls and the residue of Zedd’s fog machine by evening’s end, a celebratory ending.