The lights were bright over Roseland Ballroom in New York City as we shuffled into line. “Press?” we asked the girl in the headset, who cordially directed us into a shorter line than the rest. As we pushed our way through the crowd of people who looked like they should be in bands even though they weren’t, a town car pulled up. Echos of “Hey, isn’t that Kurt Loder?” and “Maybe John Norris?” could be heard throughout the crowd.
Old-school MTV VJs aside, the scene outside mtvU’s first annual Woodie Awards Wednesday was nothing short of organized mayhem. mtvU, MTV’s college station that plays each night in Travers/Wolfe Dining Hall, held the awards show to honor bands that are stars of the indie and alternative scenes. Artists like Arcade Fire, Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack and M.I.A. were nominated for awards. And performances by the Go! Team, orthodox Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu, rap group Little Brother and Best Live Action Video Woodie winner Death Cab for Cutie punctuated the mix-and-mingle affair.
The show, which airs on mtvU on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m., will likely be the first of many Woodie Awards shows for mtvU. The “Woodie” tradition stems from “the indie tradition of giving a wooden record to those artists who generate a passionate response to their music,” according to an mtvU press release. Although the station awarded Woodies last year in the Bowery Ballroom basement, it is the first time they held an actual taping to present the award. The taping attracted a variety of celebrities, from “Capote” star Philip Seymour Hoffman and rock legend Lou Reed to rock acts Coheed and Cambria and Ok Go. With a velvet rope serving as the only barrier from a few legends of our time, we took full advantage of the access the show gave us.
Walking around before the awards show began, we had full access to anything that wasn’t backstage, as we were told when we walked in. A number of bands flitted around before the event, some looking for friends or bandmates, like Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack, who, with a harried look on his face, couldn’t stop to talk.
However, others were more than willing to chat it up. “I know a lot of college kids are really picky about music,” Josh Haven, the lead singer of the Afters, said, “so it’s really an honor to be here.” They won the award, which was not filmed, for the Streaming Woodie, an award for the most downloaded song on mtvu.com.
At the show, a number of said picky college students filled the floor, shifting their attentions between the bar and two stages, one for performances and one for awards.
Reed, frontman of the Velvet Underground and singer of ’70s standard “Walk on the Wild Side,” presented the first award of the night. “People come up and say ‘Hey Lou, is there any great music nowadays?’ And I say ‘Hey dude, there’s tons of great music, which you voted for,'” he said.
All the awards were decided by college students who voted at the Web site under each category.
A celebrity guest as well as a college student presented each award. Muse, who was one of the bands present that had gotten radio airplay, won the International Woodie, for the voters’ favorite international artist and was introduced by Damien Kulash Jr., lead singer of OK Go. After the show, the very obviously intoxicated members of OK Go talked about their fans, the awards and how much alcohol they’d had that night. “Fuck yeah,” Kulash said when asked if artists were afforded an open bar.
The bar was a hot spot for many people at the awards, both artists and audience members alike. Though the guests were treated to an open bar, audience members were stuck with $6 beers and Red Bulls. Apparently, however, the price did not deter some. Throughout the show, one person made at least four trips back and forth to the bar, carrying four beers on each of his trips.
One thing that never does change about MTV, regardless of the station, is the number of commercials. During commercial breaks, the audience was treated to music videos on the big screen, some from guests and performers, while others were just videos the station played regularly. Meanwhile, several members of mtvU’s crew slid through the crowd, encouraging people within camera range to put their hands up and appear enthusiastic for the performances.
The Satin Dolls, a group of females from Fordham University who perform a cappella versions of popular songs, introduced, throughout the show, the nominees for the Woodie of the Year by singing a selection of each of the nominated songs. Courtney Hart, one of the Dolls and a junior at Fordham, expressed considerable excitement after the show not only about their performances, but residual surprise over getting the opportunity.
“Oh my God, we never dreamed we would be here,” she said.
Josh Cain, guitarist for Motion City Soundtrack, said they were “amazed” to win The Breaking Woodie, an award for the best emerging artist. “We didn’t expect it. You never expect to get awards for something you do just for fun,” he said.
We never thought we’d get the opportunity to go to an awards show because of something we do for fun either.
-Candida DeFonseca, Fact Checker; Katelyn McCormick, News Editor