College music fans select their ‘Heroes’

What’s the next big thing in the college music scene? On Nov. 8, mtvU took its yearly stab at answering that question. At the fourth annual “Woodie Awards,” Gym Class Heroes, Say Anything, Boys Like Girls and Duke University band Stella by Starlight all picked up major awards at the same show that helped launch the careers of mainstream radio icons like Fall Out Boy, The Killers and Plain White T’s. Unlike the Video Music Awards, the “Woodies” are decided entirely by online fan voting.

Gym Class Heroes may have finally broken out from Fall Out Boy’s shadow, beating out Common, The Shins, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen to claim the coveted “Woodie of the Year” award. The victory completes a year that saw them enjoy unprecedented success, claiming a moonman for “Best New Artist” at the 2007 Video Music Awards (VMAs).

“I just want to thank our manager and the fans. . This is my first acceptance speech ever,” vocalist/emcee Travis McCoy said. “At the VMAs I just got rushed, knocked back my drink and I don’t remember anything else about the night.”

North Carolina-based indie-rock trio Stella by Starlight may have taken the biggest step toward rock ‘n’ roll success at the “Woodies,” besting nearly 1,700 other bands to win the inaugural “Best Music On Campus” award. Employing heavy vocal distortions and mellow, semi-hypnotic song structures, the band has crafted a decidedly unique sound that could very well launch them into the foreground of college rock, and make them a darling amongst music critics.

“This is . oh my god!” guitarist/vocalist Sonny Byrd exclaimed. “A week ago we were normal college kids.”

In the past two years, Say Anything has transformed from a semi-relevant punk band into a mainstream success receiving plenty of attention from mtvU. Propelled by its acclaimed 2004 release, “.Is a Real Boy,” and this year’s two-disc concept piece, “In Defense of The Genre,” Say Anything completed the journey at the “Woodies” besting pop-punk juggernauts Motion City Soundtrack and others to grab the “Best Video Woodie” honors for the ultra-ridiculous “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too.” The video features an appearance by Henry Winkler, Bemis mocking glamorous hip-hop and pop videos by grinding against cars and tossing money in the air, and a delightful helping of choreographed dancing by some pretty hot girls.

Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy may have confirmed Say Anything’s success more than anyone else as he ran past Bemis and Co. on the red carpet screaming “Best band on the planet, said anonymous guy!”

“My personal favorite album of the year,” Fall Out Boy vocalist Pete Stump said of “In Defense of the Genre” as he presented Say Anything with the award.

Boys Like Girls snagged the night’s final, and possibly most important award, receiving college music fans’ resounding approval as they walked up to the stage to claim the “Breaking Woodie” award, honoring the band as this year’s best emerging artist. Boys Like Girls blew up mainstream radio this summer with its feel-good pop-punk anthem “The Great Escape.” The band profusely thanked its fans and pop-punk icons and buddies .The Academy Is for all their support.

In between the awards, acceptance speeches, cat calls and thank you’s, some of the top names in the industry put on dazzling performances running the gamut from soulful hip-hop to indie rock.

Lupe Fiasco kicked off the night with an energetic rendition of “Superstar,” the single off of his highly-anticipated new album “Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool,” which drops on Dec. 18. In an interesting turn of events, Patrick Stump joined the budding rap mogul on stage for the final chorus, belting out the track’s addictive cadence “If you are what you say you are, a superstar.”

Lupe took time to address his new CD while on the red carpet. In previous interviews, the young star has claimed that fans didn’t really “get” his more intellectual off-beat approach to hip-hop on his 2006 disc “Food & Liquor,” which was propelled by “Kick, Push,” a track that told the story of a young Chicago skateboarder.

“I just do me. Everybody’s experiences are different, so if I just do me I’ll be alright,” Fiasco said. “People say (‘The Cool’) is easier to grasp. I think people can use that as a starting kit to Lupe Fiasco.”

Tokyo Police Club and Spank Rock took turns energizing the crowd. Tokyo Police Club attacked the audience with the first two tracks off the “Lesson In Crime” EP, “Cheer It On” and “Nature of the Experiment.” Vocalist Dave Monks shocked the audience into attention as he howled the opening line to “Cheer It On.”

“Operator! Get me the President of the world!” Monks shouted.

Spank Rock followed up with a full-fledged dance party on stage with neon green-clad dancers grinding to the group’s “Rick Ruben” after warming things up with the fast-paced “Loose.”

The Academy Is. took the stage next, performing its poignant epic “Everything We Had” with back up from a 12-piece string section made up of students from the Juliard School of Music. The band switched gears with a fast-paced, frenetic rendition of the song that earned it the “Viral Woodie,” “We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands.” The “Viral Woodie” is awarded to the band whose song was the most frequently downloaded from online music servers.

“It was a lot of fun last year with Copeland,” vocalist William Beckett said of the group’s performance at the College last semester. “We love playing college campuses. We love playing for that audience. It’s our age group. It’s just natural to play that crowd.”

Rilo Kiley amicably filled the headliner slot for Amy Winehouse, who had to drop off the bill, wowing the crowd with “Money Maker” and “Breakin’ Up” off their latest release “Under The Blacklight.” The indie rock darlings were the perfect way to cap off a night celebrating independent music and younger acts striving to reach the upper echelon of the industry.

For a few hours last Thursday night, mtvU’s “Woodie Awards” brought together some of the biggest names from every genre relevant to the college music scene, honoring the artists we have been blasting in our dorm rooms for the past 365 days, and giving us a first look at some of the acts we might be hooked on until next November.