The Date: Nov. 8, 2007
The Venue: Roseland Ballroom & Spotlight Live, New York
The Crowd: The awards show: Lots and lots of college students and members of bands who are huge on MySpace, all of whom were virtually indistinguishable from each other. The after-party: An emo-free mix of MTV staffers, midtown partygoers and more legit musicians (like Blink 182's Tom DeLonge, the members of Rilo Kiley).
The Sponsors: American Airlines, Citibank, Ford, Garnier, T-Mobile and Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger
The Food: The awards show's sprawling VIP lounge offered everything from mini-burgers (a mainstay on the Freeloader circuit these days) to French fries to grilled chicken with assorted dipping sauces. For the veggie-lovers? Um, there might have been some lettuce in there somewhere as a garnish.
The Drinks: Open bar for the VIPs (with cute little embroidered "2007 mtvU Woodie" napkins upon which to rest your beverage). The after-party offered up some specialty drinks, courtesy of party sponsor T-Mobile, which were detailed on their own wooden "Woodie" plaque at each table.
Finally, an MTV awards show in 2007 where Sarah Silverman isn't forced to make a Paris Hilton joke and the only performers in ill-fitting bikinis are once again the backup dancers (we'll come back to those later).
Freeloader mingled with the undergrad crowd at this year's MTVU Woodie Awards, aka the college music event of the year (that isn't attached to a festival like CMJ, South by Southwest or Austin City Limits, of course). In case you're not sure what a college music event hosted by MTV looks like, go to MySpace and do a search for users aged 19 to 21 and their favorite bands. Chances are at least 80% of the emo bands that have appeared on the home page this year were at the event, though Freeloader couldn't tell them apart from the fans -- even if you threatened us with 20 blog kudos.
Because it's a college awards show, the Woodies are about as organized as a rough draft of your freshman English paper. There was no host -- just an occasional omniscient voice over -- and the only indication that a band or performer was going to come out next was when someone started walking on stage.
Roseland was separated into two stages -- one for the awards and one for the performances -- but with a very narrow tunnel by the VIP lounge through which the talent could access either one from the main floor. It was just like a basement frat party, where the clearest routes were to the food and booze and everything else required strategic planning in moving from one end to another.
The awards and performances were also dispersed quite randomly -- one emo band would perform two songs, then a presenter like Q-Tip or Talib Kweli would show up and give an award to another emo band, then music videos would start to play for a good 10 minutes or so before the cycle started up again. The hip-hop/punk act Gym Class Heroes (easily one of the night's most distinctive -- not to mention tuneful -- bands) took top honors for the Woodie of the Year award, which was given out first rather than saved for the end.
Freeloader likes the Woodies' approach to instant gratification -- why hold everyone in suspense when you can get the big award out of the way and just enjoy yourself the rest of the night? At least, we think it was the night's top honor, though we're still not sure what a "Woodie of the Year" actually entails other than the website's description: "the music you lived your life to this year."
All we know is that the name lent itself to other amusing categories like "The Good Woodie" (honoring special achievements in social causes, of course), "Best Performing Woodie" (for best live band) and "The Alumni Woodie," a lifetime achievement award of sorts for indie bands. Personally, we would've suggested the name "Sustained Woodie" for that category, but that might be taking the puns a bit too far.
There was also a band called Spank Rock, a male-female rap duo that clearly listened to a lot of hip-hop in the early '90s. This is where the bikini-clad backup dancers come in -- as the stage was being set, a battalion of girls in neon yellow and pink bikinis came out in what looked like a 2 Live Crew tribute. Apparently, that was precisely the intention, as Spank Rock proceeded to rip the Crew's timeless line "You ain't nothin' but a hoochie mama/hoodrat/hoodrat/hoochie mama" before our very eyes. All it needed was a giant ass sculpture a la Sir-Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and you could officially declare the year as 1992.
But the Woodies quickly redeemed themselves, however, when Annie Lennox showed up to present the Good Woodie Award, and received by far the most overwhelming applause from the crowd. We tease those anonymous college kids for obsessing over bands with names like "Say Anything" and "The Academy Is ..." but we had to at least tip our hat for the universal acknowledgement that super-skinny dudes in jeans and guyliner would be nowhere if Ms. Lennox hadn't paved the way in musical androgyny two decades prior. (Freeloader also appreciates being spared the bird-flipping she gave a decidedly more rowdy crowd just two nights prior.) No extra mojitos needed for this group.
Best of all, the Woodies saved the coolest band for last by having Rilo Kiley close out the show. Freeloader may be a little biased, as we personally can't think of another band on the planet we love more, but the general consensus of the group's one-two punch of indie-pop joy was that the show could've used a little less long-haired emo boys and a whole lot more Jenny Lewis.
After the final chord of RK's "Breakin' Up" was strummed, Freeloader hoofed it across the street to Times Square's Spotlight Live, where more after-party fun awaited. Refreshingly, the party stood in direct contrast to the event it was celebrating -- striped sweaters and eye makeup were traded for blazers and jeans, and the median age seemed to be a good seven years higher as well. And unlike the Roseland VIP lounge, the rock stars could roam freely among the after-party revelers, including Blink-182 alum Tom DeLonge (who's in some band called Angels & Airwaves now, apparently) and our good friends in Rilo Kiley. If the awards were for the undergrads, the after-party was clearly for the graduates.
T-Mobile kept the booze flowing courtesy of colored specialty drinks, while the DJ ditched the mopey rock of the awards show in favor of Daft Punk, Kanye West and every song produced by Timbaland over the last two years. It was pretty much exactly what you would expect from a music-themed party thrown by MTV in 2007, since a regular MTV party would probably have a bunch of blonde girls splashing drinks in each other's faces and couples stripping off into hot tubs together. And since we can still proudly say we've never watched a single episode of "The Hills," we're happy to stick with the part of MTV that makes it possible for Nelly Furtado dance-offs and freestyle raps from guys in bowties, thanks.