mtvU Woodies brings together alternative bands

Ben Breier

Saul Williams (left) and Matisyahu perform together at the mtvU Woodie Awards.

Credit: Ben Breier


The mtvU Woodies Premiere

When? 8 p.m. tonight

Where to watch? mtvU, channel 22 on campus

Death Cab For Cutie, The Go! Team, Saul Williams and many other independent artists converged onto New York City for the second annual mtvU Woodie Awards, which was held Nov. 2. Hours before the show began, anxious fans waited behind a barricade for a chance to get into the show, while limos pulled up carrying various bands to the front of the Roseland Ballroom.

Press was told to show up at the Roseland at 7:30 p.m., but I elected to show up a little bit earlier. When I arrived at the back door of the venue, security checked my credentials while I watched The Go! Team warm up in the background, going through the motions and practicing “Huddle Formation.” Security eventually told me to come back at 7:30, and that no press was going to be getting in early. With my heart ready to explode out of my chest after seeing The Go! Team warm up, I reluctantly left the venue.

After shooting down to Times Square and enjoying a ridiculously good dinner at an Irish restaurant called The Playwright, I walked a couple of blocks back to the awards. Sure enough, a line for press was forming, and I was issued a press pass after getting checked at the door.

What ensued next was complete chaos. There were two sections for press: a section for VIP press who wrote for publications such as Teen People and The Village Voice, and a section for general press.

Those who fell into the former received a comfortable balcony view for the duration of the show, while the rest of us were ushered into the pit area, where bands were waiting to be interviewed.

With roughly a dozen bands in attendance at the show among hundreds of members of the press and some lucky fans, it was incredibly difficult to push yourself into an interview with a band. Lucky for me, a woman who was representing The Afters tagged me on the shoulder, asking if I’d like to speak with the band.

Josh Havens, the lead singer of The Afters, seemed as equally overwhelmed by the environment as I was. His band was nominated, and ended up winning, for the Best Streaming Woodie category, which rewarded the band whose video received the most views on Havens didn’t expect to win the award, he was mostly “just excited to be here.”

According to Havens, The Afters will be playing in the Cleveland area sometime this spring.

After a couple of minutes passed, Havens went on to his next interview, and the show was just about to begin. I had enough time to grab a quick photo with Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack and position myself in the pit before the show began. When Lou Reed, of all people, introduced The Go! Team to start off the show, I knew I was going to be in for a heck of a night.

Sure enough, The Go! Team performed “Huddle Formation” just as I had seen them practice during rehearsal. When The Go! Team performs, it looks like a party on stage – girls jumping up and down spastically screaming lyrics while multiple drummers set the beat.

Shortly after the performance, an award was presented, and then followed up with a void where music videos were played on an enormous television. It’s a much different experience when you’re live instead of watching the show in television – it’s neat that you get to see the bands perform right in front of your face, but people in the pit were sometimes left to stare at music videos for up to a half hour.

But the performance of the night belonged to Jewish reggae rapper, Matisyahu. After performing “Youth” and “King Without A Crown,” poetic rapper Saul Williams joined him on stage to my delight.

Williams rapped the lyrics to “Black Stacey” as Matisyahu treated the audience to some rarely seen beat-boxing action. Everybody was jumping up and down, both press and fans alike.

The unexpected highlight of the night went to the Satin Dolls – an acapella choir out from Fordham University. One of the show’s underlying themes was getting the college fanbase involved, and the Satin Dolls fit into this theme by appearing at random intervals throughout the show to sing songs by the bands nominated for Woodie of the Year.

When the girls first showed up on stage to perform “Sugar, We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy, my jaw hit the ground. Not only was it surprisingly beautiful – it was absolutely adorable.

The show winded down after a live performance by Little Brother, an up-and-coming group of socially conscious rappers in the vein of Aesop Rock, Kanye West and Blackalicious.

Shortly after, the award for Woodie of the Year was presented, Death Cab For Cutie (who looked as limp as a movie theatre hotdog) came out on stage to perform “Soul Meets Body” and “Title and Registration.” It was the only subpar performance of the night, but I think a lot of people expected so much more from Death Cab.

So, with a whimper, the show was over. After roaming around the East Village for a little while right before my flight out of La Guardia the following evening, I was jet-setting out of the city as quickly as I came.

Contact ALL correspondent Ben Breier at [email protected].