NEW YORK — The spirit and energy of the 2009 mtvU Woodie Awards — the madcap awards show that celebrates independent music and college radio across the country — was distilled entirely in the show's opening performance.
Once the lights dimmed at Roseland Ballroom, house DJ Diplo cranked out booty-shaking jams while the giant video screens showed Brooklyn new-wave duo Matt and Kim riding through the city on bicycles. Once they arrived, they stormed the stage and kicked into "Lessons Learned." Flanked by eight backup singers who gradually stripped down to their underwear (in a nod to the Video Music Award-winning video for the same song), the duo jubilantly pounded out the song. Unlike this year's VMAs, stage crashers were welcomed during Matt and Kim's three minutes of joy, and Kim herself mounted the crowd at the end.
From there, Pete Wentz — dressed casually and holding a red plastic cup (a common accessory throughout the evening) — sauntered onstage and officially kicked off the show, which airs December 4 at 10 p.m. on MTV, MTV2 and mtvU. What followed was a cavalcade of fun-loving guest appearances, energy-packed performances and plenty of enthusiastic crowd interaction.
Zooey Deschanel appeared next, running off a long and complicated story about cloning herself to find out about more bands and presenting the Breaking Woodie award to Never Shout Never. 3OH!3 turned plenty of heads when they appeared dressed in the same red-lace costume Lady Gaga wore to the VMAs, then handed the Left Field Woodie to a grateful Tech N9ne. Other winners included Hotel of the Laughing Tree (the Long Island quintet who picked up the Best Music on Campus Woodie and seemed overwhelmed by the whole fiasco), Green Day (who were absent, forcing Asher Roth to accept in their honor — which he did by leaping into the crowd while wearing a throwback basketball jersey) and Matt and Kim (who won the Best Video Woodie for "Lessons Learned").
On the performance front, nobody could quite match the manic grandeur of Matt and Kim, but Passion Pit (who whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a ridiculous rendition of "The Reeling") and the Clipse, (who brought out Cam'ron and Rick Ross for a chaotic but thrilling run through a handful of lightning-tongue verses) came pretty close. With all the flailing limbs and semi-nude people, it was easy to miss the easy poise of Death Cab for Cutie, who rolled through their "New Moon" soundtrack song, "Meet Me on the Equinox," with an arena-rock grace, clearly cementing themselves as not only the night's elder statesmen, but also the band ready for much bigger rooms than Roseland.
By the end of the evening, the crowd was soaked with sweat but still swaying and dancing and drinking. Like the best college party, it hardly mattered who won in the end (that would be Kings of Leon, who scored the night's top honor of Woodie of the Year).
Don't miss the 2009 mtvU Woodie Awards, airing on December 4 at 10 p.m. on MTV, MTV2 and mtvU!