Luminaries from all corners of the indie-rock world descended on Austin, Texas, on Wednesday night (March 16) not only to kick off the annual South by Southwest festival, but also to celebrate the 2011 mtvU Woodie Awards. And though Wiz Khalifa and Two Door Cinema Club walked away with the biggest prizes of the evening, the night -- and perhaps the remainder of the year -- belonged to Odd Future.
Foo Fighters got the festivities started on a loud note with a rugged run through their new single "Rope." While the multiplatinum Foos aren't technically indie, they certainly practice a lo-fi aesthetic (their entire new album, Wasting Light, was recorded on analog tape), and with their new three-guitar attack, they have become the modern-rock radio version of Neil Young and Crazy Horse (except with shorter solos and better haircuts).
Once Dave Grohl and company wrapped up a headbang-worthy extended breakdown at the end of "Rope," host Donald Glover (he of "Community" fame) took the stage to formally welcome the live audience and viewers at home to the show. "There's something I wanted to say: Stop asking your black friends to freestyle," he told the crowd. Still, that didn't stop Glover from dropping some rhymes once house DJ Skrillex dropped a beat. "It turns out we all can freestyle."
Glover tossed to Skylar Grey and Yelawolf, who were charged with handing out the Best Video Woodie. In a tough category that included crossover stars Vampire Weekend and the Black Keys, Chiddy Bang grabbed the prize for their inventive clip for "Opposite of Adults."
Zoe Kravitz came out and threw to Wiz Khalifa, who spit "Roll Up" (from his forthcoming album Rolling Papers) from the balcony of the theater surrounded by enthusiastic fans. Once Khalifa hit the stage, the gold light kicked in and the terrible towels started flying, which could only mean one thing: "Black and Yellow." Khalifa's pro-Pittsburgh anthem sounded like a massive pop hit -- which, coincidentally, is exactly what it was.
Woodies veteran Pete Wentz was up next. He gave out the Left Field Woodie to Kanye West, though not before letting the world know that he was "all 'Free Earl,' but had love for Tyler." Weezy was not in Austin to accept his award, but Wentz accepted the prize on his behalf. In the middle of Wentz's speech, he was interrupted by fellow Left Field nominee Lil B, channeling West's drop-in on Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs.
Meanwhile, Eliza Doolittle drank in the crowd and paid tribute to the late Nate Dogg before tossing to Two Door Cinema Club up on the stage. The jittery Irish trio crooned and jangled their way through their current single "What You Know," one of the highlights on their debut album, Tourist History.
Glover then introduced "My Life as Liz" star Liz Lee, who was up in the balcony to introduce the college radio station that won the College Radio Woodie; the prize went to WVUM of Miami University.
Dev and Lil B were up next, onstage to hand out the Best Performing Woodie. "This award is not about who brings the most money, but about who brings the most swag to the performance!" declared Lil B. Matt & Kim apparently have more swag than any of the other nominees, because they won the big block of wood. Matt teased a stage dive from the balcony but settled for high-fiving most of the first row right after encouraging everybody to donate to the relief effort in Japan.
Woodies veterans Friendly Fires then introduced Sleigh Bells, one of the most hotly anticipated performers of the evening. The duo made their television debut with the jagged "Riot Rhythm." Clad in the denim jacket she picked out specifically for the occasion, singer Alexis Krauss shouted, swayed and cooed her way into the hearts of the crowd (though the special appearance by the marching band probably helped -- it certainly added to the cacophony).
"That was sick!" Glover declared before handing the stage to Chiddy Bang. Chiddy broke out a freestyle before running down the nominees for Breaking Woodie (which included Dev, Sleigh Bells, Local Natives, Wavves and Two Door Cinema Club). Based on fan voting, the winners were Two Door Cinema Club (who announced that it was their first award in America).
Last year's Best Video Woodie winners Matt & Kim took the stage again to give out the prize for Woodie of the Year. They announced that they would not be getting naked (like they did in their award-winning "Lessons Learned" clip), though they did do some slow-motion grinding. When the dust settled, Wiz Khalifa won Woodie of the Year for the crossover smash "Black and Yellow." The Pittsburgh native seemed genuinely moved by his victory and spent most of his acceptance speech chuckling live on the microphone.
But though the last award had been given out, the climax was yet to come. Comedian Aziz Ansari showed up to introduce Odd Future, who used Tyler the Creator's "Yonkers" as a coming-out party. While the track played, a masked midget came out to impersonate Tyler before getting replaced by the real Tyler. Clad in a pink-and-blue hoodie and green ski mask, Tyler growled his way through "Sandwitches" while stalking the outer limits of the theater and violently stage-diving into the crowd. As the performance evolved, Tyler was joined by fellow MC Hodgy Beats and two furries in costumes. They were eventually dragged off the stage by security, leaving a permanent mark on the show -- and on culture at large.
What did you think of the Woodies? Share your reviews in the comments!