What's more indigenous to the college experience than total, abject confusion?
The mtvU Woodie Awards offered that in spades: Who is mumbling listlessly at the podium, Moby? (Yes.) Does this award show exist for any reason besides priapic puns? (Maybe.) What defines "college music" to the greying beast MTV and how did both Kanye and No Age fit through their voters' siphon? (No clue.) Do any of these artists even go to college? (Some: see Chromeo singer/guitarist David Macklovitch, Columbia University's fiercest French and Romance Philology Ph. D. candidate.)
But at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom last night, the sweatshirt-clad crowd seemed quite happy to celebrate "their" music, whatever it is. Opening act the Cool Kids embraced extracurriculars with their cry, "Time ain't wasted if you're wasted!" and slid into a taut version of "Delivery Man." Paramore, currently pursuing studies in how-to-dye-your-hair-red-hot-and-hoot-a-lot, bestowed Best Video Woodie to Motion City Soundtrack for "It Had to Be You." Atmosphere hazily accepted Performing Woodie via video feed and in-house DJ A-Trak spun golden hip-hop during the commercial breaks.
Swedish popstress Lykke Li danced about in shiny tights for "I'm Good, I'm Gone" and then, in the evening's great surprise, pulled Q-Tip onstage to duet on A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" (Q, happily, lingered to punch out "Vibrant Thing.") Later, former Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus introduced the exquisite whininess that is All Time Low.
Then all that studying paid off: Electrofunkers Chromeo won Left Field Woodie. Shrewdly, Macklovitch refrained from asking what that even means, exactly. Then Moby shuffled in briefly, but even he didn't seem to hear what he said and looked a bit mortified in the process.
In a moment of sincere repose, regal lady-in-red Debbie Harry introduced Santogold, who spliced her three-song set (including an excellent, brassy "Shove It") with happy chatter about college radio and Obama. Jack's Mannequin kept up the positive vibes with a Good Woodie win for their Dear Jack Foundation, which raises money and awareness for cancer research -- singer Andrew McMahon survived leukemia. Ithaca College's WICB won College Radio Station of the Year (but why didn't they get a penis pun, too?).
Woodie of the Year went to Paramore for "That's What You Get," whose singer Hayley Williams knows her way around the sophomoric joke: "I'm the first girl in the band to get a Woodie!" This while Vampire Weekend, themselves Columbia grads, watched patiently in shadows from the adjacent stage; their closing set was frisky and heavy with their Afro-pop leanings. Chromeo sat in on "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance" and "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," and fittingly they wrapped with "A-Punk," singer Ezra Koening's voice going even higher into the ether than ever thought possible.
All in all, an educational evening.
Santogold / Photo by Jackie Roman
Vampire Weekend's Evra Koenig with Chromeo / Photo by Jackie Roman
Lykke Li performing with Q-Tip / Photo by Jackie Roman
All Time Low / Photo by Jackie Roman
Mark Hoppus of +44 / Photo by Jackie Roman