In the opening moments of last night's mtvU Woodie Awards at NYC's Roseland Ballroom, a co-ed octet of Matt & Kim back-up singers slowly peeled away shirts, argyle socks and, finally, skinny jeans during a bombastic, arm-swinging performance of "Lessons Learned." The apparel was hurled with careless abandon into a packed crowd of hoodies and high heels until all that remained was a jiggling toe-tap of mismatched skivvies and Matt Johnson's low-drone keyboard fuzz.
Of course it was staged -- and predictably so, considering the track's blogged-about video, which followed the Brooklyn duo's naked slow-mo jog through Times Square -- but it worked, mainly because college kids love sex, or at the very least, the awkward pursuit of sex. And come on: The show's called "the Woodies."
That display of near-but-not-quite nudity -- it's MTV, after all -- set the evening's tone. For one, Matt & Kim's strip show won for best video. But besides that, sex was in the air.
The show-closing performance by the Dead Weather, the night's headlining band, offered the undulating Alison Mosshart, her hand cradling her crotch as she moaned through "Treat Me Like Your Mother."
Not everyone onstage was quite as forward. "I'm not prepared to take off my clothes," cooed indie pinup girl Zooey Deschanel, to swoons, before she crowned Never Shout Never's Christofer Ingle with the Breaking Woodie.
The hive-haired 18-year-old troubadour beat out Grizzly Bear and Passion Pit, among others, and his acceptance speech was a most welcome two-second expression of gratitude: "Power to the people," he mumbled, head down, in what resulted in one of the show's few collective laughs. Before he spit out the last syllable he was gone, and the crowd loved him for that reason alone.
But bogged down by penned-in parameters, frequent downtime (yes, just like TV, awards shows are burdened by commercial breaks -- even when it's not a live broadcast), and an abundance of booze, enthusiasm waned, particularly onstage.
Passion Pit's performance of "Little Secrets" and "The Reeling" lacked the excitement of the band's debut EP, which frontman Michael Angelakos crafted as a love letter. Falsetto intact, Angelakos bent this way and that, but constrained to a two-song set, the five-man band never really let loose.
The same could be said for Death Cab for Cutie. The group nailed "The Sound of Settling" and New Moon soundtrack single "Meet Me on the Equinox," yet couldn't force a smile.
Matters weren't helped by the absence of the night's two biggest winners.
Green Day accepted the Performing Woodie award with a pre-recorded speech.
And Kings of Leon were also missing at night's end, when Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker named them as the Woodie of the Year winner. "I'm so glad I came on last because you guys are so hammered you don't give a fuck what I say," Parker vamped.
On to the afterparty!