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INDIE EAR MADNESS ’09: National Championship

INDIE EAR MADNESS ’09:  National Championship (photo)

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Three weeks ago, Indie Ear Madness ’09 began with 64 of the best indie-minded/respected bands in the land. After some fierce and furious competition, TV On The Radio and The Bouncing Souls were the only two acts left standing. Last night they went head to head, competing not only for the 2009 National Championship, but for indie music bragging rights, which (you’d think) would at least guarantee them a free shot of espresso in any non-chain coffee shop in America.

The irony of Indie Ear Madness is that the finals are always performed in the same venue as the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball championship; usually some type of large stadium, a setting some might find more ideal for an 80’s hair-band than a well-respected indie act. However, taking into consideration that indie-minded artists usually spend their summers playing large outdoor festivals around the world, performing at Detroit’s Ford Field, in front of 70,000 fans–which at times could seem overwhelming–is nothing either of the championship bands couldn’t handle. It wasn’t a question of if the bands could pull off a set, but how they would do it.

(above: The Bouncing Souls’ Greg Attonito attempts to lead his band to victory against TV On The Radio.)

Going into last night’s National Championship, TV On The Radio were clearly the favorites. Not only were they a #3-seed to The Bouncing Souls’ #12-seed, but they are still riding the wave of critical acclaim from their latest album, Dear Science, which Rolling Stone, SPIN, The Onion AV Club, and the readers of Pitchfork Media all named the best album of 2008. Within the last few months, TV On The Radio has also performed live on The Late Show, The Tonight Show, Colbert Report, Later with Jools Holland, and SNL (you don’t think they can handle a crowd of 70,000?). On top of all of that, they eliminated Kanye West from this year’s tournament–no easy feat considering Kanye usually gets what he wants.

Though they’ve been called a Cinderella team throughout this year’s Indie Ear Madness tournament, The Bouncing Souls could have very well been considered favorites going into last night’s match-up. They shocked the world by dispatching both Bruce Springsteen and U2 from the tourney. The Bouncing Souls are also celebrating their 20th year as a band, and they’ve only really suffered one line-up change over the years (replacing drummers at the turn of the decade); in other words, they’re a really tight squad.

The Jersey punk act not only carry a surplus of indie cred, but could be called prophets of modern day music. Fifteen years ago, when their punk rock peers were penning major label record deals and sucking the teat of MTV, The Bouncing Souls remained content on making a name for themselves on their own terms. To date, The Souls have never inked a deal with a major label, and can still sell out a nationwide tour at will. In 2009, their D.I.Y.-business model seems like the only way to survive in a failing music industry. Their peers, who went for the gold in the ’90s, probably wished they were The Bouncing Souls right about now.

As always, TV On The Radio performed an impassioned set, giving their jazzy-soulful-electro-rock songs a rougher edge than their album versions. “Staring At The Sun” and “Wolf Like Me” brought the crowd to their feet, and even a dialed-down tune like “Hours” took the crowd through an incredible journey. Oddly, considering all of its critical praise, the tracks from Dear Science weren’t able to ignite the crowd in the same way. Sure, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose” are catchy, but they seem to be missing that explosive factor. Some of the other tunes from Dear Science (dare I say?) even came off a little boring live.

The Bouncing Souls, with 20 years of set-list material to choose from, brought out all of their club-tested, stadium-ready hits. Re-working two soccer chants over the years (“Here We Go” and “Olé“) also proved to be mighty valuable when attempting to work a room of 70,000 people. The abundance of hey’s, ho’s, and oi’s in The Souls’ anthemic tunes also helped woo some TV On The Radio fans. There was even a section of Williamsburg hipsters–a group usually seen crossing their arms in the back of clubs–uncharacteristically pumping their fists in the air (believe it or not, some were even smiling).

In the end, The Bouncing Souls’ arsenal of hits were just too much for TV On The Radio to overcome. “True Believers,” “Manthem,” “The Gold Song,” and “Lamar Vannoy” sent Ford Field into a frenzy, which even motivated TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe to come out on stage and deliver his favorite movie quote during The Bouncing Souls’ performance of “These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite 80’s Movies.”

The Bouncing Souls’ sealed the deal, winning their first ever Indie Ear National Title (they are born to lose no more). Now they just have to figure out where they’re going to hang their National Championship banner, since it’s twice as big as their rehearsal space.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.