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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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