The old joke about MTV is it’s the last place you’ll find music. Since it discovered reality TV back when the “Real World” debuted in 1992 — yes, it’s been that long — MTV’s seemed to only begrudgingly celebrate its music roots. Sure it has the MTV Music Awards, but even that feels more like reality TV sometimes.
Its new Web series, “Weird Vibes,” looks to meld MTV past and present with a 30-minute indie music reality show. It’s no mistake MTV has shunted this effort off to its new website for music discovery, Hive. It couldn’t crack the MTV lineup, which has such must-sees as “Teen Mom.”
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“Weird Vibes” has a solid, if unremarkable, conceit: it’s going to profile and show the videos of indie music bands. What’s most clear from the first episode, which debuted last week, is this is a very different world from the indie band scene of yore. Now the bands don’t even aspire to make it big. Within the first 30 seconds, Frankie & The Outs’ Frankie Rose says, “I don’t know anyone who makes money from record sales.” There’s something endearing about Josh Kolenik from Small Black chatting about a catering gig. And naturally, the talk turns to social media.
Other bands featured include Best Coast, Au Revoir Simone, Small Black and Beach Fossils. The bands weigh in on what it means to be Lo-Fi, what Chillwave is, and how much it sucks being broke on the road. Mixed into the show were six music videos from Vivian Girls, Teams, Shabazz Palaces, Grimes, Friends and WU LYF.
“Weird Vibes,” feels very much like an early MTV show, like “Yo MTV Raps.” Graphics have a decidedly 80s feel to them, mimicking 8-bit graphics of 80s video games. For those of us nostalgic for the old MTV — before there was VH-1 and MTV2. It was made by the creators of New York public TV cult hit “New York Noise.”
“Weird Vibes” make it clear — maybe too depressingly clear — that music isn’t what it used to be. All those followers on Twitter aren’t going to pay the rent. There are times it feels like a pity party, however, since you want to break the news to these people that it isn’t easy and there are worse fates in life than playing music. The videos themselves are solid efforts, although it can feel strange to watch several programmed for you in the age of creating your own playlist.
This would be OK but there isn’t much else there. Most of the content is basically music videos. If anything MTV went too far back to its roots as a music video channel. It would be better if MTV delved into these bands regular lives, how they go from stage darlings to anonymous waiters and sweater-folders at the Gap. “Weird Vibes” is three minutes worth of content stretched out over 30 minutes, broken up by six music videos from bands you probably haven’t heard of. It’s a string of sound bites from bands bitching about mainstream media trying to get sound bites. When describing life on the road, Jesse Cohen from Tanlines put it best. “It’s like Seinfeld meets Spinal Tap.” That’s not a bad way to describe “Weird Vibes”: it’s about nothing, set to a background of indie music.
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