Rock the CybervoteSo I'm channel surfing on a Monday night--as opposed to what I do every other night of the week, surfing channels--and I run across this music show called Farmclub.com on USA. Former MTV veejay Matt Pinfield (the portly bald dude who resembles Spider-Man villain The Kingpin and has far too much musical knowledge to work for MTV) is introducing this "hot new band" from Atlanta called Stereomud. Never heard of 'em.
Then it hits me that I'd seen Farmclub.com before. Pinfield was introducing another "hot new band," but they were some gawdawful grunge-punk outfit from Ft. Lauderdale called Monster Zero. They could barely play the half-baked "song" they'd written and, even worse, they just didn't look good on the tube. How did these fat nobodies wind up on a national TV show playing alongside skinny somebodies like Beck and Jay-Z?
Thank Al Gore: It's the Internet.
Mankind's technological tool for great knowledge and greater porn has now surpassed the old "big in Belgium" joke in music-biz circles, and Monster Zero apparently has a "big" Internet following. The band put down the Twinkies long enough to upload one of their stellar compositions to Farmclub.com, the Netizens voted heartily, and winners Monster Zero got to rock out on basic cable. Stereomud -- who at least can play, albeit exactly like Korn, the Deftones, et al -- were the most recent inductees. The Next Net Thing looks to be Macon, Georgia's Hank & the Hardknox (a redneck Bon Jovi), currently in the Farmclub.com lead with over 7,000 cybervotes. Power to the people, y'all.
This may or may not be good news for Net-savvy bands looking for record deals -- they promote as though contracts will be passed out like skate stickers, but Farmclub.com has signed a only a small handful of uploaded artists to their own Interscope-distributed label. But does it make for good TV? Do you really want to see Pinfield introducing every unsigned act voted onto Farmclub.com as a "hot new band," even though you and he both know full well that 90 percent of them sound like an unbalanced load of Rottweilers in a Maytag? "From Lactose, Wisconsin, give it up for DevilDump!" (Guitars: "Gronkety gronk-gronk, shtwang! Gronkety gronk-gronk, shtwang!" Singer with asparagus hair and $200 Adidas sneaks: "Daddy didn't love meee! My life suuucks! Arrrggg!")
Of course you do; it's funny as hell.
See, nearly every musical act featured on Farmclub.com is either Korn-fed goon metal or hardcore hip-hop, and the studio audience is made up almost entirely of Caucasian frat-rats--except for the gaggle of nubile females obviously shoved up to the front by the camera crew. Farmclub.com -- which, not coincidentally, follows WWF RAW Is WAR on Monday nights -- is a dude's show all the way, just not in the upfront fashion of fellow cable male-fests like Comedy Central's The Man Show, FX's The X Show or the Food Network's Iron Chef (like pro rassling -- with recipes!)
Only this explains the presence of Farmclub.com co-hostess Ali Landry, the T&A balance to Pinfield. For the most part, Landry just shimmies next to the bald wonder and looks hot -- not a difficult task, even for a hat rack like her. Occasionally, however, they let Landry speak, introduce a band or, heaven forbid, conduct an interview. As evidenced in her infamous Doritos commercial, the former Miss USA knows how to catch flying chips in her mouth. Dogs can be trained to do this with Frisbees, but you don't ask Fido to interview Third Eye Blind. You assign someone slightly smarter than Third Eye Blind -- like a cat, or a ham sandwich.
The real work of Farmclub.com falls on Pinfield's rounded shoulders, and work it he does: There are no "bad" bands in his world, just varying degrees of "cool" ones. Whether he's rapping with legit artists like Beck, or rushing breathlessly to the post-performance stage to chat with talentless mooks like Papa Roach before they fade into obscurity in front of your very eyes, it's all good.
"Upload your music and join our portfolio of new and unique talent," goes the mini-manifesto on the Farmclub.com website, "or visit our Listen section to check out featured artists and hear great music." The original idea is a good one: helping new artists and bands get their music out to the world through brand-name recognition -- just being on the Net alone isn't enough; Farmclub.com is a recognized destination point. Now, if more of that unique talent and great music could make it onto the TV version, they'd really have something.
Until then, you've got The Kingpin, Landry shaking her moneymaker and a whole lotta "Gronkety gronk-gronk, shtwang! Gronkety gronk-gronk, shtwang!"
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