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TV’s Most Surreal Music Performances – Weezer on ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!’

If you happen to be the parent of a toddler and not afraid of television permanently rotting the little dude or dudette’s brain — or if you’ve ever spent a few hours trying to keep a rambunctious two year old entertained — you know there are two kinds of children’s television shows: the irksome kind you plop your ragamuffin down in front of so you can have a few precious minutes of “me” time, and the kind that you actually want to watch too.

You know: the kind that features bands like Weezer dressed up in giant insect costumes rocking out to songs about bugs.

The audience for ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ isn’t limited strictly to little tiny tots and the adults who love them; Doritos-binging stoner college kids on late-night DVR-watching marathons and tourists flipping channels after eating a little too much Magical Mystery Kush “chocolate edibles” while on vacation in the Mile High City are also key members of its demographic.

And while there are some excellent cameo appearances by actors who can certainly be credited for helping bring a certain hipness factor to the show — Jack Black, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood and ’30 Rock”s Jack McBrayer have appeared — it’s the one-of-a-kind musical performances that really make ‘Gabba’ stand out:

MGMT as psychedelic vikings, Jimmy Eat World rocking out on tops of giants cats and dogs, the Ting Tings redoing ‘Happy Birthday’ and killing it. And then there’s Weezer’s 2010 performance on the uber-popular kids show, a definite highlight — both for the show and the always-eccentric band.

The Los Angeles-based alt-rock vets with an affinity for color-coded album covers have appeared on TV countless times over the years, from their first foray into the world of late-night talk shows on the then-fledgling ‘Late Night With Conan O’Brien’ in 1994 to an appearance on the still-fledgling ‘Last Call With Carson Daly’ in 2011 — and many in between. But few have been as memorable as Weezer on ‘YGG.’

Each Gabba episode has its own theme that’s also its title (‘Share,’ ‘Doctor,’ ‘New Friends,’ etc.) and oftentimes, instead of busting out some boring old hit single, bands appearing perform a new song that goes along with the theme. Weezer’s show was called ”Bugs,’ so their run-through of the ‘Gabba’-penned original ‘All My Friends Are Insects’ seemed quite appropriate.

The insect costumes they wore? Not so much. Donning what appeared to be a giant purple spider getup, Rivers Cuomo led bandmates Brian Bell, Scott Shriner and drummer Pat Wilson (whose own outfit as a praying mantis with extra sticks attached to his forelimbs gets mad bonus points) through a peppy number with lyrics like “I have a friend, and it’s an earthworm / It burrows underground deep within the soil.” It’s very, very Weezer-ish.

We hate to be buzz kills here, but children’s television is supposed to be educational, so we’ll go there: Earthworms aren’t insects; they aren’t even in the same phylum. Also, not only is frontman Cuomo’s spider not an insect (spiders are arachnids, kids), but don’t spiders eat insects? Let’s just say we were slightly suspect of spider Cuomo’s motives for befriending the other “insects” the entire time we watched.

But more important than learning is having fun, and Cuomo certainly seemed to have a blast on the Nickelodeon show’s set. “It’s awesome here,” Cuomo told Entertainment Weekly between takes. “I love giant open rooms with tall ceilings. But here they have all this foam scenery and interestingly painted backdrops. It’s a cool fantasy land I’d like to inhabit.”

The fantasy of making friends with the insects? Or having all your new friends over for dinner?

Next Surreal TV Performance: Sonic Youth

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