Pee-wee Herman looks peeved as he complains to Elvis about their bad luck. Normally the tourists would be delighted to hand them a few bucks for a couple of snapshots. Tonight, however, middle America is transfixed not by the overhead screen on Fremont, but by a giant white cube. From within the cube, you can hear Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim warming up an invisible crowd for their segment of MTV's live O Music Awards stream.
After a long wait, we can finally see them on the screens overhead, but the cube’s white sheeting remains impenetrable. Most onlookers (including a leather-clad biker on stilts) check all four sides to make sure they aren’t missing anything. The cube is a monolith, though, and actually turns out to be the main attraction. Apart from the single row of teenagers standing nearest the stage, the standard Fremont devotees were obviously not there to see Matt & Kim. The families and old guys in wheelchairs and hard luck homeless look on, perplexed. “This is all to do with Oprah or something,” one guy tells me. When a middle-aged man in a golf shirt asks who’s in the cube and I tell him, he shrugs and walks on.
Fortunately, the curtain eventually drops and an MC takes the stage to explain the award event, while Matt & Kim drunkenly throw uninflated balloons at the crowd and instruct everyone to get pumped because we’re all about to be on live TV. Surprisingly, this works. The crowd blows up its balloons and, when the countdown to live time happens, everyone plays their part, dancing and tossing their props in the air as Matt & Kim play their whimsical “Daylight.”
The transition to Chiddy Bang breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest freestyle rap seems less of a crowd-pleaser. He’s been rapping for nine-plus hours, so he’s mostly been reduced to dropping F-bombs and hoarse self-aggrandizing. When he wins, he seems more relieved than thrilled, as does the award presenter and, frankly, the crowd. All in all, it’s a motley blend that somehow makes for TV magic, and Pee-wee has no doubt happily reclaimed his customers.