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'Portlandia' Star Carrie Brownstein and Four Other Indie Rockers On TV

by Mike Moody, posted Jan 21st 2011 4:30PM
Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein, Fred ArmisenIt's hard not to envy Fred Armisen these days. He's one of the funniest people on 'Saturday Night Live,' he married Peggy from 'Mad Men' (for a while, anyway), and now he's writing and starring in one of the funniest new TV shows of the year, IFC's 'Portlandia.'

Here's another reason to be jealous of the guy: he shares the screen with the awesome Carrie Brownstein, guitarist for the influential Portland indie rock band Sleater-Kinney, in 'Portlandia,' a sketch show that targets organic food-obsessed couples and feminist bookstore owners in the "city where young people go to retire," premiering tonight on IFC.

Brownstein's casting got us thinking about the some of our favorite indie rockers* who have turned up on the tube in bit parts, cameos, reality show judge panels and, in one case, their own eponymously-named talk show. After the jump, watch a searing political rant, listen to some good tunes and to take a trip back to the '90s with our list of 5 Indie Rockers Who Made the Jump to TV.

Carrie Brownstein
The inspiration for this list began playing guitar at the age of 15 and earned a spot on Rolling Stone's list of 'Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time.' Brownstein's band Sleater-Kinney released its first single in 1994 and went on to record some of the most influential indie albums of the past 16 years ('Dig Me Out,' 'The Hot Rock' and 'All Hands on the Bad One' are favorites). The guitarist/singer, who co-writes the sketches and music with Armisen on 'Porlandia,' also worked as a journalist, interviewing people like Eddie Vedder and Mary Lynn Rajskub for Believer magazine and writing a music blog for NPR. 'Portlandia' grew out of a series of web videos she and Armisen created under the name Thunderant. Check out the show's opening sketch below:

Henry Rollins
The former Black Flag singer and Rollins Band frontman was no stranger to the camera before landing his own IFC talk show in 2004. Rollins' girthy neck and close-cropped haircut has popped up in several films and TV shows (including 'Sons of Anarchy'), but he usually played goofy one-note characters in little-seen flicks like 'The Chase' and 'Johnny Mnemonic.' Rollins never really got to display his gift of gab or his writing talent in the movies, but 'The Henry Rollins Show' was the perfect forum for the opinionated and verbose punk rocker. He landed great guests (Gore Vidal, Chuck D, Oliver Stone and Christopher Walken), he was genuinely enthusiastic about talking to them and every show featured an intense, subversive and often hilarious rant about the current issues buzzing around in Rollins' brain. Here's a sample:

Ben Folds
After rocking the suburbs as a solo artist and the frontman for Ben Folds Five -- which was actually a trio, but whatever -- Folds landed a gig as a judge on NBC's hit reality competition show 'The Sing Off' in 2009. Folds is the perfect guy to judge a televised a capella singing contest; his own musical work is bright, catchy and incredibly diverse. He writes and performs everything from irreverent pop songs and quirky but endlessly listenable novelty tracks (he produced William Shatner's 2004 album 'Has Been') to heartbreaking ballads and operatic anthems. Plus, he's also passionate about a capella as an art form, as evidenced by the enthusiasm, warm advice and mentorship he offers the show's contestants. Folds is currently on tour with 'Sing-Off' finalists Street Corner Symphony.

Juliana Hatfield
The former Blake Babies member is one of the most criminally underrated singer-songwriters working today, but, sadly, she isn't much of an actress. Hatfield lists only two small screen roles on her resume, but she was part of two of the most influential shows of the 1990s. She played an angel-faced cafeteria lady on 'The Adventures of Pete and Pete' and a grungy, homeless ... er ... teen angel in the "very special" Christmas episode of 'My So-Called Life.' Hatfield is responsible for one of best moments of the series (her amazing acoustic performance of 'Make It Home') and also, partly, for one of the worst (her "character" becomes a not-so-subtle walking metaphor for the very serious problem of teen homelessness in the episode's second half). We prefer to dwell on the positive:

Grant-Lee Phillips
The Grant Lee Buffalo founder has a unique voice that landed him the job of town troubadour on 'Gilmore Girls.' Phillips, now a solo artist, can be seen in several episodes of the critically acclaimed series serenading Rory, Lorelai and the other quirky characters in Stars Hollow's town square. Phillips' bittersweet ballad 'Smile' is featured on the show's soundtrack:

*By "indie," we mean musicians who made music with an independent spirit and/or released their work on independent record labels. So shut up, already, hipster.

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Really enjoyed Portandia. I want to go to there

January 22 2011 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Moody

Yup, a lot of great faces on 'Pete & Pete,' guys, including Juliana Hatfield ... like I wrote about ... in this post and stuff...

January 21 2011 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've got a show you missed. "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" back in the early to mid-90's, which featured Iggy Pop as a young Michelle Trachtenberg's dad. It aired on Nickeloden. The show also had guest stars such as Michael Stipe and B-52's Kate Pierson, and in one episode the band Lushcious Jackson performed. That show was a 90's gem.

January 21 2011 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Looking forward to seeing the show tonight! Though not "indie" Iggy Pop and Michael Stipe made memorable appearances on The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (Any excuse to mention the great Pete and Pete - that show does not get enough love!)

January 21 2011 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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