<p>The Strokes at SXSW</p>

The Strokes at SXSW

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Plunkett

SXSW Music Day Two: Strokes stumble, Justin Timberlake's a Yelawolf fan

The Joy Formidable, The Antlers, Jeffrey Jerusalem and more from Austin

Day two at the South By Southwest Music Conference has finished and I am convinced that, were the truism "you are what you eat" a reality, I'd be a street meat edible of some sort, either a taco or a hot dog.

If I were in a band based on the mish-mash of music I consumed today (March 17), it'd be a mutt of dance-pop, hip-hop and droning guitar rock. Actually, I would have liked to feel more rocked, period, which was a job for The Strokes, who disappointed in many regards.

Free and open to the publc, the show was held away from the strip, and was instead at Auditorium Shore at Austin's Lady Bird Lake and it required a shuttle to get there. Many more than 20,000 people actually made the trek, but the capacity was apparently around that number and many were turned away. The result was hoards of people jumping and crashing the fence, climbing on top of port-o-potties to scale to the other side.

And their wiles were to a mixed end. I'm all for a dry, too-cool detachment from frontman Julian Casablancas, but there are times when that snotty attitude feels like a gift. He clearly was in no mood to be giving anyone anything at all on this warm Thursday night, nor was the rest of the band. Albert Hammond, Jr., would stalk about but only what looked like out of boredom. No thank you, no hey Austin, no funny asides about the sound troubles from the wind.

The setlist still borrowed heavily from The Strokes' first "Is This It," despite that their new album "Angles" is out in Tuesday. They played five of those tracks, including the deceivingly old-school "Under Cover of Darkness" and "You're So Right." And frankly, it's fine that it was that way: those first two records are hard to equal, and to be a fuddy-duddy in advance, I'm non-plussed by "Angles," which is streaming now in full on the band's website. Tracks like that first single were the rock act's winning formula, but those new wave and electro influences that plagued Casablancas' tiresome solo debut last year have segued into this fresh set, and the result is a multiple personality disorder.

Now, this was a first for me, to see more than even 10,000 revelers at a SXSW show, and the Strokes will be playing to arenas and festivals of more than that all summer. Songs like "Take It or Leave It," "Last Nite" and "You Only Live Once" still blaze, but this overall  anti-climactic combination of an uneven recorded effort and wet blanketed showmanship aren't good early omens.

I'll be pulling out my thoughts on the Village Voice showcase featuring Wu-Tang, Fishbone and Yelawolf separately, but I do want to point out that the schedule for this one ran behind -- which surprises me none, though the former headliner went up close to 1 a.m., an hour later than their slotted time. I felt primed and happy, though, even with the wait, due to the high-energy of Yelawolf, who has more than a few famous friends (um, Eminem anyone). One of these includes Justin Timberlake, who could be seen on the wings of Austin Music Hall's stage expanse.

The "Social Network" actor and musician has apparently been bumming around Austin even with the film conference over; he attended to help promote one of his new films, "Bad Teacher."

Another stand-out (and standalone) act of the day was The Antlers, performing their second show of the fest, but playing their forthcoming new album "Burst Apart," out in May. I'll be going more in depth on this one, too, but I will say off the tip that this performance beyond impressed me and has me looking forward to the recorded version. The Parish was cool and dark during this NPR day party, and many patrons exited looking sated -- perhaps the free PBR helped. Or they were still crushing on The Joy Formidable, who played before The Antlers. While these London-by-way-of-Wales pop-rockers don't make the kind of music that makes my usual rotation, they did manage to have a full room of hangover recoverers smiling and moving, and perhaps composing love letters to platinum siren Ritzy Bryan in their head. Great stage chemistry.

My day bowed with Alex Winston, whose "Sister Wife" I'd heard a few times last year and concluded that this New York-based singer can be rather cloying. Her eight-piece band battled the metal showcase next door, though, and her pure, showy voice pierced that conception, and even with her Stevie Nicksian ensemble, I felt endeared to her music much more than I did when I heard her mp3s. Color me impressed.

I had skip Hunx and his Punx because after about four minutes of that flailing and vamping I was feeling stabby.

Class Actress, who I've already highlighted, did their electronic best against the mid-day heat and the dust bowl conditions of Moby's Vegan BBQ at Cheer Up Charlies. They were followed by someone named Jeffrey Jerusalem, who played on a number of electric toys and threw down some slick, crisp and sensual original beats mixed with samples. For as tiny as the crowd was, he worked his ass off, bounded around with joy, and would have put those Strokes guys to shame.

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<p>Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran</p>

Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran

Credit: AP Photo

SXSW Music Day One: Michael Cera's band, Duran Duran (and Jon Hamm)

Parts & Labor, Sharon Van Etten, Okkervil River, Mister Heavenly, more from Austin

AUSTIN -- If my math is right, this marks my fourth visit to Austin for South By Southwest, but pacing will always remain a problem. With day parties kicking off at noon, I felt already behind by time I was off a plane and unloaded into a room by 3 p.m.

First stop included the eMusic party, with a straightfoward set from Ty Segall and then the Obits, whose volume and whiff of nostalgic rock singed the eyebrows off the first row. It was about this time that the Lone Star began to flow.

This is the part where I'd joke that if Michael Cera's band sounded anything like Michael Cera's acting, they'd only play one note. But Mister Heavenly was actually pretty decent. Nick Diamonds, fronter for Islands and formerly the Unicorns, sings just as loud and as well as Kings of Leon bro Caleb Followill. The Sub Pop-signed band is rounded out by Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Honus Honus from Man Man, who I love like no other.

Cera's on the docket on bass -- a hexagonal one at that, which has the sound to fill an arena. But the group, alas, was only at Emo's and had to gently tolerate screams from young girls whenever the flannel-shirted "Scott Pilgrim" actor showed anything other than a motionless bass-face.

Sam Amidon is a treasure.

Duran Duran are were hokey as hell, but they certainly are "Wild Boys." Opening with "View to a Kill," they really stepped up on "The Chaffeur," "Notorious" and, of course, "Hungry Like the Wolf." ""There's nothing you can say about the next song, is there?" Simon Le Bon smiled as he introduced the latter.

The line in was egregious and crowd skewed older, unsurprisingly, though at least one particular attendee brought some more esteem. Mad Man Jon Hamm was in queue in front of me after I dipped out of Stubb's, and he and girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt headed next door to Red Eyed Fly (for Pulled Apart By Horses or Pete and the Pirates?). The Bangles were in the house as well.

I caught next to nothing from Raphael Saadiq, but he is one good-looking man.

Meanwhile, I caught about an inch of Sharon Van Etten, who in the latter part of her set said, "I'd like to thank you all for not seeing Duran Duran tonight" Tough, Sharon, tough. Her album 2010 "Epic" has held up pretty well from last year, and in person, she doesn't try to overpower the room -- she becomes part of it. Her voice is easy going, slipping into high registers and floating like someone who's lived a charmed life. Check out "For You" and keep your eye out for her next effort, which is being produced by The National's Aaron Dessner.

My current favorite indie label trifecta (trio? triumvirate? trilogy?) of Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans and Jagjaguwar hosted their showcase at the two stages at Red 7 and really highlighted their somewhat diverse roster. I was able to catch a hot minute of 2010 album faves Small Black, who were far more dance-heavy of a live act than I thought they'd be.

Okkervil River has been carefully poised to get to that Next Level, with their last album "The Stand Ins" the most commercially successful so far. And if the numbers of fans pressing together in the concrete yard is any indication, there are plenty of fans willing to help get them there. Will Sheff's mouthfuls of lyrics were suddenly singalongs, the first ten rows gently bobbing and mouthing in tandem.

The frontman always looks like a Muppet to me as he sings, his big ol' mouth and mop of hair swinging easily and cartoonishly around the mic. I've liked what I've heard to the new one "I Am Very Far."

The same could be said for Parts & Labor's "Constant Future," out earlier this month. This loud band took the banner home for tonight's Best in Show, in my opinion, as they've honed their noisey nature down into a tight set that punctuates the hooks at times more than the recordings do. BJ Warshaw can really play the hell out of his instrument.

Last call is at 2 a.m. on a school night here. The gently sleeping couple of drunks that were posed outside the door when I went in had cloned, and now a couple dozen gutter punks and bleary-eyed teens had set up sleeping bags on the sidewalk, munching on pizzas and rubbing their feet. I asked what they were all congregating there for. They said they were waiting for a show. What show? "I dunno, like, 17 really good bands." Perhaps nobody had told them that the whole rest of Austin was flooded with 1,700 good bands elsewhere.

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Credit: Warner Bros.

HitFix Interview: Mastodon on first ‘Live’ set, ‘Jonah Hex,’ new album

Watch clips from the DVD: Metal band’s Brann Dailor is never sick of you guys
Mastodon’s last album “Crack the Skye” may have been all about adventuring outside of one’s body – a metal narrative to existentialism and The Beyond – but in mid-October in 2009, the four-piece was very much on a stage, in Chicago, and playing their asses off.
During that year, Mastodon enjoyed some of the greatest touring and commercial success in their decade-long history, as they were on the road for half the year. At The Aragon in the Windy City, there were 10 cameras pointed at the stage and surrounding to get that moment, and the result is “Mastodon: Live at the Aragon,” a DVD and concert album out today (March 15).
“We’d been wanting to do one for a while,” drummer Brann Dailor told me in an interview this week, speaking to releasing the band’s first live set. “We’ve played hundreds and hundreds of shows but [the Crack the Skye tour] was our biggest production to date. We took a snapshot – it was nothing out of the ordinary.”
[More after the jump...]
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<p>Wallpaper.: Kinda wanna hit him in the face. But also kinda wanna dance.</p>

Wallpaper.: Kinda wanna hit him in the face. But also kinda wanna dance.

HitFix 2011 SXSW Music Podcast No. 3: tUnE-yArDs, Smoking Popes

Lift to Experience's Josh T. Pearson, Little Scream, Thao and more

Two more days and something like 1,400 artists will infiltrate Austin for the South By Southwest Music Conference and adjacent events like Fader Fort.

While I'm personally looking forward to tacos, beverage and sunshine, there's also a slew of acts new and old(er) worthy of some extra minutes.

For this Monday edition of the SXSW Podcast selections, there's a mix of world noise, dance noise and the sound of Screaming.

Rather, Secretly Canadian's Little Scream -- whose debut is produced by Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry -- is up again musical Wallpaper., who made the ultimate party silliness last year with a remix of Das Racist's "Pizza Hut & Taco Bell."

The poppier side of Kill Rock Stars is encapsulated in Thao with the Get Down Stay Down. Lift to Experience's Josh T. Pearson has himself a long lament but is balanced out by the bouncy joy of tUnE-yArDs (let that be the last time I oblige to type it that way). And yes, Smoking Popes are still at it.

SXSW Music runs March 16-20.

Thursday's mix included O'Death, The Dears and Class Actress.

Friday featured Liturgy, Joan As Police Woman and Omar Rodriguez Lopez.

Here is the tracklist for HitFix's 2011 SXSW Music Podcast No. 3:

tUnE-yArDs, "Bizness"
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, "When We Swam"
Little Scream, "Cannons"
Wallpaper., "#STUPiDFACEDD"
Smoking Popes, "Punk Band"
Josh T. Pearson, "Women When I've Raised Hell"

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<p>The Low Anthem</p>

The Low Anthem

Credit: Nonesuch

HitFix Interview: The Low Anthem return 'Smart Flesh' to factory of origins

Four-piece Americana/folk act discusses recording in the cold, Mike Mogis, falling

The first time I ever laid eyes on The Low Anthem, they were playing on a bill with Midwestern troubadour Joe Pug at Chicago den The Hideout. They had what seemed like two dozen instruments on stage to share between the three members, each played with an equally mystic hand, hrmmming in harmony with the raspy voice of Ben Knox Miller, the angelic Jocie Adams and the background rumble of Jeff Prystowsky. They covered “Cigarettes & Whiskey” against the summer heat at the end of their set and the packed house sang, many with tears in their beers. 

A couple years have passed and a new album has dropped. “Smart Flesh,” their latest, was produced by the band and mixed by the honorable Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, She & Him). While they’re still playing the bars and club venues, The Low Anthem’s textured sounds are also bouncing off the walls at spots like museums and in theaters opening for Iron & Wine. They’ve added a fourth, Mat Davidson.
And while their folk, blues and country-tinged tracks may at times sound tiny, they went big on the atmospherics for “Smart Flesh,” recording out of cavernous rooms and next to metal walls inside an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Rhode Island over the winter of 2009-2010.
Tonight (March 12), they return to the same bitterly frigid factory, to cap off their current tour before they hit Eurpoe. Adams already released a solo effort in January. They all want to become better players
The Low Anthem’s Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky on performing live as opposed to performing the record…
Ben: We’re doing some shows in churches because of wanting to replicate that feel, of because of the high vaulted ceilings. But it’s less interesting I think to play the same kind of room every night. It’s fun to have to adjust. It keeps you on your toes. It tends to go from one extreme to the other and have to play a different kind of set and have different sounds every night.
Jeff: We’re not trying to play a studio sound live. That’s not our philosophy playing live. So that’s something that’s different. When we’re playing a club, we try to look for the sound of that room that’s in that space. We’re not trying to bring the Factory and make it that space.
… their next music video…
Ben: We have a music video that a friend of ours is working for “End of the Road,” filmed in Dorsett in the U.K. But this one I think is being filmed with high-wire walkers like a circus company has been hired to do this project. And the guy is dressed as bird and he’s kind of like “Man on Wire.” Seen it? He’s part of [“Smart Flesh’s”] theme, I guess, of one of the characters in the album… a certain abstract personality, a certain narrative aspect.
… on the isolation (and weather) of recording in a remote, abandoned factory…
Ben: Obviously, there were personal tensions, you know? When you do anything intensely over a long period of time… It was like 3 months we were living in that place. This little place, as a family unit, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, we didn’t picture that it would be that cold. They had air blowers, they would heat the place, with but we just kind of were hit with a really cold winter and we didn’t realize how little heat the building could hold. Even when the heaters were on, it was still just above 50 [degrees].
But the heat was localized so there were these rooms created basically just underneath the heat So that was kind of the design of the way we set up the space. But yeah, when we were recording some of the heaters had to be turned off. And we would record in late A.M. and yeah.
… And did those conditions improve the record?...
Ben: I don’t think it necessarily improved the record, but…
Jeff: You said you liked it after a while, you started enjoying playing in the cold, remember that?
Ben: Um, yeah I felt that…
Jeff: Well, it keeps you awake.
… And on their other life as doppelganger band Snake Wagon…
Ben: So we recorded another record for our alter-ego band Snake Wagon. It’ll be a viral download at some point that will just begin automatically when you login to some back alley of our website. It’ll even say viral download.
A lot of the Low Anthem songs were labored and thought-over and probably unusable after the recording we did -- by which I mean it never came together and lost just the kind of excitement you need. We probably did 30 songs and we ended up with 11 on the record and some left and the less-labored will be Snake Wagon.
… on working with Mike Mogis, and label home Nonesuch…
Ben: We went to Omaha and mixed the record with him and he’s a genius. He’s like the man with the Midas touch… We would never get to work with Mike Mogis if we didn’t have a record label. [Nonesuch] let us make it however we wanted to and pick the guys we wanted to be involved. They let us do it in this abandoned building with our own gear that we assembled. That’s pretty…that showed a lot of confidence in us, you know? And we appreciate that. I think they were just the label that heard [previous 2009 album] “Oh My God,  Charlie Darwin” after it came out and were the most taken with it.
… on playing so many instruments, and desiring to master each…
Ben: We’ve got to get better because right now, we’re still getting by on this underdog mentality of just bringing the spirit to the instrument throughout the show. We’ve gotta get better at them, but I think that’s part of why I miss the straightforward approach -- we were just a rock band and all of us work on our one thing that we did. We have different relationship with the instruments, but we approach them more in terms of textures and more of the sound of, say, horn music even if we can’t play horns so masterfully.
Jeff: I’m always practicing and getting better, and I think that the better you get, the more colors that you have to play with – rather than thinking of being “more proficient.” You add another filter, rather than thinking of it as winning versus falling on your ass.
… so when was the last time you fell on your ass?...
Ben: It’s almost the essence of our show.

The Low Anthem made Immaculate Noise' Top 30 Songs of 2010, and was among last year's Top 10 Must-See Artists at South By Southwest (SXSW).


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<p>Joan As Police Woman</p>

Joan As Police Woman

HitFix 2011 SXSW Music Podcast No. 2: Joan As Police Woman, Liturgy

The Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Diamond Center, surfgaze and noise

As we trudge closer to the opening of the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, we unveil Podcast No. 2 in our 2011 series.

Included on this Friday is one selection unintended for the faint of heart, Brooklyn's experimental metal outfit Liturgy. It's buttressed by sloooow surfgaze (yeah, that's a word) troupe The Diamond Center.

The shoulder-dancing contingency may be sated with sultry Joan As Police Woman and painfully hip We Are Enfant Terrible. The esteemed Omar Rodriguez Lopez -- frontman for At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta -- and Southwesternly broken-hearted David Wax Museum round out the list.

Thursday's mix included tracks from Class Actress and The Dears.

I will continue to post mixes now until the start of the fest, on March 16, with hopes to showcase some of what to expect from the eclectic event.

Here is the tracklist for Podcast No. 2:

Joan As Police Woman, "Magic"
David Wax Museum, "Born with a Broken Heart"
Omar Rodriguez Lopez, "Locomocion Capillar"
We Are Enfant Terrible, "Filthy Love"
The Diamond Center, "Caraway"
Liturgy, "Ecstatic Race"

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<p>Foo Fighters</p>

Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters cover Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd for 'Medium Rare' album

New takes on Prince, The Ramones, Husker Du, Thin Lizzy for Record Store Day

Vinyl and Foo Fighters lovers rejoice: The rock act is releasing an entire set of covers in honor of Record Store Day this year.

"Medium Rare" boasts 13 tracks, from "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney & Wings to "Darling Nikki" by Prince, and drops exclusively on vinyl LP on April 16. Foos have a long history of covers, having released some as B-sides, others as live set staples and bootlegs, the ilk. This is the first collection of this kind for them, and is the bow of two previously unreleased takes on Thin Lizzy's "Bad Reputation" and The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year."

I'm particularly tickled to hear Hüsker Dü's "Never Talking to You Again"; I am mildly disappointed there isn't one single female musician in the list.

The announcement comes within the same day Dave Grohl & Co.'s new music video to "Rope" dropped. Check out what HitFix's Melinda Newman has to say about it here.

Foo Fighters' new Butch Vig-produced set "Wasting Light" arrives only a few days before "Medium Rare," on April 12. A documentary on the band, cleverly named "Foo Fighters," makes its bow during the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film festival in Austin this coming week.

I've been pleasantly surprised, so far, with the Foos' promotional campaign for "Wasting Light," with "Medium Rare" being one helluva pleasant surprise. As Britney Spears' snippet and full-song leaks continue, and Lady Gaga's slow world takeover rages on, the band has packed their spring with a lot to be proud of. While I have yet to hear the new studio effort, "White Limo" raged pretty hard (if at least with its Lemmy-starring video) and I'm intrigued about the inclusion of Krist Novoselic in the tracklist. The band proved again it could have fun as a crew with "Rope." Their take on the rock doc -- which may overshadow their more boring album contributions (*cough* "Echoes" and "One by One" *cough*) -- could be a great snapshot of a rock band in its testy middle age.

Here is the tracklist for "Medium Rare":

1. "Band on the Run" (Paul McCartney & Wings)
2. "I Feel Free" (Cream)
3. "Life of Illusion" (Joe Walsh)
4. "Young Man Blues" (Mose Allison)
5. "Bad Reputation" (Thin Lizzy)
6. "Darling Nikki" (Prince)
7. "Down in the Park" (Gary Numan)
8. "Baker Street" (Gerry Rafferty)
9. "Danny Says" (The Ramones)
10. "Have A Cigar" (Pink Floyd)
11. "Never Talking to You Again" (Hüsker Dü)
12. "Gas Chamber" (Angry Samoans)
13. "This Will Be Our Year" (The Zombies)

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<p>Class Actress' Elizabeth Harper</p>

Class Actress' Elizabeth Harper

HitFix 2011 SXSW Music Podcast No. 1: O'Death, Class Actress, The Dears

Six tracks including Ice Black Birds, Kokayi, Tristen in advance of Austin fest

While there's somewhere between 700 and 1,000 acts showing up in Austin for official South By Southwest showcases, a number excess of that is far more accurate. It's overwhelming, on purpose.

HitFix is heading down to the Texas capitol again this year, and it's my pleasure to help parse some of the clutter.

Each day leading up to March 16, SXSW Music's kick-off, I'll be posting a podcast featuring a handful of acts I'd recommend checking out.

Today (March 10) includes tracks from rockers Ice Black Birds, Nashville newcomer Tristen, dream-pop troupe Class Actress, Canadian imports The Dears, killer live act O'Death and Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Kokayi.

SXSW runs March 16-20.

Here is the tracklist for HitFix 2011 SXSW Music Podcast No. 1:

Ice Black Birds, "22.22"
Tristen, "Eager for Your Love"
Class Actress, "Careful What You Say"
The Dears, "Blood"
O'Death, "Bugs"
Kokayi, "Nicotine"

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Song Of The Day: Watch Yuck's 'Get Away' video, plus Spiritualized news

Song Of The Day: Watch Yuck's 'Get Away' video, plus Spiritualized news

Fat Possum signees joined by some seriously sweet housemates

With nine Austin shows already on the board for South By Southwest, young'uns Yuck are already primed to be one of the belles at that ball.

Right in time, these rockers have released the music video to "Get Away." And they're doing nothing to shun their influences.

The road montage clip will have you rubbing your eyes and looking for J. Mascis or perhaps a peroxided Superchunk in the background. Their self-titled album -- released last month -- while green, was full of perfectly imperfect electric riffs, a cohesive tip of the trucker hat to '90s post-rockers. Frontman Daniel Blumberg, at the very least, has a serious case of the Malkmus.

Otherwise, the video is a very good excuse to cover an ivory-skinned beauty in veggie oil and to nonchalantly mutter the lyrics in your own detached manner.

Yuck are among the VERY good signings that Fat Possum has nabbed lately, with the most recent including legendary U.K. act Spiritualized. It was announced this week that the Jason Pierce-fronted crew will be releasing a new effort this fall, and that they're headed to London's storied Royal Albert Hall on Oct. 11.

Spiritualized last released "Songs in A&E" in 2008. They spent part of last year performing their breakthrough "Ladies and Gentlemen... We Are Floating In Space" in full during live shows.

Check out Yuck's "Get Away" video below, and stream their album in full below that.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>John Slattery in The National's &quot;Conversation 16&quot;</p>

John Slattery in The National's "Conversation 16"

Watch: John Slattery, Kristen Schaal in The National's 'Conversation 16'

Rock act headlining MusicNow fest in Ohio

We're used to seeing John Slattery as a sad lovesick fool, but this time his powerful muse if one of presidential proportions.

The National have released the music video to "Conversation 16," culled from their 2010 album "High Violet"; the group even has a place in the clip, but much of the focus is on "President of the U.S." Kristen Schaal, Slattery on security detail and "Russian" leader James Urbaniak.

What surfaces are misty water-colored memories of Ms. President and Slattery's love affair, a executive branch thong, love letters with wax and staples and a nearly missed pardon for a Thanksgiving turkey. The "Mad Men" actor has a moment where he's forced to play dress-up, similar to a situation his TV character had at Cooper and Price involving a Santa Suit.

The clip was directed by Scott Jacobson, and the concept arose from an alcohol fueled chat with the comedienne.

[More after the jump...]

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