Put a Heard on It! 'Portlandia’s' 12 Best Musical Cameos

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Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
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IFC’s sleeper-hit sketch comedy show Portlandia, helmed by punk musician-turned SNL cast member-turned-Seth Meyers bandleader Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag guitarist Carrie Brownstein, returns for a sixth season this Thursday, Jan. 21. And with Season 6 will surely come a slew of guest appearances by various actors and comedians. But we here at Yahoo Music are especially looking forward to all the cameos by Fred and Carrie’s musical friends (including the Flaming Lips, seen in this sneak preview clip), since a typical Portlandia cast listing often reads like a who’s-who of indie rock.

Related: Fred Armisen and Other Comedians With Punk-Rock Ties

The dream of the ’90s is clearly alive in Portland, judging by the many past Portlandia appearances by that decade’s grunge-rock elite, including the Lips. But all sorts of cool musicians have graced the show. To celebrate Portlandia’s long-awaited return, we’re ranking the best musician cameos in the series’ history. (Note: This is an article best read by the bedside glow of an artisanal lightbulb.)

12. No Doubt – On the “Nina’s Birthday” episode, Nina received a hella good present from her biker boyfriend, Lance: a private hot-air balloon ride with the recently reunited No Doubt. While Gwen Stefani refused to dish about how she and her own significant other at the time, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, celebrate her birthday, we’re kind of dreaming that Gwen and her new guy Blake Shelton will be featured on Portlandia Season 6. Make it happen, IFC.

11. Isaac Brock – The Modest Mouse singer was neither modest nor mousy when he landed in the middle of a heated rock ‘n’ roll debate with the Krautrock-loving, literally too-cool-for-school parents at Portland’s exclusive Shooting Star pre-school. However well-intentioned, Isaac’s attempt to donate his old Temple of the Dog and Back to the Future albums to the school’s library was not appreciated. We totally would have taken that Talk Talk record off his hands, though…

10. Steve Jones – In Portlandia’s most surreal and ambitious skit yet, the Sex Pistols’ fearsome axe-slinger brought just the right amount of punk-rock menace to his role of the nasty bouncer of “Brunch Village.” We’ve been scared to eat eggs Benedict ever since.

9. Johnny Marr – Johnny is usually a pretty easy-going guy. (He survived being in a band with Morrissey for years, after all — and with that Temple of the Dog-loving Isaac in Modest Mouse!) But he nearly lost his cool when he had to contend with Portland’s two most inept bicycle valets. The only thing that would’ve made this skit better? If Johnny busted out some “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” when he finally spotted his red two-wheeler sitting atop that bicycle scrap heap.

8. Jack White – It was a Jack White Christmas for the vaguely holiday-themed “Winter in Portlandia” episode, when the White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather mastermind magically showed up one snowy silent night to book time in an analog-obsessed character’s long-vacant, vintage-gear-packed studio. We’re still hoping Jack actually recorded his next Third Man Records 7-inch there.

7. Jenny Conlee – The Decemberists’ multi-instrumentalist took on a very sympathetic role in 2011’s “Blunderbuss” episode, playing a hapless singer-songwriter named Sparkle Pony whose attempt to play Portland’s coolest rock festival goes horribly awry. The episode also featured cameos by Selma Blair, James Mercer of the Shins/Broken Bells, Gus Van Sant, and Carrie Brownstein’s Sleater-Kinney bandmate Corin Tucker, but Sparkle Pony (and her actual pony) stole the show… even if she even ended up gigging in an Alaskan motel lobby.

6. Dirty Projectors and J. Mascis – Quiet was definitely the new loud, and the new awesome, when Featherwash (a Fred-fronted Dirty Projectors) and Bless the Barn (featuring usually-much-louder Dinosaur Jr. figurehead J. Mascis) went very, very unplugged for Portland’s “Battle of the Gentle Bands.” But unfortunately, both bands were out-soft-rocked by the super-mellow sounds of Franny Wisp. Try to be gentler next time, guys.

5. Jello BiafraIn Season 4, the Dead Kennedys singer woke up from a decades-long coma to 2014 yuppie apocalypse. It was every aging punk’s worst nightmakre, and one of this series’ funniest episodes.

4. Eddie Vedder – The Pearl Jam frontman is considered a grunge-rock heartthrob by many, but apparently he’s not the “Better Man,” according to prospective love interest Carrie. Lesson learned here: Even for the handsome singer of a hugely famous rock band, a squiggly bicep tattoo of Ani DiFranco is always a dating dealbreaker.

3. Aimee Mann – Fans wondering whatever happened to rebellious ‘Til Tuesday songstress Aimee Mann were amused, or maybe confused, when she showed up in Season 1 playing Fred and Carrie’s cleaning lady. In real life, Aimee still makes her living making music… but she demonstrated such deadpan comedic chops here, she may want to give acting a try. She’d probably clean up.

2. Kevin the Cat – Forget about Kristen Wiig. Amp-scratching Siamese kitty Kevin was the real star of Season 2’s Pitchfork-approved “Cat Nap” episode. Kevin’s claws-to-the-wall rockin’ on his feline band’s hit “Whisker Patrol” was so fantastic, in fact, that he literally shut Pitchfork down. Paws up!

1. Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren & Matt Pinfield - Children of the ’80s probably consider Martha Quinn, J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, and Alan Hunter to be the real MTV dream team. But Portlandia’s “Take Back MTV” episode generated a wave of latter-day MTV nostalgia, when the station’s ’90s crew ambushed their old basic-cable stomping grounds and brought back the glory days of The Week in Rock and 120 Minutes. We needed about 120 minutes more of this awesome skit. Watch the entire epiosde here.

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