When mid-day rolled around we were taken upstairs by our escort to claim our swag-bags! Everyone who performs at the awards gets a bag of insane treasure called Swag Bags! Normally when we play shows we get cold pizza and a case of water, so this obviously caught us off guard. The bag was packed with incredible stuff that we've never been able to afford. Everything from Sony headphones and speakers to custom wooden iPhone backs and designer body lotions. It took me a little while to understand, but there were VACATIONS included in the bag! Free nights at ritzy hotels and resorts in Chilé, Abu Dhabi and the Caribbean! It was an incredible moment for a band that has spent many a night sleeping in our van outside your local Walmart. This was really happening!
I don't want to get too much into the catering aspect of things, but let's just say that their was a veritable smorgasbord of deliciousness spread through out a massive room and an entire basket of brownies waiting for us in our trailer. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention we had our OWN TRAILER?
We got ready for the Billboard Red (white?) Carpet at about 3:30 and got into an luxury SUV that picked us up at check-in and literally drove us 35 feet down the road to where the white carpet was! It was seriously like playing make-believe! There were celebrities everywhere and fans lined up on the opposite side of the road who would scream hysterically every time anyone standing on the carpet would wave at them! You can find a bunch of the interviews that we did on Billboard.com. You can definitely see the excitement in our eyes in all of the pictures that are popping up online as well. I remember us telling each other to just play it cool and keep calm. I think that we were under the impression that we did, until we saw all the pictures of us gushing with excitement! At one point we were standing directly next to Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen and I remember blurting out Phil and Claire Dunphy are standing next to me! It was truly surreal answering questions about our little band that we care so much about for tons of people with mics and cameras. It's just not something that happen to guys like us. It was incredibly humbling and awesome all at the same time.
Our escort led us back to our trailer to freshen up. We were there for about five minutes before we were joined by a friend of a friend, who by the end of the night became a friend of ours, Rex Freakin' Lee! Rex played Ari Gold's assistant, Lloyd, on HBO's "Entourage" and currently stars as Mr. Wolfe on ABC's "Suburgatory." I'm a huge fan of both shows and I remember just sitting there and saying, "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!?!?!? THIS IS SO COOL!" Right before our escort led us to our seats we got a frantic knock on our trailer door. I opened the door to find none other than one of my first child-hood crushes, former MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown! She said "Is it okay if I get dressed on here? I'm in a serious rush!" God's honest! I said exactly this, "Sure, anything for Downtown Julie Brown!" It was just a wild environment… a real "wish we had a reality show so people could see what is actually happening here" type of moment!
When Julie was done getting ready we all followed our escort to our seats. Along the way we were walking next to every famous person I can think of. It was like looking at the posters inside of a teeny-boppers locker, but in real life! We were literally going to same place at the same time as Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Nelly Furtado, Wiz Khalifa, Jordin Sparks and The Wanted, to name a few. It honestly felt like one of those ridiculous dreams where you are doing something and then you turn around and you're like "Oh, Hey Alicia Keys, how are you today?"
They sat us in the front row! A bunch nobodies from nowhere and we were sitting in the front row next to Linkin Park watching the action 10 feet away from us. It was so damn great! The first two hours are a blur. My memories of it are just a montage of awesomeness with bright lights, pyro and fog machines. It was incredible to watch Usher perform the way he does sitting so close to the stage. That man is seriously singing everything while dancing better than anyone else can. If he isn't singing, he doesn't move his mouth. That dude is no bull-shit and is so legit, it's amazing.
The time came for our escort to bring us back to the trailer so we could get ready to play our song on national television! You can see all of everything that happened between our preparation and our performance at billboard.com/battle. It's about 45 minutes of us goofing off until about 4 minutes before we play where we get noticeably terrified and emotional.
I can still feel the knots in my stomach from the 2 minutes we were on stage behind the dividing wall waiting to play. It wasn't a nervousness and it wasn't a freak out. It was a feeling that my brain and my muscles were trying to remind me of the constant fight, struggles and sacrifices we've made over the last 11 years that got us to that exact moment in time. It was heavy. We played a two minute version of our song "Dance Till We Die" from our new album "Second Family" and in all honesty I don't remember it lasting for more than twenty seconds.
I kept my normal intense demeanor throughout the whole performance, but there is one moment during the song where you see me look up to my right and you see my eyes light up and a huge smile show up on my face for a solid two seconds. That expression on my face is the closest i will ever be able to get to explaining what that moment felt like. Just looking out in the crowd at the cameras and all those people, it was craziness! My fiancé, Dana, flew out for the show and was standing with Anthony's girlfriend and our new friend Rex Lee a couple rows into the crowd. It was really cool to have her there. She's been watching the band strive for little moments of greatness for the last nine years. It meant a lot to have her there enjoying this with us. She got pictures of Mike Tyson going nuts during our song! She said he was fist-pumping for the entire song! Little things like that are what make this day legendary in my heart and in the hearts of the "Second Family" community surrounding this small band from Long Island.
When we got off stage we were riding a pretty serious emotional high. We immediately did an interview with our new friend Julie Brown. That interview was named one of the Top Ten Backstage Moments of The Billboard Music Awards. You can see that interview at Billboard.com. It was pretty fantastic!
The rest of the night was just blurs of amazingness! ( We were trending worldwide on Twitter… We took a picture with Whoopi Goldberg and got photo-bombed by Gavin DeGraw… We met Stevie Wonder… We packed ten people into an Escalade for the ride to the afterparty… one of them being a TV celebrity!) The list goes on and on!
From left to right: Travis McGee (Bass), Joe Ragosta (Vocals), Gavin Degraw (Celebrity Photo Bomber), Whoopi Goldberg (Has an EGOT), Anthony MIngoia (Drummer), Rob Felicetti (Guitar), Marc Kantor(Guitar)
We went bonzos at an incredible after party at The Mirage. There were many drinks, incredible food and fantastic live performances by Wiz Khalifa and Far East Movement. The end of the night is a little hazy, but there is a chance that my psycho-pants fiancé paid $100 to a taxi driver outside of In-N-Out Burger for his food because the burger restaurant had closed by the time we had gotten there. There's really no way of knowing!
It was truly a dream come true.
We're still the same rag-tag group of kids we were last week, we just have some really cool pictures and stories to talk about now. Thank you so much to Billboard and Chevrolet for this opportunity and thank you to all of the staff and crew at the Billboard Music Awards for being so kind to us. These are moments of our lives that we will never forget and hopefully these are moments we will one day get to experience again. Lastly and most importantly, thank you to our community of relentless fans and friends that we call our "Second Family." You guys have done so much for us, and I've got a picture with Whoopi Goldberg that was photo-bombed by Gabin Degraw to prove it!
See you out on tour this summer, Be awesome!
Joe and the rest of Patent Pending!
Patent Pending's new album "Second Family" is available now at patentpendingmusic.com .