fun. takes the stage at the star-studded KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
| "I think the best part of these radio shows is that it's like band summer camp..."
Nicky Berger, Berger Management
There's always a convivial vibe backstage at KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas, the two-night mega-show put on by LA's alt-rock radio powerhouse, but this year the mood was particularly friendly, perhaps because everyone there was thinking about what mega-years they had: from top-liners like fun., who were coming off their recent spate of Grammy nominations, to surprise band No Doubt, seen mingling with backstage reveler Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, to newcomers like Imagine Dragons, who spent nearly the entire show after their opening set wandering around near-dazed by their good fortune of just being there.
That band, still riding their huge hit "It's Time," isn't taking the year for granted. "From an outsider perspective, people say 'you came out of nowhere,' but having spent the last four years with the guys, they've really put in their time," says manager Mac Reynolds of Reynolds Management, adding that the band just announced their first headlining tour, and that the video for their new single "Radioactive" debuted on this day. He also doesn't discount the role of licensing in the band's ascention -- rather, he says, "It was super important for us. There's different paths for different bands, and we're just lucky that at the same time as it hit radio, and the same time it was released, we had a couple great placements. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" had it in the trailer, and that was really key. It was a really cool, cool placement for the band -- I think it helped."
(L-R): Imagine Dragons' Wayne Sermon, Dan Reynolds, Ben McKee, manager Mac Reynolds, and Dan Platzman. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
Passion Pit are another band whose breakout this year can't have been hurt by licensing exposure (the single "Take a Walk" was featured in Taco Bell ads, among many other placements), leading to booking a headlining show at Madison Square Garden in the first quarter of 2013. The highlight of the year, though, may have been the band's first appearance on Saturday Night Live. The band's manager, Rich Cohen, of Foundation Artists Management, says that the whole thing was a challenge. "We started organizing a few different production ideas that didn't happen, but getting the opportunity to at least pitch them to Lorne [Michaels] was exciting. By Saturday the band were so prepared, because Thursday's rehearsal schedule allowed them to run through each song five or six times. By the time they went on, it was second nature."
Though Cohen can't confirm which dates, he says the band is booking major festivals for next year, "in April, May, June, and July," (let the Bonnaroo/Coachella speculation begin), and says that radio shows such as Acoustic Christmas are a boon for the band's networking opportunities. "Most shows they're playing with the same bands, so getting to watch other bands, make friends with them, and talk about collaborating with some -- that's a unique atmosphere you don't get from touring around."
Passion Pit lead singer Michael Angelakos on stage. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
Grouplove's manager Nicky Berger of Berger Management agrees. "I think the best part of these radio shows is that it's like band summer camp. So many of these lineups have bands that have done well at radio in the past year. It allows them to get to know each other a little better, and get to know what they're like. Grouplove was out on this radio run last year, and became friends with Young The Giant, and we ended up doing shows with them later in the year -- same with Cage The Elephant and Manchester Orchestra."
(L-R): Grouplove's Nicky Berger (the band's manager), Sean Gadd, Christian Zucconi, Gary Gorman, senio director of rock and alternative promotion at Atlantic Records Ron Poore, SVP of rock formats at Atlantic Ryan Rabin, Andrew Wesson, and Hannah Hooper. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
The band's been touring behind 2011's Never Trust a Happy Song since long before it actually was released, but with the recent radio drop of their single "Itchin' On A Photograph," it seems like their album-cycle momentum is still not quite ready to come to an end. "It's been top 10 at Alternative Radio and is still moving. [Shows like this] are great ways to get back out in front of the stations and huge audiences bigger than we could do ourselves."
(L-R): KROQ Music Director Lisa Worden, The Killers' Ronnie Vannucci, KROQ personality Stryker, Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, and Island Def Jam SVP Christine Chiapetta. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
Yet no one backstage has likely had a more transformative year than Jordan Lawlor, the young multi-instrumentalist for M83. Less than a year ago, he was unemployed and living in his parent's house, and, on a whim, submitted a YouTube video to the band -- who hired him for a whirlwind tour that started with a festival show for 50,000 people in Mexico City and has continued through arena stops on this radio run. He's clearly still giddy about his life's unexpected transformation. " This year has been the most incredible life changing galactic supernova explosion ever," he said. "My life was very boring for 19 years and suddenly accelerated this year. It was incredible. [A year ago] I was at my parent's house, obsessing over German electronic music from the '70s. I still am -- I'm just doing it from Croatia and other crazier parts of the world."
New addition to m83 Jordan Lawlor. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
He's gone from being a hired-hand to a full-on member of the band, too. "[Bandleader Anthony Gonzalez] says he wants me to contribute to the next album, which I didn't have a chance to do before -- because I didn't know him."
Still, all of the artists -- and their teams -- can likely agree that the best thing they can get for the Holiday season is a simple one, summed up by Imagine Dragons' Reynolds: "My Christmas wish for the band is that they get a little downtime."
Backstage Therapy: Dr. Drew Pinsky (center), who hosts KROQ's Loveline with No Doubt (from left) Adrian Young, Tom Dumont, Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Wire Image)
Jack White hits the stage. (Photo: Jeff Miller)
Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos poses with manager Rich Cohen. (Photo: Jeff Miller)