Backstage at the Jingle Ball: No Miley, but lots of Enrique Iglesias, Flo Rida, Austin Mahone and Tegan and Sara
Another 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball is in the books, and if you missed our review of Miley Cyrus and company at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, click here.
But even more celebrity fun took place backstage and outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In addition to a free outdoor pre-party and concert, there was a backstage red carpet where all of the Jingle Bell stars — well, almost all of them, anyway — stopped by for photos and a chat.
Now that you know what happened on the Forum’s main stage, what else took place on Wednesday? Here’s a glimpse.
The party began around 4:40 p.m. outside the Forum with a free concert by three Jingle Ball acts, Austin Mahone, Fifth Harmony and Travie McCoy; and one that was only playing outside, Tegan and Sara.
Fans gathered behind the stage to beg for photos and autographs, but time constraints largely prevented it (though McCoy and Fifth Harmony did pose for a few photos together). Fifth Harmony did, however, smile for fans’ cameras in the lobby of the nearby Marriott Waterside, where they were apparently staying.
Mahone and Fifth Harmony unplugged for their acoustic sets, while McCoy and Tegan and Sara — a Canadian duo that many indie rock fans in the area would pay good money to see — kept their sets electric and loud.
Delightful twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin focused on material from their sleek and synthy new album Heartthrob, including shiny single Closer; and its precursor The Con, such as Back In Your Head. Fans hoping for older, rawer cuts like Walking With a Ghost were out of luck — but we did get a taste of the sisters’ trademark stage banter, as they talked about shopping at International Plaza; and Sara admitted it was “incredibly upsetting” for her to be performing at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the Lightning defeated her beloved Calgary Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. “I had to seek therapy, and a whole lot of alcohol,” after those playoffs, she said.
Inside the Forum, we had to ask her to elaborate:
What were those finals like for you?
Sara: Here’s the thing: I’ve been living in Montreal for over 10 years, and I had always been a huge Calgary Flames fan, but the last time they had a real shot at the Cup was when they won it in 1988-89, so this was really unexpected. They were a total underdog and they went all the way to Game 7 with Tampa Bay, and it was an amazing series. I remember thinking it really could have gone either way. Both very deserving. But then, unfortunately, it happened to correspond with me getting my wisdom teeth out.
Tegan: This is the real clincher in this story.
Sara: I think that my pain and suffering was embellished by the fact that I was literally in pain and suffering. I was really sad when they lost. Like, I can’t think of a time where I’ve behaved so irrationally. There were tears shed. I may have flung something at the television and turned it off and actually probably did cry. It was really sad for me. And I’m dating someone from Florida, and her brother was actually, I think, at one of the final games, and I remember when we first met, I felt angry at him becuase he had been there to witness it.
Tegan: She’s literally still working through it.
Sara: Listen, it so, so just happened for me.
Do you still have lingering resentment for the Lightning, for Marty, for all those guys?
Sara: I don’t, but you know what? I was living in Montreal at the time, and St. Louis was a Quebec boy, and what’s-his-name, the other big player...
Sara: Lecavalier. All those players were Canadian players, so Montreal was behind Tampa Bay, which felt like a double injury for me. Here I was in this city that I loved, and everyone seemed to be rooting against me, even the universe.
Is it that clubby, that the Habs fans would pull for Tampa Bay? They wouldn’t pull for another Canadian team?
Sara: No, they would (pull for) their own homeboys.
Tegan: The East Coast teams are different. I feel like Ottawa fans and Calgary fans and Vancouver fans kind of stick together if their teams get knocked out, but Edmonton and Toronto and Montreal are very, very, very nationalistic.
Sara: That Tampa Bay team, though, felt Canadian. There were a lot of Canadian players on it. So I kind of understand it, but I couldn’t turn on my Flames.
Ah, that’s a shame.
Sara: Yeah. Thank you for having me relive this moment in depth.
Tegan and Sara weren’t the only ones who showed up backstage to pose for photos and conduct interviews with the media. Almost every Jingle Ball star did — except for Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande, that is. Robin Thicke was a maybe, but he eventually showed up and smiled for the cameras.
One huge star who was more than happy to chat with the media was Enrique Iglesias, who seems to live for big, flashy shows like this. You might recall that at the 2010 Jingle Ball, Iglesias pulled a local fan on stage during a wildly over-the-top rendition of Hero. It’s a well-worn stage tactic, but one he’s become famous for, and one that he has managed to inflate into something like performance art.
“People say, 'Oh, yeah, that’s rehearsed, you know about that person before...’” Iglesias said. “I swear on my mother that it’s never actually been rehearsed. That’s the cool thing, that you never know. For me, that’s what gives me a lot of energy during the show. And you never know who you’re going to pull up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. It all depends on that person that you pull up on stage. And there is that one moment when you pull that person on stage that you kind of forget that you’re in front of 10,000 or 12,000 or 1,000 or 100,000 people.”
Iglesias didn’t pull anyone on stage during Wednesday’s Jingle Ball, but he did venture into the crowd during a balloon-filled rendition of I Like It. The man knows how to put on a show, doesn’t he?
Austin Mahone was one of the few Jingle Ball performers with strong Tampa ties. The South Florida teenybopper’s grandparents live in the area, and 93.3-FLZ was one of the first big stations to support him. Last year he performed outside the Forum; this year, he was inside on the main stage.
Mahone had to postpone an October date at Jannus Live when his tour was canceled due to illness, but he’ll be back in St. Pete on Feb. 25. “I feel great,” he said backstage. “(Fans) can expect to hear new singles. They can expect to see more dancing. I’m gonna get a tour bus, so I’m excited about that. My first tour bus — it’s gonna be fun.”
Mahone said his forthcoming album, due sometime next spring, should feature more instrumentation, possibly reflecting more of the acoustic side he showcased outside the Forum. “I play guitar, piano, drums,” he said. So I’d like to incorporate that as much as I can. Definitely, I’d like to put that on the album as well.”
When Miley Cyrus closed out the Jingle Ball with Wrecking Ball and a blizzard of fake snow, the Forum emptied out. But the night wasn’t over for a few lucky fans.
Flo Rida surprised a group of fans outside the Forum when he popped out to take a few photos with the sign-wavers and autograph seekers near the artists’ exit. You’d think he’d have already lived up to his man-of-the-people rep on this night, considering he brought a cavalcade of fans and dancers on stage during his Jingle Ball performance. But hey, anytime Flo can give fans a Good Feeling, he’ll take it.
— Jay Cridlin, tbt*