Muse plays ping-pong with Tampa Bay fans prior to Tampa concert
Jason Williams and Mary Kate Dahlberg stood in a small, nearly empty dressing room inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night. Before them stood a ping-pong table customized with the logo of a gigantic British rock band.
Dahlberg, 24, slipped her arms around Williams. “Thank you for bringing me,” she said softly.
How could he not? Dahlberg made the iMovie that got them there: A short clip of Williams, a lifelong ping-pong player, pleading his case for why he should get to play table tennis against Muse.
Understand: This was not your everyday radio-sponsored meet-and-greet. Muse is a Grammy-winning trio, one of the biggest alternative rock bands in the world. When local station 97X staged a meet-and-greet contest called “What would you lose for Muse?,” one woman cut off her hair. Another gave away her wedding dress. One guy let a DJ wax an eyebrow.
But as giant as they are, Muse like staging creative contests to get fans involved. On this tour, they’ve brought a custom ping-pong table and offering one fan in each city the chance to play against two band members before the show. In Tampa, eight people submitted videos of themselves doing racket tricks and begging for the prize.
Williams, a 29-year-old corporate banker with a pollen-dusted ping-pong table on his front porch in Brandon, said his video wasn’t any more special than the rest. But he did have a huge network of fans and co-workers (he bribed them with donuts) sharing the contest link on Facebook and voting online. In the end, he had 400 more votes than the next guy.
Of course he brought brought his girlfriend.
Muse can play some ping-pong. Guitarist Christopher Wolstenholme is the ringer; singer Matt Bellamy can hold his own, too. Word is drummer Dom Howard is the weak link. But they’re all pretty solid.
Following a quick meet-and-greet with the lucky, if eyebrowless, fans of Tampa Bay, Bellamy and Wolstenholme sauntered in, all couture footwear and expensive-looking jackets, but otherwise, just a couple of guys up for a game. They picked up official Muse paddles – well, three of them did, anyway; Williams brought his from home – and jumped into it. Bellamy and Dahlberg on one side, Howard and Williams on the other. One of the band’s managers assumed the position of referee, his British accent giving the cozy, unadorned room an almost Wimbledonian atmosphere.
The game went quickly, with Williams and Howard jumping out to an early lead.
“Sorry. He’s really the good one,” Dahlberg told Bellamy.
Team Bellamy knotted it up at 9-9 before Team Howard closed out the first set, then, in short order, the second. Game and match: 2-0, Team Howard.
The rock gods autograph two custom paddles for Williams and Dahlberg, and quickly exit to prepare for their concert. The contest winners are buzzing, though Dahlberg still seems embarrassed.
“I was horrible,” she said sheepishly. “I’m really sorry.”
As Williams and Dahlberg squeeze through the door and back to the Forum, one of Muse’s managers pipes up.
“I thought you did pretty good.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*