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Big day gets really big for We the Kings at the 93.3 Jingle Ball

Sunday was already a big day for We the Kings. • The Bradenton power-pop punks celebrated the release of their second album, Smile Kid, last week. On Sunday, they were back home in Florida to play an acoustic set at the 93.3 Jingle Ball at the St. Pete Times Forum. It's the first of seven radio-sponsored concerts in seven days across the country, including gigs in Seattle, New Orleans and Oklahoma City. • But when the Ting Tings dropped out of the lineup, We the Kings got called up to the mainstage — and an already big day got even bigger. • So when We the Kings' people asked if the Times wanted to tag along with them all day Sunday for an inside look at the band, we turned to their biggest hit for an answer: Check Yes Juliet. Here's how it went.

12:30 p.m.: Since the band had a rare day to chill in Tampa, their label, S-Curve, asked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tickets to Sunday's game against the Jets. The team obliged — and threw in sideline passes, too. Standing next to the field during warmups, singer Travis Clark and drummer Danny Duncan snap photos of the view and discuss how Travis, a former varsity soccer player, can kick a 55-yard field goal. "Our scouting department wants to talk to you about those field goals," jokes Brian Ford, the Bucs' vice president of administration.

12:40 p.m.: Over burgers in the club level, the guys talk about the evolution of Smile Kid, which has a bigger, more fleshed-out sound than the band's self-titled 2007 debut. "On the first record, there were songs that I wrote on piano, but we converted them over to guitar," Clark says. "When it came to producing the album, I was like, let's just add as many bells and whistles and strings as we can." Laughs Duncan: "There are literally bells and whistles on there! It's awesome!"

2:34 p.m.: Halftime. The Bucs are down 19-0. With their Jingle Ball rehearsal two hours away, they decide to hit International Plaza for an impromptu shopping trip.

3:10 p.m.: Normally on tour, the band might not get to see much of a city — sometimes as little as the few blocks around the venue. But they do occasionally check out a city's mall. "The store to hit when you're in a touring group is the As Seen On TV Store," Travis says. "We've all gotten Snuggies."

3:45 p.m.: The band swings by Hot Topic because, Clark says, "It's good luck to buy your CD the week it comes out." In Hot Topic, Clark surveys the selection of We the Kings T-shirts and snaps photos and signs autographs for fans.

5:45 p.m.: Clark and Duncan meet up with brothers Hunter and Drew Thomsen, the band's guitarist and bassist, respectively, who flew in from New York Sunday morning. The band is a little late to their soundcheck, so there's not much time to prepare for an acoustic set in the celebrity meet-and-greet area. To camera-wielding fans, the three-song set may sound perfect, but to the band, it feels glitchy.

6:10 p.m.: There's no time to figure out what went wrong with the acoustic set, because We the Kings are the first band on the mainstage. They've been given 10 minutes.

6:25 p.m.: Standing behind the curtain as the band waits to be announced, S-Curve rep Brad Davidson gets a text. "We just officially went Top 30," he tells the band. Meaning Heaven Can Wait, the first single from Smile Kid, has entered the Top 30 of Billboard's pop charts.

6:31 p.m.: We the Kings hit the stage and rip through three songs — Heaven Can Wait, Secret Valentine and Check Yes Juliet — in 11 minutes.

8:34 p.m.: Compared to the quiet vibe of the dressing room, the MetroPCS Celebrity Club, where the band is due to appear, is utter chaos. A line forms and grows quickly as dozens of ladies (and a few dudes) get autographs and pose for pictures with the band.

9:02 p.m.: As the band wraps up their signing, Billy Mays III, son of the late pitchman, hands Duncan a stack of stickers bearing his father's famously bearded face. Duncan seems genuinely astounded by this. "Coolest moment of my life," he says, grinning goofily.

10:34 p.m.: At a backstage VIP lounge, Duncan and Clark hang with members of Cobra Starship, 3OH!3, Boys Like Girls and Ke$ha. There is some debate about whether to stick around for The Fray, but Clark is emphatic: "Dude, I'll sing every word."

11:30 p.m.: After the Fray's performance, the band heads out for the drive back to Bradenton. They have to be up at 6 a.m. for a flight to Oklahoma City. Sunday, it turns out, is only the beginning — the real work pushing Smile Kid is still to come.

Big day gets really big for We the Kings at the 93.3 Jingle Ball 12/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2009 11:25pm]
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