Blitz Kids recently stopped by ESPN on their way home to England from the sprawling SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and entertained a roomful of employees with a quick three-song acoustic set.
And since they were in Bristol, they threw in a little ESPN twist -- a special arrangement of "Keep Swinging," their new EP. They're still working on the songs for a full-length album to follow up 2014's "The Good Youth."
In the above video, that's Nic Montgomery on the left, playing acoustic rhythm guitar instead of his usual bass. Jono Yates is to the right on lead guitar. Singer Joe James is wedged between the two guitarists. As for drummer Matt Freer? His drums didn't make the trip to Bristol, so he was off to the side, his hands occasionally chopping through the air on the parts he would have otherwise bashed out.
The wrinkle they threw in? That would be the familiar "dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah" of the "SportsCenter" theme.
"Keep Swinging" is a song about staying optimistic in the face of adversity. And like many songs of that sort, it was written when the future looked bleak.
"It’s a song we wrote four years ago in Jono's garage," James said. "It was a rainy day. We had no money, we were exhausted from touring constantly and trying to make it. We didn't have a label, we didn't have anyone coming to our shows … we wrote it as a 'keep going' [song] for us, as a motivational song. But we never actually finished it -- we couldn't get the chorus right, so we left it in the back drawer for a couple of years."
In fact, "Keep Swinging" wasn't completed until the band's fortunes had turned 180 degrees – when they were recording their debut album in Los Angeles at the home of producer John Feldmann, better known as the lead singer of Goldfinger.
"We finished writing it there in the sunshine outside [Feldman’s] house," Smith says. "It was a quite nice rounding of the circle."
If there’s one thing rock and roll hasn't delivered for Blitz Kids, it's more opportunities to see Manchester United play. The band's home town of Nantwich, is about an hour south of Manchester, but their touring schedule gets in the way of attending more than a few matches.
"I've been to four [home] games now this year," said Yates, who described his Man U fanhood as "an 8 or a 9" on a scale of 1 to 10.
"We've only been home for six," Smith adds. "It always seems to be our shows are on the weekends."
But if they can't be at the matches in person, maybe Blitz Kids can still find their way in through the PA speakers.
"We're working on trying to get our song played at Old Trafford," Smith says. "That'd be great. That would be one on the bucket list."
Rebecca Ferguson: "Glitter and Gold " from the "Heaven" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Parade of Lights: "Golden" from the "Golden" EP. (iTunes | Amazon)
MisterWives: "Twisted Tongues" from the "Our Own House" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Wax Tailor: "Sometimes" from the "Hope and Sorrow" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
The Megaphones: "You Know You Wanna" from "The Megaphones" album. (iTunes)
Cassandra Kubinski: "Just Being Myself" from the "Just Being Myself" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Owen Campbell: "Remember to Breathe: and "Wreckin' Ball" from "The Pilgrim" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Darlia: "Stars Are Aligned" from the "Petals" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Thousand Foot Krutch: "Untraveled Road" from the "Oxygen: Inhale" album.
(iTunes | Amazon)
Mikky Ekko: "Riot" and "Watch Me Rise" from the "Time" album. (iTunes)
Kid Ink: "Every City We Go" single. (iTunes | http://www.amazon.com/Full-Speed-Kid-Ink/dp/B00QSN8EDI">Amazon)
Natalia Jimenez: "Algo Brilla En Mi" single.
The members of J. Roddy Walston & the Business -- Walston on lead vocals and guitar, Billy Gordon on guitar, bassist Logan Davis and drummer Steve Colmus -- are baseball fans. They got together in Walston's hometown of Cleveland, Tenn., but adopted the Orioles as their team after relocating to Baltimore.
That makes sense, since their sound harkens back to the bluesy, groove-based rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Orioles built what had been a flagging American League also-ran into a dynasty. But the band also leans on Southern influences, such as the Stax/Volt soul bands of the 1960s. Especially "Sweat Shock," which we're happy to debut in this space.
If "Sweat Shock" sounds familiar to you, you might have heard it backing a Coors Light TV ad during football season. And you might have caught them on Austin City Limits with The Black Keys. (Here's a behind-the-scenes look at their Austin City Limits appearance, featuring "Heavy Bells," the first single off their current album, "Essential Tremors.")
As Steve Colmus explained in an email to ESPN Music, "Sports are a big part of life in Baltimore, as much as crabs, Old Bay and explaining to people that we don't live on the set of "The Wire."
Baltimore fans doubled down on the Orioles after the Colts left town, he said, "even during those dreadful late-80's years when there simply weren't enough Ripkens to undo a decade of roster mismanagement."
But things have changed.
"Now that the team is good again, the city is frenzied -- orange is everywhere, the stadium is packed, and Red Sox and Yankees fans can't down here and lord over our stadium because they can't afford tickets to their own," Colmus said. "Our baseball roots have come out in full force and guys from my dad's generation, who witnessed all the winning of the [Earl] Weaver years, are as touched by the mania as my generation, who have seen the Orioles in the playoffs just five times in 35 years. As a baseball town, We're Back."
J. Roddy Walston & the Business are on tour next month. Their March 5th show at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati is sold out, according to the band's website.
Here's a list of songs from performers featured this month on ESPN, along with links to the artists' websites and links for you to download and buy the songs and/or albums:
Imagine Dragons: "Gold" and "Trouble" from the "Smoke and Mirrors" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
MisterWives: "Our Own House" from the "Our Own House" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Juanes: "Juntos" single. (iTunes | Amazon)
Chuck D featuring Mavis Staples: "Give We the Pride" from the "The Black in Man" album. (iTunes)
Madeon: "You're On" from the "Adventure" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
N.E.P.H.E.W.: "Get Acquainted" single.
Jamie N Commons: "Rumble and Sway (Imagine Dragons Remix)" from the "Rumble and Sway" album. (iTunes | Amazon)
Snoop Dogg has a new college football team to root for.
The rap icon has been a big fan of USC. But now that his son, wide receiver Cordell Broadus, has chosen to attend and play for UCLA, Snoop's days of rooting for the Trojans are over. He even wore a blue and gold UCLA jersey during the announcement.
Broadus, as previously noted here, is a legit prospect at wide receiver. The senior from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas also had offers from USC, Arizona State, Baylor and LSU.
His decision was the subject of a five-part series on ESPN, "Snoop & Son: A Dad's Dream."
But on a percentage basis, we can't think of anyone who got a bigger boost on Sunday night than Missy Elliot.
The 1990s and early 2000s rap star, a special guest during Perry's 12-minute halftime pop bonanza, vaulted into the top 15 of the iTunes charts on Monday with three of her big hits from back in the day, Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, Spotify streams of Elliott's music spiked by 676 percent after the Super Bowl.
For many writers reviewing the halftime show, Elliott's appearance outshined Perry's brightly-colored blend of pop anthems. Many noted that 10 years after her last solo record, her music still sounds fresh and original. Vulture's Lindsay Zoladz wrote that Elliott stole the show. And Jon Caramanica of The New York Times said Elliott "easily doubled the energy onstage" during her three-song segment with Perry.
Elliott, whose absence has been partially due to her battle with Graves' disease, took to Twitter to thank her fans for their support:
Tbh I didn't realize how much I was missed til last night.I'm crying y'all 4give me I just can't stop thanking God & y'all— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) February 2, 2015
She also shared the love with new fans who had no idea who she was before Sunday night:
I think it's cool new kids think I'm a new artist that goes to show u that I'm still on =% & will rip down stages 20 yrs later— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) February 2, 2015
Boston and Seattle are separated by an entire continent, three time zones, two oceans and their devotion to the football teams they sent to Arizona in pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
But the two Super Bowl cities have a lot more in common. They're both important port cities and big college towns. They're both centers of high-tech innovation. And they're the place a lot of great musicians and bands have called home over the years.
Think about it: Boston is known for Aerosmith's blues rock, but the Hub also gave the world the Queen of Disco herself, Donna Summer, the New Wave hits of The Cars and alternative rock icons such as The Pixies.
Extreme calls Boston home; so do Godsmack, New Edition, Juliana Hatfield and yes, Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch.
Seattle might be known for the flannel shirts and hard-rock attitude of grunge from the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, but it's also the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and the place where rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis got their start.
And don't forget Sir Mix-A-Lot -- really, who could? -- or Queensryche, Mudhoney, Candlebox and Death Cab For Cutie.
When it comes to Women Who Rock, both cities can be justifiably proud: Seattle, led by Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, and Boston, home to the likes of Susan Tedeschi and Letters To Cleo's Kay Hanley.
Which end of Interstate 90 rocks the most? We're going to let your ears be the judge with playlists including some of the best of both cities.
Grammy award winning country band Little Big Town will be part of the Super Bowl festivities as part of a charitable party on Saturday.
Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jimi Westbrook is a lifelong football fan who plays in several fantasy leagues, so being at the Super Bowl is a special experience. However, as he and the other three members of the band -- his wife, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet – are parents, they are happy to perform for "Party with a Purpose," which is raising money for food banks across the country. Approximately 20 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty, according to a 2013 report.
ESPN.com talked to Westbrook about his involvement and his love of sports.
Tell us about the "Taste of the NFL" party and how Little Big Town got involved.
We had gotten a call from our manager telling us about this amazing function where all of these chefs were coming in to do a tasting, and they inivited us to come play while this is happening. ... To be able to be there with these amazing chefs is an exciting opportunity.
Of course, it's all for hunger relief -- the proceeds go to a lot of different hunger relief organiuzations, some of which we've been involved with for the past few years, some that have to do with child hunger. For the band, we all have kids, and of course that opens your heart to those things.
You always think of hunger issues being in other places and other smaller countries, but to know there is so much hunger still going on within our own country, and to know that even with child hunger that one in five children in America are suffering from hunger -- that's an astounding thing to know. Anything we can do to help with that, we try to lend our talents.
How does playing at the Super Bowl stack up to other events the band has played?
I'm so excited about this. I've never been able to go to a Super Bowl. I am a huge football fan, I love fantasy football, I'm involved in several fantasy leagues every year.
All of us are really big football fans in the band. we have the Titans here (in Nashville) and we're big fans of the Titans ... it's a big deal. We're going to be able to go see the game -- I am thrilled.
Who was your team growing up?
This is a different thing for me -- I grew up in Alabama being a huge college football fan. Of course, being an Alabama fan was huge in my household, but also I did love pro football. When I was growing up I didn't feel like I had a team that I identified with. The Cowboys were a huge team when I was growing up, but I kind of hopped around from team to team.
When I moved in Nashville it was the year the Titans came to Nashville, or maybe the year before. ... The very first pro football game I went to was the Music City Miracle game. So I was hooked. And I had great seats where I could see that whole play develop as it was happening. It was one of the coolest sporting events I have ever been a part of.
[The Titans] ended up going to the Super Bowl and coming up short by a couple yards, which was heartbreaking, but what an inaugural season for me being a Titans fan, to watch that whole thing the way it happened. That would be my biggest Super Bowl moment, even though I was on the wrong end of it.
Did you play football when you were a kid?
I played for a couple of years in high school. I didn't really get a lot of playing time. I was small .. and thin (laughs). But I did play. I did play a lot of sports growing up.
What do you think about this Super Bowl? Any thoughts about who's going to win?
Man, I think it's gonna be a great game. I kind of feel like the Seahawks are gonna take it. That defense is super-intense.
I think Brady's playing with a chip on his shoulder from all the talk [at the start of the season] that he's on his decline and he's losing his game. I think he's got something to prove, which is gonna make for a great game. I just don't know if they can hold out long enough under the pressure of that defense. And of course the beast - Marshawn [Lynch], man, he wears people down from an offensive standpoint. And I'm a big fan of Russell Wilson. I think he's a talented dude and definitely a winner. he finds a way to win.
I think it's gonna be close but I think the Seahawks are going to edge 'em out at the end.
How did you do in fantasy this season?
I had a terrible year. I'm in a couple of leagues here in Nashville, there's one with my friend Darius Rucker -- there's a bunch of us from Nashville that are in a league. And that's the one for me that really counts. And I ended up just doing terrible. I won last last year, which was exciting ... everything just seemed to go right, all the players had good games on the same day. This year was quite the opposite.
What went wrong?
I could never get it all lined up on the right day. I had a great team; it's just that I couldn't get everybody playing. And of course injuries play such a big part. It was not a good year ... but I'll be back.
Your son will be 5 years old in March. Does he watch football with you yet?
Yeah, he's getting into it. It's still a little hard to hold his attention as much but he defintiely loves it he loves the excitement of it.
I'm a loud watcher of football, once in a while I'm up screaming and shouting ... he loves it, he jumps in and joins with me.