Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images What a day for a festival. This year,…
- Posted on Feb 15th 2011 5:30PM by Alex Suskind
Lloyd Bishop, NBC
Every late-night program has its own idiosyncrasies, but when it comes to music, 'Fallon' is steps ahead of the pack. The Roots as the show's house band is one example; the "Band Bench" (according to the website: "a special audience seating area set aside for HUGE fans of musical guests appearing on the show") is another.
Signing up to be on the Band Bench was something I had always been interested in but had never pursued. The closest I had come to winning anything was getting third place in a Nickelodeon-sponsored contest when I was 7 years old, so there was no reason to think I would ever get these. Regardless, on Jan. 21 a post from the band Phantogram popped up on my Facebook News Feed:
Attention all fans of Phantogram: On February 2nd, 2011 Phantogram will be performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Here is where you come in ... How would you like a chance to be close to Phantogram's performance on the show?
I was certain I wouldn't get the tickets – so much so that less than 24 hours after signing up I had completely forgotten about it. So imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail a few weeks later from the 'Jimmy Fallon' seating director informing me that I had been selected.
The instructions were explicit: arrive at the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza no later than 3:45 p.m.; no one under the age of seventeen allowed in the studio; NO CAMERAS OR RECORDING DEVICES.
As 3PM rolled around on Feb. 2, I made my way uptown to NBC headquarters. It took me about 15 minutes to actually find where I needed to go. After navigating through the mass of tourists on the concourse level, making a few laps around the mezzanine, then walking through the MSNBC.com Cafe, I finally found the ticket coordinator and an NBC page, who were waiting to take my ID in exchange for one ticket and a 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' wristband. They informed me that we'd all be sitting in the audience before being escorted down to the stage. This was a welcome surprise. For some reason, I figured the Band Benchers had to be onstage the entire show, which would have amounted to an obstructed-view seat until the artists began playing.
After waiting in line for almost 45 minutes with the 39 other lucky Band Bench winners, we were finally given the green light to go through the metal detectors, into the elevators and up to Studio 6B. ("Get excited, you are about to be on TV!" said the ticket coordinator, which prompted a light cheer from the crowd.)
You could feel the excitement mounting as we got off the elevator and approached the set. Winding around the hallway and through a set of doors, we found ourselves at the top of the bleachers. The rest of the audience had already been seated. Unfortunately for us Band Bench folk, we soon found out what the "bench" actually meant. Instead of sitting in a cushiony seat during the taping like the rest of the crowd, we were delegated to the hard wooden benches in the last two rows. Yes, it was a little uncomfortable, but getting to stand onstage would more than make up for it.
As the house lights dimmed, the PA announcer came on: "From Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, the National Broadcasting Company Presents 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon'!" Fallon did his monologue, there was a 'You Got Served'-style dance contest, Samuel L. Jackson came out to plug his new HBO film; Larry the Cable Guy came out to plug his new History Channel show (?!); then it was our turn to shine.
As we walked toward the stage, we came within a few feet of Samuel L. Jackson – a surreal moment for a diehard 'Pulp Fiction' fan such as myself. In addition to the area where the musicians perform, the stage consists of two balconies on each side and a raised platform behind the band. If you are on the raised platform, you are guaranteed to get some face time onscreen. I, however, was assigned to one of the balconies behind several other Band Benchers. Being only 5-foot-8, it was a bit difficult to see – at that point, my forehead would be the only thing getting screen time. But after some maneuvering, I was luckily able to squeeze in.
We had been told by a 'Fallon' employee earlier to dance and have fun during the performance, although with one caveat: "Don't be the one douchebag who sticks out from everyone else." Point taken.
Phantogram played their song, 'Mouthful of Diamonds,' with Questlove of the Roots sitting in on drums. The performance began and the Band Benchers started to dance – even Jimmy Fallon was having a blast, beating on his desk like a drum kit and nodding along to the beat. Then halfway through the show, it happened: The camera slowly panned and stopped right at me (well, it was focused on the singer; however, I was lined up behind her at the perfect angle). Yes! Not only did I have a front row seat to one of my favorite bands, I was also going to be on television.
When the song ended, Fallon signed off, we made our way back onto the elevator and left Rockefeller Plaza. I began texting friends and family immediately, telling them to watch that night's episode because they would likely get a glimpse of yours truly.
As I sat down to watch the DVR'd episode the next morning, I feverishly sped through the guests to get to the musical performance. And there I was ... wait, that's where I was supposed to be. Alas, with the light shining on just the singer, I had become only a silhouette in the background.
So, OK, maybe I didn't quite make my national TV debut. Either way, it was a blast being in the studio for a 'Late Night' taping. As someone who collects souvenirs and tickets from everywhere I've been, I now have my 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' wristband sitting in my drawer – right next to the reversible hat I won in the Nickelodeon contest.