Jingle Ball 2016 brings jolly times to the Xcel Center


I’m kind of a metal head. I enjoy sweaty moshpits, smelly venues, and cheap beer. I like the element of danger you get when standing next to a mosh pit and sometimes I even feel compelled to take part in one. I stray away from giant arena shows or any show that you have to sit during. I like being surrounded by peers, not families. All that being said, it’s safe to say that KDWB’s Jingleball was the last place I expected to find myself on Monday night but hey, it was something new and different and who am I to say no to a concert?

I got to the concert about an hour early just to wander around and instantly found myself with a full bag of free swag from the sponsors. I had reindeer horns from Macy’s, a scarf from Capital One, stickers from KDWB… it got to the point where I could no longer close my bag. Eventually, the smell of glorious fried food started to get to me and I decided I should probably just go find my seat before I start eating copious amounts of cheese curds and popcorn.

By the time I reached my seat, the 60 second countdown had started. I was surrounded by tens of thousands of screeching and antsy fans. I just sat there and took it all in as the first act, Jon Bellion took the stage. Throughout Jon’s set I found myself just sitting there and being truly shocked by the phenomenon that is Jingleball. I’ve always heard about how amazing this annual show is but this was the first year where there was an act on the line-up that I couldn’t miss thus making last night my first ever Jingleball experience.

Jon Bellion warmed up the crowd with his New York brand of rap. The music seemed to draw a lot of influence from Kanye West with less attitude and cockiness. It was a refreshing way to start the night.

Bellion was followed by Gnash who brought his own brand of reggae sounds with a mix of indie-pop to the arena. Gnash was joined on stage by Olivia O’Brien for their hit song “I Hate U, I Love U”. 

Third to take the stage was Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld was the first one to bring dancers out on stage with her and it seemed to really perk the crowd up but within three songs, she was done.

Tove Lo was next and brought a more mature feeling to the room than the adolescent feeling of Steinfeld. A barefooted Tove Lo treated the crowd to a couple of her hit songs and even one new one. Although the crowd didn’t seem too into the new song, I was digging it and can’t wait to see her headline First Avenue in February. 

Lukas Graham was up next. I didn’t recognize their name but as soon as they started playing, I recognized the voice. Lukas Graham (which is actually a band, not just one guy but more on that later) has a hit song entitled “7 Years”. My eyes swell up with tears every time I hear it pop up on one of my playlists. I would go so far as to say it’s the most beautiful song I’ve heard since Five For Fighting was a thing. The lyrics in the song hit you right where it counts. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’re going through, those lyrics are true and I think that’s what makes the song so beautiful. More beautiful that Lukas Forchhammer’s (the singer) voice and the honest lyrics he was singing, was the way he acknowledged the band. Lukas was the first person, although the fifth act, to thank the band behind him. He called out each member and gave them the spotlight that they deserved. I think that this kind of thing is typically missing from a pop show and that’s why I despise the top 40 scene so much. As a musician, I know that those people standing in the dark towards the back of the stage are doing just as much, if not more, as the frontman or woman. It made me so happy to see one of them finally acknowledge that.

Next was Alessia Cara who wowed the crowd with her amazingly powerful voice. Instead of trying to fit as many songs a she could into her quick set, Cara took the time to address the crowd with a very thoughtful “love yourself and everyone around you message” that seemed to truly be from the heart. 

Throughout the show, I was seated behind a couple that their young daughter. The young daughter had been going crazy for many of the acts that went on prior to The Backstreet Boys. When BSB took the stage, her mom leaped out of her seat and started dancing. The daughter sat there in horror trying to hide behind the screen of her cell phone. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was during that set last night that I finally felt my age, and a little more, at a concert and it was actually a really awesome feeling. I felt like an original, an OG if you may, and I truly felt like I was reliving my youth.

I can’t really tell you everything that happened during BSB’s set. I was honestly too in shock to really compute it all in my mind. I stood there with my jaw on the ground as the heartthrobs danced across the stage just like it was 1997. I didn’t get to see BSB in their heyday but seeing them now was almost better. They were more than worth the wait.

G-Eazy,  rapper from California was up next. His music is catchy and, mixed with his bad boy look, you have a recipe for current heartthrob. Last night was my first time being able to see him live but, unfortunately, he was following BSB and, well let’s be honest, nothing was going to top BSB.

Following G-Eazy was Diplo (a DJ). I was interested to see what he would do in order to fit in with such a top 40 line-up. Now, don’t get me wrong, Diplo’s music consists mostly of top 40 songs and he is best known for this collaborations with Justin Bieber but when I think about seeing him live, I instantly picture the rave and EDM scene… not a family friendly concert atmosphere. To my surprise, Diplo stayed true to his EDM sound and did his thing with flames shooting up behind him and plumes of smoke in front of him.The fact that it was a “family friendly” show didn’t stop Diplo from turning the show into a straight up rave/ techno show. I loved the fact that he didn’t try to do anything other than what he was good at. It gave the crowd a look into a whole subculture that they may not have really known about prior to seeing Diplo perform.


Last to take the stage was Fifth Harmony. The five piece girl group gave the crowd the energy they needed to finish out the late show and make it home. They pranced across the stage while singing their pop anthems that have become a staple in KDWB’s rotational playlists.

Honestly, the whole show was a nice mix of everything. Diplo brought the EDM/techno side of music. Gnash brought this hippie, reggae vibe that got the crowd all warmed up. Backstreet Boys had that quintessential boy band pop sound. Seriously, a bit of everything. I walked into Jingleball last night thinking that I would be bored within the first couple of acts and that everything would sound the same and blend together but I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case at all and, honestly, the hours I spent in my seat seemed to fly by and I had a smile on my face majority of the time.

I used to make fun of the people who got excited about Jingleball. I didn’t understand it but after going last night, I get it.