Sunday, February 7th 2016
Today, the NFL’s 50th Super Bowl will feature the Denver Broncos taking on the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. And I’m on my way there.
12:45pm lobby call
Police escorts ride on motorcycles between cars, shutting off the flow of traffic so that we can get to the stadium in good time. We’ve been rehearsing on the field all week but security is super tight. Our badges can be held up to a scanner that lets you on to the field and other secured areas. Walking in past the first security checkpoint presents a crazy landscape of people: Paparazzi with huge cameras, Military personnel with AK-47s and ticketless fans with lawn chairs for the sidewalk.
Heading back towards my dressing room, the scenery settles. So much so that right outside the Queen’s dressing room, Jay-Z sits on a cement picnic table bobbing his head to the Fugees… “One time… Two times..”
I’m doing the Super Bowl. Again.
I am currently standing on the field. Seats are pretty empty, we’re still two hours ahead of kick off. I call my mom. “Turn on CBS. Can you see me? I can see their studio but it’s pretty far from me.”
This is my second Pepsi halftime show and is already a lot different. For one thing, it’s 75 and sunny. Far from the brisk 50 degrees we were thankful to get two years ago (earlier that week, New Jersey was only offering 12 degrees to rehearse in.) I’ve got my backpack, with a football and a sharpie at all times. Never know who you’re gonna run into. It’s a good thing I bought my ball days ago, this line at the NFL shop is crazy and they are out of footballs. We have an NFL escort that gets us in and out quick, much to the disdain of a Panthers fan.
It’s 2:01, kick off is 3:30 and I’m trying to get a few things done: football signed, see some of the game without a ticket and get some better pictures of the field. Gaga’s coming down the hall. I smile, she smiles. Saw someone I knew walking to the field to watch Lady Gaga sing – perfect. Jumped on the bandwagon and with the help of an escort, now I’m back on the field. There’s Olivia Munn, which means that… Yep, Aaron Rodgers right behind her.
They’re announcing MVPs from every Super Bowl. Of course everyone loves Joe Montana here. Brady walks out and the whole stadium boos. It’s 3:15. There goes Jerry Rice.
The teams come running out. Panthers first then Broncos. Didn’t dawn on me that I’m on the sideline, now right behind the Panthers bench. Behind me is James Harden and Trevor Ariza, in seats.
The crowd seems to be mostly orange with splotches of neon blue. They are chanting something intelligible but stop for a great arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”
Oh right, Gaga. She’s great, and the navy flies right over my head. As soon as that’s over, the sideline starts to scurry. I know I’m about to get kicked out. Rather than get kicked out of the stadium, I decide to quit while I’m ahead. Get to the tunnel and find a pocket to hide in, long enough to see the kickoff of Super Bowl 50. Security says I can’t stand there, so I watch the first Broncos play walking backward. Scan out.
I head back out of the stadium to my dressing room tent, cops are on watch and listening to the game on radios. I can hear cheering, something good must be happening. 3:45, or an hour ’til showtime.
I shuffle through Beyonce’s dance army as they rehearse and into our dressing room. I watch the game on a TV while getting dressed for the show: Versace leather shirt. Versace leather pants. Versace chains. Versace sunglasses. Tall black socks. Nike shoes. Broncos up 3-0, that must’ve been what I heard when I was walking. I had cut it close standing on the field and now I’m dressed just in time to head into stadium. Gotta be close to the end of the first quarter.
Walking through these halls in all leather commands a little bit of attention. In the stadium dressing room now, monitor engineer Ramone puts my “ears” on me (molded in ear headphones) and my head set mic. Add that to this black leather and I’m feeling pretty ’90s right about now. There’s a tv in the hallway. 10-0, Broncos. 4:48 in the first. Miles the Bronco and I snap a quick pic. Beyoncé rides up on a chariot golf cart to applause from her dancers. Now, we wait. Game’s on, stand around, practice dance moves. The hallway smells. I check my watch. It’s 4:20.
Everybody comes out for a group prayer.
Wait more. Time is slowing down.
Walk to the tunnel.
Wait in the tunnel. So much waiting.
This is the third time out on the field. Stage has been pushed together. We keep getting shuffled around because crowd is coming in and ground dancers are getting set. At this event, even the audience on the ground is cast, and everyone stands in the same spot every time. Which means I’ve been smiling at the same strangers in the same spot everyday at rehearsal. Coldplay and kids kick off the show and I have about 7 minutes to stand and take in the half time show. Pyro. Screaming. All I can do is look up at the stage, out to the 70,000 (?) people and in all directions to try and take in as much of this as I can. It’s a careful balance because I don’t want the only thought I remember to be “remember this moment.” I hand my cell phone to Andy (my friend and guitar tech) who offers to take pictures while we’re on stage.
Coldplay’s halfway through their 3rd song. Time to get set. I walk up onto the stage and it’s time for the muscle memory to take over. Just about anyone I can think of is more than likely looking at a TV screen right now. Mark Ronson scratches us in. This feels slow, that’s how you know your adrenaline is high. The rest of the performance is a flash and it’s over before you know it.
Doing these kind of events is like your birthday – you hear from everyone. Facebook is booming, Instagram is jamming, texts keep coming and Hi-Fives are flying. “How was it? Has anyone found a video yet?”
The hard work is over and seems to have paid off. Let’s check back into the checklist:
Get on the field for a little of the game – Check.
Get signatures from everyone we played with. Right… Sharpie in my pocket, everybody’s in the dressing room and I’m good to go. Two years ago when we did this the first time, I had the idea to buy a football and ask everyone I performed with to sign it. This year is the same, but lots of signatures to get. Managed to get just about everyone. Cool. This will go along with the football from 2014 and guitars from both performances in a home memorabilia installation from the heavens.
I head back to the hotel. My fiancé and I catch up on all of these stories and we head out to an after party. I got to meet and work with so many great people over the last few weeks and it is great to finally be able to just hang out and talk or share a drink. Hope everyone enjoyed the game and performances, this is another year I’ve had to watch them through replay and with good reason. Scan out.