For at least two members of the band Switchfoot, Sunday’s game against the Jets will mark an important sports milestone in life.
Although they are huge football fans – even going so far as to have scores read to them in their ear pieces during Sunday concerts - lead guitarist Drew Shirley and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas will be attending their first NFL game at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday afternoon before they join their band mates on stage for a one-hour concert set to begin 25 minutes after the Rams play the Jets.
“I’ve been watching football since I was a kid, but I’ve never been to a game,” Fontamillas said. “It will be actually my first football game live.”
That members of the San Diego-based band have not been to a live NFL game comes as a bit of a surprise considering that they grew up in a city with a team at their disposal.
But the life of a rock star doesn’t allow for much time to casually attend sporting events.
“Same for me,” Shirley said. “I’ve never been to a game before, but it’s always on on the bus. We’re always working on the weekends and ya know, we’re always traveling so much that it never worked out to go, so it’s going to be a real treat for us.”
Which is a big part of the reason it was easy for the band to say yes when the Rams came calling with a unique opportunity for the group to not only perform in a huge venue such as the Edward Jones Dome but also watch a football game beforehand.
From the Rams perspective, adding another element to gameday with a popular, family-friendly band offered a chance to continue increasing the fan experience.
“We are excited to bring Switchfoot to St. Louis to play after the Rams game this Sunday,” Brian Killingsworth, the Rams vice president of marketing, said. “We are always looking for ways to provide value to our fans and having Switchfoot perform an hour long free postgame concert is one of many of the new ideas we are trying this year to provide our fans with a first class entertainment experience at the Edward Jones Dome.”
In addition to getting the opportunity to see a real, live NFL game, the band also gets to enjoy a little bit of a break in the monotony of a normal concert tour. Being cooped up in a bus for long periods of time and playing the same shows over and over in different locales can be taxing so having the chance to do something a little bit different is a welcome change of pace.
“You have no idea how long we’ve been looking forward to this,” Shirley said.
In many ways, Switchfoot has become something of a go-to band when it comes to sports anthems.
Last year, the band unveiled five songs on a Saturday night telecast of ABC College Football featuring Florida State and Oklahoma. Closer to home, the band’s song “Dark Horses” became a regular in the rotation on television cuts during the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 postseason run.
The group has also played for crowds at the United States Soccer Championship, a handful of baseball games and at a NASCAR race. On Thursday night, the band even played on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” with accompaniment from a drum line, giving it something of a halftime at a college game feel.
Even the band’s name pays homage to the sport of surfing. So the connection to sports works on a lot of levels even if the group isn’t specifically writing songs to be used in that way.
“You know, when you write a song, it doesn’t necessarily have sports on the mind when you wrote it, but then you see it in a different context and used for a different purpose and you go, ‘Oh yeah, that really fits. That’s perfect,’” Shirley said. “Dark Horses was a big song for us that was written about the homeless kids in San Diego and how they’re the underdogs, but when you stop and think about it, that relates to sports in an incredible way as well as just to the masses of people who may feel like underdogs at some point in their lives. Playing at a football game is always a highlight; we’re really looking forward to it.”
Sunday’s show also provides Switchfoot a unique opportunity just beyond playing in a venue much larger than they traditionally would.
Because NFL crowds include such a wide cross-section of fans, it provides a chance for the group to play for people who might not be fans or even all that familiar with their work.
Although the band has had a number of hit songs on the radio and is most known for popular 2003 tracks “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move,” some people may not be as familiar with their body of work which includes seven studio albums and a Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album last year for “Hello Hurricane.”
“I’m sure a lot of the people have heard the songs we play on the radio,” Fontamillas said. “But haven’t really seen the band or know who the band is, so it’s good to get ourselves as a band out there and they go ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard that song before and this is the band that plays it.”
Shirley echoes that sentiment.
“We’ve always been a band who will play for whoever will listen,” Shirley said. “We see ourselves as this opportunity is going to put us in front of a lot of people that would never come to a Switchfoot show.”
As for what fans should expect to see on Sunday, Switchfoot intends to bring a set list that can reach people across all boundaries.
With so many potential new fans in the stands, Shirley said the group will have to alter its playlist a bit and is always willing – to borrow a football term – audible as the show goes on.
“We always make up the set list right before we go on after we’re there and have a read on the thing and the people and what’s the vibe like … and then it usually changes,” Shirley said. “Our lead singer has a mind of his own and sometimes he’ll just say ‘Alright guys, let’s go into this next song’ and we just go with it. We don’t use tracks or anything, we’re a band that’s just old school rock ‘n roll, so we’re ready to change the songs at a moments notice, but I hope that we play something for everyone.”