I Turn My Camera On: The Jonas Brothers in D.C.


Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas in the White House press briefing room. No nicknames this time. (Kyle Gustafson) Launch the Gallery

Allow me one more Jonas Brothers post before I get back to the originally scheduled programming of blathering about indie bands you've never heard of. But Monday's day-long excursion with the hottest band in the country, at least for another few months, deserves some sort of wrap-up post.

The whole concept of the day was what made it unique - a band with a small pool of "embedded" reporters following them around, getting their own transportation provided by the band's management. If it sounds a lot like what happens on a political campaign, well, that's the whole point. Our guide for the day was Carolyn Weyforth, whose job prior to doing media for JoBros Mania was doing something similar for the Romney campaign and dealing with Mitt-not-so-much-Mania. The pool reporter concept made sense for the following reasons:

* The story is as much - probably more - about the insanity surrounding the day-to-day lives of the Jonas Brothers as much as the Brothers themselves. Plenty of bands go on tour with dozens of buses, trailers and staff. But how many of them come to town and visit the White House, the unveiling of their wax figures and are constantly followed by hoards of screaming girls? You get a much better feel of what JoBroWorld is like based on what's going on rather than actually talking to the Bros.

* This is still a PR move and the final goal is always to get positive press. Giving us exclusive access, letting us behind the scenes, not making us wade through the insanity ... well, that's going to keep us in a good mood. And there's no denying that being part of the JoBros madness is fun. Coming back to the office on Tuesday was lame. Even if I did get to show off some pretty sweet pictures.

* Keeping the focus off the kids is probably in everyone's best interests. For the most part, they just don't have much to say. Or rather, they have been trained very well not to say it. Seeing them at the White House was amusing because they stuck to script like seasoned pros. When a TMZ camera man followed them for a minute as they walked to their Escalades, the three of them ignored him as if it was nothing.

Kevin is clearly the big brother. He's the only one who regularly speaks at an audible volume, he's the most personable with the hundreds of random people the JoBros interact with each day and he's the one most likely to think on his feet and break off message if a situation calls for it. And based on the pre-show text messages sent to the large screens at Nissan, he's not "the Other" one, but maybe the fan favorite.

Nick Jonas is a quiet, reserved kid - who can blame him, he's 15 years old, growing up in the public eye and is always surrounded by shrieking girls and, worse, people like me. I did get the sense that the kid is truly a music guy, though. During the brief "press gaggle" backstage before the show, he avoided most questions that didn't have to do with music, related questions back to specific songs he had written and talked about how he enjoyed spending time in the band's mobile recording studio. (We got to peek in there - oh, to be young, rich and sponsored by Verizon.)

Joe Jonas gets my pick for Jonas Brother who is least excited about being a Jonas Brother. During soundcheck, Nick was up on the drum riser pounding away, Kevin was having fun playing guitar solos and there's Joe, standing center stage, just twirling the mic stand around. Maybe it's just classic middle-child syndrome, although I guess he's not technically the middle child since there was Bonus Jonas, Frankie, running around, although I didn't actually get to see him. (I was told, however, that he has his own band - Hollywood Shakeup. At the very least, they must be better than Hollywood Undead.)

The Brothers got their adherence to messaging - and, apparently, love of over-the-top boots - from Jonas Dad, Kevin. A Q&A session with him featured plenty of well-rehearsed - and, admittedly, logical - lines about keeping the kids grounded, how they deal with success, etc. The highlight of talking to the parents came when I brought up Freedom's mention of Kevin as "the other" Jonas, and told Jonas Mom that he received a barrage of hate mail from devoted Kevin admirers.

Her response: "Well, good."

Like you would expect a Mom to say anything else. From there Dad talked about dealing with people who were pre-disposed to dislike the group, and I wasn't really sure that segment of the population existed, but based on some of the comments on Freedom's article or in the chat or on the blog, there are clearly people - presumably adults - who have some serious hatred for the Jonas Brothers. This, I don't understand.

Now if the anger is directed at Disney, and its attempted mind-control, market-stranglehold, brand-loyalty-building on impressionable youth, that's one thing. But to actually have ill will towards the kids themselves is just kind of baffling. It's like having some 11-year-old say, "Man, 'Sideways' is the worst movie ever. It's just more miserable, yuppie [expletive]!" It's like, huh? Why do you even care?

Jon Caramanica of the New York Times beat me to it by calling what the JoBros do gateway music. Maybe it's not exactly what you want your kids to listen to, but there are far worse alternatives and it should lead to better things in the future. If the screaming fans pick up on the fact that the Brothers are writing and playing their own songs, that there's some sort of artistic/creative pursuit, that it's not just a vehicle for stardom, that's a good thing. Lord knows it beats the Pussycat Dolls or any of the pre-fab bands around.

Now I could make the argument that "gateway music" shouldn't even be necessary, and that the folks at Girls Rock DC (supported by Eddie Vedder) and similar organizations are taking the non-Jonas route to exposing young kids to music. But that's another post. And we're done with kids music for now.

So, about that new Sic Alps record...

By David Malitz |  August 20, 2008; 2:11 PM ET Pictures
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Comments

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I'm mostly with you in that I don't care all that much, but there's still something kidn of unsettling about the level of social programing that goes into how a band of nice but not particularly excpetional kids is able to sell out a 22,000 seat building on a Monday night. Not that it's a new phenomenon and who knows they might just be the next Beatles in the making, but I don't see it and the mania of it all is vaguely distrubing.

Posted by: EricS | August 20, 2008 4:28 PM

I just hate the Jonas Brothers.

I love music and these days I can not read a music website, blog, or magazine article without some sort of Jonas Brothers plug.

In 5 years they will be the music equivalent to Corey Haim

Posted by: Anonymous | August 20, 2008 5:17 PM

How much "reverse allowance" is he taking from his kids every week?

Posted by: jonasdad | August 20, 2008 5:39 PM

How much "reverse allowance" is he taking from his kids every week?

Posted by: jonasdad | August 20, 2008 5:39 PM

Indie bands we've never heard of? From Post Rock? I look forward to that...

Posted by: Still DC | August 21, 2008 10:41 PM

chyeaa...the new sic alps album...Matter is my jam..

Posted by: dev | August 22, 2008 4:12 PM

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