In the first verse of their Billboard multi-chart number one hit “Ho Hey,” Lumineers bandleader Wesley Schultz stopped his group and apologized to the crowd. “I want this to be good for you,” he said, and turned his back to the audience to tune his guitar.
After starting the song again, which he dedicated to his parents in New Jersey, he stopped yet again to tune his instrument.
“We’ll take it from the second verse,” he said a moment later, and the band hit its stride performing for hundreds at the Yahoo! Digital NewFront event last night at New York’s Best Buy Theater; a highly produced presentation of what’s new at Yahoo!, one of the U.S.’s biggest web portals.
For the Lumineers, it may have been something of a corporate gig, but a hip one, with plenty of young digital and advertising executives bopping to the music (think lots of “Charlies” from the HBO hit series “Girls”).
For Yahoo!, the event was much like a traditional television network “upfront” party, only better. Advertisers got sneak-peaks of Yahoo’s new, online-only fall season tv shows, including “Losing your Virginity with John Stamos” (Yes, Stamos was there and yes, he interviews people about their “first time.”) produced by documentarian Morgan Spurlock.
The live Lumineers performance highlighted the month-long “Yahoo! On the Road” concert series, which starts this week.
“Music runs through everything we do” said Kathy Savitt, Yahoo! Chief Marketing Officer. “We want to surprise and delight our users in their daily routines with live music and comedy that comes right to their town.”
“Yahoo! On the Road is hosted by entertainment reporter Ben Lyons and hits 27 cities, with 20 artists and 10 comedians. “We’ve got purple buses and vans crossing the country from New York to San Francisco. It’s a concert a day in the month of May,” Savitt added.
When those purple hard-to-miss tour buses stop, fans will be invited inside to check out new technology, download free apps, and upload Flickr photos.
The U.S. concert lineup includes John Legend (New York, May 3rd, billed as the kickoff concert), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Milwaukee, May 12th), Fall Out Boy (Madison, WI, May 13th), Imagine Dragons & Owl City (St. Louis, May 15th), The Lumineers once more (Boise, May 28th), and fun. (San Francisco, May 31st).
“Most of the shows are pop-up performances, only a few are scheduled for theaters, but all will be streamed live on Yahoo.com” said Savitt. All performances are free – fans are told to Follow @YahooOntheRoad on Twitter for updates on where the buses are stopping. Tickets for shows are first come, first served in each city. Although a few people may win tickets in advance, those who hang around the bus likely have a decent shot.
Last night the Lumineers performed a new song bandleader Schultz called a duet. “It’s a duet, a song we didn’t have a name for, so we just call it ‘duet.’ Hopefully it’ll be on our next record.” Cellist Neyla Pekarek left her instrument to step out front to sing with Shultz, earning enormous crowd approval.
The band wrapped-up its set by stepping away from all amplified equipment on the stage, to a small riser at the front of the audience. Schultz demanded the crowd stand; and the whole place did “Ho Hey” with the band in acoustic splendor.
Earlier in the evening, Yahoo’s new chief executive, Marissa Mayer said that “Tonight is about three things: innovation, premium content and advertising performance.” Here, the company announced partnerships with wrestling’s WWE and Conde Nast Entertainment and presented several new shows in addition to the Stamos-virginity program, including: “Tiny Commando,” created by “The Office” star Ed Helms, who will be teaming up with “Chuck”‘s Zachary Levi and “Community”‘s Gillian Jacobs to star in a series about a four-inch-tall private investigator; and “We Need Help,” where actresses Cheryl Hines and Rachael Harris share the same personal assistant. [Billboard.biz]