EXCLUSIVE: Albie Manzo talks to Skeery Jones about the history of Jingle Ball and what makes the holidays special in NYC

So many things come to mind when I think of Christmas in NYC: the tree, ice skating in Central Park, the Rockettes … but one event always stands out above the rest: iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball. Growing up in the NYC area, Z100 has been the defining voice of hit music since before I learned how to turn the radio on. Every year, the anticipation of the lineup alone creates a buzz in this city like no other. That’s why I was so excited to speak with Skeery Jones of Z100’s “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” about all things Jingle Ball and how far the event has come since its launch in the mid ‘90s.

Albie Manzo (AM): Tell us about your role in Jingle Ball.

Skeery Jones (SJ): I’ve been a part of every Jingle Ball since I started working at Z100. I talk about it on air on “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” and we give away tickets to callers – I also do events with the radio station where I go out to certain locations to raffle off free tickets. During the show itself, I interact with the audience and upgrade some seats from the last row and bring them closer to the stage. Sometimes, I’ll help introduce an act with the rest of the Z100 team, and I’ll get involved with our social channels for some backstage coverage.

AM: What year was the first show?

SJ: I remember the first Z100 holiday show was our Acoustic Christmas in 1994, and Green Day performed, I was such a Stan. The first official Z100’s Jingle Ball was the following year. It’s a NYC tradition now, and it’s really one of the most sought-after shows of the entire year.

AM: The reason I’m asking is because my first concert ever was Z100 Jingle Ball in 1997, and I remember bugging out calling Z100 like crazy trying to get tickets. How has the show changed from when it first started to what it is now?

SJ: Well, this was the lineup for the first Jingle Ball in 1995: Alanis Morrisette, Blues Traveler, Bush, Collective Soul, Dave Matthews Band, Gavin Rossdale, Goo Goo Dolls, Hootie & The Blowfish, Natalie Merchant and Soul Asylum.

AM: I’d go to that now, Skeery.

SJ: I know, right! Jingle Ball 1996 was a legendary year for us too – we did an all-female lineup called Girls Rule The YULE, which was an amazing show.

"Acts you would never typically see on the same night all come together and put on such an amazing show. Just look at the lineup – there’s something for everyone."

- Skeery

AM: The show has always been a hot ticket, but has there been an evolution in how you guys produce the show itself? Has anything about the process or experience changed from the ‘90s to today?

SJ: The wait times in between the acts have decreased dramatically with the use of a rotating stage. While one act is playing, another artist can set up backstage, and then they just rotate the stage 180 degrees and the new act is ready to go. That made a major difference – we used to need full set changes, so we would have to wait 20-30 minutes between each act. Having this one addition really helped allow Jingle Ball to bring in as many acts as it does now. As of a few years ago, the show evolved into a multi-city tour across the U.S. known widely as iHeartRadio Jingle Ball. It is a next level large-scale event and it’s incredible to be a part of it.

AM: Is there an all-time favorite artist or performance that sticks out to you?

SJ: Thinking through the years, in 2008 Lady Gaga came out to perform “Just Dance” before the show even opened. She started the show cold – she was virtually unknown at the time, but you could just tell she was going to be a superstar and it’s so wild looking back at it. We’ve had these blockbuster lineups over the years and it’s a lot of fun to watch where their careers take them after they play the show. For instance, the Jonas Brothers’ first performance was in 2007 and now they’re bigger than ever. A lot of the artists that play Jingle Ball could easily sell out stadiums on their own.

AM: I’ve gone to several shows over the years, and what sticks out to me are the screaming fans. What fan base can you remember was the most crazed, and what artist got the biggest reaction?

SJ: There are really so many – every superstar has played this show. In 2012, for instance, Ed Sheeran came out with just his guitar and everyone was singing along loudly to every word, they were mesmerized. As far as which acts caused the most excitement, wow, it’s tough to count – but Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers and One Direction were particularly deafening. The screams for those guys, I have never heard anything like it.

AM: What makes doing the Z100 Jingle Ball in NYC so special?

SJ: Madison Square Garden is the world’s most famous arena, and not only is it New York, it’s the holidays in New York. There’s something about being in town when all of the other NYC traditions are happening, like the Radio City Rockettes and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Maybe I’m biased because I grew up in Brooklyn listening to Z100, but I think it’s super exciting. Plus, the show started in NYC, too – with all those factors combined, there’s just nothing like it.

AM: Who are you most excited to see this year?

SJ: Wow, that’s a tough one, it really is. The lineup is amazing: Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Camila Cabello, Halsey – I love Halsey, 5SOS, Niall Horan, Lizzo, Dan + Shay, Monsta X, Lewis Capaldi and Fletcher – it’s so hard to choose! But for me, I think it’s a toss up between Halsey and the Jonas Brothers.

AM: Nothing wrong with going with a few Jersey artists! Lastly, what does Jingle Ball represent to you?

SJ: To me, it represents the best of the best in music throughout the year on one stage. Acts you would never typically see on the same night all come together and put on such an amazing show. Just look at the lineup – there’s something for everyone. It’s not something I’ll ever get used to or take for granted. But yet, iHeartRadio manages to outdo itself every year.

While Jingle Ball is currently sold out, you can catch some of the artists performing at their upcoming NYC-area shows:

Niall Horan with Lewis Capaldi and Fletcher
April 29, 2020
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Dan + Shay The (Arena) Tour 
March 12, 2020
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA


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