Starting early on December 18, 2012, Facebook and Twitter feeds around the United States, and even crossing oceans, began filling up with messages of excitement as travelers embarked on an annual (and for some, their first) trip to Chicago. Others who were unable to make the trip wished their friends safe travels and requested that their friends "have lots of fun and take lots of pictures for me.” For the ninth year since they started, Chicago rockers Kill Hannah would be hosting their annual New Heart for Christmas weekend—the first of which was held in 2002—drawing fans from all around the world. For me, it would be my second year attending and I couldn't have been more excited. With promises of an "epic weekend," "a weekend to be remembered," and with the return of Jonny Radtke to the band's line-up, following four years working on his own projects, the anticipation was even greater.
The first New Heart for Christmas was held in January, 2002 and definitely would not have been called an "event." That first show was little more than any other hometown show they'd played to the Chicago audience, save for being given a name—New Heart for Christmas, taken from a song off their Atlantic Records release, For Never and Ever—and having a holiday theme. At no point in that first performance did anyone imagine what they were doing that night would eventually grow into the massive pilgrimage it is today. Today, fans from around the world converge on the city of Chicago, taking over its hotels, transit systems, and concert venues and calling the city home for a weekend.
Each year, the band sets out to improve upon what they did for the previous year, with new activities for ticket holders to enjoy. With his Raccoon Society blog firmly affixed to the Fuse television network's website—and, at one point, the most popular of the celebrity contributor blogs featured on the site—2009 gave fans the opportunity to chat live with Kill Hannah frontman Mat Devine and his special guest singer/songwriter (then frontman of The Academy Is…) William Beckett in what was dubbed "Raccoon Society Live."
A stint with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark pulled Devine away from the Kill Hannah stage in favor of the bright lights of Broadway in 2010. They picked the tradition up again in 2011 and VIP pass holders were invited to the JBTV recording studios as the band shared the stories behind writing the songs and their own personal experiences with the songs, with fans, and with other bands. The episode featuring the 2011 performance can be found here on the JBTV website and more clips can be found by searching Kill Hannah on the site.