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Who Are The Old 97s From The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special?

Contains spoilers for "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special"

James Gunn's "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is full of surprises and special appearances. While the lion's share of the attention quite justifiably goes to Kevin Bacon, the special introduces plenty of other, rather more fictional characters. New Guardian Cosmo the Spacedog (voiced by "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" and "The Bubble" star Maria Bakalova) gets to display her telekinetic prowess, and Quill's alien musician pals get a chance to flex their band muscles in no less than two musical numbers.

The musicians appear fascinated enough by Earth instruments and customs to write multiple songs on the subject of Christmas, and are even kind enough to temporarily hand frontman duties to Bacon, who delivers a cracking vocal performance on "Here It Is Christmastime." Given that the band has such a major role in the special, let's take a look at the real-life rock band playing them, The Old 97s ... and precisely how they ended up in "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special."

James Gunn's favorite band needs no special effects for cool guitar moves

Music is a big part of James Gunn's movies, and it's pretty easy to figure out how the alt-country group The Old 97's ended up in the Holiday special when you find out that they're the filmmaker's favorite musical act (via The Hollywood Reporter). What's more, the group's frontman Rhett Miller helped the filmmaker write music for the special. Here's how Gunn described how they ended up playing the alien band on Twitter

"When I wrote a song for the #GotGHolidaySpecial I asked my pal @rhettmiller to write with me & then said, 'What the heck, why don't you and the @Old97s play the band?!'" he wrote. "Some of the most fun days on set ever."

Interestingly enough, that wild-looking arm swing move Miller uses during their performance of "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here) is just as real as the band itself, and doesn't need any added CGI. Some fans call this signature maneuver The Windmiller (via SF Weekly), and it's apparently far less painful to execute than you might imagine. 

"People used to ask if it hurt my arm and if I was going to injure myself," he said. "I would always laugh and say it's really more of an optical illusion — it doesn't really involve that much of a strain on the ligaments." However, Miller went on to admit that as he gets older, his elbow has started to feel the move ... but luckily for viewers, he's still able to pull it off in a convincingly alien-like manner in the Holiday special.

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is available for streaming on Disney+.