The first concert I ever saw with friends was the Backstreet Boys, way back in sixth or seventh grade. Cleveland's outdoor music venue, Blossom, is in my hometown, & a friend's mom scored tickets for a group of us to sit in the pavilion area, which felt very cool & VIP; most people sit on the lawn at Blossom, but we had real seats. We painted a huge banner that read "JUST CALL US THE FRONTSTREET GIRLS," which is, now that I think of it, either very witty for 12-year-olds or totally nonsensical.
Way back in the fall of 2014 - I don't even think I lived back in Ohio yet - I made a Twitter deal with friends to attend a One Direction concert in Cleveland this summer. At the time, the concert date was so far away that it almost didn't feel real, & it just seemed like a funny thing to do. "Yeah, yeah, I'm totally gonna go see a boy band in the super-distant future when I'm 31, haha!"
And then the concert day arrived: totally going to see a boy band at age 31.
Sure, I was initially a little embarrassed - most attendees our age were escorting squealing, excitable tweens - but you know what? It was also damn fun. We got slightly drunk, sang at the top of our lungs, swooned for celebrity men far too young for us, used our iPhones as "lighters," & laughed at all the ridiculous but creative signage we spotted throughout the crowd. Here, a sampling of my favorites:
- "YEEZY TAUGHT ME"
- "Blow me a kiss"
- "Just turned 21!"
- "Bachelorette checklist: Take a shot with 1d"
- "Can I touch your buns, Harry?"
- "Please adopt me."
- "HARRY PAY MY COLLEGE TUITION"
- "Bless us, Father Harry"
- "It's cool, I'm 25!"
For me, what made the concert unexpectedly special was not (just) the fact that Liam Payne has a really lovely face. No, what made it special for me was looking at the crowd, full of thousands of those squealing, excitable tweens, & knowing that, for many of them, it was their very first concert. It was the concert they would remember - in the way you vaguely but nostalgically recall things that happened when you were 11 - for the rest of their lives. It was the concert they would name 20 years down the road when asked which musical act they first saw live & in the flesh.
It reminded me of being 12, in that Blossom pavilion on a hot summer night, wearing a shirt with Brian Littrell's face on it in a totally unironic way, & screaming at the top of my 12-year-old lungs with my very best friends. It reminded me of being unabashedly obsessed before that kind of obsession became slightly embarrassing & moderately creepy. It reminded me what it felt like to be free & happy & young & excited about life & certain that if I dropped a letter off at the Sheraton where they were staying, my favorite boy band would almost certainly reach out to invite me onto the stage with them.
It reminded me that I might be an adult now, but I wasn't always - & we are never too old to enjoy feeling like we aren't.