Category Archives: Event Recaps

I Finally Met Nick Carter and I Botched the Whole Thing

I have been waiting for over a year to write the follow-up to Aaron Carter Hates My Guts. But I’ve been waiting my whole life to speak to a Backstreet Boy. Nick Carter announced a solo tour and it was coming to Grand Rapids. Nick. The guy. The Backstreet Boy. I had big plans. Plans that involved a title like, “Nick Carter LOVES My Guts!” but could also end up being, “I Peed My Pants In Front of Nick Carter”. I’m an OG boyband fan. One who spent the entirety of her teen years sleeping underneath countless Backstreet Boys posters. One who legitimately thought (at 14 years old), that if we only had a chance to meet, she’d be romantically involved with Nick Carter at some point.

Sort of awkward. Not nearly as nerve wracking.

Sort of awkward. Not nearly as nerve wracking.

The big day kind of snuck up on me. I wanted to lose 20 pounds and prepare a happy medium between losing my actual mind and keeping my cool/calm comedian plot to collect “awkward meet & greet photos”. But instead, I went on with my life and my #fatgirlthings with reckless abandon until Nick-Day came and the only plan I had was to show him the photo of me with Aaron Carter and just sort of ask him to do better. So, in lieu of crafting a genius bit that would show Nick how hilarious I am (so that he’d want to be my best friend and hang out with me always), I decided to fill my insides with alcohol. Because alcohol lowers my inhibitions and makes my aversion to touching less of a thing. Hugging is of major concern to me. I don’t have a germ phobia but I do have a big ol’ case of intimacy issues. Hugging = smushing your entire body up against someone else’s. Which seems intimate. So when I know I’ll be in a situation (like a Meet & Greet) where a hug is expected, I overthink it and get real weird with it in an accidental body language kind of way. Coming at me for a hug is probably a lot like trying to embrace a life size doll (sex doll…I mean a sex doll). The limbs bend, but the heart’s not in it.

If you’ve never paid your way into a celebrity’s embrace, here’s the way a Nick Carter VIP pass works:

You get an email the day before the event with very specific instructions. That email self-destructs upon opening. It doesn’t. But it does all seem very secretive and official. We were told to arrive and meet outside the box office promptly at 3pm. So we did. The email stated that we’d be met by the VIP coordinator and that the box office would have “little to no information about the VIP process”, so we had better wait for that VIP coordinator to lead us to our very exclusive Meet & Greet-slash-photo op with the Backstreet Boy himself. Otherwise we may be lost in the bowels of a mid-size music venue forever. Surviving by chewing on paper wrist-bands and lapping at puddles of spilled Sex on the Beach.

Just sitting, waiting, wishing.

Just sitting, waiting, wishing.

I was beginning to feel doomed to an eternity of wrist-band chewing after about 2 hours of waiting in line outside The Intersection, running across the street to the Tin Can to put more small quantities of alcohol inside my body, and mixing with the common-folk. The ones who didn’t have VIP passes. Once we finally made our way inside, we were herded to the front of the venue where most of the girls rushed to the front of the stage. In my somewhat buzzed mind, they were being dumb. Because. If we were supposed to have a picture with Nick, we’d have to line up anyway. Before the show. So. Like. What are you doing? So, me and my radiating superiority complex milled around the outskirts of the crowd and took sassy Instagram pictures about “gelled-hair men doing a sound check”. Until Nick came out and did his sound check. Right there in front of us. And then I’m the asshole. I had no idea a sound check was part of the deal. I couldn’t rush the stage after I had JUST posted that snarkily-captioned photo, so I did what anyone in my position would do. I slowly edged forward like a sarcasm-covered starfish and posted another Instagram photo of his outfit choice. Which in my defense was really bad. There are pie charts to back me up. Part of his outfit was promotion for a film he recently directed and starred in. Which I suppose is just good business.

Speaks for itself, really.

Speaks for itself, really.

After Nick checked his sound and sang a few 90s grunge hits, he hopped down and instructed us all to get in line for our photos. This was the moment. The one for which I had meant to prepare. The plan I did eventually come up with, however, was genius. I stealthily made my way to the back of the line, making friends and ushering people ahead of me while trying not to appear as if I had a scheme in mind. The scheme, of course, was to be last and therefore not rushed through the process. To have time to explain my purpose. My idea. To frame it in a way that made me sound funny and cool and make him want to participate with me and my funny/cool ideas. Except. As we got closer I got more and more nervous. Was I drunk? I didn’t feel drunk. But I had to be a little drunk. The girl in front of my group was certainly drunk. Drunk and talking about calling into work with a family emergency so she could skip being a teacher for the day and cuddle up to Nick, then rush home to pump-and-dump all that alcohol she ingested into her breasts before she gave it to her infant child. Seems like we’ve all been there.

At least I'm self-aware.

At least I’m self-aware.

I was about five people away from my literal teenage dream when it happened. I heard the photographer and the VIP Coordinator tell a wheelchair-bound girl to wait at the end of the line so that Nick could take another minute or two with her. I was crushed. Here I was, put in the awful position of having to continue being a human person and not a boyband-crazed monster. I had to just suck it up and give over my coveted last place in line. You better believe it was begrudgingly. On the inside. I had to keep up human person appearances on the outside (although my face is overly expressive so I’m sure I did a terrible job of masking my disappointment). But I was flustered. I was thrown off my game. I watched the ladies in front of me get their hugs, their “Hi sweethearts” and their smiling photos. I knew in theory that I was next and that I would have to think of a way to condense all of my words into about ten seconds. But I wasn’t ready. It was too fast!

I walked up, wide-eyed and wheels-a-turnin’ in my brain. I probably looked insane. I’m sure the photographer paused a moment and considered whether or not I should have kept that special place at the back of the line. For the safety of the others. Nick must have picked up on my crazy-vibe because he didn’t call me sweetheart. He nervously hugged me and asked me where I was from. I replied with, “Here.” Implying that I maybe lived at The Intersection, subsisting on those paper wristbands and puddles of sticky-sweet mixers. He sort of smiled and gently nudged me into photo position while I panicked and thrust my hand forward, presenting the photo of me with Aaron Carter from a year ago. I said something like, “This is what your brother did. Let’s do another!” Which of course makes no sense. He squinted at it, and me, and again nudged me gently toward a photo-appropriate position. So I said, “Let’s do a weird one. Maybe I don’t know you’re here?” And then this happened:

Just. I don't know.

Just. I don’t know.

I promise you, “Maybe I don’t know you’re here?” is what I said, exactly. 100%. It does not make sense. I give Nick a lot of credit for managing to pose at all, but up until 10 minutes ago when the photo was posted on his website, I didn’t know what he was doing behind me at all. I had some scenarios in mind, but none were this sort of bewildered, fuck-it-all-here-we-are extravaganza of a human exclamation. I love it. I hate it. I have no idea who I am anymore. Except. This is exactly who I am. I’m the girl who meets her teenage dream man and gets super weird with it, literally retracting into herself and muttering nonsense. This is how I spent my one and only interaction with a Backstreet Boy. And then I just left. I didn’t thank him or pat him awkwardly on the upper arm. I just sort of ran-walked away and into the cruel light of day.

And then I got really drunk. Like, really. I was disappointed and disillusioned and I just went for it. I spent the concert texting myself notes for this blog (none of which I have used), dancing badly and staring at Nick’s hot dad bod. He got a little chunky and I was loving it. He did approximately 6 Backstreet Boys songs, to which I swayed nostalgically and sang loudly and off key. At one point I wandered up to the merch table to harass Riley, the opening act. She was a good sport, but probably a little bit nervous about a drunk old lady asking her to take awkward photos. She did indeed let me take awkward photos. She was wearing a “cool girl” flannel and looked like how I think I’ll look in my head when I wear high-waisted pants. But I look like me and she looked amazing. I believe I dance-battled two other girls when “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” came on. When I tell the story, I nailed it. I danced while an impressed bouncer looked on in amazement and then walked away amidst congratulatory high fives. But it probably looked more like when your grandma cuts loose at the end of the wedding reception. You know she’s having fun and you just don’t have the heart to tell her that her dress is tucked into her sagging pantyhose, you’re just glad to see her finally moving around a bit.

This was the best one of the bunch. Sorry, Riley.

This was the best one of the bunch. Sorry, Riley.

I went to a few bars after the show, making at least 3 different bartenders hold on to my prized, autographed Nick Carter poster. I told anyone who would listen that I met Nick Carter and I botched it. I botched it good.


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Thunder-shirts and B-Sides: An Intimate Performance

The word “troubadour” calls images of medieval cobblestone trampled by soft, leather soles that cap colorful legwear. And, the outfit you’d find on my favorite troubadour often wouldn’t be too far off. But he’s very much a modern artist, dipping his enigmatic toe in and skipping across a spectrum of genre-pools. Who is he? Only the dude responsible for most of my pop-punk memories. You know, the “scene” of yesteryear. He was the front man of The Matches, my absolute favorite band of the early 2ks. They straddled the line of mainstream for years, which worked out well for me and the thousands of fans across the country who would file into mid-size venues like The Intersection and smash against one another to the tune of “Audioblood”, screaming along and living on adrenaline (and Adderall). Lyrics from that song perfectly sum it up, “…Sweating in the dark we feed on the forms in the light, on the floor we’re the flood.” It was an anthem. One I strongly considered tattooing on myself before settling on lyrics from “The Restless”, another song from their debut album. We did bleed audioblood, and understandably, were left lacking when the band officially went on “hiatus” in 2008.

The reason for the season.

The reason for the season.

Late last year, there was a brief “reunion tour” for the 10-year anniversary of their album, “E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals”, which I was able to catch in Chicago last November. It was everything I needed it to be and opened up the floodgates of nostalgia and the carefree recklessness that comes with one’s early 20s. But I was a month from 30 and learned the hard way that smashing against sweaty giants while we all jump up and down un-rhythmically for two hours results in three days of the sorest body I’ve ever experienced. I don’t work out. Thankfully, for me and hundreds of other hangers-on, this wandering song-maker has recently taken to the highways of the good ol’ USA with his beautiful wife, fur-babies and their all-chrome-home to bring his talents to the flyover states. Shawn Harris is literally making house calls.

Ten Year Anniversary live album. Can't beat it.

Ten Year Anniversary live album. Can’t beat it.

Last Saturday, I traveled again to Chicago and there I sat. Thighs burning slightly, perched half on a stranger’s end table and half on the edge of the couch, shifting uncomfortably and staring into the face of my favorite. For three hours. I had never heard of or the idea of established musicians playing acoustic sets in the living rooms of fans. But it happened. And I was there. Along with 30 other die-hards and my friend from high school who lives in Chicago and was kind enough to escort me into the unknown. She didn’t have any idea what she was walking into, but she’s a ride-or-die friend. You gotta have one or two of those so you don’t have to wander into some dude’s apartment in a sketchy neighborhood and figure out which window they want you to knock on for entry without a safety net. You do. I was anxiety-ridden and almost too nervous to go. I had no idea what to expect from such a small gathering, and I sincerely wish I had gotten a buzz on before we went. But it was actually great. Once we settled awkwardly onto the couch and struck up conversation with the girl whose thigh was pressed intimately against that of my friend’s, I learned that The Academy Is will also be doing an album reunion of “Almost Here” which is almost as delightful as last year’s news of The Matches. And I relaxed.

The best idea anyone has ever had.

The best idea anyone has ever had.

The entire three hours was like a dream I had once, where I sit around a campfire with my favorite musicians and we all have a Kumbaya-esque singalong to our favorite songs. It was a real-life jukebox that combines nostalgia with fancy footwork and retro charm. It was my actual favorite musician, performing all of my favorite songs from one foot in front of my face. It was ridiculous. And, to make it even more delightful and inclusive, those of us who lived and breathed the albums were able to vocally provide the bass lines and extra guitar riffs that Shawn’s oh-so-talented fingers couldn’t handle alone. Words are actually failing me at this point. It was just so…neat. Yes. It was neat. It was an experience I won’t be able to duplicate unless he agrees to come to Grand Rapids. (Hint – Hint)

I'm sharing this because I love it so much, I don't even care that you'll all see my double chin. Ten years in between.

I’m sharing this because I love it so much, I don’t even care that you’ll all see my double chin. Ten years in between.

Sprinkling the minutes with stories of some of the song’s origins and otherwise just being charming, Shawn played tunes from all four of The Matches’ albums, including those from the unreleased and untitled fourth album. He also played “Fill the Lens”, a song from “Mania”, the debut album of his 2nd musical endeavor, Maniac. But without Jake Grigg, the other half of the duo, it just wasn’t the same. For me or Shawn. Peppering the set with songs from his latest band, Fortress Social Club, and those from his current solo triumph, St. Ranger, Shawn had something for every taste. But, as he put it, most of us were there for the obscure Matches B-Sides. The ones we didn’t have a chance to see live in our pop-punk days. And he certainly delivered, even ad-libbing lyrics about the house dog, Bella’s “thunder-shirt” when she burst through the performance bubble after a particularly harrowing bout of street-fireworks. It was funny. But I guess you had to be there.

Are you googling him yet?


Local 616

I’m a superfan. This is not a revelation. Everything I do and say is tantamount to my label. I understand and embrace it.  In fact, I’ve spent close to 30 years building the persona. Mostly, I drool and fawn over nationally recognized and sometimes synchronized-dancing men. But sometimes. Sometimes I get way too excited about people who live and work in my very own city.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of seeing a free show outside the GRAM, which is the Grand Rapids Art Museum, for those unfamiliar with acronyms. My favorite local band was playing, and despite my usual stoic and sarcastic demeanor, I was geeked. Vox Vidorra is a Grand Rapids band who you’d have to try hard to ignore. They’re everywhere. And thank Gos. (For those who aren’t sure, “Gos” is my half-assed way of using a recognized phrase that gels with my atheism. You know, like Ryan Gosling. On whom we can all agree.) This band is not trendy. They’re not something only millennial hipsters would enjoy, they’re an actual great band. They play soul music. Which is the kind of music you have to like unless you’re claiming not to have a soul. In which case, you have several religious groups with which to contend.


You feel dumb for not knowing them, right? It's cool. I get it.

You feel dumb for not knowing them, right? It’s cool. I get it.

Even if you don’t have a soul, Molly’s voice will make one for you. Against your will, even. It will cut through the cynicism. The raised eyebrows and the hesitance to dance in public. Her voice has a thing. A thing that makes me forget to hate pretty girls and those with more talent than I can ever hope for. I just want to be her best friend and listen to her sing, always. In fact, I told her this once when I ran into her at a party. We were all drinking, thankfully, and she has made no indication that she registered or remembers my very awkward conversation about how I would like to be her when I grow up, even though I’m a few years her senior. She’s classy like that. I usually hold my own with witty one-liners in the face of celebrities, but for some reason, when they’re just people I might run into during my humdrum life, I get weird. Maybe it was the cheap vodka, or maybe they’re just so good it brings out the awkward that no boyband has been able to grab. Or maybe I’m just a creep.

What I know is that my friend and I were chair-dancing like champs and singing along to most of the songs from Vox’s latest album, “Promise Land” tonight. Unabashedly, mostly. And of course, I was body-checking the drummer-slash-keyboardist, Theo. He’s cute. And that’s always on my radar. As we looked around, making eye contact with other groups in the crowd who knew the words and the times when pointing at the sky would look cool in tandem with Molly’s ridiculous range, I noticed other local artists who brought out the superfan in me.

Google her. Promise?

Google her. Promise?

Lady Ace Boogie was there. You don’t know her? You need to. She’s a local rapper and she’ll make you both nostalgic for and mad at Missy Elliot. She’s also an advocate for the #LoveGR movement, combating the worst billboard to grace the gridlock of 131. Look her up. Ajax Stacks was also there. His album, “Fruits of Labor” has been bumping in my old-ass car for the past few months. I don’t even listen to rap, but I made an exception and even made it less cool by learning the words to most of it. I don’t know him. We’ve never met. But I did stare at him weirdly because I couldn’t reconcile the fact that I hear his voice every morning before work, but it’s not socially acceptable to tell him that because he’s just a dude who lives in my city. Local art is odd like that. There’s a gray area, in the shade of stalker. So now I’m just that lady who stared at him for too long while Vox Vidorra played the best cover of “Back to Black” I’ve heard.

"I mean really tryna write things..." If he can make me feel cool, imagine what he can do for you.

“I mean really tryna write things…” If he can make me feel cool, imagine what he can do for you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I got Thursday-buzzed at a local show and I loved every second of it. And I don’t know where to go with the love except for here. And yes, I’m listening to Vox Vidorra’s album in the background of my hiccups and dark bedroom right now. What of it?