Monday, June 7, 2010

The Right Stuff.

5 witty remarks
So, remember these guys?

Danny, Donnie, Jon, Jordan, and Joey. That's right, before we had all of those other boy bands, we had the New Kids on the Block. They released their first album in 1986 (when I was Betsy's age!!) but didn't really hit it big until a couple of years later. I remember being on the bus in fourth grade when I first heard about them. I actually held out for a while out of stubbornness (if everyone else likes something, I have to hate it, just to be different) but eventually I succumbed to the mania as well. Of course, on my limited budget (this was before I started babysitting to earn the big bucks) that obsession amounted to owning one single cassette tape, which I wore out on my Walkman. I think eventually I did get a hand me down T-shirt from our babysitter Tricia. I didn't have all the shirts or the giant buttons or the dolls or the Tiger Beat magazines or the posters, I didn't watch the cartoon series (in our house we watched PBS on Saturday mornings. I'm probably the only person I know who grew up watching The Victory Garden instead of Thundercats) and of course, I never went to one of their concerts.

All things good or otherwise must come to an end, and the New Kids' reign in the spotlight only lasted a couple of years. They changed their name to NKOTB and released another album but by then we were all listening to grunge. The New Kids and their cheerful songs and brightly colored Hammer-pants were so over.

But, nostalgia is a big business these days. The New Kids actually released a new album in 2008 and have been touring off and on since it came out. When their dates for this year's Casi-NO tour were announced, Mandy made it her personal business to get me to go. Now, Mandy went to town with the obsession back in the day. (Like this.) She's already been to several of their concerts, whereas I haven't been to ANY concerts, EVER (unless you count Vertical Horizon at Clowes Hall my junior year at Butler, which I don't because I left after like half an hour, which is another story). Fortunately, I wasn't too hard to persuade. An evening away from my kids? And it's up on the north side of Indiana so we will have to stay the night in a hotel? Done and done!

I have to admit, I was a little bit of a slacker. I didn't prepare for the concert by listening to their music, mainly because I didn't have any. I've been on a big indie kick lately, thanks to Amazon and their free MP3 sampler downloads, and I thought nineties bubblegum pop might be a tad incongruous with Minus the Bear and Spoon and whatever. I only had my memories to go on - that and the fact that Donnie Wahlberg was awesome in Band of Brothers. Fortunately Mandy has like every track that they have ever recorded, either as a group or solo, and she'd made a giant playlist. We left on Friday afternoon - me, Mandy, and Mandy's friend Michael (not to be confused with her husband Michael. Wow, it's like that was a really popular boys' name in the late seventies, or something.) So I had the whole drive up to Hammond - including a super awesome fun and totally unnecessary detour through Gary - to get pumped up. Funny how it all started to come back. By the time we got there I was ready to tight-roll my jeans (only I had on a dress).

Here's my ticket:
Yes, the concert was at a casino, which meant I got carded on the way in - something else I've never done before. The slot machines are all digitized so they don't have a lever any more (and they don't look like robot amputees waving hello). The concert venue at the Horseshoe Casino is actually called The Venue, which meant that every time we talked about it I felt like I was speaking in code. And hey, any day I can feel like a spy or some sort of operative is a good day in my book.

We had dinner at the casino, since the food there is really cheap (I gather it's not exactly their profit center). Have you ever had fried pickles? You should. (Mandy being pregnant and all, I think she achieved nirvana with that first bite.) As the concert got closer and closer, I did start to get really excited. And it was really funny to see the other people who were there - you could tell who was there to gamble and who was there to see the concert. The venue (or I should say The Venue) was 21-and-up but I don't think there was anyone under about 29 or so. Almost entirely women with a few male fans or long-suffering husbands. Lots of women could still fit into their New Kids T-shirts from back in the day (we wore our T-shirts huge in 1991, preferably with a knot tied in one side, or if you were really cool one of those plastic slider things.) But a lot of the women were pregnant, too. We had pretty decent seats, right smack in the middle.

You should have heard the insane screaming when the curtain went up. Mandy had warned me that she has no dignity where the New Kids are concerned. Turns out I don't, either. Yes, we paid for the entire seat but we didn't even use the edge. I was on my feet from beginning to end. There wasn't an opening act (unless you count the fried pickles), it was just us and them. Truly awesome. Here's some pictures:

Two of my friends from college were at the concert too, although they were in a different section so I didn't find them until the show was over. And you're probably thinking, Ooh, a boy band twenty years later, I bet THAT will be fun! But it really, really was. If they were washed-up has-beens phoning it in, well, I didn't notice. (I mean, I don't have a lot to compare it to since I've never been to any other concerts, but I don't live in a cave, either.) They played a lot of their new songs, which I liked so much I bought the CD off Amazon pretty much the minute I got home, and some of the older stuff that I remember from when I was in fifth grade. And I really had a hard time believing that these guys are ten years (give or take) older than me. Because they were dancing all over the place and climbing the scenery and whatnot. And they are ripped... yes, there was shirtlessness, it was only for a minute or so but I am not saying I didn't enjoy it.

Oh, and we totally saw Donnie up close and personal when all of the guys went up the aisles. It was pretty funny, because I've only watched Band of Brothers a million times (or at least three, since I always see it when I have a baby). Mandy wore her Boston Red Sox shirt in honor of the New Kids being from Boston, and I think that Donnie liked it. We were so excited, we were squealing like a couple of teenage girls.

It was truly awesome. I absolutely killed my voice - even a delicious Mint Cookies & Cream shake at Steak-n-Shake didn't prevent me from being completely hoarse the next day. I had a ball hanging out with my sister-in-law and her hilarious friend, AND I got away from the kids for a good twenty-four hours. I'm sad that the concert is over, but since this is 2010, I can always look up the videos on YouTube. And if they come around again next summer... I will so be there.


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