Like any good 90’s girl, I grew up crushing on and jamming out to the sweet harmonies of boy bands. At nine, I declared that N*Sync occupied the number one spot in my heart and stood by them with fierce loyalty against the competing, yet obviously inferior Backstreet Boys. I knew their choreographies by heart, I attended the concerts, and passionately belted out each and every lyric in blissful ignorance of any and all sexual innuendo (“Digital Getdown” anyone?). I was a boy-band super-fan.
While nearly everything has changed for me over the last fourteen years, my musical preferences have strangely remained the same. I’m a sucker for a pop song with a catchy hook, swelling verses, and simple harmonies, what can I say? But for years it seemed no pop artist or group could rival my fierce devotion to N*Sync. I looked back at those days with nostalgia- thinking of the hours upon hours I spent sketching head-shots of each member of the band in preparation for their concert with the concentration of a miniature stalker. Surely, no band could rival the kind of unbridled insanity that N*Sync brought out in me. That love was once in a lifetime kind of shit, I thought. Or maybe I had just outgrown that level of dedication, I thought. I’m beyond that now, I thought. And then One Direction debuted “What Makes You Beautiful” and my world was forever changed.
Last night, I, along with 50,000 little girls and their moms, attended the One Direction “Where We Are” tour at Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC., flanked by my teenage sister, Mary Clare and my best friend from college, Emily. In so many ways, the experience brought me back to the concerts I attended in the pop music glory days: Spice Girls in 1998. N*Sync in ’99 and 2000. BSB in 2001. B*Witched in 2002. We danced, we sang, we made complete fools of ourselves. But at last night’s convert, one significant detail had changed: I am now a cool 10 years older than my beloved pop band’s target audience.
Here are a few highlights of my night as One Direction’s adult fan-girl:
6:15pm: We grab dinner before the show. By dinner, I mean Em and I split a potent concoction called a Scorpion Bowl, which literally lit on fire and was consumed straight from a punch bowl. No summer concert is complete without a solid pregame! MC sips her iced tea bitterly. Only five more years ’til you’re legal, sucker!
7:05pm: My posse I arrive at Nat’s field, 2/3’s of us pleasantly buzzed and all the more excited for it. We are PUMPED. I wonder what song they’re going to open with?! We debate in the ticketing line. I guess “Best Song Ever” Em agrees. MC opens her mouth to place her bet and a pint-sized ten year old with rainbow framed glasses turns around and informs us that they’re going to open with “Midnight Memories.” The set list was posted on Tumblr from the Boston show last week. Duh. I contemplate smothering her if she threatens to reveal any more spoilers.
7:15pm: “T-SHIRTS!” MC exclaims, making a B-line for a pop-up vendor. She gets the #4: a cap sleeved teal shirt with a black and white 1D graphic for $40- what a steal! Without missing a beat, I ask for a #7. Priced also at $40, this seems like a reasonable investment to me, despite the fact that my NYC rent is due in a week. #7’s only come in youth sizes, the bored looking teenage vendor informs me. Looking down at my D-cups, I decide to spare myself the embarrassment, and settle for a #6 instead. Youth sizes only- The nerve!
7:20pm: We get to our seats. It’s raining, but our parade remains in tact. We’re right behind home plate on the first level of the stands with a clear view of the stage. Nice! And just in time. The opening band has just started.
7:21pm: Around us, the crowd explodes as five shaggy-haired, gangly teenage boys take the stage and launch into a generic pop-rock song I’ve never heard in my life. My sister informs me that they’re Five Seconds of Summer. What kind of a name is that? Em and I are unenthusiastic and seem to be in the vast minority, because the swarm of eight year olds in front of me know every word, and the twelve year old behind us belts out the lyrics as her mom bobs along. Emily suggests a beer run.
7:45pm: Em and I have successfully made our Blue Moons last throughout this unimpressive set, which closes with one song I definitely recognize from the radio. They’re the band who sings that song about American Apparel underwear?! MC, you should have said so in the first place! We know them! We’re cool!
7:50pm: Five Seconds of Summer thankfully finishes. We figure we have 45 minutes to kill before the real show starts, so we use our time practically. Time to stake out the liquor. We eye the half of a bottle of red wine that the mom behind us appears to be drinking from a clear solo cup-and she points us in the direction of the only actual bar open on our level of the stadium. We join a long queue of other moms and a few tanked twenty-somethings. MC congratulates us on finding our people, I give her five bucks for ice cream.
8:37pm: Okay. That took a while. But now we have double vodka sodas that have only a hint of soda, AND only moments until the main event! As One Direction would say, Let’s go crazy crazy crazy!
8:45pm: No sign of 1D yet. But the anticipation is mounting, our buzz is buzzing, and the party jamz are bumping. We’re dancing with the rest of the crowd to classics like “Timber” and “Talk Dirty”. We fit right in. Then “Grease Lightening” comes on the playlist. We keep dancing and singing along, naturally. The eight year olds in the row in front of us take a dance break for this one. They take a few selfies and roll their eyes at their suddenly limber moms grooving along. We hit a particularly perilous note and they turn around, giving us a look similar to the mortified expression they just pelted at their moms. Whatever guys, this song is cool.
8:55pm: The lights go down and the crowd erupts into a deafening collective squeal. I don’t recognize the sound that emerges from my throat as their silhouettes emerge. Liam, Niall, Zayn, Louis, and HARRY in all of their European glory. The opening chords to “Midnight Memories” begin, and we launch into our own screaming rendition right along with them.
9:05pm: THIS IS THE BEST. LITERALLY THE BEST. THEY ARE SO HOT. EVEN HOTTER IN PERSON. Em debates whether her favorite is Zayn or Louis. I vehemently proclaim my endless love for Harry Styles. MC picks Liam. The girls in front of us swoon over Niall. They have a point, he’s playing guitar which is a total game-changer.
9:25pm: The opening chords for “What Makes You Beautiful” swell. I’m immediately reduced to a mere puddle of emotions. My voice and hands shake as I jump along to the chorus that warmed my cold heart in a way that it has not been touched since the “No Strings Attached” N*Sync album. We sing every word and don’t stop for two hours. I don’t think about rent, my job, grad school, my lackluster love life, or anything that plagues my 23-year-old existence. For these two hours, it feels good to be a preteen.