A KDIC writer goes to an Aaron Carter concert and gets her groove back, sort of.
Oh, Aaron. There are a lot of ways to find inner peace- some take long walks, some journal or paint, some do yoga or drugs, and some turn to their faith. And then there's music. Music, as the English playwright William Congreve once said, has charms to soothe the savage breast. Last Thursday, I didn't really know what to expect when I arrived at a Des Moines bar to see Aaron Carter in concert, but I would never have anticipated that I would leave feeling as if I had been saved. Then again, AC works in mysterious ways. Like a lot of pop stars who topped charts before they reached puberty, Aaron Carter's story is shrouded in a past Dr. Phil might call "troubled" and I would call "fucked up." Aaron began his career at the tender age of seven, and by the time his second album went platinum, Aaron Carter had become an international sensation, touring with Britney and plastering the walls of tween girls before he even finished middle school. Though a child sensations' dismal fall from stardom seems practically a rite of passage by now, Aaron's strikes you as being exceptionally tragic. He sued corrupt music impresario Lou Perlman for royalties, and had his career and his adolescence fiercely micromanaged by his mother Jane, who went on to pocket an unfair share of Aaron's earnings and sell him out to tabloids. Not surprisingly, Aaron filed for emancipation when he was 16. Reports swirled around his friendship with Michael Jackson, drug-related arrests, and substance abuse. In 2012, his sister Leslie died of a xanax overdose, the same addiction that had sent Aaron to rehab a year earlier. Soon after the show, Aaron announced that he had filed for bankruptcy, citing his parents' spending while he was still underage as the key factor. For 90s babies, nostalgia has become an especially potent cultural glue. Your high school English teacher would tell you that nostalgia's etymological origins translate roughly to mean "acute homesickness". But that's not quite it. Nostalgia is pain, the idle pleasure of reading a Buzzfeed article about tamagotchis followed by the sad realization that life after childhood is a lot harder than feeding a digital pet. I lied when I said I didn't know what to expect from seeing Aaron Carter live. I expected it to be sad and painful. Before arriving, I spotted the venue easily by the line of 20-something women snaking around the block. While waiting for the show to start, I approached several fans to find out what kind of person goes to see an Aaron Carter show in the year 2013. One girl I talked to was 18 was a loyal fan. I asked her if she still thought Aaron was hot. She said yes. Another girl, Jody, was there with her mom. I needed to talk to her after spotting her in an Aaron t-shirt, along with a tote filled with Aaron's books and CDs. They had driven to Des Moines after catching Aaron in their home city of Minneapolis, and I can say with near certainty that Jody was the biggest Aaron Carter fan
there. At 25 years old, Jody had been an Aaron fan almost since the beginning, and had already caught his shows at the State Fair and . Jody told me she had Aspergers, and while it was hard for her to be in hectic crowds like this one, it was worth it to see Aaron. Jody and her mom were lovely people, and my interview with them was the first indication that this show might not be what I expected. The Aaron Carter show had three openers, the first of which was a local 15 year old rapper named Shep. Before Shep came on, I noticed a group of teenage skater boys milling near the bar and approached them to ask the obvious question: huh? They told me they were there to see Shep. "So you like rap?" I asked, trying to connect with the youth, "Who else do you like?" I asked them if they liked Danny Brown. They hadn't but they liked ODB. I asked them if they were gonna stay for Aaron. They said maybe. Shep came out twenty minutes later, wearing what may or may not have been a pro-life t-shirt, and began to lip synch over a Kid Cudi song.! He told us this was his first show. For all I could say about his spitting skills, I will tell you that the ladies loved Shep. When he left the stage, he was greeted by a harem of young girls in Uggs wanting to get a picture with him." The next opener was Madison Ray and the Single Ladies, another local act.# Madison Ray was wearing a marching band jacket and red skinny jeans and looked like he had teleported from a mid-2000s Panic! At The Disco video. At one point, he excitedly yelled, "Give it up for Africa!" For what it's worth, I think Madison would make an excellent life coach. By the time Jayceon, the third and final opener, took the stage, my companions and I were fading fast. Jayceon's name sounds like a slightly bootleg hybrid of Jason Derulo Jay Sean, and that's basically what he was. Before the crowd knew it, Jayceon's shirt was off. He grabbed the Victoria's Secret Bag that had inexplicably been sitting atop a speaker for the duration of the show, and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. "If you love Victoria's Secret make some noooooise!" Jayceon called. Then he pulled a girl on stage and began a track called "Gorgeous," which he told us was about inner beauty.⁴ Finally, it was time for Aaron. A playlist of middle school radio hits came on to warm up the crowd. We all craned our necks, searching for a flash of blonde hair at the stage entrance. After a half hour and still no Aaron, the crowd's frustration
was palpable. By the time "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls had played for the second time, I was about ready to leave. <i>Screw Aaron</i>, I thought, <i>how good could a performance by a washed up teen star even be?<i> As it turns out, very, very good. Finally, Aaron bounded onto the stage, launching immediately into his hit "I Want Candy." You guys, he sounded great. Puberty had not ruined his voice, which still sounded clear and sweet, like angelsong at a shopping mall. Aaron looked great, too, far from the under eye-bagged, stubble-grizzled, thousand yard stared 26 year old I had expected. He looked healthy. He looked happy. Immediately, I forgot how bad the openers were, how much had changed since I had last screamed along to "Aaron's Party." Not everything we love can hold up over time— a friend of mine whose parents went to the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 saw Bob Dylan a few years ago, and they cried at how little was left of the singer they loved at 20. But seeing Aaron Carter more than a decade after I had first used my allowance to buy his debut album did not depress me. It made me happy. "I'm 25 years old, I've been doing this for a long time," Aaron told us between songs. "It doesn't make sense logically." Throughout the show, there was the sense of triumph, of overcoming some great pain, or at least one's adolescence. In the years since middle school, Aaron and his fans have grown up, gotten zits and jobs, had their hearts broken, graduated, moved out. But there was something so comforting in the idea that, thirteen years later, we could all still get together to take selfies and enjoy some pop music. When I thought about this article, I thought gleefully of writing a wry, withering review of a dude who tried to do something he loved, and failed miserably at it. After seeing Aaron Carter bounding around the stage, beaming, doing backflips off the drum kit and hugging his bass player, I realized that 1. I could stand to be less of an asshole 2. Aaron Carter was the one to teach me that Right before he left the stage, Aaron thanked his fans profusely for supporting his music and coming out to show love. I am certain that he was genuine. "Thank you!" he called out, "Seriously, you guys are giving me my life back." ________________________________________________________________ ! It had the caption "Look into my eyes" accompanied by a picture of what my companions agree looked like a fetus. " That's another thing: you will see a lot of profile pics being born at an Aaron Carter concert. There is something uniquely unsettling in witnessing someone
taking a selfie. For me at least, selfies are for private time. The embarrassment of getting caught posing for one is not unlike that of being walked in on while masturbating. At the Aaron Carter show, the selfies were unabashed and everywhere. Most of the concerts I go to are filled with sullen hipsters who would be embarrassed to drink a Lime-a-rita, much less instagram it. It was kinda empowering to see so many women not giving a fuck. For this and many other reasons, I deeply appreciate Aaron Carter fans. # Here is Madison Ray's Twitter bio: n. 1. an eternal force of musical euphoria emanating from the city of Des Moines. 2. a fashion dynamo working for peace through culture and art. 3. a nice guy. ⁴Sample lyric: I seen a girl she was gorgeous/ And the smile on her face was enormous/ She's all personality/ She focus on her goals not her calories !