On February 26th, 2018, I went to an Aaron Carter concert.
I first discovered Aaron Carter was coming to town through a friend. We had just gotten off a shift at a local winery we work at and went to a party that someone else from work was throwing. While we were drinking and talking, my friend was looking at the upcoming concerts being held at the Jammin' Java in Vienna VA. To our hilarious surprise, we found out Aaron would be playing there a couple of weeks later.
In the two weeks before Aaron Carter, we all joked about him. We searched for the worst pictures of him that we could find, and we snickered about it. We played "How I Beat Shaq" and "Come Get It" ironically through the loudspeaker. We watched the episodes of "The Doctors" where Aaron was sure he had HIV.
We didn't do all of that stuff to be mean or vindictive, we were all mainly just in shock that he was still touring and had changed so drastically from when we knew him.
We also joked about him because we were slightly embarrassed at the thought of seeing him.
Some people reading this right now might be too young to know what Aaron Carter was for 90's children. 90s kids remember him covering "I Want Candy" on "Lizzie McGuire." We remember getting hyped when "Come Get It" would play on Disney Channel during commercials. In the mid-2000s I remember seeing him, and feeling bad for him, as he was disregarded by his siblings on the reality show "House of Carters."
About a week before the concert happened, we had all properly bullied each other into buying tickets.
The most exciting part of seeing Aaron Carter was the build-up to seeing him. A few hours before the concert happened, I was drinking rum in the basement of my co-worker's house. There were three of us sitting there, drinking, and going through bouts of group paranoia. We wondered what it would be like if we were the only people to show up. I wondered what I'd do if he pointed at me (besides die of a heart attack brought on by extreme embarrassment). At one point we had all even convinced each other that we shouldn't go.
But we went.
We arrived at Jammin' Java just in time to miss the opening act. The venue was very small, and the Snapchat geotag registered me as being in the connected Walgreens. I got my wristband, bought an Aaron Carter t-shirt (that I left in my friend's car), and met up with other friends who had bought tickets too. Aaron hadn't come on stage yet, and it was clear that the other group we were meeting with seemed paranoid too, so we went to the bar and started pounding shots. I looked up from the bar to survey the crowd.
Besides a small colony of young girls with homemade tees that said "Aaron's Party" on the front, I quickly realized that everyone else in attendance were hipsters. I got even more embarrassed at that point. I was disheartened to learn that hipsters were in on the joke. Modern culture shows us that hipsters are one of the most passively critical and mean types of people.
Then the house lights went down. The curtains came up. and Aaron Carter came out on stage, accompanied by a talented no-name drummer.
We drank more shots as Aaron played his first few songs. About halfway through the set, I had a mini-epiphany.
I wasn't embarrassed, sad, or cringing. I actually admired Aaron.
Here I was, a mid-20s male, attending a concert purely based off, what I thought would be, a spectacle. And up on the stage was Aaron, singing his heart out, producing his own beats, and playing to a fanbase. I realized that Aaron and I weren't so different. I went to the concert under the impression that Aaron was a sad wash-up that wouldn't let go of his dead fame.
I'm not saying that some of that isn't true, but seeing him on the stage made me realize that he's just a normal person, not too far from my age, who is trying to have fun, help other people have fun, and make some money doing it.
He ended his concert by remixing "I Want Candy" and then singing "Come Get It" (which everyone went nuts over). Aaron left the stage, the lights went up, and people were ushered into the front bar. As we sat and waited for a ride, the whole group was buzzing (drunkenly, and with joy).
It was a good decision to attend and taught me a bit of a life lesson. People, like me and the hipsters, can be mean sometimes when it isn't deserved. Child-celebrities are people too, and just because they are still trying to produce material doesn't mean they're struggling wash-ups. People are people, no matter where, when, or who they are. Seeing Aaron Carter taught me a little bit about humility. But also, it was kind of funny.