My Writing

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pictures for Sad Tweens

Last Sunday I went to a Greyson Chance concert in Grant Park with John Campbell, Steve Roggenbuck, Brett Gallagher, and Rachel Hyman. Our plan was to Ustream live from the concert and to interview some of Greyson Chance's tween fans. [Greyson Chance is a 13-year-old famous for his talent-show cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi," which went viral on YouTube and launched his career.]

I started a Ustream on my iPhone once John arrived, and we walked toward Grant Park. We didn't know what stage Greyson Chance was performing at but figured we would follow the tweens to its location.

There were a lot of people in Grant Park. I said several times that I was looking for "human memes and tweens." I spotted a rotund adult male with a sparkly top hat and purple and green ballon animals wrapped around his legs and arms giving out balloons to children but failed to document his existence on Ustream. Steve noted a large number of people enthusiastically consuming corn on the cob and suggested I document this phenomenon.

We heard high-pitched screaming emanating from behind some bleachers to our left and assumed it was Greyson Chance's fans. There was a security check on the way in and a sign said no audio or visual equipment so I put my iPhone in my pocket without stopping the Ustream.

We seemed to be the oldest non-parent people at the concert. There were screaming, arms-waving, sign-brandishing tweens and teens and, further back from the stage, parent-looking adults.

A fresh-faced twentysomething singer who we learned was Shane Harper (via several signs in the crowd) was opening for Greyson Chance. To me he sounded like Jason Mraz but shittier and, indeed, he closed with a Jason Mraz cover.

Numerous attempts to get closer to the stage in order to get a clearer visual of the performance were unsuccessful due to repeated instructions from sweaty, vaguely exasperated event staff members to "move back and find a seat."

We were determined to find and interview a tween. After several field expeditions produced meager, disappointing interviews ("You here to see Greyson Chance?" "No, Shane Harper."), John suggested that we approach three disgruntled-seeming tweens sitting far back from the stage who were holding their heads in hands while frowning and staring into the middle distance. The consensus was that it would seem less creepy if Rachel participated in the interviewing process, adding a non-threatening female presence. I said that Steve and I interviewing a tween girl together might be perceived as "double-teaming" or "cornering," comments which I vaguely regretted immediately due to their unseemliness. John said that Rachel could maybe pass for a tween (she's ~21). Rachel and I were chosen for the mission and dispatched. We approached the disgruntled tweens and achieved what was for me the most awkward interview yet. I recall shifting from one leg to the other while looking past their disinterested, idly weirded out faces at the bald spot on a nearby seated parent's head as unfamiliarly strong feelings of sheepishness stimulated rapid blood flow to my cheeks.

After Shane Harper's set ended, while we waited for Greyson Chance to perform, employees of Radio Disney took the stage to blast various Disney-affiliated pop singles while performing choreographed dance numbers and exhorting the crowd to "give it up" and at one point to say "Bieber" whenever the employees said "Justin." There was one male Radio Disney employee onstage. He was very vocal and danced enthusiastically despite looking out of shape and possessing "man titties."

We noticed a teenaged(?) bro in a muscles shirt with a beach towel around his neck and a sign that read "free hugs." We moved closer to interact with "the free hugs guy," and he warmly hugged Steve with no discernible hesitation or self-consciousness.

In between sets, John told us he had to dogsit for a friend, shook our hands, said goodbye, and departed.

Steve had brought along a stack of small pieces of paper each reading either "I'm rob schneider" or "I'm eminem's wife" in Helvetica font. These were tweets from his @biebercrazie4u Justin Bieber fan Twitter, but there was no other text on the pieces of paper to explain the messages. Steve began handing them out to tweens and adults, saying, "This is free." The tweens consistently took the piece of paper, walked away, looked at the piece of paper, and then looked back at us while laughing and/or looking bemused. One girl walked back to Steve and said, "Can I have one for my friend?" One group of girls read their pieces of paper and then used them as makeshift fans. Steve gave a copy of "I'm eminem's wife" to a man in army fatigues and boots and he read it, paused, looked at Steve, and said, "You can be my wife" in a suggestive and vaguely eerie tone.

A band came onstage and rocked out in a technically proficient but generic fashion for about five minutes, and then Greyson Chance strolled onstage in a remarkably chill-ass manner. He proceeded to belt the fuck out of several of his songs while pacing the stage and gesticulating at his screaming, bouncing, flailing fans, all while somehow maintaining an aura of cool and nonchalance. He sat at the piano to perform a ballad. Steve, Brett, and I said things about him being a good singer and expressed our disbelief at his utter chillness. My iPhone ran out of battery. We decided to leave so we could watch the upcoming British Ustream at Steve's apartment.


  1. loved reading this, bb.

    "...and then Greyson strolled onstage in a remarkably chill-ass manner. He proceeded to belt the fuck out of several of his songs..." this made me giggle

  2. i'm glad, Brett =) was a fun time

    hi Tao. sweet