First Time Was a Great Time. Second Time Was A Blast.

I really didn’t think it was going to happen this time.

At first, all I got from my so-called friends were excuses. “My brother is on leave from the Marines.” “I’m having minor surgery.” What, like those things are more important than seeing three separate 90s boy bands in one evening?

Because, you see, The Package – a combination tour of Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, and most importantly New Kids on the Block – was coming to Minneapolis. And I wanted to see The Package and shutupIknowwhatthatsoundsliketheynamedthetourthatonpurpose. And really, with tickets as low as $9 a pop the Monday before, who could resist?

Almost everyone I know, it turns out. I’d almost given up hope when I opened up to my friends Joe, Mike, Ben, and Aimee after a pint or two of Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine on Friday night.  Three regarded me with disdain, but the fourth told me about choreographing elementary school dances to “Cover Girl.” And as much as I’d like to say it was Joe because he is a seven foot tall ex-college football player, it was in fact Aimee.

At first I thought she would be too cool for something so innately dorky. Then I realized she goes out with Ben, so nothing is too dorky for her (apply ice to burned area, Ben). And after a few more IPAs, I was pretty sure I had her.

The next day, I made sure:


And at 9:21 a.m., she proved herself worthy.

So I bought tickets – for about $20, not $9, but still a steal – and went to work for the day.  The only thing I remember about it is that I may have admitted to 100 strangers (including two bachelorette parties) what I was doing for fun that Saturday night, and they were not impressed.

I also engaged in some trash-talking.

I also engaged in some light, unnecessary trash-talking.

Aimee proved she was game from the start, buying a sweet NKOTB t-shirt without hesitation (I, of course, was wearing this precious gem again). We grabbed the traditional concert drinks (overpriced and under-hopped), musing that even my t-shirt was old enough to drink, and got our seats.

First up: Boyz II Men!

Look, when you buy tickets for $20 ten hours before a show, this is the quality of seat you get.

Look, when you buy tickets for $20 ten hours before a show, this is the quality of seat you get.

The first thing we noticed was that the Boyz were wearing all white. The second thing was that there were only three of them.

I have watched this video three four several times in a row now, and I’m still not positive which one of these Boyz wasn’t there. I think it’s the one in the yellow shirt. Our seats were not great, and they’ve aged, okay? They might even be Men now. Their short set was great, even if the first song took about ten minutes because of all the breaks for screaming.

Then it was time for 98 Degrees, a band I can definitely say I remember existing. I did not remember a single song of theirs, though. And I certainly did not remember the man they call Jeff.

Jeff arrived, along with the Lacheys and the other one who used to have the peroxide blond hair, and this conversation happened:

Rachel: “What did they sing aga-”

So began Shirt Watch 2013. It began with a focus on Nick, and then we learned Jeff was a thing and didn’t really know what to think. Things said included: “They are playing the video where his shirt is off!” “He’s lowering his suspenders!” “He’s taking his shirt off! Wait, he’s wearing another shirt underneath? YOU ARE WEARING TOO MANY SHIRTS!”

So, needless to say, I still don’t know any 98 Degrees songs.

THEN it was time for the main event. Two solid hours of Jordan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, and (as Ross Raihala so splendidly put it) “whatever it is Danny Wood is supposed to be.” Everything was over the top. The opening music was reminiscent of the Olympics. The costumes were changed multiple times. The word “MINNEAPOLIIIIIIS!” was, frankly, abused by Donnie Wahlberg. And the staging was legitimately spectacular. Aimee and I stopped communicating in full sentences – partly because it was impossible to hear over the screams of thousands and thousands of women – and just started announcing things we saw: “Lasers!” “Confetti!” “Fireworks!”

Because it had all of these things and more.

Those are balloons, not camera flares. Giant balloons.

Not that I didn’t find time to add some constructive criticism to the event. The place was loud, and we were very far away, but I still felt it necessary to shout:

“ST. PAUL IS ALSO BEING REPRESENTED AT THIS ARENA,” to every Wahlbergian cry of “Minneapoliiiiis!”

“I FEEL LIKE YOUR PRESENCE IS UNNECESSARY,” to Danny Wood’s breakdancing.

“WHY DID YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA,” to the request for even more deafening screams.

On the other hand, I responded to every ridiculous gyration or piece of clothing removed by simply agreeing.

“CORRECT,” I announced to Donnie as he ripped his tank top in half.

“THIS IS ACCURATE,” to Jordan Knight’s cover of Prince’s “Kiss” while doing his best shirtless “Magic Mike” dance.  “I AGREE WITH THIS.”

And all too soon, it was over. Just kidding, it was a four hour long show and I was getting tired and they had played all of their hits anyway.

From this entire magical evening, I learned three things:

1) All I want for Christmas is for someone to change my cell phone ring to the part of Step By Step where Danny Wood sings/says “We could have lots of fun;”

2) The next time (and I’m not even going to pretend there won’t be a next time), I’m springing for the seats that are within Donnie-frenching distance because that is a thing that happened to someone who was not me; and

3) The day you decide to throw all sense of adulthood and coolness out the window, announce your excitement over boy bands, change your profile picture to the one of you in the 21-year-old shirt and serious purple eyeshadow and a side pony – that, my friends, is the day your entire high school class will find you on Facebook and invite you to your 10-year-reunion.