New Kids on the Block concert seals lifelong friendships
Our childhood fish tank contained five goldfish ceremoniously named after the New Kids
on the Block. Every week my dad cleaned the tank and picked my sister and me up from school with the death tally:
“Donnie Wahlberg got stuck in the suction hose today and was crushed.” “Jonathan Knight was found floating upside down and lifeless.”
“Danny Wood jumped out of the tank in an apparent suicide.” “Jordan Knight has starved to death.”
“Joey McIntyre is the last man standing.” And, finally:
“The group is finished!”
I can only imagine the eye rolls exchanged between the fish and my dad on Tank Cleaning Day: though superficially connected by this fish tank, they were actually helpless victims pulled in by me, my sister, and a raging tsunami of obsession for the New Kids.
So, it came to be that last summer, my sister and I planned a joint birthday celebration. We decided to take ten of our best friends to see the New Kids on the Block Mixed Tape Tour in Buffalo.
With most of us over the age of thirty, this experience was decidedly unrowdy. Some of my friends are now moms and unrepentant minivan drivers. Our eating habits aren’t what they used to be, so we went easy on the preshow buffet to avoid a litany of ailments: “My gall bladder’s been acting up.” “Ugh! This heartburn.”
Bringing up the margins in the age bracket, my best friend, Michelle, brought her ten-year-old daughter, and our older sister Brooke agreed to come so she could witness her normally sensible little sisters turn into a shrieking mess. Brooke is more of a Mötley Crüe girl and didn’t know much about boy bands. When she mentioned that she’ll be pissed if she doesn’t hear “Mmmbop” tonight, we exchanged awkward glances. “Well … that’s a song by Hanson. You’re gonna have a long night.”
Every New Kid fan has their favorite boy, and preshow chatter found us popping tums in the food line and declaring our loyalties. There were plenty of Jordan and Joey girls in this group. I was always a Jon girl, he of the Shy Guy prototype. Jon is introspective and well-mannered—the perfect draw for me and all the responsible, quiet women in my peer group.We love that Jon had a low-key approach on stage: just the facts, ma’am. While the rest of the guys pelvic thrusted their way across the stage, Jon perfunctorily hit all his marks with zero flourish. With the rest of the guys in muscle shirts, Jon favored a conservative V-neck.When the band went into the crowd to collect kisses and hugs, I imagined Jonathan out there offering fans sensible real estate advice. Admittedly, this onstage minimalism was confounding to the untrained eye. At one point, Brooke leaned in to me and shouted, “what’s with the guy who won’t hardly dance?”
New Kid loyalty runs deep. I discovered this on the way home as I remarked that the boys had trouble hitting high notes. Stupid with confidence,I announced to the rest of the minivan faithful that “perhaps it’s time for Jordan Knight to retire the falsetto.” My suggestion was so violently shot down that I prepared to be pelted with iron supplements and melatonin bottles. I almost had to jump out of the van and run for it—fly, orthopedic shoes, FLY!
My enduring love for Jon is why I didn’t begrudge the Jordan girls for defending their man. After catching one of their shows in NYC a few years back, my friend questioned why Jon was even on stage.This got me so heated that in the middle of a crowded deli I loudly threatened to rip my earring out and stab her, with God and this slice of New York cheesecake as my witness. Not my proudest moment. But a Blockheads gotta Blockhead.
Halfway into the set, the boys played old-school dance classics. Cyndi Lauper’s hit set the place on fire, her trademark sass reminding us that “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”… except for Michelle’s daughter, who fell asleep within the first twenty minutes of the show. Kids these days! Although, I was pretty jealous of her nap status. Donnie Wahlberg teased us that “It may be Sunday out there, but in here it’s Saturday!” I immediately thought “THE HELL IT IS! It is Sunday and knees are DONE!” I then leaned over my seat to unlock my lower back.
As I sat to nurse my aching feet, I looked around at our group—friends who showed up at different points in life and stuck around: Our older sister, my best friend since kindergarten, her daughter, the girl who married our chosen brother. If the New Kids are still young enough to entertain, we’re still fun enough to partake.
The next day, texts bounced around to see how everyone was feeling. My sister responds appropriately: “I am LOVE SICK—JORDAN KNIGHT FOREVER!”
Michelle sent a group photo she took inside the arena, and there it is, in black and white:
New Kid worship among friends whose lives intersected because of their devotion to me and my sister.
The tsunami rages on.
The group is never finished.