Jingleball. It’s a sampler of the best top 40 pop artists that are out there and a mecca for the “basic crowd”. I could feel my ears bleeding from the high pitched screeches around me as soon as I stepped foot in the arena. I was instantly annoyed by the tens of thousands of people who had no clue how in the hell to walk around without stopping at the most inconvenient times. I had to pee but was it really worth waiting in line? A beer sounded good but I was not about to spend ten dollars on some generic Bud Light or something. I was annoyed within the first ten minutes of being in The Xcel Center and I hadn’t even gotten to my seat. It’s safe to say that I did not see myself at a show like Jingleball but.. it was a concert… I can never say no to a concert.

Okay, I have to be honest, I’m trying to paint this picture of a show I had no interest in but the fact of the matter was… The Backstreet Boys were performing and there’s no denying the fact that I obsessed over these guys when I was ten years old (although *NSYNC was better).

I got to the show about an hour early just to wander around and instantly found myself with a full bag of free swag from the sponsors. I had reindeer horns from Macy’s, a scarf from Capital One, stickers from KDWB… it got to the point where I could no longer close my bag. Eventually, the smell of glorious fried food started to get to me and I decided I should probably just go find my seat before I start eating copious amounts of cheese curds and popcorn.

By the time I reached my seat, the 60 second countdown had started. I was surrounded by tens of thousands of screeching and antsy fans. I just sat there and took it all in as the first act, Jon Bellion took the stage. Throughout Jon’s set I found myself just sitting there and being truly shocked by the phenomenon that is Jingleball. I’ve always heard about how amazing this annual show is but this was the first year where there was an act on the line-up that I couldn’t miss thus making last night my first ever Jingleball experience.

The first couple of acts didn’t really do anything for me. I found myself paying more attention to the crowd than what was happening on the stage but then Lukas Graham took the stage. I didn’t recognize their name but as soon as they started playing, I recognized the voice. Lukas Graham (which is actually a band, not just one guy but more on that later) has a hit song entitled “7 Years”. My eyes swell up with tears every time I hear it pop up on one of my playlists. I would go so far as to say it’s the most beautiful song I’ve heard since Five For Fighting was a thing. The lyrics in the song hit you right where it counts. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’re going through, those lyrics are true and I think that’s what makes the song so beautiful.

More beautiful that Lukas Forchhammer’s (the singer) voice and the honest lyrics he was singing, was the way he acknowledged the band. Lukas was the first person, although the fifth act, to thank the band behind him. He called out each member and gave them the spotlight that they deserved. I think that this kind of thing is typically missing from a pop show and that’s why I despise the top 40 scene so much. As a musician, I know that those people standing in the dark towards the back of the stage are doing just as much, if not more, as the frontman or woman. It made me so happy to see one of them finally acknowledge that.

There were three acts that I was legitimately excited to see including Diplo. Diplo is a DJ and I was interested to see what he would do in order to fit in with such a top 40 line-up. Now, don’t get me wrong, Diplo’s music consists mostly of top 40 songs and he is best known for this collaborations with Justin Bieber but when I think about seeing him live, I instantly picture the rave and EDM scene… not a family friendly concert atmosphere. To my surprise, Diplo stayed true to his EDM sound and did his thing with flames shooting up behind him and plumes of smoke in front of him.The fact that it was a “family friendly” show didn’t stop Diplo from turning the show into a straight up rave/ techno show. I loved the fact that he didn’t try to do anything other than what he was good at. It gave the crowd a look into a whole subculture that they may not have really known about prior to seeing Diplo perform.

Honestly, the whole show was a nice mix of everything. Diplo brought the EDM/techno side of music. Gnash brought this hippie, reggae vibe that got the crowd all warmed up. Backstreet Boys had that quintessential boy band pop sound. Seriously, a bit of everything. I walked into Jingleball last night thinking that I would be bored within the first couple of acts and that everything would sound the same and blend together but I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case at all and, honestly, the hours I spent in my seat seemed to fly by and I had a smile on my face majority of the time.

G-Eazy was another one of the few acts that I was genuinely excited to see. G-Eazy is a rapper from California. I can’t tell you why I like this guys so much other than the fact that he’s freaking adorable (he has that heroin chic look that I love) and the fact that his music is catchy. Last night was my first time being able to see him live but, unfortunately, he was following the star performance of the night and I was too worked up to really pay attention to him.

What was the star performance you may ask? Well, duh, it was The Backstreet Boys. The second these guys took the stage I seemed to forget where I was. I instantly shot up from my seat and started dancing and singing with the strangers around me. I couldn’t help myself. I hadn’t heard these songs in damn near fifteen years but, as soon as I heard the beat, I knew every. single. word. and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to scream along.

Throughout the show, I was seated behind a couple that their young daughter. The young daughter had been going crazy for many of the acts that went on prior to The Backstreet Boys. When BSB took the stage, her mom leaped out of her seat and started dancing. The daughter sat there in horror trying to hide behind the screen of her cell phone. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was during that set last night that I finally felt my age, and a little more, at a concert and it was actually a really awesome feeling. I felt like an original, an OG if you may, and I truly felt like I was reliving my youth.

I can’t really tell you everything that happened during BSB’s set. I was honestly too in shock to really compute it all in my mind. I stood there with my jaw on the ground as the heartthrobs danced across the stage just like it was 1997. I didn’t get to see BSB in their heyday but seeing them now was almost better. They were more than worth the wait.

I’m always exhausted and typically my bank account is in the red. I’ve lost more friends and relationships because of my obsession with live music than I’d like to admit. Sometimes I start to question if it’s even worth it. Other times I have nights like last night where I get to cover a band that I never, in a million years, thought I would get a chance to.

I woke up this morning still in a daze.

How is this my life?