98 Degrees Concert and Meet & Greet Experience

As I sit here staring at my signed 98° CD cover, I (15) remember the 2nd best day of my life, just yesterday--December 15, 1998. A month prior, I called up 103.7 KISS FM, which is a Milwaukee radio station. They were giving away a pair of tickets and backstage passes to the 98° concert. Since my family is known for being unlucky, I was tempted to doubt that I would win. But somewhere, deep down inside, I knew I would. Maybe that’s what always happens, but like I said, I wouldn’t know because we’re unlucky. I ended up winning, though! Immediately, I called up my friend and neighbor, Katie (15), and invited her to come.

A month later, I walked off the school bus at 3, mentally ready for the concert. As I opened my mailbox like I do every afternoon, I found two large packages. One, I was hoping, was from my friend, Drew. Drew wanted me to give his CD and resume to 98°, so they could listen to it. When I found nothing for me, I was in despair. Frantically, I called my mom, begging her to pick it up at the post office. She did, and everything was fine. Katie and I had collected many things that our friends gave us to be signed or read by the guys. It ended up being 4 letters, 1 CD, 4 CD covers, and one pin-up.

After the Drew! CD problem was resolved, I swung my back pack over my shoulder and went to Katie’s house to finish my homework. As I was diligently working, Katie’s dad popped in with a package for her. It was the Milwaukee Hanson concert footage! So of course we watched that as I finished up the remainder of my homework. By the way, the darn video made me do bad on my French oral quiz the next day. At the end of the tape, I ran home to have a dinner consisting of some grilled chicken concoction of my mom’s, crackers, pineapple, and chocolate milk while sampling Drew’s CD. When I finished dinner, I packed up everything I needed for the concert in a mini backpack (maybe out of style but still very convenient) and headed over to Katie’s house.

We left at 6:00. The car ride was very uneventful. Since it was just the two of us, we weren’t very hyper--YET! When we got to the Modjeska, Katie, her dad, and I were astonished to see how small it was. Nevertheless, 98° was in there--that’s all the mattered.

With me dressed in baggy army pants (not camouflage), a white T-shirt, and a big denim button-up shirt over it all and Katie in jeans, a white tank top, a fitted peach short-sleeved button-up shirt, and a winter ADIDAS coat, we entered. Right as we made an awkward entrance into the building, we saw Jason, a neighbor of ours who goes to our school, and his girlfriend, Lisa. We greeted them and went in to find our seats. Well, that was pretty hard since we didn’t have a seat. There were some row of seats in the back then a mosh-pit type-thing in front. Since it was so small, even the back row had a fantastic view of the stage. In the Modjeska, there are no bad seats.

Katie and I stood about 20 feet from the stage with tons of girls in front of us. For an hour, we shyly gripped our mini backpacks and my big manilla envelope packed with letters, etc. Eventually, Katie took off her coat and held it. Even though Katie was wearing her new platform sneakers, she still had a hard time seeing. I, on the other hand, was wearing my chunky-heeled boots and could see perfectly. At about 7:30, an annoyingly vocal lady near me and her friend began chanting "98°!" The crowd soon joined in. Not yet in the spirit of the concert, I yelled, "Hanson!" just to see if anyone would react. The girl in front of me turned around and grinned. Then she told her friend next to her, and they both turned around and smiled. I kept everyone around me updated on the time on my digital Reptar watch. A KISS FM DJ came out on the stage and started playing some music. This went on for maybe 45 minutes. Some of his selections were "Ghetto Superstar," "Everybody (BSB)," "Quit Playing Games (BSB)," "Time After Time (INOJ)," an Usher song, and some other rap or dance songs. As the music blared out of the speakers, a few stagehands clad in black dropped four towels and four water bottles on four tall, white stools. Also, a spazzy DJ came out and started throwing T-shirts out to the crowd. The first one he threw landed no more than 2 feet out of my reach. When he was out, he stripped off his own T-shirt and threw that to the audience. His wasn’t the only bare chest we were going to see that night.

Finally, we heard 98°’s Intro from their second CD, "98° and Rising." Katie turned to me and said, "I knew they were going to do that." Lights flashed and the four (NOT THREE) hotties popped out. They were dressed in white wind pants a matching jacket with a KISS T-shirt tucked in underneath. It was so weird seeing them. I was used to seeing Hanson and the Backstreet Boys in the summer because I see them on TV practically everyday. But here are four guys I don’t even obsess over (until now). I screamed at the top of my lungs, high-pitched. I’ve learned from my history of 8 concerts that high-pitched screams are easier to hear. More annoying, too, but that’s beside the point.

It was amazing how close they were. They looked almost close enough for us to touch them. Unfortunately, they weren’t. And they looked so big, too. As I would find out later, they weren’t. Katie and I whipped out our cameras, balancing all our baggage in our left hands and the camera in the right.

I bet the order of the songs will be off, but I think I can name all the songs they sang. First was "Heat it Up." I sung along, knowing a lot of the words, screaming occasionally. When Nick said "a little bit" in the song, he put his index and thumb close together, indicating a little bit. I got a kick out of that.

The guys pulled folding chairs onto the stage, getting ready for their next song. I yelled to Katie, "Chair routine!" referring to Backstreet Boys’ chair routine in "As Long As You Love Me." Jeff I believe introduced all the guys. When he introduced Nick, Nick attemped to stand up on his chair, but he and the chair fell over! Drew went over to help him up. Nick was facing us in his chair when he got up again. The first notes of "I Do (Cherish You)," floated from the speakers. "My song!" screamed Katie. It is Katie’s favorite song off of their new album. They didn’t sing my favorite song, but that’s OK.

They also sang "Fly With Me," but I don’t remember much about that. They asked us twice I think if any of us were in love. I said, "Yeah, with Ike (Hanson)!" The song they associated with the love idea was "Still," Katie piped up, "I love this song!" This song also has a special meaning to me, but I won’t go there.

In fact, I was screaming and jumping and raising my hand more at this concert than I ever had. I jumped and raised my hand because I was probably one of the tallest people in the audience (in the "mosh pit"), so I knew 98° would see me. As Katie complained time and time again about not being able to see, I empathized but didn’t relate. I screamed because I was one of the loudest in the audience, too, so I could probably be heard some of the time. Plus, I was very close up, which helped immensely.

"True to Your Heart" is a song they sang with Stevie Wonder on the Mulan soundtrack. Since Stevie wasn’t on hand, Jeff took his part.

They introduced "Invisible Man," but said "We’re not going to sing that yet, though." Instead, they sang a song from the "tempting Temptations" as Jeff called them. They saved "Invisible Man" for a little later.

When they sang "Don’t Stop the Love," they also made a reference to being in love. Nick asked the audience if they were in love with Jeff. I screamed. Then he asked if they were in love with Drew. I was silent, but the rest of the audience wasn’t. Whoa! Drew won. Then he inquired about Justin. I screamed loudest for him because I felt sorry for him. I was yelling "Justin" the whole time anyway. At one point, they asked us if we were hot. Justin said it was a lot hotter on the stage than it was down there, so they took their jackets off, revealing the black KISS T-shirt with cropped sleeves. Jeff raised his T-shirt up to his neck, showing off his very buff, smooth chest and abs. As Katie and I were eagerly snapping pictures, we also got a special one of Drew for our friend, Theresa. We were both trying to get pictures of all of them, though.

Drew went to the back of the stage and whipped out a dozen red roses. He gave three to each of his friends and kept three for himself. The crowd went wild. I started jumping up and down, not stopping until the last rose was given out. One fell about 5 feet away from Katie, All the girls around it fell to the ground. Katie also attempted to retrieve it but almost got sucked under, so she decided against it.

Some people in front of us kept leaving, so we got closer and closer to the stage! Still not close enough to reach the hands of the guys, but close enough for even better pictures! Our closest we got (during the concert) was about 10 feet from the stage. I was satisfied. We got pushed back after that, though.

The guys asked us if we were ready for Christmas. A universal "YES!" came from the audience. One of them said that we probably got more shopping done than they did. I yelled "NOPE!" because I hadn’t gotten much done at all. I was having a conversation with them whenever they said anything. Katie thought I was pretty weird, but I think she was amused anyway. Of course they couldn’t hear me, but that was just fine with me. They then told us that they had a 98° tradition and asked us what Christmas carol we wanted them to sing. Katie’s and my favorite is "O Holy Night" thanks to Hanson, so we were both yelling that. Katie was sure they heard us, too! Someone in the front said "Jingle Bells." Jeff repeated her answer, that’s how I knew. Well, they decided on "Silent Night" because that was their tradition. I was pretty disappointed until I remember that Hanson sang that, too. Katie turned to me and exclaimed, "My great great great grandpa wrote this. I’m positive." That made her happier about their choice.

People were throwing stuff on stage. Basically anything that they could get their hands on. Throughout the whole concert. Nothing hit the guys at first, but I guess the fans got better aim. I saw something pink fly through the air and hit Jeff. He looked down at it in amusement. Picking it up, he said, "Have you been naughty or nice this year?" It was a pink bra! Nick took it from him and put it on. I pointed in the general direction where the bra came from just in case anyone wanted to know and started shouting profanity at the girl. Just kidding. A girl behind me was telling her friend that they should just strip and throw all their clothes on the stage. The guys said they never had that much stuff thrown on stage. A necklace flew at Drew, and he actually put it on! Yeah, I was jealous.

Then, they left the stage. I almost thought it was over. But a DJ came out, saying that they had forgotten a song. He asked us what it was. We yelled "Because of You!" A guy behind me yelled "She’s Out of My Life!" because he loved that song. Well, 98° came back out, acting dumbfounded that they had forgotten a song. They told us how unfair it was for them to sing all the time and not us. Of course I had something to say about that. They had us all sing a part of "Because of You" before they started it themselves. Then the concert was over. No bow or anything. They just ran off. But that was peachy to me because I was about to meet them.

Katie and I made our ways to the lobby. On our way, we saw two other girls from our school. We stood by the KISS banner like we had been instructed until a woman with a KISS FM fleece jacket came out and talked to some girls by us. She then asked us if we won the radio contest. I said yes and gave her my name. I never felt more proud to say my name then at that moment. She told us to wait back in the theater thing until someone came to lead us backstage. We waited where we were supposed to, against the wall with about 10 other fans. Some event staff guy demanded to see our backstage passes, but we innocently explained that we won the radio contest. He told us to sit down, so we did. Then, one of the DJs came out and made us sit on the other side of the aisle, so he could check us all off his list. As he went down the line, calling names, Katie said she should have brushed her hair. I straightened a strand of bangs for her and tugged at my own then ratty ponytail.

Jason and Lisa sat in front of us, waiting for further instructions. I flipped through my manilla envelope as eager onlookers inspected everything I pulled out. A nearby girl who I would see a couple more times after that asked to see our CD covers. Katie was worried she wouldn’t give them back, but she did.

The DJ then led all of us BACKSTAGE. I was tempted to yank out my camera and shoot some scenery, but I decided against it. We walked up a set up stairs. Heat from old furnaces blew at our legs. From behind me, I heard Katie say something about burning her hand. Later I learned she touched a furnace for support as she climbed the rickety stairs and burnt herself. Then, we walked down a twisting set of wired stairs. A sign that said "Dressing room" was posted at the top of the staircase. As I walked down, I could see the white pants of 98°. They were watching us. I refused to turn and look at them for some reason. That’s one of the things I regret.

When we walked past the tiny dressing room, we entered the bigger ajoining room to get organized. Katie and I saw Jason and Lisa again and stood by them. Jason told us to go get the free posters they were giving out. Excitedly, Katie and I wove through the crowd of about 50 fans in order to find the posters, but they were all gone. Katie was furious.

I quickly redid my ponytail since I knew we would be meeting 98° in a matter of minutes. The DJ began calling out last names. When mine came up, Katie told me and we squeezed through the fans. They asked me my name, and I told them. The DJ joked to the security guard "First time. The easiest question is their name." Making fun of all of us, no doubt.

So there we were with ten other people and a security guard in a small room with the four guys. The guard instructed everyone who wanted autographs to get in line. Two girls stood behind taking pictures. The guard yelled at them, saying the group picture would be taken after the autographs. (OK, now my favorite part to tell) First in line was Jeff. The first thing I noticed about Jeff was that he had a very smooth shoulder. Don’t ask. That’s just what I noticed. The girl in front of me was getting a page in her notebook signed. When she gave it to Jeff, he looked at it funny before he signed it. After her, I handed Jeff my CD cover. He asked me my name, and I said "Rebekah." Another proud moment for me. I knew that he would spell it wrong, so I didn’t even correct him. Katie later said I should have, but it turns out I was glad I didn’t. Jeff was like "I knew a girl named Rebecca." He continued to mumble about this girl for a second. The only part I heard was "...sweet little Rebecca." I giggled quietly. He began singing then as he passed the CD cover to Drew. He did that a lot. Just start singing spontaneously. I waited a moment, knowing that he was shaking the people’s hands, too. And that he did! Wow. I’m just glad my hand wasn’t sweaty. He kept eye contact with me the whole time as he shook my hand and asked me my name and everything. I vaguely thought that he was shorter than I.

Next came Drew. He signed his name, passing it to Justin. I gazed into Drew’s eyes staring back at me, this time noting that he was definitely shorter than I. He still wore his backwards black baseball cap.

And then Justin. I was the most nervous with Justin although he was so nice. A girl in front of me gave a stuffed animal to Justin. He thanked her. That was when I noticed the envelope in my hand. I handed it to him, saying "Here. There’s some stuff in there for you and my friend’s CD and resume." He took the envelope, placing it behind him and said, "Cool, thanks." I shook his hand and moved right on to Nick.

I don’t know why, but I totally spaced out when I got to Nick. I don’t remember what either of us said or did. I probably was still thinking about that envelope. But I know he signed the CD cover, and we shook hands. I took the cover from him, getting the wet permanent ink on my thumb in the process. I didn’t notice that until I got home, though.

Everything and everyone in the room just disappeared from my mind and eyes during that short time with 98°. And I wasn’t even close to hyperventilating. I was calm and shy, but I’m always shy, so that’s no big deal. It was easy to forget that they were famous because when you’re in the moment, that’s not what you’re thinking about.

Well, so the time past, and I waited for Katie. She was occupied with Drew. Since about 5 girls milled around Justin, she didn’t get to shake his hand. She regrets that a lot. But he did sign her CD. As she was contemplating how to get to Justin, I watched Nick call Katie’s name a bunch of times before she FINALLY heard him and took her CD. Although she said she sounded kinda like a dorky fan when she said thanks to Nick, she had the pefect head nod--at least from the back.

Katie and I realized that we hadn’t gotten our other stuff signed for all of our friends. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. Darn security. (Sorry Erin, Theresa, Amanda, Nicole, Kristen, oh, what the heck--and Tim)

So then the impatient guard said it was time for the group picture. I hate telling this part. As everyone lined up, Jeff took a woman next to her and said "You can stand by me!" So yeah, I was jealous. Well, I was two girls away from Jeff. There was a tall girl behind me, so I stepped to the side of her, farther away from Jeff, so she could be seen. As the female DJ snapped the picture, I leaned into the tall girl to be seen better. The DJ was complaining that she couldn’t see all of us. I noticed a way to resolve that situation. Next to Nick were two young girls. I could’ve stood behind them, and there would have been no problem. Remember when I said I was shy? Well, I didn’t move! Boy, was I mad. Katie was in the front, in front of the woman by Jeff.

After two pictures were taken, we were shooed back up the stairs. I took two pictures before I ascended them. And it was over. Katie and I walked into the lobby, a little regretful but mostly happy. We met a group of girls who started grilling us with questions. They hadn’t been backstage and wanted to know everything. Two of the girls were especially jealous, but we ended up being jealous of them later on. A nearby police man asked us "Is 98° going to change their name to 99° next year?" I answered that I doubted it. I inquired about a payphone, and he sent us across the street.

I called my mom just to find that she was on the Internet. I left a message on our answering machine. As we waited, Katie and I told each other about our experiences in the dressing room. I told mine first in a very animated way. I was bouncing all over the place. Then, Katie told hers, and I was still bouncing. You’ll have to read Katie’s experience to find out her awesome story. Katie decided to call her dad, so he could contact my mom since we couldn’t get through. He said he would call us back on the payphone. A girl and boy came while we were waiting for the call. Katie leaned up against the payphone, pretending she was using it. When it quietly rang, she picked it up.

Katie and I wanted to use up our rolls of film, so we took post-concert pictures of each other. We went to the side of the Modjeska to take a picture of the KISS van. I figured that 98° would be leaving the building soon, so we circled around the back. At the other end of the building, we saw a van. Taking a picture, we drew closer. It was the bus from a nearby hotel. Girls gathered around it, but for some reason, that wasn’t a tip-off for us. Katie, noticing that people in nearby cars were beginning to stare, she convinced me to go back to the front. A minute later, the very girls we had been talking to in the lobby came squealing around the front, telling us that the hotel van just left with 98° in it! The girls told us about how they were just standing there when they heard a knock on the van window. The guys were blowing kisses at them! I was mad. For about 5 more minutes, Katie and I waited for my mom to come. We were pretty tired. It was 10:30 when my mom showed up. On our way home, we told our experiences all over again! When I got home, it took me an hour to fall asleep. The next day, I took my CD to school to show it off.

98° was the first famous music group I have ever met. I think it was a good thing that I met them first, too. They were so nice. Those four guys really were a good example to celebrities everywhere. What did I learn from this concert? Well, a bunch of things. It’s never too early to show up at a concert where you don’t have reserved seating. Be nice to everyone because you never know when they might have something just as good as you do. And also, always make eye contact. Eye contact makes a HUGE difference. Especially when you’re famous. Nick is illiterate (just kidding, it’s an inside joke).

Luckily, I didn’t experience much of a 98° Hangover, like I did with Hanson. I just experienced a sore throat, but that was also because of my cold. I look forward to getting the pictures back. After the Hanson concert, what did I have to look forward to? Besides the fact that my friend, Amanda, got mad at me, it wasn’t too bad. Not only will I have pictures, but the guys will have my letter. And I know I will remember my first encounter with celebrities forever and a day.

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