Words by Rachel Campbell

Aaron Carter still does costume changes, uses a headset and has backup dancers despite being in a venue the size of a coffee shop. In case you were wondering.

I was 10 years old the first time I saw AC perform live. I stood on a seat of the former I.C. Light Amphitheatre in downtown Pittsburgh so that I could better see while I screamed along to hits like “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” and “I Want Candy.” A broken vending machine outside the amphitheatre sent my parents and I to a gas station in search of a drink to alleviate my burning throat. I walked back to the car with water bottle in hand, and a bus pulled up. Aaron jumped off, and that was the first night I met him.

Three more post-concert meet-and-greets, thanks to my mother’s string pulling, over the next two years fueled my childhood celebrity crush. Aaron was my more accessible Justin Bieber of the early 2000s, so despite the fact he has most certainly cycled off my iPod, I jumped at the chance to see him at Musica in Akron.

The Akron stop of the “The After Party”tour began with Promise Me Scarlet, an unsigned, alternative band out of Canton. They’re the usual type of band you would find in Musica, and most other venues in this area. The normalcy of the environment quickly dissipated when Nikki Flores took the stage. This girl was a whole lot of JoJo with a dash of Christina Aguilera and coincidentally wrote a song for the latter. Her resemblance to previous pop stars in terms of appearance and performance started to make me feel like I was shoved in to a time machine and taken back to the early 2000s for real. This was most certainly the buildup to an Aaron Carter concert.

Three sisters from New York known as Petrel took the stage next. They reminded me of that band from the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis version of “Freaky Friday”, but way more cliché. I don’t think gender should ever influence anyone’s opinion of the quality of music, but the vibe I got from this trio was that they would be better off ditching the instruments and going the route of someone like the Pussycat Dolls. I mean, their single namedrops Starbucks and writing on a Facebook wall. It’s not exactly the type of deep, thought provoking rock reminiscent of the artists they probably sport on trendy, vintage tees. Kudos to them for doing what they supposedly love, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

A DJ in a “Keep Calm and Join The After Party” t-shirt , which is clearly based on the poster-mocking phenomenon, jumped on stage next to begin setting up. He spun a few tracks and then a few more, and it seemed like Aaron would never come out. Eventually, the lights grew dim and Aaron entered from the glass door between the stage and the bar. It was much less dramatic than his previous antics of a smoke filled stage or dropping in from the ceiling on a metal contraption. Nonetheless, a crowd full of grown women and high school girls roared in approval.

Two guys in shirts that matched the DJ’s and snapbacks that matched each other joined Aaron on stage. These backup dancers would be announced as brothers Trey and Nikko Rich from season six of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. They were the season’s second runner-up with their crew, Phunk Phenomenon, and now they’re dancing for Aaron Carter across the country. Not too shabby.

Aaron didn’t let the Rich brothers outshine him. His moves were just as impressive if not more than ten years ago. Considering he played everything from the early to mid-2000s, the biggest difference between his performances then and now was the upped sex appeal. Aaron knows he’s on a comeback, so he did not hold back from using his body to make the room scream. Accidental ab slips and changing on stage were most certainly pre-planned attempts of hooking the audience. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it lasts.