by Nate Freeman
On Thursday afternoon, a Jumbotron at 43rd and Broadway in Times Square streamed a liveÂ performance of the “adult contemporary” band Train. The actual performance took place justÂ across the street, high up in the Reuters building, and if you are a fan ofÂ Â “adult contemporary” and watched thisÂ broadcast-which also streamed on Facebook-you would have seen me in the audience.
I do not like the band Train.Â Or, more accurately, I have no opinion of the band Train-they fall into the category of bands that I know “exist.” I am aware of that song with that catchy mandolin about greeting a “soul sister,” and that’s about it. But there I was, forging with them that special bond that can only come from a shared presence on a Jumbotron.
The studio was stuffed full of cameras and men with headphones. The TVs hanging from ceilings and walls idled on a single image, that of one the two sponsors. The company logos were everywhere, and the audience was stuffed to one side of the band’s gear. I stood with people associated with the sponsors or the PR firm, friends, and family. Three teenage girls were placed up front, getting antsy waiting for this “adult contemporary” band to come on. They were clearly very excited. They were giggling so hard they looked like they had found a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s confectionery sweatshop.
“It’s just like TRL!” one of these girls said, baring her plastic braces.
“What’s TRL?” said the woman next to her, presumably her mother.
“Omigod you don’t know what TRL is!”
The girls giggled more.
I was standing in front of three twenty-something guys, and asked if they worked with the sponsors. They informed me they were friends of the host, Allison Hagendorf. I had no idea who that was. They pointed her out. Makeup people were puffing her cheeks painting her lips with lipgloss.
“Oh, right,” I said.
“She’sÂ the host of the Fuse TV’s Top 20 Countdown,” one of them said.
“Oh, probably should have known that,” I said. “She’s pretty attractive.”
“These are her parents,” he said, and waved to the older man and woman standing directly next to me.
“Oh, hey,” I said to Mr. and Mrs. Hagendorf. “Um, sorry about that.”
A few minutes later Allison Hagendorf, primped up and sporting a well-practiced smile, introduced the band-”You can catch a subway anywhere in the city but today you gotta lookÂ up if you wanna see TRAIN!”-and out they came. The lead singer had on a purple tight tee shirt and more gel in his hair than The Situation. The guitarist was bald with Bono-style glasses. The drummer was blonde and in the interview part asserted that John Bonham was “the best drummer ever.”
First up was “Drops of Jupiter,” an exercise in schmaltz-pop held upÂ by rolling electric piano and lyrics filled with clunky reference toÂ soy lattes and fried chicken. I hadn’t thought about the song in years. Alison Hagendorf described it as “cosmic.” Right. Jupiter.
They played their new single, “If It’s Love.” I wasn’t exactly listening, as I was too intent on making sure I didn’t scratch my nose while millions of teens watched this nightmare Facebook. Pat Monahan, the lead singer, did some pompous breast-stroke movements; his other blindingly white dance moves during the show included, but were not limited to: the arm roll, the fists-clenched shoulder-shake, the hip-boogie, and the look-at-the-camera lunge.
Then they broke into “Hey, Soul Sister,” the song everyone knows, even if you have no idea what these guys look like (I sure didn’t-I Google imaged them on my phone in the bathroom). The kids really liked this one! They swayed, smiled and mouthed along with the words. Unsurprisingly, the “adult contemporaries” in the room liked it, too. I mean, it isÂ their music. They got down!
After the show I tried to speak to the band about how awesome it is to play shows surrounded by corporate executives and products getting pimped out. First I talked to a very nice PR guy who showed me the laptop music software/headphone combination that sponsored this concert. Yes, you are correct. There was a shit ton of bass. Totally beast setup, bro.
Then, I was told the band had to keep to a strict schedule, and they were sorry they couldn’t talk to me. I’m sorry too, Train. The future adult contemporary fan inside of me is very sorry.