FLASHBACK: The *NSYNC & Soluna Disaster (2001)

Be prepared for the pain on this one.

From 1998 til about 2002, there was no question that *NSYNC was my favorite band. So when it came time for them to tour for the fourth time, of course, I was ready to bunker down and get me some tickets, this time to their ‘Celebrity’ Tour.

That however, was not a possibility, as tickets sold out very fast.

I was totally bummed out, especially since rumors of a “break” were running rampant.

Then, once again, my local radio station got my hopes up – but this time, it was eventually all for naught.

The station had scored two tickets to see *NSYNC in Buffalo several months later in April 2002. But because this was the Celebrity Tour, they had a contest in which you had to have a “celebrity” call in on your behalf. The person who had the biggest celebrity call in by a certain date would win the tickets.

I was defeated. I was 14 and lived in small-town upstate New York. How many celebrities do I know?

My mother tried to help and said I should “email Soluna” and ask them to help me out.

Let me explain my relationship with Soluna at this time.

Soluna was a four-piece female pop harmony group that was signed Dreamworks Records, before that label folded in to Geffen in 2003. I had heard about them in a teen pop magazine during the summer of 2001, and decided to learn a bit more about them. I logged on to their official website, and joined their message board.

However, Soluna was and is different than your average pop band. In an age before MySpace, Soluna was very much connected to their fanbase, and checked their message board often. They would respond to fans questions and comments, and formed real relationships with their burgeoning fanbase.

I was struck by their music, their charisma and just how sweet they were. So I decided to build a makeshift fansite with a friend of mine in support of them. It was the first fansite for the band, and for a long time, was the only one. Long after promotion for the group began to slow, my fansite (which became soley mine in early 2002) continue to run. In late 2001, myself and two other Solunatics (as the fans dubbed themselves) decided to build our own street team for the group, since their label hadn’t already made one. The girls were very appreciative, and sent us lots of things to send out to other fans. A friendship was beginning.

However, at this point in late 2001, the street team was in its initial planning stages, and I had only spoken to half the girls directly on the message board. So the mere thought of asking them for a favor like taking time out of their busy schedules promoting their first single, “For All Time”, seemed like a lofty and stupid thing.

My mother insisted stating, “You don’t know if you don’t try.” So I was stuck. I wrote to the girls fan e-mail account, since that was the only one I had at the time, and asked that if they had the time to please call on my behalf to my local radio station as my “celebrity” so I could possibly win tickets to see *NSYNC. Anyway I worded it sounded bad to my ears, so I just hoped they saw this as a favor and not as an attempt to use them. It wasn’t like that at all.

I didn’t really expect an answer. They were busy, after all.

However, I did receive an answer. T Lopez wrote me back fairly quickly saying that the following morning they would try to call in and hope for the best.

I was dying! But still – I tried not to get my hopes up. They have a lot to do, and helping some 14-year-old fan try and win tickets to another band shouldn’t be that high up on their to-do list.

However, my mind couldn’t stop racing with the possibilities. This was a Top 40 station, and if Soluna called in, maybe they’d be more inclined to play their single, “For All Time”, on our local radio.

The day started out like any other. I got up, went to school, came home. I walked in the house and noticed we had two messages on our machine. I hit play.

The first message was from America Olivo, from Soluna. She told me that all four girls together had gotten up early (they lived in Los Angeles, and I lived in New York – that’s a three hour time difference) to call in to my little local morning show to help me win tickets. She mentioned that the station was very impressed, and I was pretty much the shoe-in to win. She was very sweet, wished me the best and said that all four of them want to know how much fun the concert was when I got back from it!

I was hyperventilating. Beyond that, I was dying.

Then we got to the next message, and all of my happiness was sucked out from under me.

It was the DJ from my local station who was holding this contest. She thanked me for getting Soluna to call, thought they were wonderful girls. She mentioned that the girls sang acapella on the radio at 8AM Eastern Time (5AM California Time) to prove themselves, and would send over information about their single. The DJ said it was definitely the type of song that they could see spinning on their station!

At that point, I fell to the floor.

Then came the “but”.

She said at the last minute another contestant had someone call in. They had Dan Haggerty call in, and the station couldn’t help but give that contestant the tickets.

Do you know who Dan Haggerty is?

::crickets::

Yeah, me neither. Apparently, he was the lead on a 1970’s TV show, entitled “Grizzly Adams”.

So, for just a second, pretend you’re a small Top 40 radio station in the midst of the teen pop boom in Upstate New York. A group with the potential to have a big hit on your own station calls in and sings for you live on your broadcast, something that most stations have to ask for. But instead of praising that, you’d rather reward a tired ex-actor that no one in your station’s demographic has heard of, that is best known for a television show that was on TV before anyone in your demographic was born.

Riiiiight.

I was crushed. I was bummed that I didn’t win the tickets, but more importantly, I was overwhelmingly upset that Soluna had done so much to help a teenage fan they had never met, and that wasn’t even recognized. I felt lower than low. Later on, it would continue to sting when that very same station started playing not just “For All Time” on a continued repeat, but also their second single “Monday Mi Amor”. They were both being requested at a rate where the songs consistently placed in the Top 5 for the station each day. It was kind of ridiculous.

Yes, I can see that they could not have predicted that to happen. And in the long run, I did officially inform my station of Soluna’s presence, giving them more exposure in my hometown, so it ended up being a success amidst sadness.

However, that was not the end of the story.

After telling my sob story to my mother, she decided that she and my step-father should go out to dinner to raise my spirits. We couldn’t decide on a place, so we ended up going to a restaurant that I wasn’t particularly fond of. I was so upset, I had no energy to put up a resistance.

At the restaurant, we relayed the whole story, complete with outbursts of irritation, for my step-father. He, too, couldn’t believe my luck.

Then, comes the crazy miraculous part.

Our waitress walks over to our table, looking timid.

“I’m sorry,” she says, shyly. “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about the contest on KISS FM this morning?”

We were stunned.

“Well, I don’t even know how to tell you this, but, I’m the one who won the tickets.”

Let me tell you, the city I grew up in is small, but it sure isn’t that small.

“I felt like I had to tell you. So you’re the one who had the rockstars call in? I so thought you were going to win!”

Inside I was fuming with anger and jealousy at this girl who not only stole my tickets out from under me, but denied Soluna the attention they deserved. I had half a mind to ask her to give me the tickets, if it was really that clear I deserved them.

She explained that not too many people were able to come up with a celebrity. I guess for a while the biggest one was the local weatherman calling in. This girl, however, is friends with the DJ for a rival station, and called him up, asking him to use his networking contacts to find her a celebrity to call for her.

So, in all technicality, she cheated.

The girl stated that no one was calling him back, and then when she heard a real pop group from California called in, she didn’t think she had a prayer, and told the DJ to just give up.

He decided to call one more person – Dan Haggerty. Apparently, he woke him up, and Haggerty was none too thrilled. But just to get this DJ off of his back, he agreed to call.

The rest is pop history.

Even though this story has a comic like feel to it now, it still brings up angry feelings inside of me, seven years later. So, Mr. Haggerty, if you’re reading this – thanks for everything.

1 comment

Nikki said...

You're kidding me! haha. I could never do something like that now..

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