CELEBRATION DAY: Solunatic 10 Year Anniversary


Exactly one week from tomorrow, I will be a whole year older officially. I'm turning 25 (gasp!) and in the words of Jessica Simpson, that practically makes me mid-twenties.

While turning 25 in this year of 2012 is a big deal (it's the last "big deal" birthday that doesn't totally make me cringe), I couldn't help but notice that if you walk down memory lane to ten years ago today (June 9th), it was 2002. I was a freshman in high school getting ready for my 15th birthday (and summer vacation), and was attending a little music festival in Upstate New York called Fly 92's FLY FLING.

That show featured, amongst others, Naughty By Nature, Fabolous, Amber and was headlined by (wait for it) Sugar Ray. You know, Mark McGrath's old band before he went all 'Extra' on us and tried to assert himself as a "host". I know. It doesn't get more famous than that. The most important of the performers list though was of course my beloved foursome in Soluna, the first musical group I actually reached out to back in late 2001. It was the first time I had ever gotten to see them live (I would go on to see them perform twice more as a foursome) and was less than a month after their debut album, For All Time, was released. They were still promoting the single "For All Time" and were about to shoot the music video for the song during my birthday later that month.

Soluna, as I remember them from back in the day. Left to Right: Jessica Castellanos, Aurora Rodriguez, T Lopez and America Olivo.

I still remember that day clearly. As the girls performed their short set, Jessica Castellanos actually shouted me out while on stage, saying something along the lines of "LeAnna, if you're out there, wherever you are..." You better believe I lost my mind. As soon as they left the stage, it was announced they would be outside signing autographs and that was my cue to finally meet these young women I looked up to in person after speaking to them and fan-stanning them for so many months. I wasn't the only bonafide Solunatic present -- my friend Scott was also there (proud that we're still friends ten years later!). I remember being so beyond nervous, my heart was thumping in my chest. I sincerely thought I might pass out.

All four of the girls were so sweet to me, despite the fact that I was held in shock that a musical group I admired actually acknowledged my existence. I sat with America Olivo as she and the other girls signed my cover art for their album (along with signing for a group of others). As people went through the line, they kept staring at me, wondering why in the hell this 14 year old on the verge of tears was sitting with this group.

I had brought an audio recorder with me to record their live concert, in the attempt to rip it to an MP3 for my fansite for the group, Soluna Online (ahh, 2002), and Jessica took one look at my recorder and asked if I wanted to do an interview with them on the spot. In that moment, my career as a music blogger/promoter began.

After the group finished their signing, the four of them, me, my mother and their tour manager headed backstage to their small dressing room at what was then known as the Pepsi Arena (now known as the Times Union Center, but details, details). The girls had to do a short video shoutout to Transworld Music Distribution, and then their tour manager left us be as the four of them gathered around me (literally - Jessica on my right, America on my left, Aurora and T sitting on the floor in front of me), crowding in front of my audio tape recorder as I nervously asked them questions as they popped into my head. Afterward, I asked them to sing acapella for me, and they sang the chorus to "For All Time" with me literally within their circle of quartet harmony. It almost makes me cry now to think of it.

We took pictures together which I still have (one in which all four of them picked me up and held me sideways, but I digress) framed in my parents home. Ahhh, childhood.

Thanks to the wonder that is YouTube, I still have my early beginnings saved forever, which you can listen to below.



After all that, I shakily hugged them all goodbye and went back to enjoy the rest of the concert (which included seeing Sugar Ray. Mark McGrath ran into the audience right by me and I reached out to touch his hand and ended up palming his sweaty back on accident. Nausating. It's literally all I remember from their set.).

Long story short, Solunatic for life, bro. 10 years on since our first meeting and it still feels so good. Listening to that again, and it really does make me tear up...

"Hello, I'm LeAnna's number one fan..." - Jessica Castellanos. Insert me bawling. Kthanks.

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