A Very Darren Crissmas

Going to concerts during the week can be difficult with my work situation, and this week was extra complicated as I was in the middle of some training all week – but I managed to slip away a bit early to head to Ridgefield for Darren’s Crissmas show.  I had purchased a VIP pass which allowed me to meet Darren before the show as well as got me some merch – an adorable gift bag

featuring a hippopotamus on it containing an ornament, Santa had and signed booklet.  We were told to wear our VIP laminate from that point forward and then were able to line up for merch or just hang out.  The merch line was quite long so I opted to wait and try and buy things after – I found out that the booth was having issues with WiFi and card readers and that’s why the line was so long.  Then they had us line up and sent us into the M&G room 5 at a time.  Darren was very sweet and taking his time chatting with everyone, which I absolutely loved.  He saw my *NSYNC shirt as soon as I walked in and we started chatting about their Christmas album and Hanson’s and harmonies and song arrangements – and his handler was taking photos the entire time.  I was absolutely shocked when I left the room and was ready to post our photo together on instagram only to see that there were 30+ photos on my phone from our interaction.  Honestly, one of the best M&Gs I have done – and it really wasn’t that expensive! My concert ticket cost more than the VIP did ($120 and $144!)

We then were allowed to stay inside if we wanted, but if we went out to our car we couldn’t come back in until doors at 6:30, I didn’t want to sit in my cold car so I opted to stay inside in the lobby before theater doors opened.  I took my seat in the 2nd row and immediately noticed the “No photos or video” signs that were up.  The woman next to me was saying how she was going to break the rules and I told her I might just have to join her, but would probably wait until the end so if they were going to try and kick me out I wouldn’t miss much.  She opted to take photos  throughout from her lap but I was a bit too anxious to try that and didn’t want to bring more attention if both of us were doing it.

I had previously seen this show last year, but he did mix things up a bit.  A few of his stories about the songs were the same, but I didn’t really remember most of them anyway so it was fine!  He started by coming through the aisles singing Happy Holidays and The Holiday Season and trying to get us to do a bit of a call and response.  I remember last year the crowd being WAY more into sing a longs and it seemed like for this show the crowd was a bit more timid.  He talked a bit about how Christmas music is special and there’s nothing else where we have a specific time frame to listen to it.  March isn’t Sargent Pepper’s month, we can listen to it year round, but Christmas music we typically only listen to in December and Burl Ives kicks Taylor Swift’s ass on the charts every December.  I also still absolutely love his rendition of John Mayer’s St. Patrick’s Day. (He also mentioned that John is from about 11 miles from where we were. He knows his stuff. Why are we not best friends?)   After I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas he had his drummer help show us how he came up with the arrangement and put a hip hop spin on it – hip hoppotamus… which is another arrangement of his I love.  He also said that there are some areas that people don’t know that song and he gets asked often if he wrote it – and he wishes he did because he’d be living in a castle in the sky off that royalties money.

After Drunk on Christmas he mentioned how a father and daughter had left and gave him a wave and he hoped that it wasn’t too much for her to handle (as he swears and had just gone on about drinking – which he did say getting drunk didn’t have to be alcohol and it could just be having more chocolate or pie or watching TV or whatever else you might want to indulge in.)  And then was the time when I thought he was going to do a song he had just taught himself like he did last year – but he ended up doing Granger Danger from A Verry Potter Musical and spoke about how he doesn’t credit Glee with getting him where he’s at now, it was absolutely this musical.

He then sat on the bench on stage and asked a few people in the audience about Christmas songs they’d like to hear.  When voices started yelling out he teased about how the voices in his head must be back and then got the band to start up the song to not spend too much time letting everyone yell out.   He did a few more songs before heading out before the encore.

When he came back out, he sat at the piano and asked for a few artists from people in the audience which ended up getting us a medley of Fly Me To The Moon, Against All Odds (which the lyrics he didn’t quite know, but he tried!) and Cough Syrup.  Then he did Christmas Dance and asked us to stand and dance but told us we could sit and do it, too (Thank you.  I sat, but I twisted, shook and iced with the best of them) and ended up putting into the medley the songs that he had asked for earlier that he told us he absolutely wasn’t going to sing – and it was a Christmas miracle!

This show was so much fun – and I almost forgot – at one point he called out a woman who was on her phone saying that it was fine that she was and we could do whatever we wanted during the show – but that everything was dark except her beautiful glowing face.  Then he felt bad that he called her out and kept mentioning how guilty he felt throughout the whole show.

If this show is coming near you – definitely check it out – and if not – take a listen to the CD!

Book Review: You Surround Me

Trigger warning: This book contains explicit content and difficult topics.

You Surround Me tells the story of a school year from the perspective of 2 of the kids in a pretty tight knit group of friends, Kenna, who is a junior and Logan who is a senior.  Kenna’s best friend is Logan’s sister and Logan’s best friend is Kenna’s brother.  Their Mom’s also are best friends from back in their college days. Kenna has had a crush on Logan since she was three years old and Logan has been oblivious, although at the beginning of the school year he started seeing her as more than just his best friend’s little sister. Most of the book is spent with Kenna trying to figure out if Logan likes her back, and then once they decide there might be something there, they try to keep it from Kenna’s brother Matt.  Also with such a large friend group as well as their families, there are a lot of different sub plots throughout, not all of them revolving around Kenna and Logan.  I don’t want to give too much away though, as there are many twists and turns and this book was nothing short of a roller coaster.

This book was long – it was almost 700 pages and it took me quite some time to get through, even though I enjoyed almost all of reading it. (Some of the topics are a bit deep and harsh, so while overall I did enjoy the book, there were some spots that were tough for me to read.)  Like I said, it was an absolute roller coaster and I was so happy that Kenna and Logan had such a wonderful friend group.  It seemed that everyone in the group had some sort of challenge in their life that they had to overcome – parents who had passed away, parents who were abusive or addicted to drugs and may or may not be in their lives, some were getting bullied at school, etc – but their friends didn’t care and were there for them and supported them no matter what.  I was a bit jealous of how close they all seemed to be, even if they were fictional.

I would give this book 4.5 stars! This is the first book in a series, and I am looking forward to reading the rest, as I imagine that they will follow the rest of the friend group – but even if it continues to follow Kenna and Logan and their families – the ending did leave some things open. (Though there was enough closure for me, for those of you who might be worried that you’ll be left hanging!)  Now I’m not sure how to bring myself back into the real world after spending so much time with this group.

I received a free ARC from Reedsy.

About the Book

My best friend’s brother? My brother’s best friend?

It doesn’t get any more cliché, yet…I can’t help but want him.

Kenna Ayken is a junior in high school, and she’s been crushing on a boy forever. Too bad he’s never shown a similar interest in her. But when his home life goes from bad to worse, they find themselves growing closer. Suddenly their friendship is becoming more tangible and true, something separate from her brother, a new bond that is just for them.
All these years he has never once glanced at her in a meaningful way…
Until he does.

I’ve known Kenna my whole life and she’s always felt like another little sister to me.

Until now.

Logan West is a senior in high school, and for the first time since he’s known her, he can’t keep his eyes off of his best friend’s little sister. Matt has never liked seeing any guy with her, and he sure as hell would have an issue with Logan pursuing her, and now things at home are getting…harder. When Kenna walks in one day, she sees just how bad it’s become, and reacts in a way Logan never would have expected.

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