Looking into the eyes of each of the four members of Big Time Rush as they started warming up in their tour bus ahead of their free show at Fairfield Hills on July 22, you could tell they knew and understood something about what Newtown has been through during the past seven months.
They were, they told The Newtown Bee, ready, willing and anxious to help wipe away some of that sadness, fear, anxiety or grief the community had faced, if only for an hour.
The popular television stars — Kendall Schmidt, Logan Henderson, James Maslow and Carlos Pena, Jr — who parlayed their global Nickelodeon-fueled popularity into a three album music sensation ended up going on about 50 minutes earlier than planned Monday night because of an impending rainstorm.
That front began kicking up by the third song in and subsequently drenched the hearty crowd — most of whom chose to stay — until a lightning warning from safety officials hastened the group off the stage about 10 or 12 minutes shy of the planned one-hour set.
Newtown native Scott Fellows, who conceived Big Time Rush for the children’s television network, arrived back in town early Monday morning. He spent much of that time meeting with his sister, Mary Fellows, and her husband John Conk, who had helped coordinate most of the logistics both long in advance and on the day of the show.
By the time Mr Fellows arrived, most of the crowd control fencing, staging, sound system, and backstage catering and hospitality areas were set up and running without any apparent difficulties.
“So the next few hours for me are just driving around, seeing people and taking care of whatever last minute issues come up,” Mr Fellows said around 10:30 am. “Although, you know, this is really what a backstage scene is like: pretty quiet and unexciting."
The scene backstage got a bit more exciting, however, after two huge tour busses with the four stars of the show arrived later.
Many of the orange shirted students who were volunteering for the day - amost all young ladies - grabbed Big Time Rush posters and waited patiently while the four singers had dinner and a pre-show meeting in the catering area.
Then suddenly, with a fury of activity, they all started grabbing cell phones and cameras. Rushing toward the catering entrance, Kendall and Logan emerged, hugging well-wishers and signing posters, shirts and ticket stubs.
The two BTR members also posed for hundreds of photos with fans including First Selectman Pat Llodra, who was hosting her granddaughters Katharine, Julia and Olivia Barrows.
A few minutes later the foursome welcomed The Newtown Bee onto their tour bus for an interview, which was cut short because they had received word about going on early.
Nonetheless the band was happy to talk about their individual roles as part of the overall stage show that was about to happen, as well as the differences between engaging longtime fans of their television show, versus the more recent and overwhelming number of music fans they have amassed.
As attention shifted back to the performance area, an opening DJ act began playing on the main stage. While it was just after 6 pm, it appeared most of the audience members had either already arrived or were arriving from any one of three designated parking lots set up off the Fairfield Hills campus.
Those parking at Reed Intermediate School were able to walk to the concert site, while those at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School grabbed rides on shuttle buses.
At about 6:30 pm, with the last few shuttle riders hastily finding a place to watch, a loud scream went up as audience members glimpsed a sight of Kendall, Logan, James and Carlos heading onto the stage. A few minutes later Scott Fellows emerged, welcoming the community to the concert.
“I set out to create a TV show and I ended up with a boy band,” he exclaimed from the stage after thanking Mrs Llodra and other local officials, and Parks & Recreation Department staffers for making the special event possible. He also talked about his longstanding offer to bring the band to Newtown for a free show.
“And it’s tonight, and it’s right here,” he shouted as Big Time Rush hit the stage.
The quartet displayed great energy, singing individually and in harmony while moving through a number of choreographed dance routines. Their multi-level set also utilized a trampoline that catapulted Big Time Rush members between the various risers they used for the show.
Since the music was all pre-recorded, there were no concerns for musicians or instruments as rain quickly transitioned from a sprinkle to a downpour between the third and fourth song. This brought the exodus of about 10 percent of the audience, mostly parents with very young children in tow.
A quick check with Parks & Rec Director Amy Mangold and Scott Fellows a few songs later, revealed worries about a system of lightning moving in from the southwest. So the decision was made to end the show slightly earlier than planned.
But even as the group was informed about the weather issue, they vowed to stay on to do one more song for their Newtown fans, closing with a hit from their latest album 24/7, “Confetti Falling.”
Monday’s Set List
Following are the songs that were performed by Big Time Rush for their Newtown fans Monday night:
“Music Sounds Better”
“Song For You”
“Like Nobody’s Around”