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KIIS' scream fest

The teeny-boppers and younger come to Wango Tango in force for the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.

May 12, 2008|Matthew DeBord | Special to The Times

They came for the Dey. They came for Shwayze. They came for Cherish and Danity Kane. Many, many came for Miley Cyrus. Those on the verge of adulthood came for Snoop Dogg and Pitbull. But above all, it seems, they came for the Jonas Brothers.

These tween flowers of the Southland, girls from 6 to 16, traveled from the cities and hamlets of SoCal to gather at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Saturday. In a place once enchantingly known as Irvine Meadows, they raised a thousands-strong shriek as the 10th installment of 102.7 KIIS-FM's daylong outdoor hootenanny took flight.

Wow, could they make some noise. "Wango Tango," a term some may know from the 1980 Ted Nugent song, used to be a slangy term for sex, "a crazed gyration of the rock generation," as Nugent put it.

But KIIS-FM -- with the support of an army of young girls who just a few years ago were immersed in Dora the Explorer but now wish only to keen, wail and pogo dance to the frenetic croonings of three brothers from New Jersey and the thrashings of a 15-year-old from Tennessee who is known in Disney-speak as Hannah Montana -- has taken this bawdy reference to something grown-ups do and transformed it into a successful melange of pop concert and family carnival.

Ryan Seacrest, who in addition to his duties as the host of "American Idol" does the KIIS-FM morning show, roamed the seats, mike in hand, stoking the crowd.

The demographics were astonishing: every race, culture and creed seemed to be represented. Bemused dads, probably with misty recollections of summers chasing Phish from town to town during the first Clinton administration, were hauled around by hyperventilating daughters in pink trucker hats created specifically for the occasion. Moms chaperoned whole phalanxes of girls who vainly struggled to document Wango Tango '08 using the limited memory of pastel cellphones.

The day was loosely structured as three acts, ringmastered by Seacrest with an appearance from guest host Lindsay Lohan. First, there was the battle royale between the Jonas Brothers, who opened the show, and Miley Cyrus, who wore a black rhinestone-studded halter top and thanked her fans for supporting her as she grappled with the aftershocks of her controversial half-naked Vanity Fair photos. She also exhorted them to raise the volume. "I heard y'all during the Jonas Brothers set," the underage ingenue twanged, "and you were way louder." Game on!

Act 2 was a transition from the bubble gum stuff to more mature performances (KIIS-FM gave fair warning) of Act 3, when the R-rated rappers went on. Throughout, a steady flow of entertainment and Taco Bell pitches were beamed from stage-flanking big-screens. During performances, a stream of text-messaged "shout outs" crawled along the bottom of the picture.

And although "awesome" was the day's favored honorific, the audience wasn't exactly uncritical. The Beardsley sisters of San Marino -- 16-year-old Elizabeth, 14-year-old Sarah and 10-year-old Kate -- were enjoying their first Wango Tango and fell solidly into the pro-Jonas Brothers camp. "Miley's not as good," they agreed. "She's not as entertaining. The Jonas Brothers are more down to earth."

Angie Aguirre of Santa Ana was surrounded by her two daughters and their two friends, ranging in age from 6 to 12. She chuckled as the girls enthused over which Jonas Brother was their favorite. "I think it's funny," she said. "I grew up with the Backstreet Boys. They're going though their boy-crazy phase."

Providing a counterpoint to the Jonas juggernaut was a quartet of mop-haired young men in hooded sweat shirts, clustered on a bench, who had driven down from Los Angeles. They generally dismissed the teeny-bopper performers -- they were awaiting the appearance of Snoop Dogg -- but conceded that Miley was "energetic." Their real motives for attending? Hormonal. "There's a lot of hot girls here," said John Mitchell, 16. His comrades nodded.

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