While music superstars Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and Bon Jovi will swing through North Jersey on their megatours, there's another group of performers adding to the summer's soundtrack. These acts come with a built-in audience of screaming fans who often know them as fictional characters on television shows more than as musicians.
Big Time Rush, Victoria Justice, Bridgit Mendler, Ross Lynch — these actors/musicians are the teen and tween (and even younger) demographic's favorite performers from the star factories that are the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
When talking about touring with Justice from "Victorious," Kendall Schmidt of "Big Time Rush" — the show and the band — said, "Kids get two of their favorite Nickelodeon brands."
Actors or musicians? Depends on who you ask and when. Schmidt says he'll be more likely to make an album than have another acting role when this run is over. He and his castmates/bandmates, have already been writing their own songs. Given a chance to compete with full-time songwriters for placement on their third album "24/Seven," Schmidt, Logan Henderson, Carlos Pena and James Maslow won 13 of the 15 spots on the deluxe edition.
The popular boys' band and other pop acts produce songs that fit the formula — nothing too complex, dark or deep but with the requisite amount of innocent young love angst — all perfect for Radio Disney and singing along. Even concertgoers who show up just to see their favorite TV stars usually end up singing and dancing by the end of the night.
"I think it's great to be able to put on a show and have people come and wind up enjoying the music regardless of what got them there," said Mendler, 20, who plays Teddy on Disney's "Good Luck Charlie." "Hopefully over time, I'll develop fans more expressly for the music, which is exciting because I want people to get to know me for that as well. But I can't really complain. I have a welcoming and happy audience when I put on shows, and that's great."
While the bigger music names may draw from the same group of kids as well, these acts carry another level of familiarity thanks to their television shows. It is a gift and a challenge. While younger fans may think the young men in Big Time Rush — all 22 and 23 years old — are the four goofy teenage hockey players they portray on the show, the older ones know the difference. For the band, concerts offer a chance to break free of those scripted personalities.
"It is interesting because on the TV show and a lot of the music videos, most of them are pretty goofy and have funny, montage stuff. And we're doing gags in the videos and all that kind of stuff," said Schmidt, who plays Kendall Knight on the show. "Then we go and perform that same song but like awesome, like a rock show. It is more interesting for us, especially making the television show like that and trying our best to feel really cool [on stage] when on the television show, it's mostly feeling like a goofball. It is a challenge, for sure."
Olivia Somerlyn will open for Big Time Rush and Justice. While she isn't also an actress, Somerlyn is familiar to this television audience from an appearance on TeenNick's Top 10 and being named May's TeenNick Fresh Artist of the Month, which kept her music featured on the channel.
Lynch, 19, plays musician Austin Moon on Disney's "Austin and Ally" and has a solo career, but is also part of a band called R5, which includes his brothers Riker and Rocky, sister Rydel and friend Ellington Ratliff, who was brought in when the siblings realized they were missing a drummer.
On their website, Riker says R5 wants to make music "to make everyone feel excited and happy." Mendler will try for the same feel-good vibe at her two area dates — one a standing-room-only show at the Best Buy Theater and the other, an outdoor concert at the Great Adventure Amphitheater.
"Outdoor shows are really fun," said Mendler, who calls herself "barely proficient" on the guitar, which she taught herself at age 16. "I have to say a standing crowd makes a big difference, too, because their energy is up. I like doing the big shows because you get so much energy from that."