The Other Direction . . . life in a One Direction tribute band
Superfans, stampedes, shows in Dubai – welcome to life in a One Direction tribute act. Our Liam would be proud.
Most people have an image in mind when they think of tribute bands. Cheesy costumes, dodgy acoustics and sticky-floored pubs probably all feature.
But, thanks to the biggest boyband in the universe, Only One Direction get to do things differently.
They're flown to private parties here, there and everywhere, performing at birthday bashes so OTT, they put My Super Sweet 16 to shame.
The lads have also just got back from a few weeks in Dubai, where their fans went so wild, they stormed the stage. A stampede of screaming, shrieking hormones.
They were also mobbed at the airport. By the airport staff.
And now they're gearing up for a tour across the length and breadth of the UK, including sunny Wolverhampton.
All in all, life's not too shabby for Henry, Aaron, Jamie, Andy and Matt, aka Harry, Liam, Zayn, Louis and Niall.
Oh, David, Lauchlan, George and Scott are also on the books as 'alternates'. Kind of like a spare set of car keys.
But what's life really like in the middle of the 1D whirlwind? How do the lads cope with the infamous Directioners? And do they find themselves living a double life?
"The reaction of people when we perform is crazy," says 23-year-old Aaron Foster from Middlesbrough, who performs as Wolverhampton superstar, Liam Payne.
"We were mobbed when we were in Dubai – the security had been massively underestimated.
"I think the best way to describe it is to say it's like being in a flash mob. There's all this greatness and craziness when you're on stage and then as soon as you've done the meet and greet afterwards, everything goes back to normal. It's like you're famous for a little while and you get the buzz of being on stage but none of the stresses and pressure that goes with being in the public eye."
Ah yes, the stresses and pressure, something the real- life Liam knows all about.
The 20-year-old Bushbury boy has been hitting the headlines for all sorts of reasons of late, including climbing on to the 360ft-high balcony of his posh London flat, tweeting support for America's controversial Duck Dynasty family and then posting a number of ranty messages aimed at journalists and bloggers.
But does Aaron have to follow all this tabloid tittle-tattle and take it on board?
"Everyone knows what he's been going through lately but I choose to ignore that and just focus on the music and that one hour I'm on stage as him," says the former Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama student. "But I do think we're quite similar though, he's quite cool and just gets on with things and I'm like that. I really enjoy being him.
"There is just nothing better than performing. I enjoy it so much. We've performed in front of crowds of 200 people and crowds of 10,000. They're always screaming and loving what we do and there is no better feeling than that. Sure, we might have had to get up at 2am to perform for those 10,000 people so it's not always glamorous but it's worth it.
"We perform at festivals, our own gigs and birthday parties for One Direction superfans. We did one in Aberdeen not long ago and the little girl's dad flew us there and back and it was in this fab country club. It was amazing. We perform at anything and everything to be honest, it's varied."
And the Directioners? Known as the most fiercely loyal army in all of the teenage fandoms, is their reaction always positive or are they ever territorial?
"The fans are great, amazing," explains 23-year-old Londoner Henry Allan, who plays curly-haired fans' fave Harry. By the way, Harry was born in Redditch so we're claiming him as our own.
"They love anything to do with One Direction and they go crazy for us too. They follow us on Twitter and Facebook and we're always communicating. It's been totally positive from the very first gig.
"They storm the stage afterwards wanting pictures and autographs, it's crazy. I've never experienced anything like it. The younger crowds like Niall, he's the cute one, but the older crowds love Harry so it can get a bit mad for me at times. It's varied though – there's never just one standout favourite, it changes from gig to gig."
Only One Direction have been going for around a year-and-a-half now. All of the lads have always had a passion for singing, dancing and performing, with many of them appearing in West End shows, films and even circuses (that'd be Aaron) prior to auditioning.
But is a career imitating others really what they dreamed of?
"I think if you'd have told me a few years ago I was going to be in a One Direction tribute band I don't think I'd necessarily love it but it's actually an amazing experience and the 1D fans are great," explains Aaron.
"They love anything to do with the group so they love us. We even get some fans saying 'I love One Direction but I love you even more, I wish you'd do your own music and stuff'.
"We'd all love to do our own individual stuff in the future, after all, it's what we were all doing before, but we're really enjoying it and the band has been so successful that this is what we're focussing on."
"I didn't really know anything about tribute acts before, other than the sort of cheesy Abba ones and stuff," Henry adds. "But I think we're different, we're cooler, we're five singers performing the songs of One Direction. We don't really go in for costumes and things like that. I feel we're much more of an original band - just one that sings 1D songs.
"I started singing when I was a kid, I went to stage school and stuff. I heard about the audition through a friend and thought 'why not?'. We were all doing other stuff but this was a chance to get out there and perform on a regular basis – it was better than working in a pub.
"Now we get to perform in places like Dubai, which was amazing. We were performing on this massive stage in this enormous mall halfway around the world: who'd have thought this job would lead to that? Now we're really looking forward to the tour and want all the 1D fans in the West Midlands to come to the Wulfrun Hall and say 'hi'."
Aside from gigs, autographs and flashing cameras, some of the Only One Direction lads have even managed to meet the real deals.
"I met Louis on a train with his mum," laughs Aaron. "He was so lovely, just a normal lad out with his mum. I just went straight up to him and said 'hi' and had my picture with him. He was sound."
"Yeah, One Direction know we exist," adds Henry. "My friend Matt met Harry through their mutual friend
Ed Sheeran and he told him all about us. They're cool about it.
"I don't know what I'd do if I met them though. Probably just go up to Harry and say 'thanks for giving me a job'."
* l Only One Direction perform at the Wulfrun Hall on April 11, call 0870 320 7000.
By Elizabeth Joyce
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