Concert Reviews

Vanilla Ice, TMNT and Other '90s Phenomena in Dallas: A Pretty Epic Party, Actually

The last time Vanilla Ice played a show in DFW at Grover's Bar and Grill in Frisco, an interesting, pop culture conversation popped up among my fellow concertgoers in the men's room. We tried to recall one of the songs in Ice's repertoire that wasn't "Ice, Ice Baby."

The pause that followed was interrupted by the chant of "Go ninja, go ninja, go," the familiar refrain the Famers Branch native performed in his cameo for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. We immediately laughed.

It was a little funny to Ice at the time, too. After getting Grover's crowd to chant a few bars of "Ninja Rap," he egged the crowd of suburbanites by shouting "I can't believe y'all remember that shit."

Well, not even a cold reading psychic could have predicted that a massive, expensive party would be thrown in honor of that strange pop culture chant. What's even more amazing is that such a cheesy, cornball performance would be able to create such a rolling wave of joyous energy, even if you're not a fan of the music or that weird moment from your childhood.

"Jared's Epic Party," the crowd funded concert created by Jared Guynes of Rockwall that aimed to reunite Vanilla Ice with four movie-grade costumed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the first time in 22 years, exploded all over Gilley's South Side Ballroom Saturday night in a hot pink mist, with just about everything a stereotypical young boy from the late '80s and early '90s would dream about having for their birthday party if money were not an obstacle.

In Guynes' case, he had $72,778.69 to spend on his dream party and vowed from the beginning to spend every red cent he earned and then some on the people who shelled out (no pun intended) $55 to $155 for a ticket. We don't know if he really did that, for sure, but given the roster and the endless amenities, we wouldn't be surprised if he did.

He stocked the back rooms with classic arcade and pinball machines and even held an old school, Wizard-style Nintendo tournament that gave away nostalgic goodies like (what else?) a Power Glove. He promised pizza from Cane Rosso to anyone who showed whether they purchased a regular ticket or a VIP pass, an offer that went so fast that they ran out of slices well before the halfway point of the night, leaving stacks of empty boxes as if the Turtles themselves had gotten to the stash in between battles with the Foot Clan. He delivered inflatable party games, a magician, special appearances by TMNT II's Ernie Reyes Jr. and Back to the Future's Claudia Wells, DJs, movie-grade replica cars, costumes and props from Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and RoboCop (the one that was actually good, not the flashy, unnecessary remake) and a monkey. It was a sight to behold if you had the patience to actually get into the place.

There were bound to be problems with such an unusual undertaking, and one of the biggest was the line, which snaked down South Austin Street to just around the adjacent corner on Belleview Street. It took a whopping two hours just to get into the place if you didn't have a VIP pass, a Crowdtilt ticket or the foresight to pick up your "will call" ticket before Saturday. Guynes acknowledged the problem on his Facebook page: Mr. Robert Van Winkle just had to do a long, last-minute sound check. It caused a lot of sore feet and backs. By the time we could actually see the entrance to cheesy pop Valhalla, the only thing I really wanted to see was "Jared's Epic Men's Room."

Thankfully, Jared's Epic Party offered seating options. There were Fatboy bean bag chairs scattered around the arcade room and hallway, so everyone could spend some time trying to move the blood out of their feet.

"I hope you're all feeling a little better now that there's not a line of doom outside," Guynes said onstage in between the night's many musical acts.

His idea to break the world record for the Nerf gun war record was also clever and fun if you remembered to bring an actual Nerf gun. Every one with a foam tossing weapon was encouraged to throw them in a bin so they could be donated to several local children's charities. Seeing the war with just about every pop culture entity from the bill on the stage, firing back felt like the scene of some bizarre Super Bowl commercial for Nerf.

That theme carried through with the concerts as each "Where Are They Now?"-grade performer took to the stage to perform short but memorable sets that were basically slow burns until they finally got to their biggest hit. Young MC acknowledged his by shouting at the top of his set, "Y'all ready to bust a move tonight?"

Tone Loc jumped almost immediately into his performances of "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina," though he also proved an entertaining stage presence.

"Where are the brothas and sistas in here? Damn!" Tone Loc said as he scanned the crowd.

Digital Playground easily had the most fun set of the night.

Humpty Hump's (aka Shock G) set was a 20-minute, continuous slow jam of music mixed in with an inevitable rendition of "The Humpty Dance."

The main event took to the stage after another 30-minute delay. Of course, he wasted no time trying to plug his new sound into the crowd's nostalgia-marinated minds by bookending the song the crowd came to hear starting with his newer horrorcore fare "Born on Halloween" and ending with a cover of "No Woman, No Cry."

"This nation is a Ninja Turtles generation," Ice said. "Obama was a fan of the Ninja Turtles, Bush was a fan of the Ninja Turtles and the next president will be a Ninja Turtles fan."

The cheesiness practically dripped off the stage, but that's what everybody paid to see and hear. The costumed Turtles joined the Iceman on the stage for the inevitable performance of "Ninja Rap." The energy in the room clearly showed they didn't care how gimmicky it was, especially since more than half of them were dressed up in every '80s and '90s referential T-shirt and costume you could remember. I personally would like to know where the guy who wore Bill Murray's "Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local" tee from What About Bob? got his shirt.

They were all there to run back to their childhood, even if their aching legs and back would remind them that nothing can turn back time.

"This is like a dream," Guynes said. "I can't believe it's happening. The cool thing is if you have a stupid idea, you can put it on the Internet, too."

See also: -The Top Ten All Time Best Replacement Lead Singers in Rock and Roll -Songs That Have Hidden Messages When Played in Reverse -The Ten Best Music Videos Banned by MTV

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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.