Kim Lizmi knew her daughter loved One Direction. She watched Sophie send group member Harry Styles invitations to her bat mitzvah through Instagram for six months straight.
The Owings Mills mother also expected the fandom to reach its inevitable peak last August after she took Sophie to see the pop group at Nationals Park in Washington. Yet less than three months later, when the London-based act announced that its "On the Road Again" tour would stop in Baltimore, Lizmi realized her 14-year-old daughter's adulation was far from fleeting.
"She already had the computer in my face, asking, 'Can we buy tickets to the next concert?'" Lizmi said. "The child did her own research. She got online, looked up where she wanted to sit. ... I didn't have to do anything. This child was ready to roll with it."
Sophie is far from alone, as thousands of similar, likely screaming One Direction fans are set to converge on M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night for the group's first-ever headlining concert in Baltimore. The occasion is not only memorable for the young, diehard fans seeing their favorite group in person, but also for the parents sharing the experience. For some, a night disguised as chaperone duty could lead to memories remembered decades later.
"She's getting to the age where sending her to a concert is going to be OK to do with her girlfriends," Lizmi said. "If I can do one more thing with her to keep us together, it's all for the better."
While many boy-bands in pop music's recent past have started hot only to fizzle out soon after, One Direction has proven to be the next ultra-successful group in a lineage that includes New Kids on the Block, 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. The group is not just a music act, but a lucrative enterprise.
One Direction formed in 2010 after Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson auditioned for the British reality TV competition "The X Factor." Their third-place finish as a group would soon seem like the most minor of footnotes in a career aimed toward the stratosphere.
Four studio albums, a 3-D concert film and one controversial departure later (don't worry, we'll come back to Zayn), One Direction is by far the biggest boy band working today. Whether it's album sales (46 million and counting), YouTube views (more than 3 billion combined) or social media presence (nearly 38 million "Likes" on Facebook), there is no denying One Direction is a pop-culture phenomenon.
The band's popularity can be partly attributed to a nearly ubiquitous Internet presence. Fans follow not only the group but also individual members on social-media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. They can watch Horan work on his golf game and Tomlinson cuddle a chimpanzee. Lately, Styles seems entertained by Scrabble. These brief glimpses into the group's behind-the-scenes lives allow fans to feel connected beyond music.
Carla Rosiles, a 14-year-old fan from Timonium whose first concert will be Saturday's, said she likes One Direction because of the members' personalities.
"They're very humble toward their fans," Carla said. "They do a lot of charity work, so they're bighearted."
Carla and Sophie were both quick to point out the group's looks did not hurt.
"I heard them on the radio and I was like, 'Wow, I really like this.' So I looked them up on YouTube and I was like, 'They are really cute,'" Sophie said. "Then I did my research and I became pretty obsessed with them. All of my friends would make fun of me for being in love with them, but that was like, my thing."
That love is not always unconditional. Fans — known widely as "Directioners" — had their allegiances tested in March when Malik quit the group after five years. "I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight," Malik said in a statement posted to — where else? — Facebook.
"If he wants to do a solo career, that's OK," Carla said. Would she personally give Malik's second act a chance, though? "I don't support him," she said.
Others, like Becky Bush's 13-year-old daughter Kaitlyn, took the news more to heart.
"When Zayn left, she was just crying in her room for hours upon hours," the Linthicum resident said. Months later, Kaitlyn sees the glass as half-full, her mother said.
"She's excited to see what the group has with the four of them," said Bush, who has taken her daughter to concerts in D.C. and Hershey, Pa.
Now a quartet, One Direction seems determined to keep the momentum rolling. Last Friday, "Drag Me Down," the group's first song without Malik, debuted and set a Spotify record for most global streams in a day with 4.75 million, according to the streaming service.
With a prominent bassline and an arena-ready, stomping hook, the song captures a group maturing sonically and thematically as it balances the pop sheen millions fell in love with five years ago. Sophie said the sound reflects a group whose individual personalities are becoming more prominent than ever.
"They've become a [more indie-rock]-sounding band. Less pop-py," she said. "When they were younger, it was your typical boy-band. They all kind of dressed the same. Now that they're older, they're all becoming their own people."
The group's members are not the only ones growing up. With high school looming, both the children and parents seem well aware that these bonding experiences will become less frequent. That's why mothers like Bush and Lizmi are more than happy to tag along on Saturday night.
"A teenage girl who still wants to be with her parents? Take advantage of it. They only want to be around you for so long," Lizmi said. "I was smiling [at the Washington concert] because my daughter was in heaven.
"Just seeing her so happy was all I needed."