There were smiles, selfies and squeals all before Cody Simpson stepped on the stage.
The Village Amphitheatre was a haven for pre-teen and teenage girls on Saturday afternoon at the Mall of Georgia as a combination music and fashion show drew hundreds of teens and their parents or other relatives.
Simpson, an Australian pop singer, was the headliner of an “ABC’s of Style” event, which marked Teen Vogue’s Back-to-School Saturday initiative. It was a local version of a nationwide tour of Simon Malls.
Simpson’s music career began in 2009 when he recorded his own version of songs on YouTube by Justin Timberlake and Jason Mraz. He subsequently moved to the U.S. and signed with Atlantic Records.
Some of Simpson’s biggest hits are “Pretty Brown Eyes” and “All Day,” and he’s also known for being on the 18th season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” where he finished ninth. He told the crowd he’s been in L.A. working on an acoustic project with Justin Bieber.
While much of the crowd waited for Simpson, a local group, 10StepsBack, opened the event and drew a steady crowd of teens looking for their picture or autograph.
For friends Ana Pedraza, 16, Ruth Boneta, 17, and Barbara Ortiz, all from Barrow County, it was the first time they had heard 10StepsBack in person, but decided to forgo sleeping in on Saturday because of the buzz on social media for the group.
“I don’t wake up in the morning,” Pedraza said.
Added Boneta, “It was the first time we actually woke up early on the weekend.”
Yet they did it because members of the group are “really cute,” Ortiz said.
It’s the third straight year the group from Buford has performed at the Mall of Georgia, as they had a debut show at a Movies Under the Stars event two years ago.
When Pedraza woke up Saturday morning, she said she wrote on social media the hashtag “#yesssss,” of the possibility of 10StepsBack and Simpson in one place.
“They’re not too big yet,” she said of the Buford group. “And I saw Cody, and he’s really good at performing.”
While the girls from Barrow took their pictures with the group, Manuel Ramos, visiting the area on vacation from Spain, stopped to take a cellphone picture because he figured his 15-year-old daughter would be interested.
“I listen to my daughter to tell me who they are,” Ramos said with a laugh.
Another group of teen girls, Alyssa Adel, Ree Kim and Jess Chung from Duluth, saw 10StepsBack perform at the same event last year, but were interested this time in new songs.
“It’s kind of cool they’re from Buford,” Adel said.
Lisa Delacruz came with her niece, Ashley, for the event, and rated her niece’s excitement level a “10.” When asked if she knew much about Simpson, Delacruz laughed.
“I feel old because I didn’t know,” she said.
The band’s frontman Ian Taylor called the event a home show because they’ve spent many summers at the mall. He called it on honor to share the event with Simpson.
“It’s super fun,” he said. “We love the environment. It’s awesome.”