July 29, 2016

My Top 25 Hanson (song) Performances

This week, Hanson asked fan club members to vote on their top 25 Hanson songs. We were given a list of about 90 songs and the instructions to “Pick the songs you think both represent our greatest, but also the way you would share our music with the world.” We weren’t given any information about how the winning songs will be used, only that our votes might have a lasting effect. No pressure.

In true #travelingfanproblems form, I sat staring at the list and realized I had a variety of types of favorites. I could give you a list of top songs I like to hear live, top songs that are meaningful to me personally, and top songs I’d choose for non-fans to hear, and there might not be a lot of overlap on those lists. It was definitely a challenge to try to pick an ultimate top 25 that somehow combined all of those qualities. (These were my picks, if you’re curious. I already regret cutting "Runaway Run.")

All this to say I thought it might be fun to make my own completely biased top 25 list. Every once in a while at a show, a specific performance of a song just stands out as special. It might be a song that has never been performed live, or it might be a song I’ve heard a dozen times or more that Hanson just completely nailed in that moment. Keep in mind it’s biased, limited to my own experiences, and totally subjective. They're kind of in order, but I'm sure I forgot something, and the only one I'd stick to under pressure is my #1. I linked a few videos, none of which belong to me, and none of which really portray what it was like to be there. You understand. Here are 25 times Hanson blew my mind.

My Top 25 Hanson Performances

1. On & On Vancouver, BC, CA 10/2/13
This one got half a blog post all to itself. Acapella Hanson singing one of my favorite songs in my face is ALWAYS welcome.

2. Roller Coaster Love Tulsa, OK 5/5/13
Zac & Taylor both played drums. At the same time on mirrored drum kits.

3. Use Me Up Tulsa, OK 5/16/09 (Stand Up Stand Up recording, 3rd session)
None of us had ever heard the song before, and the emotion in it took me off guard. It was the first time I ever felt like crying at a Hanson show, but in a good way.

4. Chain of Fools Los Angeles, CA 11/1/15
Really, I could have picked any city this song was performed in because Zac has consistently blown me away every time I’ve heard it.

5. Being Me Albuquerque, NM 9/17/13
This has to be the best performance of anything I have ever seen Isaac give. It wasn't the first or only time I'd heard this song live, but Isaac was just 120% on that night.

6. Go Falls Church, VA 11/14/10
Zac taught the crowd to sing backup to his solo, and it was kind of impressive. The look on his face when everyone sang it back to him was pretty unforgettable.

7. Feeling Alive Tulsa, OK 5/20/16
This one gets on the list less for epic performance quality and more for its ability to make me completely emotional with no warning the first time it was performed. I can't wait to hear the finished recording.

8. Sunny Day/Cecilia Tulsa, OK 5/14/11
Neither song will ever be as good without the other. The stomp claps in that room were just perfect and can never be replicated.

9. Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade Durham, NC 5/7/08
It was the end of the last show of the tour, and it was my birthday. I remember Zac pulling his hair out of his ponytail and headbanging. The crowd was nuts. I jumped the entire song and could barely move when it was over.

10. Happy Together Albuquerque, NM 9/17/13
It just happened to be my first show of the tour and the first night they chose to play a new cover. "Happy Together" is an incredibly accurate statement for how we all felt, and it was just a really fun performance.

11. The Walk Atlanta, GA 10/26/11
To quote my own blog: "Something about that song that night though was so perfect that I want to use sappy words like "flawless," "captivating," and dare I say "moving" to describe it. I just stood there and listened and almost forgot where I was until it ended, and I could tell by the looks on the familiar faces around me that I wasn't the only one that felt that way. It's moments like those that keep me coming back."

12. Leave the Light On Atlanta, GA 10/16/07
We didn't know this song existed at the time; it first appeared on a membership kit a year later. Isaac walked out on stage alone with a guitar and started talking about how it had been too long since they played Atlanta. He said "As a token of my gratitude, I'd like to play a song that has never been played before." And then we all died.

13. Lost Without You Tulsa, OK 5/16/15
If you were there or you had the pleasure of seeing the livestream, you know exactly how amazing this solo performance was. It left everyone wondering "Why doesn't he play this more often?"

14. Kiss Me When You Come Home Seattle, WA 9/30/13
I never thought much about this song one way or another until I heard it as a Taylor solo and fell in love with the piano.

15. Superfreak/Can't Touch This with Meiko, Chicago, IL 9/28/11
Points for spontaneity and Isaac's courage to rap. You get two videos for this one because sound quality vs. facial expressions.

16. The National Anthem Tulsa, OK
I’m going to be completely honest. I don’t remember what year this happened, just that it was some time between 2011-2013. A guy raised his hand during the Q&A session and when Hanson chose him, his question turned out to be “Will you sing the National Anthem?” The whole thing was super random, but Hanson did it acapella with zero preparation, and they still nailed it.

17. Voice in the Chorus St. Petersburg, FL 11/5/10
If you didn't experience "Voice in the Chorus" on the Shout it Out tour, you missed out. Isaac did a lot of headbanging and it was impossible to stand still.

18. A Song For You Atlanta, GA 10/19/16
Despite the fact that this song isn't a Hanson song, it feels made for Taylor's voice.

19. I Want You to Want Me w/Cheap Trick, Chicago, IL 10/11/09
The sound quality wasn't amazing. There's not a good youtube video out there where you can hear a thing that's going on. To be honest, we were all probably screaming more over the spectacle of it all than the vocals, But Cheap Trick as a surprise guest couldn’t not make the list.

20. If Only (w/Let's Get it On) Asheville, NC 5/5/08
"If Only" is always amazing live. It's even better from the front row when Isaac breaks out a verse of "Let's Get it On" for the second time ever, and you all thought you missed out on the first time.

21. You Can't Stop Us Negril, Jamaica 1/14/13
This was before Anthem and before they decided to make it a shared lead. Zac sang lead on the whole song, and it felt far more like Queen than in any more recent performances.

22. In a Way Negril, Jamaica 1/11/14
This was the opening song to one of the best Hanson shows I've ever seen. The drums stood out to me in a way they never did on the studio version.

23. Give a Little Asheville, NC 7/30/10
When you unexpectedly become part of the performance, you have to include it in your list.

24. MMMBop New York,  NY 10/22/11
If you've ever seen me jumping oddly during MMMBop, this is why. Hanson played a VH1 Saves the Music event at an elementary school. Isaac started jumping to show the kids how to jump in time to the music. They loved it. He loved it. I loved it. And we left calling it the "MMMHop" before the beer ever existed.

25. Crazy Beautiful- Charlotte, NC 11/20/13
I asked for this song as a solo on multiple occasions and finally got it. And then it went from solo to full band and morphed into one of my favorite songs from that tour, "Happy Together."

And an honorable mention for Oh! Darling because it's always flawless and on point, so it's impossible to pick just one performance of it.

What moments would make your list? Do we have any in common?



July 8, 2016

#TenTweets: ABC's Greatest Hits

Confession: I have a not-so-guilty pleasure of scrolling the #Hanson tag on twitter any time the guys are on primetime TV or play a big festival for more than existing fans. I love seeing the variety of reactions, particularly from people who haven't heard from Hanson in years. There's always a range of the predictable ("These guys grew up!"), the pleasantly surprised ("Wait, do I like Hanson now?"), and the out-of-left-field ("One of them grew up to look like a mini Billy Ray Cyrus"). So I decided, why not take you guys on the entertainment journey with me and make a blog series out of it? Here we go. Ten of my favorite tweets sparked by Hanson's performance on ABC's Greatest Hits.

First, a factual account. Also, water is wet and the captain is obvious.


This is actually a really valid point that didn't occur to me during the "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin" performance.


Wait...what?


Also firmly in the "left field" category.


If this is true, kindly direct me to your PTA sign-up sheet.


Words of actual wisdom.


FINALLY.







Okay, we'll start AND end with #facts.



June 5, 2016

Get Loud: 2016 EP Review



There’s something special about the Loud EP that felt a bit missing on the last EP or two. If you don’t have it yet or aren’t sure if you plan to renew, it’s good, guys. It’s REALLY good. If you don't like spoilers and haven't heard the songs for yourself to form your own opinions, I suggest you stop now.

1. OOH LA LA LA 

I guess it was only a matter of time before we got another song with a nonsense title and chorus. “Ooh La La La” is the 2016 version of “Dance Like You Don’t Care.” It’s the fun but superficial track complete with food imagery:  “You’re reckless with your spice/I would happily not share/Love what you’re cooking/Damn good looking”. (I might prefer last year’s “Have it sautéed, grilled or filleted.” If you're going to go cheesy, go all the way.) My friend that works at Perkins pointed out that there is a menu item called the “Ooh La La French Toast Platter,” and I can’t help but laugh because of the food imagery in the song. That toast is pretty darn good looking, and I probably wouldn’t share.

If I had to pick a least favorite on Loud, it’s probably this one. I know, probably not the best way to lead a review of something I’m claiming is really good, but “least favorite” doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It’s kind of like saying vanilla is my least favorite cake flavor; it’s still cake.

Favorite part: It sounds fun? I don't really have one. It's probably why this one didn't rank higher.

2. STOP ME IN MY TRACKS

I love this one. It easily ranks 2nd for me if not tied for first. It sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of an 80s movie and I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t have much to say about this one because my love for it comes 100% from the sound. I could talk about lyrics all day, but I always fall short when it comes to describing the technical side of music. You’ll have to listen and judge it for yourself, and be prepared for your brain to put it on repeat whether or not it's actually playing.

Favorite part: The entire bridge (“I don’t want to wake up dead inside…”). Hanson is always at their best when there is a harmony-driven breakdown.

3. NO REST FOR THE WEARY

This song is anything but filler material between albums and wins the first place spot for me. It has this super catchy “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” kind of sound, but it’s the lyrics that take it to the next level. It tells the story of the underdog that managed to keep his confidence in spite of life’s obstacles, or maybe because of them. The narrator is stubborn and headstrong in the best way possible and speaks as someone who has experience being told no and then relishing the moment of proving everyone wrong (“Brother, don’t waste my time/I’ve already made up my mind”). He outlines all of the flaws that make up who he is, but he’s not offering an apology for any of them.  It comes off as “this is who I am, deal with it,” and you kind of have to love him for it.

Hanson is always quick to say that their songs are rarely autobiographical, but I think this one has a lot of truth in it for them. I absolutely love the line “Cause my feet can’t move/to where my heart just ain’t.” I think it perfectly sums up a band of guys that took the road less traveled and found their success by sticking to their guns and not compromising their values just for the sake of doing what’s safe and profitable. They’re not afraid to eat the occasional hat or lose a case if they’re doing it for the right reasons.

The one line that threw me off at first was “Cause I take my cue from a condemned man” because I couldn’t figure out who the man would be. After a few listens I thought about how Jesus was condemned. His followers would certainly fall into the category of “the weary” and understand the struggles of the underdog (and there's Matthew 11:28: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."). I don’t know if that interpretation is right, but it fits and I like it. Feel free to tell me in the comments if you have an alternative explanation for the identity of the “condemned man.”

Favorite part: “And I can’t resist/ When I hear proclaimed/That it can’t be done/Boy that’ll never be changed.” Amen, guys. Keep proving people wrong.

4. SOMETHING LOUD

 My interpretation of this song was influenced a lot by Isaac’s choice to discuss his belief in God during his lecture and the fact that I share in those beliefs. I’m a little hesitant to put such a specific interpretation out there that I know might change the way some people look at the song, but this is my take and I’d be happy to hear other perspectives.

The song makes several references to the “River of Live.” The first line sets it up as though it could be the name of a bar, but “River of Life” is a Biblical reference symbolic of the offer of eternal life.  The opening line “I go down to the River of Life/Every night for a cure/To my worrying mind” reads to me like a man who regularly looks to God for guidance and answers. Even the image of going “down” to the River of life makes me think of someone getting on their knees to pray. The whole song feels like a metaphor of someone in search of “something stronger” than the drinks you can find in just any bar and praying for something more, “something loud.” In the second verse, it says “If you’re a regular here/You’re probably drinking alone/For a stiff drink, you’re out of luck/Every pull from the draft/you’ll say ‘Give me something stronger…’.”

I’m going to quote the Bible to wind up my point here. In John 4:13-14, Jesus (speaking about regular well water) said: "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Until the guy in the song starts looking for that kind of drink from the River of Life, he's always going to feel thirsty like he still needs something stronger.

Favorite part: The sound of this song live. Isaac nails it in a way that doesn't quite come across in the recording.

5. SIREN CALL

In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures that would use their gift of beauty and song to lure sailors off course and ultimately crash to a rocky death.  I think in this song, the siren call isn’t music itself, but is symbolic of the dangers of letting yourself lose sight of your goals and getting off course. The first verse is all about living with stress and hardships. The lyrics say “No straighter path than to struggle/’Cause when we rest we fear/And it draws them near.” It’s saying that the straightest path is always going to be a struggle, but the minute you stop pushing towards your goal and let yourself rest is when you’ll fall victim to more dangerous obstacles, whether that’s some outside distraction or maybe even your own mindset.

Favorite part: The “woo oows” are just the right amount of eerie to complement a song about falling victim to a siren call. I also like the line “Before the music stops,” because it’s obviously referring to the siren song, but I think being told from the perspective of a musician, it could also refer to the fact that a musician falling victim to a metaphorical siren could stop them on their journey to create music.

Also, I’m pretty sure Hanson is made up of the best sirens in the business. God knows we’ve all gone down some crazy paths to follow that music, though the rock we get is hardly deadly. I hope it never stops.



May 29, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 2: Play

title photo provided by @vdarkbeauty

Hanson Day 2016 was so jam-packed with events that I don't even know where to begin. I attended karaoke, the dance party, lectures, State of the Band, group photos, parts of the Mayfest and Blue Dome festivals, and the third annual Hop Jam in addition to the Hanson show. Honestly, this two part series probably could have been a three part series with part 1: Music, part 2: Isaac's lecture, and part 3: Everything else. If you missed part 1, you can check out the music review HERE.

Karaoke & Dance Party

I really wasn't sure what to expect for this first trial of Karaoke. I knew it could be a disaster if nobody had the guts to get up and sing, but it turned out that was an unfounded worry. There were so many brave entries (enough that not everyone got to participate, unfortunately), and a few lucky ladies had the unexpected pleasure of singing with Isaac. One even got to perform with both Isaac and Taylor! I'm sure nobody came to karaoke expecting to round out the 3rd space in Hanson and fill in for Zac.

I planned to offer my moral support but had no interest in putting myself in the spotlight for this one. (At one point I ran into Isaac and he asked if I planned to sing. My word-for-word response was "Not if you paid me.") But then my friends signed up for one of the few songs I actually knew all the words to, and we were all in matching shirts, and the power of friendly peer pressure and a lot of begging won me over. I was so, so close to sitting it out, but in the end I'm glad I joined in. It's definitely one for this year's anti-bucket list and not something I EVER thought I'd do (also now on the list--directly lying to Isaac's face. It was accidental karaoke, I swear!). I wasn't even that nervous when I got up there, which I think was due to the super supportive crowd and the fact that we made Emily hold the microphone. It was fun to watch all of the other performers and I hope they'll keep the event going for another year. I also really want to spell it "Karaokie" because Oklahoma.

The dance party served as sort of a bachelorette party for one of my friends that I hadn't seen in a while, so we all had a blast together. The venue was much more crowded than Cain's which was good and bad in my opinion. It felt more active and fun than past years from where we were standing, but it was almost too crowded at times. Taylor didn't get drunk or play "Another One Bites the Dust," to the dismay of many, I'm sure.

Afterwards we stood around outside and met a random guy who kept asking why we were standing in line even though (for once) we weren't. We got to talking for a while and he ended up climbing the face of the violin shop next door for us. I don't know. Good times.

Lectures
The standout event outside of the music for me had to be Isaac's lecture. I think the message that he shared with us took a lot of courage and came from a place of sincere conviction. He had the kind of passion where you can tell someone really cares about what they're saying, and I couldn't help but listen intently. It felt intimate in a way that is difficult to accomplish in a room full of hundreds of people.

The lecture was called "You Matter," and he started by talking about how each one of us has a place in the world and how he believed that us being in that room together was no accident. I tend to agree. He encouraged us to feel good about ourselves and our self worth and to trust our instincts. I wish it could have been streamed for everyone or posted for us to all hear again later, because it was so inspiring and had a great message about believing in yourself and doing good for other people that I think everyone needs to hear once in a while.

He  even got into the scientific side of emotions and talked about the effects of endorphins and seratonin and oxytocin in different social situations and how the effects essentially mean that love is a drug and that doing good for others can be one too because of the chemical reaction it creates in the body. He hit on the fact that social media/notifications/etc. can trigger a dopamine release that feels good for a moment but is the same chemical that is related to addictions and is ultimately a negative thing because it's an empty positive feeling. The irony of seeing a few people using their cell phones through the entire lecture wasn't lost on me in this moment.

He ended by talking about the chain reaction of doing a good deed for someone and how it makes that person want to go on to do good for someone else, and the whole chain of positivity that it creates as a result. This really hit me on my flight home when I wound up seated in a row with a single mother traveling with a two year old and a two month old. I was already in my seat when she showed up with a baby strapped to her chest and a toddler in a wheeled car seat. She was clearly struggling and I wasn't sure how to help since I was a stranger and these were her babies. A woman in the next aisle asked if she needed help, and the mother let out a grateful "Yes!" and began to unstrap her two month old. She handed the baby over to this complete stranger and I was shocked, but then completely inspired by how willing this lady was to help and how gently she held and rocked the baby. I helped the mother lift the car seat with her two year old and together we buckled it into the plane. I put his cute little frog headphones over his head and helped brush his hair out of his face so that he could watch Little Einsteins, and the mother turned to me and said "If it weren't for the kindness of strangers, I wouldn't have survived this trip." I couldn't help but smile and think of Isaac's lecture.

A few direct quotes I jotted down in the "Embrace a Courageous Future" notebook they handed out:
"Music is innately a spiritual thing." -I
"Take the road less traveled and don't be afraid. You were born for right now." -I
"Generosity is the cure to loneliness." -I
"I believe that there is a God, and that is why I believe all of these things."-I
"Twitter is not love."-I
"Thou shalt watch What About Bob."-I
(yes, that happened)

Books Isaac suggested:
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Taylor's lecture was about not leaving songs unwritten and being brave enough to do what you feel passionate about and seeing it through. He told a fun anecdote about how he was inspired to write "Dying to Be Alive" in some situation where he didn't have his regular music equipment with him, so he wrote it on a keyboard propped up on a broken ironing board that kept involuntarily lowering while he was playing. He mentioning people vomiting in the background but I missed how that fit into the whole story. That's dedication to your craft, though! He also discussed and played part of "With You In Your Dreams" again, I sobbed again, and this is me putting in an official request to leave it out of the lecture lineup next year, please and thank you.

The only note I made during Taylor's lecture:
"Don't leave the song unwritten"- T. He said not just literal songs, but in any profession, even if you're a plumber. Which I interpret as...don't leave the drain unclogged?

Zac's lecture was called "Choo Choo Trains of Thought" in true before and after Jeopardy form. Every little boy likes to build trains, right? We basically watched Zac built one with his voice. One of the weirder lyrics on his thought train was "Trying not to freak out from the bodies floating in my bubble bath." He explained that we were the crazy ones because while we were picturing dead bodies, he was just picturing taking a bubble bath with G.I. Joes. There were some lines about going down to the river with the postman, and nature's divide. It's definitely a train of thought style song, and you can interpret where you think that train is going. I'm not entirely sure, but I enjoyed it more than his previous Hanson Day songs.

A few notes:
"I believe in you. It's just the song doesn't." -Z, on our apparently bad rhythm
"You can call me Sir Topham Hat." -Z

During State of the Band there was talk of a world tour in 2017 and a new Christmas album for next year as well for the 20th aniversary of Snowed In, working title Wintry Mix (full pun approval here). I can't wait to see what else is in store and maybe do a bit of world travel myself in my 10th year of following this band.

Until then, up next?




May 24, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 1: Loud

When I started this blog, I just wanted a place to keep track of all of my show memories so I wouldn’t forget them. I never consciously decided to weave in any specific theme or overarching message, but over time I think one naturally appeared anyway. Ask any fan that has ever traveled for this band, and they’ll tell you that Hanson has given us all so much more than mp3 tracks and an autograph collection. The theme is that music is this wonderful catalyst and the byproduct is friendship and genuine human connection. It’s a topic I seem to talk about more and more frequently as those friendships continue to build and grow within the fan community.

This year, I want to go back to ground zero: the music. For me, a truly great show is rarely ever isolated to just the music; it’s a combination of the performance and plenty of other variables like the company, location, or some specific interaction. This particular show didn’t fit that mold for me. Don’t get me wrong, the friendships and all of those other variables were great as usual, but something about the new music just firmly planted this one in the “other” category in the best way possible. It's great to be able to get something more than auditory satisfaction from music, but I think at the core it's still important to be able to connect to the music on an individual level and not get completely taken away by the wonderful byproducts we value so much. Something about this show felt more personal and internal than communal to me and fit well with Isaac's discussion of music and spirituality having a place together. This one was all about the music for me.

The songs they debuted blew me away in a way that I haven’t felt before at any of my 100+ shows (the closest was hearing Use Me Up for the first time live at the MOE in 2009). That probably sounds like a huge exaggeration, and maybe I got caught up in the moment a bit, but that's my honest first reaction. The music felt fresh and inspired and enthusiastic in a way that I didn’t get from the last few EPs (or maybe ever, if I’m being honest).  I’ve made the comment here before that going to a Hanson show is not a religious experience for me, but I have to say this is the closest I’ve come so far to revoking that statement. The music from Play in particular was just outstanding to me. There was one song called “Feeling Alive” that made me feel like I wanted to cry because it was so good and so right. It made me emotional for no good reason that I could identify other than pure satisfaction of a song well done.  I don’t even remember how it went, but I remember how I felt. Maybe the feelings I had were facilitated by the vaulted ceilings and the crowd of raised arms below me at the Brady, but it felt like a Hanson revival of sorts. I hope the recording can capture even a fraction of what it felt like to be in that room for me.

If you watched the Making of Loud live streams at all, there was one that started with a short clip of Zac playing a song on the piano that had the line “Do you believe that somebody’s made for you.” It was really pretty and I was worried that it was going to be another great segment that would go into the Hanson vault for years to come, so I was surprised and delighted to hear it at the show. It went from what sounded like a ballad in the stream to this epic pop song that Zac said has the biggest vocal range out of any Hanson song yet, and is probably only second in speed to “White Collar Crimes.” It sounds like Queen and Hanson and birthday cake and money raining from the sky. I am not leaving disappointed.

I don't remember much about "Joyful Noise" or "Man on Top" except that I liked both of those a lot too, and "Man on Top" had a "na na" part that I swear was just a few syllables shy of being the Clarissa Explains it All theme song. Sorry if you'll never unhear that now.

The songs from Loud are all catchy and earworm worthy and my brain can't seem to decide which one it wants to put on a permanent loop. I think it's a toss up between "No Rest for the Weary" and "Stop Me in My Tracks" so far. They ended up removing the kazoo parts, and I have to confess I think it was a good call because it sounded great without it. I'm not sure the world was ready for the sound of a swarm of bumblebees humming along to Hanson music. I've just read through all of the lyrics and I can't even tell you how excited they make me, especially "No Rest for the Weary." I'll cut the Loud commentary short because I'll do a full review of the EP later since I already have it in hand.

I've mostly avoided reading other fans' opinions and commentary on the weekend so I could figure out where I stood first without second guessing myself, so I don't know if I'm the lone crazy that absolutely loved it all or if I'm speaking for the class again. Maybe people will read this and go "OMG, were we even at the same show?" and think I'm being sappy as usual, but I hope there's a pretty big group of "OMG, me too!" I can honestly say I have so much confidence in the sound of this new music, and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for Hanson and for us.

Part 2: Play (Hanson Day Events)


March 27, 2016

MMMStop: A Fan’s Reaction to Hanson in the Media

We’ve seen an unexpected spike in Hanson mentions lately, and it’s kind of ironic when you think about it. In the last ten years, Hanson has had multiple new albums and tours, started a non-profit charity organization, and hosted a music and beer festival with over 30,000 attendees, all while most media outlets were busy covering things like the next seasonal Starbucks flavor or which muffin looks the most like a Chihuahua. Meanwhile, all it takes is someone getting a little bit confused about the release date of “MMMBop,” and suddenly an article about singing the wrong words to a ~20-year-old song goes viral. As a die-hard fan, it’s a little annoying, but we’re used to the MMMBop commentary by now. I’ll hit the “share” button and smile knowing that maybe a handful of people will be reintroduced to a forgotten talent, because this is the internet, and I know all too well that sometimes you click a random link and find yourself 47 Youtube videos deep three hours later.

Right after these MMMBop articles made the rounds, I spotted a new article with the title "Reminder: The Men from Hanson Are All Grown Up Now" while scrolling through Facebook on a break at work. I spent the rest of the day thinking “Good for them. Here’s someone that actually wants to focus on Hanson’s current music.” I sat down at my computer to read it as soon as I got home, ready to applaud whatever forward thinker took the time to see past the apparent blinding success of “MMMBop.”

Maybe I should have anticipated that the entire article would be one big Buzzfeed slobberfest over Hanson’s appearances. It turns out grown-up Hanson is “hot enough to just melt the pants right off ya” and not much else these days. Somewhere around the gif of Isaac’s hair flip, it occurred to me that I can either continue to be annoyed by shallow articles, or I can stop hoping to click on that perfectly enlightened piece that doesn’t exist and write it myself. It won't go viral and I offer no sweaty gifs to lure you in, but here’s the truth every Hanson fan wants you to know every time you see an “MMMBop” article.

1. First of all, MMMBop rocks, okay?
It’s not the embarrassing Pokemon shirt you refused to take off in 3rd grade that your friends still won’t let you live down; it’s a Grammy-nominated song that hit #1 in 27 countries. You’re doing pretty well if that’s the one moment from your childhood that people choose to dwell on.

2. Who cares if they're pretty?
I’m not about to argue with the fact that the members of Hanson are attractive, but that fact is so irrelevant to their talent and their craft that it shouldn’t even rank in the conversation. It’s like writing an article about a presidential candidate and mentioning the fact that they have feet. Who cares, unless we’re looking for a candidate that can run a marathon in addition to a country? Nobody in Hanson is trying to be a model or a pinup, and I’m pretty sure Zac’s face isn’t going to surprise us with a killer drum solo any time soon.

3. The Hanson I know melts faces, not pants.
If you go to a show, yea, they’ll probably play “MMMBop.” They’ll also play songs from their other five albums, and the whole crowd will know every word. The energy is intense, so you’ll probably get your feet trampled if you try to stand still during “If Only” or “In the City.” You’ll involuntarily stomp during “You Can’t Stop Us;” I don’t care who you are. If you're lucky, you'll get to experience their cover of the Beatles’ “Oh Darling,” and you’ll have to swear to yourself that you’ll never tell another soul that Hanson did it better. Their harmonies will SLAY you. I dare you to go to a show and not enjoy or at least respect some aspect of it.

4. They continue to grow and change, just like everyone else.
And if you must judge them on qualities beyond their music, remember that they’re philanthropists and goofballs and genuinely good people. They aren’t afraid of hard work or criticism, and they’ve had lots of experience with both. I hope we never forget MMMBop, and I hope their faces will stick around for a long time, but my God, do I hope they keep making music more than anything. You guys can keep your nostalgia; I can't wait to see what they do next.


March 23, 2016

I'm (Not) With the Band


If you're going to follow a band, someone somewhere is inevitably going to call you a "groupie." The definition varies depending on where you look, but a quick Google search reveals the connotation most people connect to the term as "a particular kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in relationships with rockstars than in their music."

It's a harsh term that doesn't describe me in the slightest, but I have to admit I'm a little intrigued by anyone that would actually fit the description and claim that title. As an avid reader (and scourer of Goodreads recommendations), I've come across the book I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres on multiple occasions. It's an account of one of rock's "original" groupies coming of age during the 60's and into the early 70's, and it tells of her encounters with a slew of rockstars like Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, just to name a few of the most recognizable on the list. When I found out that Pamela was part of the inspiration behind the notorious Penny Lane in Almost Famous, I was further intrigued. After years of telling myself that it sounded interesting and that I would read it one day, I finally sat down and read her story.

I felt a little more than just morbid curiosity before I opened the pages. Here was a real girl that loved music and grew up idolizing her favorite musicians, and who also loved writing about it. To be completely honest, I think I was a little bit afraid that if you cut out the sordid affairs and some of the pages of star-studded objectification, I might be left holding some warped mirror in my hands. Maybe deep down my hesitancy to read this book comes from a strange jealousy, because I know that if I ever chose to write a book about traveling for a band, there are only so many people that would care to read about my clean, goody-two-shoes idea of a good time on the road. I didn't want to find myself in those pages, but I kind of had to know if there would be some kinship between a girl that follows the music and a girl that follows the musician.

I was a little bit relieved to realize that I didn't find myself going "OMG, me too!" at any point during the book, which falls right in line with my feelings on the fictional Penny Lane. (Like my fellow bloggers Miranda and Danielle have said, I'd choose to be William > Penny Lane any day).

In Penny Lane fashion, she explains early on: "I tried not to think of myself as being cheap or easy or any of those other terms that were used to describe loose, free, peace-loving girls; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music." (p. 57)

It's not a fear I'll ever have to worry about, but the second half of that sentence is something we can all relate to. The first half is practically a blank waiting to be filled in with whatever crazy behavior you're willing to carry out in the name of music.

"[Insert crazy thing you did here, followed by this excuse]; I just wanted to show my appreciation for their music."

Maybe it's just a matter of your own personal circumstances and values to find out what you might put in that scary little blank. I'm sure I could fill it several times over with my own version of crazy.

"I camped out on a sidewalk all night; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."
"I drove for 20 hours without stopping to sleep to get to the show; I just wanted to show my appreciation for the music."

The list could go on for all of us.

By the end of the book, I found that I had grown to respect Miss Pamela more than I expected. Not because of her list of rockstar conquests or for her own growing claim to fame, but for showing no remorse or regret for any of it. If there's one message in this book that I can agree with, it's this: don't ever apologize for doing what you love. As she ends in her prelude: "I'm honored to have spent time with some of the finest and brightest that rock 'n' roll had to offer. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat."

As for other similarities, well...we chose the same blog title font?

March 3, 2016

Luggage Tag Giveaway

Confession: I call myself a traveling fan, yet I've somehow never owned a luggage tag. I guess it's not much of a necessity when you're a strict carry-on traveler who rarely checks a bag, but my new suitcase is just begging for an identifiable accessory. What better way to personalize my bag than with a Hanson lyric about travel? I had a hard time choosing the perfect lyric, but I love the end result:


I liked the idea so much that I decided I wanted one of you guys to have one, too! I opened a poll for readers to vote for their favorite travel lyric, but when there wasn't a unanimous decision, I decided to go a different route. The winner will get to choose their own lyric as well as having the back engraved with their personal contact information. The tag is handmade leather from Bramble & Beene on Etsy and will be custom-designed based on your preferences.

I thought about all of the actions I could request to get entries--like my page, share this post, answer this question, but in the end I decided I just want this to be a thank you for reading and for encouraging me to continue writing about the things I'm passionate about.

So how can you win this fabulous piece of leather craftsmanship?

There are two ways. Using the widget below, simply choose the "click here to enter" option for a free entry. You can earn a second bonus entry by selecting the tweet option to let others know about the giveaway. Entries will be accepted for one week and will close at midnight EST on Friday, March 11th (Thursday night). Everyone is welcome to enter, and the winner will be selected at random by rafflecopter.com. The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours of the drawing and will have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you don't win? You can still head over to the Bramble & Beene shop on Etsy and order your own custom tag, passport cover, and plenty of other great gifting items. I'd love to see a picture of your creation if you do.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Update: Now that the winner has been notified and given her prize, I thought you might like to see the great lyric she picked:




February 15, 2016

Five Setlist Themes for BTTI 2017







We know that Back to the Island 2017 attendees will be given the opportunity to vote on setlist themes, but so far, we have no idea what the theme options are.  Once again, minimal details plus maximum excitement means it's time for a healthy dose of speculation. Here are a few I'd like to see.

1. I'll Borrow Your Lead
A lead-swap set. Ever wondered what it would sound like for Zac to sing lead on Save Me, or Isaac to sing lead on Broken Angel? Now you have.

2. Fan club/B-sides/Rare songs set.
Self-explanatory. Doesn't everybody want this?

3. An Island-inspired covers set. 
I've already expressed my feelings on this one. I think it made more sense to do this in 2016 combined with their other R'n'R tour covers, but maybe there's still a way to combine it with another theme or mix in Hanson songs to create a full setlist.

4. A "Voice in the Chorus" set.
Songs with crowd participation parts.

5. Never Played Live/Unreleased

Not just "rare" songs, but songs that have never been played live anywhere. It's not gonna happen, but a girl can dream.

And an honorable mention for a few things that I think would draw very mixed reactions: A pre-1997 set. A Digital Pants set. And let's file a Fool's Banquet set under the "never gonna happen" heading, too. I'd also love the acoustic set that we were shorted at this BTTI to make a reappearance in the form of a chaotic and overcrowded campfire sing-a-long after a show.

Truthfully, I can't think of many themes that make sense as a full set, and I'm super curious what Hanson will come up with as our real options. I wonder if they're as stuck on this as I was, or if they're going about it in a completely different way. Here are a few failed ideas that came to mind when I was brainstorming for this post:

1. Songs with the most frequently forgotten lyrics.
Featuring Penny & Me, Best of Times, and Give Me Your Best Shot, for starters. We'll bring the cue cards.

2. A "No Cameras Allowed" set.
Please?? Also known as the #unpopularopinion set.

3. Tragic Symphony set
aka all the tearjerkers, Just no.

4. Love Song(s)
Don't hate me here. I feel like there is a chance some variation of this could be a real option. But as a (happily) forever single person, I just don't think I want a whole set of this.

5. Songs that are shorter than Isaac's introductions to them.

I say this with love...and amusement.

I'd love to hear some ideas from other fans, and we already have a conversation going about it over in the hanson.net forums. Feel free to join in! So far, my favorite suggestion came from Kelly, who pitched the idea of a "BTTI mixtape contest" where fans submit their own ideal setlist and have Hanson choose one to play. What potential theme excites you the most?


February 4, 2016

Happy Camper

I’ve been really fascinated lately by the concept of cruises and adult sleepaway camps, though I’ve never been to either. Let me explain.

We’ve been joking since year one that Hanson’s Back to the Island event is basically Hanson Camp for adults. You make friends with strangers, do crafts, and go swimming and kayaking. You stay up all night talking and share a late-night snack around a bonfire. In the end, you hug everyone goodbye, tell them to keep in touch, and hope to see them next year. And with the announcement of a fifth installment for 2017, it feels like now more than ever it is becoming every bit as much of a reunion between friends as it was a nuanced event with Hanson in the beginning. Is it possible that one day soon, the term “camp” in Hanson context will stop drawing to mind sleeping bags and line drama and shift to thoughts of friendship bracelets, postcards, and bittersweet goodbyes? I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s kind of a nice thought.


I recently saw a link to an adult summer camp called Soul Camp and was so fascinated to find out that adult sleepaway camps exist. I had no idea! The more I read about it, the more I thought “This is basically Back to the Island, but without Hanson.” These people return year after year solely for the fellowship and the fun with no common band to rally around, and it feels like solid evidence that maybe Back to the Island—or following a band in general—is about something bigger than a band. That maybe choosing to spend your hard-earned money to repeat an experience you’ve had multiple times doesn’t necessarily land you in the crazy fangirl groupie category after all, but in some bigger human connection category. People can say what they want (and they will), but choosing to pay a lot for the same experience over and over doesn’t have to be symptomatic of a crazy obsessed fangirl; it’s symptomatic of being a person that enjoys adventure and meaningful experiences and friends. It’s symptomatic of finding something worthwhile and being wise enough not to let it go, despite what anyone else thinks you should do.

I was already a little more aware of the concept of cruises with repeat attendees than adult camps. The Rock Boat would be my prime example, but even regular cruises without a music connection draw repeaters that have built life-long friendships aboard a ship of strangers. I came across an article on Buzzfeed called “I Tried to Become the Most Popular Person on a Cruise,” and while I think a more accurate title might be “I Tried to Become the Most Popular Person on a Cruise So I Could Write a Buzzfeed Article About It,” it struck me yet again that there is this entire subculture of people that return year after year to a specific event, and a large part of the reason is the opportunity to connect with other people. Sure, it’s a multi-faceted experience and a bit dismissive to say the only reason people return to these events is for the friendships, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s more to these experiences than the beautiful beaches, ships, tents, and convention halls that they’re held in.

I’m not sure what my end goal is with this post. I’ve been aware for years that Hanson shows and long-distance friendships go hand-in-hand, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m not trying to argue that any given audience member at a Hanson show is there more for the girl next to her than for Isaac (though is that really such a bad thing?), but I love that you can look at entire groups of people with no connection to Hanson or any band for that matter that exhibit the same behaviors as Hanson fans. We’re definitely part of a subculture of something, and I’m not so sure it always fits neatly in the “music fan” category. The best part is I think it has always been this way; nothing has changed except maybe my perspective. Maybe the thing I've described is adult fangirlism, or simply the result of growing up. I don't know exactly what we are, but the one label I'll claim is "happy."