June 5, 2024

Time Machine: 2024 EP Review


If you've made it to this page, it's probably safe to assume that you're already aware of Hanson's fan club and the fact that they release an exclusive five(ish) song EP every year to fan club members. If not, well, now you are. You can visit this page on hanson.net to learn more, sign up, or renew. If you're already a member, there are two ways to listen. 1. You can stream the EP (and Hanson's entire catalog!) directly in their media player, or 2. If you're renewed through 2025, you can visit your order history page and download the song files directly to your device. Happy listening! 

Before I dive into each song, I want to point out that this year has provided a new challenge for anyone attempting a closer look at Time Machine. They haven't released the digital lyric booklet yet, which means I'm working off of what my own ears hear and a few crowdsourced fixes. I'd like to believe I'm a step up from some of the awesomely bad auto-generated youtube captions out there, but consider this your disclaimer that I've written these lyrics down as I hear them, and as of now there's no way to prove me wrong unless you can track down a Hanson and ask. Best of luck with that.

1. Every Time We Touch

At the end of each song segment you'll find my best attempt at transcribing the lyrics, and in the interest of transparency, I've made any text that I'm unsure about red. While "Every Time We Touch" is a contender for my favorite song on this EP, it's also the clear winner if we're giving a ribbon to the song with more red text than a King James New Testament. I really wasn't expecting an Isaac song to give me so much enunciation trouble, but this one had me going "What in the Taylor Hanson are you saying, sir?" on more than one occasion.

Good-natured heckling aside, the song is really fun. It has an 80s power-pop vibe that reminds me of songs like "Stop Me In My Tracks" (complete with similar car imagery) and "Somebody that Wants To Love You." Even without the complete lyrics, I can tell the general storyline is boy meets girl he likes and drives off into the sunset with her. I want to say that the "green lights, bright stars, and deep cuts" line is my favorite, but first I would need to be sure that's what he's saying. It just creates the perfect image of driving fast at night with a good sound track playing in the background, and I think the green light is more than just a traffic signal and is symbolic of the girl returning his feelings.

I didn't get to watch the listening party stream until I returned home from Tulsa, and I was shocked to learn that this song was born during an Isaac solo show at BTTI back in 2018. I was there in person and even briefly commented on how good his off-the-cuff writing was in my blog from that year. I can totally hear it now thanks to a little help from a clip shared on hansonstage, but I don't think I ever would have made that connection on my own. I'm glad to see it finally became a whole song and found a home on an EP.


2. Ahead of Your Time

This song immediately reminded me of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling, probably partly due to the fact that I had to memorize it in middle school, but also because I've heard Isaac bring it up a few times in passing. Without going full English teacher on you, I'll quickly say that "If" was published in 1910 and shares an author with The Jungle Book. The general premise is a father imparting wisdom on his son, and the structure is essentially a bunch of lines beginning with "If you can (insert responsible life lesson here)" and ending with a final line stating that if you can do all of these things, then "Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!" Basically, here's the formula for how to succeed in life.

I'm not suggesting that "If" was a conscious source of inspiration for "Ahead of Your Time," just that they share a common universal theme and a similar structure. And I PROMISE I'm not going to put the two side by side for a deeper nerd-level comparison, but if I did, I'd applaud the Hanson version for being more self-deprecating. Instead of implying "Here, son, learn from the master!" "Ahead of Your Time" takes a lot more subtle approach with a tone more along the lines of "I only know a few things for sure, but I'd like to share them with you." Honestly, I fall a little bit more in love with this song the more time I spend digging into it.

As for the sound, I think they nailed matching the melody to the lyrics. The chorus just oozes this sort of melancholy nostalgic feeling that's perfect for a song about the passage of time. Yes, it sounds like "Down" in places, but more than that I'm reminded of so many sad but catchy country songs of my childhood. It may not have the drawl or twang of a country song, but it feels like it has the heart of one.

On a less sappy, somewhat ridiculous note, between the "master of time" and "heart of a child," I feel like the wording in the chorus is a little bit Hocus Pocus, a little bit Doctor Who. If you mix the right ingredients: wisdom of elders, strength of your prime, and heart of a child, you can create a master of time. Were the Sanderson Sisters actually Time Lords?


3. I Don't Want To Work That Hard

"I Don't Want To Work That Hard" narrowly escaped the red letter lyric treatment, but only because re-watching the listening party stream corrected my misheard "Buddy, I'm sure" to "money off shore," and "Marry an influenza" just doesn't make grammatical sense even if it's 1,000% what he's saying.

In the stream, Zac mentioned that the character from this song is basically the same persona from songs like "White Collar Crime" and "Gold Miner" (he didn't say Seymour, but it sounds like Seymour, too). I love the idea of revisiting that guy from time to time with a new song updating us about his latest scheme or screwup. The song is pretty straight-forward and doesn't need an explanation, but I do love the bridge where you realize that maybe the guy is more than the lazy privileged tool he sounds like in the beginning. The mask of indifference slips off for just a moment, and you get a glimpse of a person who is incredibly overwhelmed and spiraling underneath all the fake bravado. But then the moment passes, and he goes right back to playing the role of the shallow guy who only cares about getting ahead and taking shortcuts to an easy life. It's kind of sad, but it makes for a better song.


4. Forever

"Forever" was giving me slightly religious vibes before I ever watched the listening party stream to confirm it. It sounds more like a romantic love than the type of love between a person and God, but it has several references to transcending the time we have on earth, so I think it's simply about a Godly marriage and spending the rest of your life with someone that you know is going to literally follow you into eternity. There's even a gospel choir in the background to tie it all together. Hanson left it all vague enough that you can take or leave the religious context and listen to it as just a love song if you want, but I do think it's there if you're looking for it.

This one has a few lyrics I'm unsure of, and ironically the one I'm least sure of is probably my favorite. During my first listen in my car, I was so sure I heard "You are the sixth string, the start of every daydream." I questioned for a moment what it meant. What has six strings? The answer I came up with was that a bass guitar typically has four, but a regular guitar has six. Musically, the sixth string brings the ability to play a melody and creates more harmony and depth in a song. It sounded like a great metaphor to me until I sat down to write out the lyrics, and after listening more closely, it sounds like "slip string." I asked a few friends and they echoed hearing "sixth string" and "slip string," but also added "sleep stream" and "sleep's dream." Whatever it is, I'm wondering if this is going to be that awkward moment where I wind up liking my own accidental lyric better than Hanson's.


P.S. I gave up transcribing the lyrics at the end because it kind of goes on, well, forever. I'll let you decide if that was a cleverly intentional choice.

5. Can't Stop Starting

I've already said that "Every Time We Touch" is a contender for my favorite song on this EP. "Can't Stop Starting" is its competition. I just love the ridiculously catchy tune, and it's the kind of song you can hear for 30 seconds and still be singing two days later. I also have to give it props for putting up a pretty good fight for my favorite cheesiest Hanson lyric of all time with a line like "I guess some just play with fire, 'cause pyros can't retire." (For now, first place is still held strong by "Have it sauteed, grilled or filleted, we're cooking up a backbeat, so pick up a plate.")

It also has a fun nod to their TTA song "Can't Stop" at the end, which led to a fun segue from "Can't Stop Starting" directly into "Can't Stop" at the Hanson Day concert.

The thing keeping "Can't Stop Starting" from taking first place, though? I can't get past the fact that the title/chorus sounds like a clever play on words at first, but when I stop and think about it, the meaning isn't immediately clear. Every time I hear it (which is plenty throughout the duration of the song), my grammar-trained brain begs "Finish your sentence! Can't stop starting WHAT?"

Obviously it's a song about a guy who can't help falling for a girl he meets, so I think logically the thing he can't stop starting is falling for her. Once those feelings get going, there's no putting it in reverse. It's already started, and he can't stop. There, it does make sense. But I still can't stop starting to wish there was one more word in there to make it a complete thought.

Do you hear any lyrics differently than I did or have any suggestions to fill in my blanks? Let me know!


May 29, 2024

Hanson Day 2024






Dearest Reader,

Those not in attendance at Cain’s Ballroom this past fortnight have surely missed the social event of the season.



Translation: My review is late because I used my only day off after flying home to binge watch the new season of Bridgerton instead of writing this post. My bad.



Fortunately, there was hardly enough drama, scandal, or match-making at Hanson Day to warrant the continued use of the Lady Whistledown format. (Though it is this author’s humble opinion that many young ladies in pursuit of making the acquaintance of a Hanson brother would be well-matched in tenacity and enthusiasm with the marriage mart mamas of the ton amidst a shortage of eligible suitors.)


But let’s put one nerdy fandom aside and focus on the one that actually brings us here.
As usual, I find myself struggling with how to discuss an event that's always a good time but looks the same as previous years on paper. I could probably write the entire post by copying and pasting excerpts from past reviews. Is it still plagiarism if I'm copying my own work? For now, I’ll spare you the memory lane mashup of quotes that still ring true and start by focusing on what wasn’t the same as past Hanson Days.


Food On The Move

The first difference for me was coming in a day early and attending my first Food On the Move event. To be completely honest, I’ve always supported Taylor’s involvement in FOTM from a distance, and it has never been clear to me if the organization really wanted Hanson fans to get involved in person or if they simply accepted that stamping Taylor’s name on something is going to draw our interest. If anyone has had the same reservations, I have to say that Taylor and Kevin’s speeches at the luncheon showed nothing but gratitude and encouragement for fan involvement. I’m not saying you should book a flight to volunteer at FOTM in hopes of rubbing elbows with Taylor (the same way the walks were never meant to be a mobile M&G), but if you have the ability to give back with your time or make a donation, they clearly want to make FOTM bigger and better and are thankful for any support they can get. Taylor and Kevin both spoke so passionately about what they are doing to help make things sustainable for a long term difference, and I can't wait to see how much progress they make by next Hanson Day. You can visit https://www.foodonthemoveok.com/ to learn more or make a donation.



HTP & Karaoke

The biggest change to the Hanson Day agenda this year was moving both Karaoke and the HTP recording from their usual location at The Vanguard to Cain's Ballroom with a much larger capacity. While I’m all for preserving the intimate vibes of a successful event, it has never made much sense to me to create an event that excludes people when you know so many are traveling extensively to be there and want to participate. It’s one thing to be disappointed that you can’t travel to go to an event; it’s another to make it all the way to the right city and still not be able to get in the door. I was happy they risked moving things to include more fans, and I enjoyed not panicking quite so much while buying tickets!

The HTP reporters asked great questions, and I have to agree with Katie's suggestion to release the EP a week before Hanson Day. Back in the day, we used to be handed the new EP at registration, IF it was ready, and then it was a scramble to locate a CD player and try to listen (I can recall one year's impromptu "listening party" crammed in a car in a Taco Bueno parking lot). More often than not, our first listen would be in Cain's with no clue of the lyrics, glaring at the loud talker next to us hoping they would shut up so we could make sense of what we were hearing. And let's be honest. Taylor's enunciation can be questionable on the clearest recording; there's no chance we're hearing those lyrics right for the first time in a crowd. (Cool song, bro, but why are we dancing like donkeys?). It was always a privilege to hear those songs for the first time ever in a live setting, but it also felt like a challenge to fully appreciate them until I got home and listened on my own.

The streaming EP listening parties offer an easier solution, but trying to listen in a room of six friends I haven't seen in a year is like trying to play a game of "who can stay quiet the longest" with a room full of kindergarteners. We just can't help excitedly talking over it. Releasing the EP on May 6th seems like the perfect way to give us more time to learn the songs and also celebrate actual Hanson day, which often gets passed over quietly. I understand Hanson's perspective of not wanting to take away part of the excitement of going to HDay, but consider me part of team release the EP on May 6th. Maybe the compromise is putting it in the media player for us on the 6th and still streaming a listening party during HDay with all of the behind the scenes/making of content.


In the interest of not wasting this whole segment feeding you my opinions on the EP release, I’ll also mention that there was a funny moment during HTP where Zac implied that they strategically crafted Hanson Day and waiting in lines on purpose to provide us with the opportunity to form bonds and make friends, and that we should be grateful for the opportunity to wait. Not quite wrong, but also…not quite right. Dear Zac, some of us make friends by the 3 hour mark and enemies by the 8th. If you’re going to take credit for my friends, just know that you’re equally responsible for ALL the interactions we've had in your lines. (In all seriousness, I haven’t made a line “enemy” in years, and the registration line has improved a lot in recent years. The store line is more of an enter-at-your-own-risk, you know what you’re getting yourself into if you see 200 people ahead of you and still choose to stand behind them situation).

As for karaoke, I’m not sure if I’m about to put an unpopular opinion in writing or if everyone in attendance will agree: Karaoke @ Cains > Karaoke @ Vanguard. They still capped the attendance to less than the full capacity so that it wasn't overcrowded, but it didn’t feel empty, either. Isaac was constantly present, and the crowd loved surprise co-host Mac Hanson. The two sang “Country Roads” together to kick things off, and I quickly lost track of how many times Isaac popped up to sing with fans. “Goodbye Earl” will always be my jam at these things. Mary Anne & Wanda 4ever; I bet their friendship could've withstood 8+ hours in a Hanson line...but probably don't try to cut them.

Beyond Perennial  & Hanson Day Concert

Whether you loved the Beyond Perennial setlist or not, the stats don't lie: every last song of that set was a fan club release. They played about half of Perennial and filled in the rest with other fan club songs. No singles, setlist staples, or MON songs, and for that I think they deserve a round of applause. My favorite song of the night was "Time Baby Take It," which tbh I kind of forgot existed, but to be fair, I think Hanson did too. It was just really, really good in the moment and I'm so glad they let it out of the vault.

One minor outtake is they introduced "Better Man" by saying it had never been played live before, but my brain was shouting "You played that on the Wintry Mix Tour!" followed immediately by a memory of hearing Zac sing it as "Trash Man" in Jamaica. Hansonstage confirms I've now heard it 7 times and they've played it 14, so I'm not sure how they collectively forgot playing it a whole 13 times. 

I was fully prepared to dedicate my first sentence about the Members' Only concert to the fact that they didn't play the entire new EP this year, but then I double checked the set list and proved myself wrong. I'm taking this as another sign that they should just give us the EP sooner so I know what I'm hearing at the show. In addition to the full EP, we got several of the setlists staples missing from the first night, a pretty somber ending ("Young and Dumb" and "Tonight"), and a Taylor solo of WYIYD that I am convinced needs to have time restrictions placed around it because sir, you already made us sob over that one in January and I would like a break. 

Dance Party

I am such a sucker for these themed afterparties. I don't care a thing in the world about dancing, but I am here for a good excuse to wear something fun and unpredictable. This year's theme was a little all over the place with Star Wars references and nods to Y2K, but it resulted in a fun range of outfits from inflatable aliens to storm troopers to Zenon cosplays. Everyone looked great!

I'm sure if you saw me in my starry outfit, I blended in with every other basic girl there, but the truth is I stepped out of my comfort zone to put on that dress in public. I originally had another outfit in mind, but while struggling to find the right matching top, I came across this see through bodycon mini dress covered in stars that I felt too old/too conservative/too fill-your-own-insecurity-in-the-blank to wear, but for some reason I couldn't stop eyeing it. I told a friend that I kept going back to this dress every time I tried to finish out my outfit, and instead of talking me out of it, she told me if I felt like I could pull it off that I should wear it now while I can (real talk: girl, you're not getting any younger!). I bought it; I wore it; I had a fabulous time. Get you a friend that will tell you to wear what makes you happy and dance around with you in matching ridiculous boots.

Themes I'd like to see in the future: Slumber Party, Masquerade, Crayon Box (is this a thing? It should be a thing. Everyone just picks whatever color they want and dress in it head to toe).

Bonus Content

In addition to all of the usual Hday things, this year:
-I was coerced into daily STG gelato, which is delicious if you've never tried it.
-I accidentally gave a stranger terrible directions to the baseball stadium, only to then accidentally wind up at the stadium at the same time as him and be heckled mercilessly for it. Sorry to uphold the stereotype that women don't know directions. At least I know he's not still out there looking for it.
-I got to celebrate a dear friend's wedding, and I'm so happy we were able to take all the cheesy wedding photos and see her looking so beautiful. It's fitting that we met on a sidewalk when she was 14 and now we're taking sidewalk wedding photos. Congratulations, Morgen & Jacob <3 


TL;DR

In summary, Hanson stepped up their setlist game by playing fan club songs at a fan club event, the semi-unclear dance party theme ended up being a hit, and the new EP is my favorite of the last several years. I'll leave you with this: Support the cause, wear the dress, buy the ticket, get on the plane, and while you're doing it all, don't forget to be the person that encourages others to do the same. Also probably don't ask me for directions.

If you are a fan club member, you can log in and click here to watch the Listening Party, Hanson Time Podcast Live, and Hanson Day Concert & Nightcap.


January 10, 2024

Back to the Island 2024









I'm not going to rank all BTTIs against each other, but on a scale of 1-11, this year belongs somewhere in the upper third. I met quite a few first timers, and when I asked how it measured up to what they expected, every last one of them said it was even better than they imagined and that they plan to come back again. If you haven't been and think you can go once and get it out of your system, let this be your warning that that's not a thing. There is no getting Back to the Island out of your system, there is only opening the gateway and sliding down the slippery slope until the number of times you've attended BTTI becomes inversely proportional to the number of dollars in your bank account. Can confirm.

Full Band Shows

True to tradition, the first show kicked off with a cover of "Back to the Island," then put a massive grin on my face when they surprised us with a cover of Weezer's "Island in the Sun" for the first time ever. Though it had absolutely nothing to do with this happening, allow me to remind you that I wrote a whole blog post back in 2015 about island-themed covers they should play, and this song was #1 on my list. Obviously I was thrilled to hear it.


Number three on my list, "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys, also made an appearance for the first time. Both songs sounded amazing, and we all know their voices were built to do justice to Beach Boys covers. They played the "Three Little Birds"/"Stir It Up" medley they've played for the past few years as well as "Islands in the Stream," and I got to hear "Feeling Alright" for the first time since my 20th birthday (we won't do the math on that one). There were more Hanson songs than covers, but the whole setlist had a very Island-themed covers vibe that I really enjoyed.

The second show Taylor mentioned something about deep cuts and then opened with "Dream Girl," so I knew we were about to hit FOMO territory. It had quite a few fan club songs, and my personal favorite moment was "Trembling" which was fun and upbeat and has never been played live before. I didn't think they would ever play "Working" again after the year it was released at  Hanson Day, but they proved me wrong. There were a handful of staples mixed in ("Hey," "Runaway Run," "This Time Around," "Waiting for This"), so overall on the deep cuts scale, I'm gonna say I could've used a bandaid, but there was no need for stitches this time.

The funny thing is after that show, my roomie and I went back to our room and were talking about how sometimes the "rares" we want to hear aren't necessarily the songs that have only been played a handful of times ever, but the songs that USED to be staples but haven't been played in a long time. I said "Like Dancing in the Wind electric with two guitars?" she agreed, and then magically Hanson opened the final show with it.

"Tearing it Down" was another highlight for me from the last show, but I think "Cried" was the real showstopper for most of the crowd. My only criticism for the night would be throwing in something like that so early in the set almost demands you balance it with another "wow" moment at the end or else you risk it feeling a bit anticlimactic. That and the "Song to Sing" closing wasn't my favorite, but they said it was a request, so I assume it was a really special moment to someone and maybe they needed it.

I really don't have a favorite show this year and thought all of them were great.

The Solos

I struggle with reviewing the solos every year because I hate feeling like I'm ranking the brothers and inevitably putting someone at the bottom. To get the negative out of the way, I will say my least favorite thing wasn't anyone's performance or song choice, it was how long Isaac took to get started. He was at least 30 if not 45 minutes late, and we had early dinner reservations that were at risk of not happening with every extra minute he took to show up. I think the general consensus when the schedule was announced was that we would have preferred solos to stay at 5pm rather than 4pm to give us more beach time, so having him show up closer to 5 anyway kind of defeated the point of altering the schedule. Nothing says you got old quite like remembering the preteen days of dreaming of seeing Hanson live just once or having them simply know you exist, and realizing you're now at a point of tapping your watch on a private beach wishing one of them would hurry up so you can make it to an early dinner. Hanger aside, his set included an exciting sneak peak at "Mother of Exiles," a song from his new side project, and ended on a high note with "Smile" and "Lonely Again."

Zac's set opened and closed with songs from the new 2023 fan club EP and included what I thought was a really killer vocal performance of "Use Me Up." I think half of the crowd showed up with kazoos for "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times", which makes me wonder how much disappointment there will be when he eventually leaves it off of the list. I personally love it and don't mind if it stays an island staple.

I swear I am not a "Taylor Girl" (or a Zac Girl or an Isaac Girl), but my blog always tries to prove otherwise when I go to talk about his solo set, and I'll be sticking to that theme again this year. He told a sad story about a friend losing a child right before playing "With You In Your Dreams," and for a moment I felt like I was back at an Isaac solo show circa 2017. He had the whole crowd sobbing, myself included, but managed to pick the pace back up and keep things upbeat for the second half. I was not at all prepared for him to break out "Semi-Hollow" after being told it would probably never be played live, but he nailed it and I think it was my favorite song of the entire trip. (Also, how fun/ironic is it that he sang a love song to a guitar using only a piano?) "We Belong Together" was great but didn't land quite as well as I hoped with the crowd participation, but maybe that's because I was standing in the back and couldn't hear everyone up front. I've always thought it would be a great crowd song and would love to hear it full band one day at a regular show.



The Events

This year's events were Family Feud hosted by Isaac and Taylor, Mario Kart with Zac, and a Poolside Dance Party with Taylor on the final night. They were divided by colored passes and scheduled so that they happened at the exact same time, so one half of the crowd was at Family Feud while the other half was at Mario Kart, and then the next night we all switched. I don't think that's necessarily how it actually played out, but that was the general idea. I had a pink pass and experienced Family Feud first and Games with Zac second.

Family Feud

Taylor randomly showed up once during Family Feud a few years ago, but this was his first time actually being a part of the game from the beginning. The dynamic was basically Isaac hosting/telling questionable jokes, and Taylor trying to pull things back on track and not always succeeding. Isaac was in his element telling us stories and whatever popped into his mind (whether he should or not--haunted houses, anyone?), and the crowd ate it up. I know they ask for our feedback every year, but I'd be very curious to hear Taylor's review of his first Family Feud experience. I did enjoy that he took on an event that put him in a more interactive role after several years of only seeing him from a distance at the dance party.

Mario Kart

I would never call myself a "gamer," but I spent a lot of time with my Super Nintendo as an only child, and over the years I find myself accidentally owning a new gaming system every time a new Zelda game comes out. I spent many nights my freshman year of college battling friends at Game Cube Mario Kart, and there was a time I had all of those courses and their shortcuts memorized. I haven't played it with any regularity since, so I'm more than a little rusty but not unaware of how to play. I had the opportunity to play against Zac a few years ago at the Melia and lost terribly, so any confidence I had about knowing what I was doing was shut down pretty quickly.

So when he called me up to play in the first group this year, I was excited to participate but prepared for a similar outcome. We played a Grand Prix, which is 4 races with 3 laps each and a final winner at the end. Obvious spoiler: Zac was that final winner, but in a totally unexpected twist, I somehow beat him in the first round. It was anticlimactic and short lived, but I guess it can go on a list of things I never thought I'd do. 

(P.S. I doubt there is any footage out there of me beating him, but if anyone has something more than dark photos from behind, feel free to send them my way!)

Pool Party

I'm always team pool dance party over any other type of dance party. This year some fans started their own white/silver theme, and while not everyone participated, you could tell the ones that did had a good time coming up with their outfits and had fun accessories. There were sparkly headbands, light up heels, silver tassels everywhere, and a ton of glowsticks. Seeing how much people got into it makes me hope Hanson will consider giving us an official theme next time.

It felt like there were a lot more people in the pool this year, but in a full spring break party sort of way, not over capacity or worthy of concern. There was one moment where the crowd was cheering loudly so I went closer to see what I was missing, expecting Taylor to be doing something, but it turned out to be a guy thrusting by a flamingo float to "Sexy and I Know it" just below Taylor's perch. You kind of had to be there, but trust that the party was alive and well this year.

I managed to get a video of Taylor jumping in the pool, and the entire time I was recording and people started swarming around him in the water, all I could do was picture those colonies of fire ants that join together to make a giant floating island of bodies to save themselves in a flood.

I'm not saying I would have behaved any differently if I were in the pool; I'm just saying my caption could have easily been "When the colony gets flooded, but you have to save the queen."


AMMM(Bop)

For the second year in a row, we had Allen, Mack, Myers, Moore as the special guests, and they played a welcome set on the beach before the bonfire on the first night in addition to a full show on the third night. I love their energy and banter and the friendly dynamic they have going with Hanson; it's obvious they work well together. They showed up to participate both nights of Family Feud (with some PG-13 worthy stage names both times), and they played Mario Kart with Zac during my session which was entertaining if only because every time someone shouted "Go, Zac!" it could've applied to three out of the four players. I would welcome new music to the island if they go a different direction next year, but I do think I will miss the fun that they AMMM brings when that eventually happens. We've had a special guest play twice, but never three years, so I guess we'll see in a few months if they'll be the first.

Photos 

This is getting long, but I can't end without telling you that if you're ever worried that you did something embarrassing in front of Hanson, you're not alone, and also apparently I have a ten year statute of limitations on accidental hugs that ran out this year. (In case you missed it and enjoy secondhand embarrassment, here's a post about the time I accidentally hugged Taylor at 2014 BTTI.) So this year I walk up to greet them, and Taylor puts out his hand for a handshake. I shake his hand like I'm a person who has shaken hands before, so things are starting off strong. Then I *think* Zac puts out both arms for a hug, so I start to hug him back, but while I'm hugging him it hits me that I have a history of misreading hugs, and also why would he be hugging me after his brother shook my hand, so obviously I've misread the situation and created a repeat of 2014 with a different brother. So while my brain is firing nine levels of overthinking, I blurt out mid-hug "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm hugging you." I do my thing of taking the photo and high tailing it out of there before I can do more damage, and in a true repeat of 2014, totally skip even looking at Isaac because I'm in flight mode.

The best part is a friend was taking photos and video the whole time. I cringed at the laughably bad photo she got of us with identical "I don't want to be here" body language and couldn't bring myself to watch the video until I got home. Plot twist: Video confirms he was going in for a hug, and I'm the one that overthought and shut it down in the middle. I've done everything from dance on stage with these people to taking out trash with them, so there is honestly no comprehendible reason for me to still be this awkward in their presence. I think the moral of this story is I am body language illiterate, at least in the Hanson context, and y'all need to watch me around Isaac in 2034.

The Rest

I think the big question on everyone's minds this year was how things would go with extra rooms sold at the Bahia. I can't speak for the Bahia guests, but overall I didn't feel a huge difference. The beach might have been a bit fuller during shows, but I purposely tried to be closer this year so I wouldn't have to feel that potential effect. We didn't get our usual Beach Banquet on the final show night, but I've never fully enjoyed the long lines and mild chaos that comes with it anyway.

Last year felt so laid back and had a bit more mingling from the band than in previous years, and I think we were all hoping that vibe would stick. I would say overall that it did. They weren't out snorkeling with us or anything like that, but I saw that all three of them were mingling beyond the designated photos at different times throughout the event. It doesn't mean that everyone will have the opportunity to engage with them when they choose to make themselves more accessible, but it feels like progress to see them sharing their time with us and not being cornered into leaving.

So overall in the pro column this year? Amazing weather, getting to hear "Semi-Hollow," "We Belong Together," "Island in the Sun," and "Kokomo," spending time with friends doing nothing, and beating Zac in a Mario Kart race. And the cons list? Coming back home.


November 22, 2023

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Carry On Edition

I don’t know about you, but I'm a total gear nerd when it comes to having the right packing tools and items to keep me comfortable on a trip. I’ll spend hours reading reviews and searching for travel blogs and Youtube videos before I decide which one is right for me. It's totally extra, but maybe you can benefit from the time I've already put into it, and what better time to share than a week when practically everything is on sale?

Below is a list of my favorite carry-on items & where you can purchase them. 

1. A hardside carry-on suitcase.

There's nothing wrong with softside luggage, but I prefer hardside for two reasons. 1. Liquid spills and rain slide right off, and 2. It keeps me from overpacking. I don't need the temptation to shove more things in my suitcase just because the fabric is flexible enough to let it happen. The overhead bin isn't expandable.

My current bag is the smaller Away carry-on in Petal. The price has climbed since I bought mine in 2020, but it has held up nicely and has a lifetime warranty.

https://www.awaytravel.com/suitcases/carry-on

2. The perfect personal item.

For me, the key to making carry-on only travel work is getting the largest personal item allowed without going over. Standard personal item measurements are 18"x14"x8", and I'm deeply offended every time a bag advertised as a "personal item" goes slightly over or significantly under these dimensions. I don't need a cute rounded top that scores off 3" of space on either side. Do you know how many pairs of socks and underwear that could have been?!

I'm currently using a Vera Bradley backpack that has a ton of compartments for organization and a passthrough sleeve so I can easily slide it onto my suitcase handle. I got it to replace the now-extinct Vera Bradley Lighten Up Go Anywhere bag, which I dragged around the world until the handles came off and would rebuy immediately if it ever got a reboot.

Why do I keep buying Vera Bradley bags? Three reasons: 1. There are so many organizational compartments that don't take up extra space. 2. I love their "ReActive" line, which is made of a lightweight water-resistant recycled material and not the standard quilted cotton you'd normally associate with the brand. 3. I happen to live near a Vera Bradley Outlet that has options you won't find online and at much better prices. Bonus reason: tons of cute patterns and colors to choose from if that's your thing.

https://www.amazon.com/Vera-Bradley-Recycled-Reactive-Backpack/dp/B07VHBLVQY/

The version I'm carrying came from an outlet and is a slightly different model, but this one is pretty close. And yes, I did take a flexible measuring tape with me into the store because I'm not paying Spirit Airlines an extra dime.

Alternate Option: 

https://www.amazon.com/Weekender-BAGSMART-Travel-Duffle-Overnight/dp/B084G31D3N/

I don't own this one and can't speak to the quality, but based on size and organization, this seems like a decent dupe for the Vera bag I will forever be chasing, at a fraction of the price.

3. Packing Cubes.

There's no way I need to explain these to you; I'm just here to tell you they're on sale. I also like the idea of compression cubes, but the only time I've tried one, the zipper broke in half immediately, and everything in that bag was excessively wrinkled when I got to my destination. 

P.S. If you're going carry-on only, don't even bother buying the cute little sets that come with multiple sizes. The large ones are about the same length as a carry-on suitcase if not larger, and they'll save you no space. I use a mixture of 3-4 small and slim sizes and maybe one medium. Usually I skip the medium and just lay my jeans flat.

Small Ebags Set of 3:
https://www.ebags.com/accessories/packing-cubes/classic-small-3-piece-packing-cube-set/117877XXXX.html?

Slim Ebags set of 3:
https://www.ebags.com/accessories/packing-cubes/classic-slim-3-piece-packing-cube-set/117748XXXX.html

Slim Amazon set of 4:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B014VBH4R0/ref=twister_B01AAANF2Y?_encoding=UTF8&th=1

4. The perfect travel pillow.

I swear I'm not being paid to say this, but Cabeau travel pillows are the only brand I've tried that didn't make me immediately want to chuck it down the aisle of the airplane. Most u-shaped pillows push your neck and head forward into the most unnatural sleeping position, but the Cabeau pillow is designed with a semi-flat back so that it sits flat against the seat while still supporting your head. I bought a new one last year because the carry sack for my old one ripped beyond use, and I have to say the new carrying case is about 10x better quality than the old version. Will I sleep on a plane? Probably still no, but I can't blame the pillow anymore.

https://cabeau.com/products/evolution-s3-neck-pillow

5. A reusable liquids bag.

I finally divorced Ziploc bags the day the zipper broke in the 11th hour of almost being done packing for a trip to Brazil. I was so over it and desperate to get to bed that instead of reaching for a new bag, I grabbed packing tape, sealed the top of the quart-sized bag, tossed the whole thing into a gallon Ziploc, and called it done. I ordered these as soon as I got home and have never looked back. They hold noticeably more than a regular quart-sized disposable bag, but not so noticeable that TSA cares. The only thing I dislike is that I didn't buy them years ago.

 Set of 3
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085PVWH2M/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1



6. Waterproof footwear.

There's nothing more miserable than going on a trip and soaking your only pair of sneakers in the rain. Been there, done that, bought the emergency Walmart rain boots.

For years, my go-to packable rain shoes were Hunter Tour Boots (fitting name, right?) They're pricey, but I've had mine for over seven years and use them regularly at home as well as on trips, and they are still in good condition. I've never seen them go on sale, but they've been worth the full price to me. I skip the bag they come with and roll each one individually with an elastic hair tie to save more space.

(Jan. 2024 update: My Hunter Tour Boots finally died. I ordered a replacement pair in the same style and size and was disappointed to find they have a noticeably smaller calf area. I even tried sizing up and still no. Gonna have to change my recommendation to these are great, but only if you have slim calves!)

If you prefer something more versatile or compact, let me introduce you to my newest waterproof footwear obsession: Vessi shoes. 

Vessi makes "The world's first waterproof shoe," and my bathtub and I can confirm they really are 100% waterproof. What's great about Vessi shoes is they look like regular sneakers, so you can still pack and use them even if the chance of rain is low or zero. The only downside is they don't exist in half sizes, and my half size feet had trouble finding a good fit. The Weekend style pictured below suggests ordering down a half size, but I found the 7 a bit snug on my 7.5 toes, and the 8 was falling off of my ankles. They're still wearable, but if they ever expand their size range, I'd buy more.

https://vessi.com/

(P.S. I googled "Vessi coupons" when I bought mine and was able to find a $25 off code.)

7.  An external charger capable of holding multiple phone charges.

I've never depleted this thing in a single trip and almost definitely did not need as much power as I invested in, but I bought it for a 17-hr flight to Australia where I brought my Nintendo Switch. It has since come in handy during bad weather with power outages at home, and I don't ever have to worry about remembering to charge it in the hotel before a return trip.

https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Charger-PowerCore-Portable-Delivery/dp/B07XRJZXKY/


8. Concert Earplugs.


I've tried multiple brands over the years, but these are my favorite for comfort and sound quality. They fit well, never fall out, and aren't visibly noticeable if you're not looking for them. They even come with multiple sizes so you can get the right fit without having to guess. I probably would have tried the pro version if it had existed when I bought mine, but I'm happy enough with the regular style.

https://www.amazon.com/EarPeace-Music-Canceling-Musicians-Reduction/dp/B076VVP6CX

9. Mini Air Pump for pool floats.

Okay, I don't ALWAYS travel with this, but I always take it to Back to the Island now that I know it exists in such a compact size. My lungs give it five stars.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B088T7WZDN/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&th=1




November 7, 2023

Island Casino Shows






This past weekend, I traveled to see Hanson play at a casino in a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For scale, I think telling you that the airport has one gate and only two flights per day gives you a good enough idea of the general size and availability of tourist attractions. Before I get into the show details, let me just express to you how many fake flight change notifications Delta sent out for this trip. I think I've now been permanently desensitized to the phrase "There's been a change to your upcoming trip." Of the 15 or so emails I received between May and now, only two contained an actual detectable change. One bumped me from having one layover to two, but that one got me out of a 6am flight, and I'll gladly airport hop all day long if I don't have to be up at 4am after a show. The other change was a complete fail that warranted a call to customer service because they had me flying from my home airport to a connection scheduled to take off two hours before I would arrive. I know time got weird while we were in the U.P., but I don't think even Island Casino Time would have made that connection work.


For those of you that weren't there, the weird time phenomenon I'm referring to is the fact that the Island Casino sits on the border of the Eastern and Central time zones. You can click here to check out their explanation of how time works for a good laugh or head scratch. Basically, smart technology goes haywire switching back and forth between Eastern and Central times while in the casino, so the casino chooses to follow Eastern time, and you have to turn off all the auto time updates on your phone to not be totally lost. Add in the fact that we left on Sunday when Daylight Saving Time ended and my first layover took me back to Central time before sending me home to the east, and I personally experienced three time changes on November 5th. There was also a great moment where I made an Instagram post while sitting next to my friend, and it immediately landed in her feed with a timestamp of being posted an hour ago while my own screen six inches from hers showed that I'd really posted it 10 seconds ago. Time is wild up there.


As for the concerts, I have to say I went on this trip fully expecting your typical "one-off" show setlists that Hanson pulls out for state fairs, festivals, casinos, and any random appearance where the majority of the crowd probably showed up out of curiosity and convenience. As if to prove my point, about five minutes before we left our room for the first show, we heard a girl in the hallway drunkenly butchering "MMMBop" and laughing while saying "I think that's the only one I know!"

The setlist from the first night was pretty much exactly what I would have expected, but I haven't had a Hanson show in six months--which is basically six years in Hanson fan time--so I was just happy to be there in a great seat. Something about "Strong Enough to Break" hit me as particularly good that night, and it was a fun challenge trying to coordinate the TBS dance with friends standing on the opposite side of the stage. A security guard kept moving and blocking my view of the friend I was watching for dance cues, so let's pretend that's why I bombed the first half of it. The other memorable moment was when the fog machine tried to steal the show during "I Was Born," and I legitimately lost Andrew and Zac in the fog for a moment. I know I've commented on overactive fog machines before, but this was the first time I actually lost visibility.

I don't really have any specific reasons to tell you why I had such a good time, but I missed Hanson a lot and was just happy to be back "home." My friends and I finished out the night in our makeshift living room with a coffee table picnic of various pickle flavored chips and Yooper chocolate bars, just happy we'd get to do it all again the next night and with no driving in between. Bonus points for getting a full night to sleep in a real bed, thought it honestly wasn't much more comfortable than a sidewalk.

The extent of our "exploring" between the shows basically spanned one end of the casino to the other, a few dips in the hot tub, and an excursion to the gas station next door that turned out to be a disappointing field trip to walk around in broken glass. The most exciting thing we found was free soda fountains and the fact that my friends tried to wipe out the snack aisle of the gift shop and somehow didn't spend over $6.

We were able to hear a bit of soundcheck on Saturday afternoon, but after hearing just two songs they didn't play the night before that both excited me, I decided to walk away to prevent 1) more spoilers and 2) disappointment if I got my hopes up and they didn't play them later. 

In the end, they far exceeded my expectations. I told myself not to expect a lot of song changes and figured maybe they would swap out four or five. Instead, we only got five repeats. Here's a side by side comparison of the two setlists:

setlists courtesy of hansonstage.com


Things took a sort of "oh hey, that's cool" turn with "Runaway Run" and then plowed ahead into "oh I wasn't expecting this one" and "wait, where the heck did that come from?!" territory. I think the biggest surprise of the night was "One More," but "Tonight" and "Rambling Heart" are two of my absolute favorites, and their performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends" stole the show in my opinion. They didn't pair it with "Truth" the way they usually do, but I think that was the right choice this time to keep things more upbeat. I'm not sure if I was wrong to think of these as "one-offs" when technically it was two shows, or if they decided to switch things up when they saw how many fans showed up at the first one and that it wasn't just people wandering in from the casino, but whatever the reason, I'm grateful. The first show was like the comfort of going home after being away for a while, and the second was like going home and finding a surprise party waiting in the living room. 

After the show, we went back to our fake living room lobby where we had even more late night snacks and stayed up until 1am, twice. We didn't spot any Northern Lights this trip, or meals with vegetables, or full length mirrors, and our hallway kind of looked like a kid on a tricycle might turn the corner at any minute, but overall I had an amazing time seeing my favorite band play and reuniting with friends. I cried laughing more than once, my calves STILL hurt, and somewhere in my suitcase is a wad of friendship bracelets gifted by friends and stranger friends. Thanks to everyone that shared in the good time.

I can't wait to go back to the island again in January! Just, you know, not this one. 😛



September 13, 2023

What Lives In My Bag? A Lazy Person's Guide to (Not) Packing




As far as I can tell, there are two types of packers in the world:

Type 1
  • Starts pulling together outfits and packing a little bit at a time weeks before the trip
  • Has a detailed packing list and checks items off as they go
  • Has tickets, hotel reservations, and any important travel documents printed and/or saved digitally in one organized location
  • Has a trip countdown and a to-do list with a timeline. Knows exactly what needs to be done each day leading up to departure.
  • Plans to go to bed on time or early to make sure they are well rested for the journey
Type 2
  • Lives by the mantra “There’s still plenty of time before I leave”
  • Thinks about outfits and maybe buys a few new pieces with time to spare, but puts off actually washing and packing them
  • Has had a packing list at some point in life, but is convinced it is all committed to memory and therefore does not need to be written down or checked off
  • Does laundry at midnight the night before the trip
  • Pulls an all-nighter to finish packing
  • Has to finish unpacking from the last trip hours before leaving on the next one
  • Realizes at least one missing item once it’s too late to go back

Personally, I'm the one that tries to be responsible and print important documents, but not until 2am the morning of the trip when I inevitably discover my printer is out of ink. I guess you could say I’ve spent most of my travel life trying to pull off Type 1 accuracy on a Type 2 timeline. And while that generally can’t be done, there are a few shortcuts that I’ve found work well for me as a chronic procrastinator.

For years, the final steps in my travel prep routine included brushing my teeth, doing my hair and makeup, and then cramming all of those items in my bag right before leaving. One day after forgetting my toothbrush and having to buy one at my destination, it occurred to me to just leave that extra one in my bag for next time. It's something I'm sure savvy travelers have been doing forever and I'm just late to the party, but it led me to another realization: If I could buy an extra toothbrush and leave it packed forever, what other things could I cut out of my packing routine by doing the same?

Welcome to my favorite packing hack: With the exception of clothing, just buy two of everything and never unpack it. The end result is I'm perpetually about 35% packed, and I cut down on 1) the chance that I'll forget something and 2) the extra time it takes to pack those items.

So here it is, the list of things that permanently live in my bag and save me valuable packing (and sleeping!) time every single trip:
  • Toothbrush
  • All liquids/toiletries
  • My makeup bag & everything in it
  • Over the counter medicines
  • First aid supplies
  • Hairbrush & hair accessories
  • Hair straightener
  • Phone charger & external battery
  • Travel umbrella
  • Packable rain jacket
  • Passport (Obviously I don't own two of these, I just never unpack it, so I can't forget or lose it)
That's right, I have a home hair straightener and a travel hair straightener, I own duplicates of every item in my makeup bag, I have home bandaids and trip bandaids, two sets of medicines, and sometimes I leave my shoes packed if I know I won't use them between one trip and the next (my Chacos live in my bag every January to May). The lazy person in me absolutely loves waking up 15 minutes later on a travel day, brushing my teeth, doing my hair, and walking out the door with all of that stuff left on the counter instead of scrambling to pack a wet toothbrush and praying I remembered my phone charger.

Which type of packer are you, and what's your own favorite hack?