August 15, 2017


I have a confession to make: Hanson’s newest single, “I Was Born,” didn’t sit well with me at first. Sure, it’s uplifting, inspiring, and catchier than the flu, but something in its empowering lyrics is just a little bit depressing to the semi-directionless almost thirty-something part of me that has no clue what she’s doing with her life. Do? Go? Be? Sure. I’m all for the excitement of one-off action verbs. But asking me to think about what I was “born” to do or to identify something I've done that no one else in existence has done before? That’s a bit grandiose for my current list of accomplishments. I came away from my first listen ultimately thinking this is a great message for kids…too bad it’s going to send adult me into an early mid-life crisis.

Really, that little bit of a push towards action isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s probably part of what Hanson hoped to accomplish by extending the “I Was Born” challenge to us in the first place. It’s a useful reminder that we’ve still got some time to do all of those things we haven’t bothered to do yet, but not if we don’t get out there and start making them happen. Sometimes being shown the reality of your situation is a necessary tool in being able to change it. But there’s another side of that reality, and I think it’s important not to get so caught up in a frantic rush of bucket list items that we forget a more important truth: that every single one of us has already done, gone, and been exactly who we were meant to be whether or not we’ve jumped out of a plane or written a best-selling novel.

The truth is not everyone was born for a capital letter existence like ASTRONAUT or PRESIDENT (or dare I say, HANSON), and plenty of us don't even realize the absolutely crucial quieter roles we're filling every single day. Parent, teacher, supporter, believer, friend. You don’t have to perform a miracle surgery to save someone’s life or have a physics degree to make an impact on the world. Maybe I'm not the only blogger or Hanson fan or failed teacher in the world, and I'm certainly not the only one who has ever been to the Grand Canyon or Disney World or had the guts to hold a giant python. But I'm the only one who has ever been the sum of all of my individual parts and experiences. And as alluring as it is to think about being the first or only one to accomplish something, isn't it those fragments of shared experiences that allow us to connect with each other in the first place? "Only" can be a pretty lonely word.

I also can't forget that Hanson has been inspiring me long before “I Was Born” existed. They were filling my head with hopes and crazy plots years before I had a degree or independence or the capacity to regret something I haven’t done. I’ve already climbed metaphorical mountains and literal waterfalls because of them. I’ve followed them to ~25 states and four countries. I’ve visited Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon and walked barefoot in dozens of cities across the United States for a worthy cause. Because of them, I have continued to write and find my voice beyond the days of required school assignments. They’ve indirectly made me into a writer, an adventurer, a volunteer, and a friend. They’ve helped shape my most important role and perhaps the only thing I’m sure I was born to be: myself. So while we're out there blazing new trails on the MOE tour and picking up the proverbial gauntlet that Hanson has thrown down, I think it’s also important not to forget the things we’ve already done, the places we’ve already gone, and the people we’ve always been. I'm thankful for the years of inspiration this band has already brought me and for many more to come. Here's to challenging, encouraging, and embracing not only ourselves, but each other.

I'll end with some of my favorite inspiring words from Isaac Hanson that remind me of two important things: that I was born for a reason, and that it's okay if I don't know what that is just yet.

"You have a purpose. You were born for a reason. You were made just the way you are, perfectly and beautifully just as you are. Now if there is something in your heart or in your head to do, something you have been dismissing…take baby steps. Begin. Write it down, and try and do it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing…DO IT. This week. Right now. Begin this process and do it. I am encouraging you as your friend to move forward with that idea. To move forward with that purpose." 
 -Isaac Hanson, Grace Unknown Podcast 

June 4, 2017

In Color: 2017 EP Review

Disclaimer: If you haven't had time to listen to In Color and form your own opinions, you probably shouldn't read this yet. And if you want to continue to listen to these songs and enjoy them all at face value without overanalyzing some aspects, well, you probably shouldn't read this ever. But if you're a nerd like me that can't help but look a little deeper? Read on.


Full disclosure: half of the reason I love watching Hanson's livestreams is following and participating in the live Twitter commentary with other fans. It warms my introverted nerd heart that it's possible to debate a song you haven't actually heard yet with someone you may or may not have met that is probably experiencing morning while you're about to go to bed for the night. Welcome to the internet in 2017.

My immediate reaction to the first livestreamed clips we heard of this song was that the guitar part in the chorus reminded me a lot of "Let My Love Open The Door." Someone else picked up on "Take My Breath Away" vibes, and there was a lot of agreement all around on both counts. I'm glad in the end that the final product sounds a little less like both of these and a bit more like Hanson.

It's an upbeat song with a fun twist on your average girl-next-door storyline where the girl grows up to be a famous musician. It's told from the perspective of the boy that loved her when "the world was much younger" and they were still "Daydream believers." I kind of like that you don't get to know much about the boy in the song. Is he a musician himself? Did he go away to school and become a doctor? It doesn't really matter, because for the purpose of the song, he's the same guy that fell in love with a girl back before either one of them was "somebody."

What it sounds like: "Let My Love Open the Door" meets "Take My Breath Away"

Favorite Lyric: "Head in the future, heart in Oklahoma, that's the girl I always knew."

During the Hanson Day concert this year, Zac said something to the effect of "We all talked about it and agreed that this is the whitest Hanson album we've ever made. And if you don't know what that means, I'll tell you when you're older." I took it as an obvious Beatles reference, albeit an ironic one considering this year's EP title. (Sounds like a missed subtitle opportunity. In Color: The Whitest Album Yet.) I'm an average Beatles fan at best and can't relate anything to specific albums or eras, but even I can tell you this is the most Beatles-sounding song Hanson has ever written.

Also, because the English teacher gene never dies:

Ghostwriter : The Beatles :: Do You Believe In Love : Queen.

And as for the meaning of the song? Total speculation of course, but it makes me wonder what mainstream hit songs out there in the world Hanson may have written for someone else that we'll never know about.

What it sounds like: If Zac got a time machine and somehow scored a co-writing session with The Beatles for Digital Pants.

Favorite Lyric: "Skeletons are currency." Word nerd alert. I love that this line makes a clear point using three fairly common words that have probably never been used together in the English language before.

If you sent me off to a Hanson show with no knowledge of this song and they played it, I'd probably assume they were playing some obscure Beatles song that I hadn't heard before. Even the title is reminiscent of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (though I have to admit, the organ during the "if you're lost without a trace" part feels more like The Doors' "Light My Fire" to me). I swear I don't set out to hear every new Hanson song in the context of some older song that has already been done, but something about this EP just feels very fun and retro and I can't help looking back at a few great oldies and seeing similarities. There are worse things to be compared to.

What it sounds like: The Beatles, The Doors, screaming girls, and orange shag carpet.

Favorite Lyric: I just like that they managed to basically rhyme every "-eaver" word in existence throughout the entire song.

This song has "fan anthem" written all over it. The lyrics are simple, but they do an excellent job of capturing the feeling of being in your happy place surrounded by good company. Just about anybody can relate, whether you're the performer, the fan, or even just a couple of friends having drinks at their usual table in a local bar. For me, almost every line reminds me of what it's like to jump in a car and follow a tour. There's lost sleep and uncertainties and trying to hang onto memories with friends. It's the closest thing they've ever written to my own favorite travel anthem, Andrew McMahon's "I Woke Up In A Car." The songs don't sound alike or even have similar lyrics, but they make me feel the same thing. "I Don't Want To Go Home" is definitely my favorite from this year's EP.

The line "It ain't no secret where we've come from, so we wear our history like a badge of honor" makes me think of Hanson frequently being asked if they're tired of playing "MMMBop." Their answer always includes the fact that it's an undeniable part of their story, and they still play it proudly because it has helped shape where they are today. They totally wear it like a badge of honor, but I don't think it's meant to be exclusively about Hanson. I think it's just saying whoever you are and whatever it is that you do--own it.

Those who have been to Tulsa can probably appreciate the shoutout to Caz's at the end, but it may not be the same Caz's you're thinking of. Most fans are familiar with Caz's Chowhouse, but directly across the street is a separate hole-in-the-wall bar also called Caz's. It's small and loud and has about a hundred bras hanging from a wall fixture that may have been deer antlers at one time, and trust me, it sits in perfect juxtaposition next to Carnegie Hall in the lyrics.

What it sounds like: A happy, rebellious response to Semisonic's "Closing Time."

Favorite Lyric (okay, verse): "Six hours 'til I'm at work, four hours 'til I'm in bed. Trying to capture each moment like a picture in my head. God only knows all the places I'll see."

Don't worry, there's no risk of me trying to compare this one to the greatest hits of the '60s because it doesn't really sound like anything I've ever heard. The breathy sounding percussion in the background is Taylor doing some rhythmic heavy breathing, and I think the melody is best described as someone on Twitter said: haunting.

It definitely follows Zac's self-professed tendency to write deep and somewhat dark lyrics. The subject matter reminds me of "Siren Call" in that it sounds like it comes from a person who knows what it’s like to care about someone suffering from depression, or maybe watching someone go down all the wrong paths. It's told from the perspective of someone that obviously wants to offer support and be there for this person, and it's packed with dense lyrics that I'm not sure any of us will ever fully understand, but the desire to love and support this person in their time of need comes across loud and clear.

I think the most powerful part of the song is the bridge going into the chorus:

"When the darkness comes and you're lying in bed surrounded by voices like the voices in your head, you will never need to despair, I will be here."

The verses leading up to this point are in this sort of dissonant minor key and leave my ears longing for some kind of harmonic resolution. There's a noticeable change in the tone after this line, and all of those harsh corners start to soften into an almost soothing sound with the "ooohs" in the chorus. Haunting, yes, but almost like a dark lullaby. And with the image of someone lying in bed, maybe that's exactly what this is: a melancholy lullaby of reassurance to a struggling loved one. “I weep for you” in this context might be the saddest Hanson lyric I’ve ever heard.

The song never reconciles that unsettling sound, but I think it’s a beautiful stylistic choice meant to reflect the subject matter. I also think it’s worth noticing that if you listen closely, the song ends with an extra sigh that is not part of the breathy percussion (around 4:36), which again, I think speaks volumes without actually saying a word. I’m really impressed with how well this song depicts the difficulty of watching someone you love struggle not only with a mixture of lamenting and uplifting words, but with some perfectly erie and unique sounds. What started out as my skip song has certainly gained a lot of respect from me after a closer look.

TL;DR? In Lisa's words, it's hauntingly beautiful.

What it sounds like: The super dark, adult version of "I Will Come To You."

Favorite Lyric: "I'd water flowers with tears of joy if crying eyes would bring you home."

Full disclosure: The above is my initial interpretation of "I Lift You Up." Since posting this blog, I have had a few people message me their different interpretations privately (yes, please! Always feel free to do this), and it was like a giant lightbulb went off in my head. Then I found a great blog post explaining that same theory. It feels a little dishonest of me to change my original review, so I won't. I'm leaving my initial interpretation as-is and I think it still fits, but I would also like to share with you another perspective that I think is spot-on. If you're open to religious interpretations, click here to check out Paola's review.

May 30, 2017

Hanson Day 2017

I’ve been very fortunate as a Hanson fan and have found myself in more than a few situations that made me stop and think “If I could tell 9-year-old me what I’m doing right now…” Let’s just say 1997 me would be pretty impressed or in a constant state of disbelief with a lot of the situations I've wound up in over the last decade.

This is the year I would have to break it to 9-year-old Holly that present day Holly would have a ticket to a sold out Dance Party hosted by Taylor Hanson but opted to have donuts and go to bed early instead. I guess the 20th/25th anniversary is a fine time to realize you’re not a kid anymore, and Hanson Day 2017 provided plenty of opportunities to feel old and tired with a jam-packed schedule of events, plenty of which overlapped and ran past midnight. Busy as it was, I’m still on board for the most exhausting vacation I know, and they've obviously worked hard to create an event worth every mile we've traveled to get there.

The Art Gallery/Hanson History

The nostalgia at this Hanson Day weekend was almost as abundant as the lines at this Hanson Day weekend. The Art Gallery included a special look back at the past featuring photographs from every year of Hanson’s career in addition to some beautiful throwback pop-art style paintings from Zac. It was probably my favorite set of paintings to date with all of the bright colors and polka dots. I was super excited to visit the Hanson History portion of the gallery after having mentioned the idea of a "Hanson museum" three years ago on here. The new addition featured props from several music videos throughout Hanson’s career including:

-Furniture from the set of “Weird”
-The Are You Listening piano from "Lost Without Each Other"
-Zac and Taylor’s outfits from the “If Only” video
-Weird Al’s outfit & tambourine and the keyboard used in “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin”
-Some of the costumes worn by the children in the new “I Was Born” video.

All of this led up to the iconic giant pansy backdrop from the “MMMBop” video, which they had set up with a photobooth and props for all of us to pose with. This was such a fun surprise that I think everyone loved. We were given free photo strips and the opportunity to record a short video message to Hanson as well.

My own visit to the gallery was a spur-of-the-moment decision made while decked out in full rain gear simply because we didn’t see a line, but we fully intended to go back the next day dressed like normal people and take better pictures. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but what we got instead is certainly memorable. My friend Rachel and I just happened to be wearing rain coats that matched the backdrop perfectly. We picked out “wham!” and “ouch!” props and decided to pretend she was punching me in one of the shots. I didn’t realize it was actually a double-sided caption until we were walking away with our pictures and noticed my angry face paired with a perplexing “Poof!” sign. We didn’t get digital copies, I held up the wrong caption, and we look like a North Face ad. It's perfect.

Acoustic Storytellers
The nostalgia reached its peak when the Acoustic Storytellers "Lecture" opened with an acapella rendition of "Rockin' Robin" followed by "Stories." This show was definitely my favorite event of the weekend even though I got more new songs and a better spot at the regular show. This trip was never about ticking songs off of a checklist or going and doing something new; it was about revisiting the music and friendships that have grown to mean a lot to me over the years, and sitting in the back with my friends during this set was a great way to celebrate how far we've come together, both literally and figuratively, Hanson included.

For the third year in a row, Hanson chose to play "With You In Your Dreams" during the lectures. It fit with the rest of the set and is obviously a powerful song in the band's history, but sobbing uncontrollably during WYIYD during the lectures every year is turning into some kind of weird accidental tradition that I don't exactly look forward to. Isaac solo-ing "A Life Without You" directly after didn't really help, but I'm glad so many people who haven't had the opportunity to attend BTTI finally got to hear it. I enjoyed all of the insights and stories they shared and would love to see this event done again with new songs and more details. And the answer we finally got about where Johnny went after all these years? In Zac's words: "Hell if I know."

The best part of the show (aside from Rockin' Robin) was the moment at the end when someone switched on the disco ball during "Been There Before." I had flashbacks to middle school dances with the little mirrored lights bouncing off of the hardwood floors while I stood in the bleachers. It was just one of those great shared moments that you know is unrepeatable and that you somehow already miss while it's still happening.

The Concert
The main show was almost entirely fan club songs with just a few singles at the end. I don't want to go into too much detail about the new EP songs because they'll get their own separate post soon, but "I Don't Want To Go Home" certainly has the feel of a new fan anthem and I can't stop blasting it in my car. "I Lift You Up" was an interesting deviation from their usual performance style. I think Isaac was holding up his cell phone with Taylor's breathy percussion recording playing into the microphone, and Taylor and Zac were both at the keyboard for the duration of the song, but a spotlight with the intensity of a thousand suns aimed at my face means I can't really tell you what they were doing there. I just know that seeing them both at the keyboard brought back memories of seeing them drum in unison during "Roller Coaster Love" in the same room back in 2013.

Just looking at the setlist, a lot of my favorites that I voted for in the Members Only song poll a few months back made the cut (On and On, Sound of Light, White Collar Crime, and No Rest for the Weary were all near the top of my list), and "Sunny Day" is the only song I can think of that would have made it even better. I'm kind of amazed that with all of the throwbacks and bad weather and the new rain jacket in the store, we didn't get an acapella version of "Rain" anywhere on the setlist, but the set was still solid without it.

Hop Jam
Someone joked that Hanson must have paid off the rain gods for good weather on Hop Jam day this year in exchange for letting the weather be horrible every other day of the event, and I'd believe it. I was a little nervous that I'd be running around doing odd jobs in my rain boots, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was great to see Hanson headline again after taking a year off, and I'm proud to watch the event continue to grow year after year and become an annual staple in the Tulsa festival lineup among the likes of Mayfest and the Blue Dome Arts Festival.

I failed miserably at taking pictures just like I do every year, but most of the best moments can't be captured by a camera anyway. To quote a song I hope to hear a lot more of, I'm more of a "trying to capture each moment like a picture in my head" kind of person.

This year was full of those moments. I'll never forget running for our lives barefoot in a lightning storm arm in arm while getting drenched. There was photobombing a sleeping friend at karaoke, watching a lady with giant rainbow butterfly wings dance around Hop Jam, hauling chairs up a ramp in the rain with a great team of friends, and getting lost in a moment with a cheesy disco ball while wearing an even cheesier pre-fame Hanson t-shirt without apology.

God only knows all the places I'll see, but there's one place I know I'll always go back to.

May 5, 2017

Middle of Nowhere Acoustic: Ten Years Late(r)

I’ve been excited to write this blog post for about 6 months now. Last fall, I was going through some old things and I came across a notebook from my freshman year of college. Inside was a detailed review of my very first Hanson show on May 5, 2007. “Detailed” might actually be too mild a term; it’s 18 single-spaced handwritten pages. There’s even a “map” of the seating and stage layout, complete with a legend detailing exactly what every squiggle and circle(ish) shape is supposed to represent. I obviously meant what I said in the opening sentence: “I decided to write about this because it’s not something I want to forget.”

It’s the only show I’ve ever attended that isn’t already at home in the archive here, and the ten year anniversary of the ten year anniversary seemed a fitting time to break it out of the vault. So here we are, exactly ten years later. I'm two days shy of 29 instead of two days shy of 19, and in two weeks, I'm getting on a plane to Tulsa for the 11th time instead of the first. I’m not going to bore you with the entire 18 pages or try to make you decipher my handwriting. Instead, I want to revisit that first show from my perspective today.

Ten years ago, I was the new kid. I fell head-first back into this fan base after almost a decade of being absent. The first thing I did was buy every album I had missed, but it still didn’t feel like enough (“It’s scary how fast an obsession can come on. One minute I’m studying for my first college midterms, and the next I’m importing my childhood love from Japan.”) I didn’t have any fan friends yet and spent months on just sort of absorbing everything and becoming desensitized to some of the "crazier" aspects of Hanson fans, like how many shows some fans had been to and the idea that someone would willingly camp out on a sidewalk. Reading about other fans’ experiences going to shows made me excited for the possibility of something more. I don’t remember ever feeling jealous; I remember feeling hopeful and exhilarated at the thought of becoming a part of it all.

My opportunity came in the form of an announcement that Hanson would be re-recording Middle of Nowhere acoustically for an audience to celebrate Hanson Day. The fact that I had barely left the tri-state area in my life and that Oklahoma was over a thousand miles away wasn’t enough to deter me. It was terrifying, but in an unfamiliar grand adventure sort of way.
 “I did the unthinkable. I called my dad and asked for what would be any dad’s worst nightmare—I asked him to let me fly halfway across the country, alone, with no friends to meet up with, in three weeks, with no more details than a date and a city…He asked for more details than Hanson themselves could have given him…We argued about it over the phone for a week. He threw out phrases such as “child-molester” (mind you, I’m 19) and “woodstock” (mind you, it’s HANSON) in overprotective rants.”
I won the argument eventually, with the stipulation that my mom would fly out with me. I still kick myself for getting her all the way to Tulsa and not dragging her to the show. The part about the event being only three weeks out was true, so the concept of “Hanson Time” was introduced to me pretty quickly. Further proof:
“Finally, three days before the event, the location was released along with some other key information. I learned that we were to wear dark clothing for videotaping purposes and not wear any Hanson-related items.”
If you find yourself groaning that ~6 months isn’t enough advanced notice to plan for Hanson Day, just remember that some of us didn’t find out the venue for the first Hanson Day event until we were already en route to Tulsa, and we were given wardrobe restrictions after we had already packed. (Imagine all the nit-picking and overthinking you put into finding that perfect outfit to meet Hanson in and then being told "Oh, by the way, you can't wear any of that.") The wealth of planning time and available information about present-day Hanson Day feels like an extreme luxury in comparison.

In line, I began to meet what I considered to be the pillars of the fan community. I recognized a lot of faces from pictures fans had shared on, many of whom I had seen in pictures with Hanson themselves. Everyone was genuinely friendly and included me in their conversations. I remember meeting a pair of sisters from Canada, debating the definition of Smarties candy with a girl from the UK, and admiring the Walk symbol tattoo on a fan from Denmark. Then there was “Deal or No Deal Girl,” who ended up directly behind me in line. I’d long since forgotten this was a thing, but at the time, everyone seemed to know who she was and whispered excitedly about her presence and identity. Hanson had been special guests on an episode of Deal or No Deal a month or two before because one of the contestants was a big fan. They sang for her and cheered her on and she walked away with almost $100,000 on top of her personal performance from the band. It was kind of nice to see that she was a “real” fan that would show up to see them in Tulsa and that it wasn’t just a staged episode. I wonder if she’s still a fan now.

We had been told in advance that a few fans would be asked to attend both of the two recording sessions “for continuity purposes” due to the DVD recording. I listened to the three friends ahead of me all reassure each other that if only one or two of them got picked, they would all stick together and turn down the opportunity. I also watched moments later as a staff member invited just one of the girls inside, and she walked away with a smile and a wave without protest. It was uncomfortable to watch, and it was enough to help me adopt a more relaxed relationship with some of my own fan friends years later. There’s a mutual understanding that if you get an opportunity, you take it (as long as you’re not truly ditching or hurting someone). A real friend will cheer you on and ask for details later rather than holding you back.

I guess this was my first taste of mild fan drama and disappointment, and I wasn’t immune, either.
“The band manager went around the line, obviously trying to pick the lucky fans to go to both sessions. I had so much faith that I would be one! But alas, not this time. I was less than happy to see the girl directly in front of me and the two people directly behind me get picked while I was skipped.”
(I thought about editing out "alas" here, but no, we're just going to cringe about it together. Nineteen-year-old me was probably re-reading the Harry Potter series for the hundredth time. Blame Dumbledore.)

I remember the harsh feeling of being directly between people that got picked but being skipped over myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to have it, it’s just that standing right in between them and not being picked made me feel so invisible. I’ve since been the lucky chosen person in other scenarios, and it has changed my perspective for the better. Jealousy is an ugly trait. You can’t always have everything, but sometimes good things come to those who wait.

And then there’s one of my favorite quotes from the entire rambly mess because it is so naive and so far from the truth now:
“After several hours, the front of the line started to swell. I’m positive that more people skipped us than the amount of people that were in front of us in the first place. It happens, though, and we couldn’t do anything but glare.”
Thankfully, I’m way past this “couldn’t do anything but glare” phase and well into the “not happening” stage. I like it here.

We finally went inside an hour later than expected and were subjected to more waiting. It felt like I’d never actually get to see Hanson. A staff member came out and asked the crowd questions, obviously stalling for more time (Who thinks they traveled the furthest? Who has never been to a Hanson show before? etc.). I was nervous to raise my hand at that one, but I was happily surprised when a few dozen hands shot into the air with mine; I wasn't alone. I knew they were stalling when he pointed out a random guy in the audience and said “Raise your hand if you know this guy’s username.” Several hands raised, someone won a t-shirt, and the same guy would go on to be recognized again in a few years' time for his tall baldness at 5 of 5.

The show was surreal and my 19-year-old self used the words “amazing” and “awesome” to describe it in just about every other sentence. I was impressed not only by the music but by how well-behaved the fans were. We were told not to scream or even audibly sing along during the songs, and nobody did. I don’t know what I expected, but I guess when your only previous experience of a Hanson show is via TT&MON on VHS with crowds upwards of 20,000 screaming pre-teens, a crowd of 400 seated people in a bar is going to feel tame.

I loved watching their brotherly interactions and the teasing between takes, and they played the familiar roles I have come to know and love, i.e. Isaac stopping to tune, Zac trying to deflect attention for him by cracking jokes, and Taylor giving the heartfelt introductions as needed. Taylor and Zac teased Isaac about rambling the same as they do now, probably in a tradition that goes back much further than my own presence in this fan base.
“Zac and Taylor made fun of Isaac at one point about saying all kinds of boring stuff no one wants to hear just because it comes into his head.”
Isaac was sassy and didn’t care back then, either.
“After being teased by his brothers for saying random unimportant things, Isaac said ‘I think you’ll want to hear what I have to say this time,’ and went on to introduce Yearbook. Several genuine gasps followed…My one consolation for not attending the second, longer session was that I got to hear “Yearbook” the first time it was played live ever.”
My favorite part of the show was “Lucy,” which was my favorite song growing up. I also remember being really disappointed that "Man From Milwaukee" didn't get played during my session. Truthfully, it’s hard for me to think back now about how I felt about most of the songs. My written descriptions were positive but vague, and I've had ten years to listen to the recording and form new opinions. At least for every detail I can't recall, my first show lives on in CD/DVD format.

I know group pictures with the band are a fixture at Hanson Day now, but I didn't know what to expect when we were told about this perk. I imagined giant class pictures from elementary school and no real time to interact with the band, so I put zero thought into what I might say if the opportunity came up. To make matters worse, I somehow found myself in the very first group picture of the event, so there was no time to watch other groups and form expectations. It did not occur to me that I would actually get to meet them until Isaac, Taylor, and Zac were walking straight towards me.
“I was in the front middle with stairs in front of me. It was clear that I’d be right by the guys. Seeing them walking towards me was so surreal.”
After the picture I just stood there, frozen and unsure of what to do as the rest of my group flocked around Isaac and Taylor, wisely making the most of their time. I managed to silently shake Taylor’s hand, thankful that the safety of the crowd meant I wouldn’t have to speak to him. I realized I couldn’t get to Isaac from where I was standing and turned to look for Zac. He was standing behind me on the floor, alone.
“I couldn’t believe it. Not a single person was near him or trying to get near him. I took the opportunity to meet him. I stuck out my hand, shook his, then realized I had no clue what to say. I guess I was hoping he’d throw out something clever to break the ice, but he looked just as surprised as I was...He smiled and shook my hand, but said nothing. I mumbled “nice to meet you” and then walked away to buy a t-shirt. I can’t believe I did that! I could have stood there and had an actual conversation with the guy. Nobody was making me walk away from him, but I chickened out. I definitely should have at least thanked him, told him he did a good job, and, I don’t know, introduced myself maybe? Oh well, I can hardly complain about getting to meet Zac Hanson the first time I get to see Hanson ever.”
In further retrospect, it’s obvious to me the real reason why nobody had approached Zac yet: my oblivious 18-year-old self was standing frozen at the head of the stairs and blocking everyone from getting to him even if they tried.

I bought my t-shirt, and it was over. No after party, no Hop Jam, and no tearful hugs and goodbyes and promises to see anyone soon. I left with nothing (and everything) to look forward to. My review ended with two bold statements. One epically true, and one laughably false.

The biggest lie I ever told:
“Overall, it was the experience of a lifetime. I never get to do anything like that; I can hardly believe it happened.”
(As I've joked since. Once in a lifetime opportunity? More like once a year for the rest of my lifetime.)

And a truth I couldn't have predicted any better:
“I’ll end with one of the many things I should have told Zac when I had the chance—it may have been my first time seeing Hanson live, but it won’t be my last.”

While digging through a lot of old files and making sure I didn't skip any other great gems from my first show, I found two other things I had long forgotten. The first was a screencap of an article I wrote for HNOTES (remember HNOTES?) about my Middle of Nowhere Acoustic experience. You can see my first ever public show review HERE. The second was an autographed picture. I was lucky enough to get reporter just a few months after that first show, and I ended up bringing a printed copy of my group picture as the item I chose to get autographed. I knew this existed, but I had completely forgotten what Taylor wrote on it. When I read the message the day he wrote it, I felt a little undeserving. Of course he had no way of knowing that I was "new" (or reformed), so I just smiled and accepted the personalization. Finding it again now felt a little serendipitous, like finding a note Hanson wrote me ten years ago that I was meant to read today.

Now I can finally say it back. Happy 10 years, Hanson! You have, in fact, given me all the best. ♥

March 28, 2017

Travel Tips: Booking a Flight

Someone recently suggested that I write a blog post with tips for booking flights. It’s a topic I’ve talked myself out of covering more than once because unfortunately, there's not much you can do to save money on flights. There are dozens of tips out there about when to book for the best deal (six weeks out on a Tuesday, using the Hopper app, etc.), but truthfully I haven't found any that are consistently accurate. So I can’t tell you the best time to book or where to find discounts, but I can share a little insight into how I book and a few things that I have found useful.

1. Don’t limit yourself to one airport.
If you have your own transportation and are able to drive yourself to the airport, don’t be afraid to look into flying out of an airport a little further from home. My home airport is small and usually significantly more expensive than surrounding airports. Because of this, I have a triangle of airports that I use: my home airport when I’m lucky, another airport two hours away that is usually cheaper, and one 3.5 hours away for the most affordable cross-country or international flights. Just don’t forget to factor in airport parking if you decide to try this option.

2. Sign up for rewards programs.
Most airlines offer rewards programs free of charge, and some are even partnered with hotels and other companies to offer ways to earn points on everyday purchases by linking with any credit or debit card. You earn miles every time you book a flight directly through the airline, and if you fly frequently enough, these points can be redeemed for free flights or upgrades. If you have several airlines in a similar price range, try to choose one and stick with it to maximize points. There is literally no reason not to do this every single time you fly to make sure you earn the most points possible.

Here are a few that offer opportunities to earn extra miles outside of flight purchases without signing up for a credit card:
American Airlines Advantage eShopping
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

3. Consider getting an airline credit card.
Most offer generous bonus miles just for signing up, and you continue to earn miles every time you use the card. Many have a long list of added travel benefits that can go unnoticed by cardholders but are definitely worth researching. For example, my card covers rental car insurance and has reimbursed me for unplanned parking and hotel expenses due to delayed and canceled flights. Deciding which card is best for you is another topic entirely and one that I’m not equipped to tackle, but I found to be a great resource when making this decision for myself. Start by looking at what airlines fly out of your local airport and then consider which ones you have flown the most in the past. Those are likely the ones that offer the best prices to suit your specific travel needs. (in other words, it's not worth signing up for a card with amazing mileage and benefits if their flights aren't affordable from where you live)

4. See if your airline offers flight holding services.
If you see a great price but need a little time to shop around or make travel plans, check and see if the airline has a way to hold the flight. American offers free 24-hour flight holds for Advantage members (free rewards program), and United offers a Fare Lock feature for a small fee. I hold flights on American almost every time I travel, and I've only used Fare Lock once, but it was worth it.

5. Be aware that most airlines flying in/to the U.S. offer free flight cancellation within 24 hours of booking.
The U.S. Department of Transportation "requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty" as long as you book your flight more than seven days in advance. There's wiggle room for airlines to implement this in a couple of different ways, but the bottom line is if you change your mind within 24 hours of booking, start looking for a way to cancel, because it exists in some form. This is great if you happen to stumble onto a cheaper price shortly after booking, or if you're me and you forget to factor in an extra day for sightseeing in a new place.

6. Don’t be afraid of Spirit Airlines…IF you can pack virtually nothing.
Spirit doesn’t exist in every major city, but if it’s in your local airport, don’t let the horror stories scare you away (I assume the same is true of other discount carriers like Allegiant, but I only have experience with Spirit). It has a bad reputation mostly due to the fact that they charge for every little thing from a carry-on bag to simply printing your boarding pass or choosing a seat. It’s not worth it to save on your ticket if you’re going to have to pay just as much to bring all of your luggage, but for an overnight trip, it can be a steal. In the past I’ve flown roundtrip from South Carolina to Chicago for under $100, and from SC to Washington DC and back for $40. I have a flight booked in the fall for just over $200 that would have been $500+ on a regular carrier. (And you better believe I’ll be squishing some packing cubes into a tote bag and skipping all the fees.)


7. Don’t follow flight prices until you’re ready to book.
This seems counter-intuitive, right? How do you know if you’re saving money or throwing it away if you don’t know what the flight cost last week? I say this for two reasons. First, it has been debated for years whether or not some airline websites use cookies to track search history and adjust pricing accordingly. I.E., searching the same flight multiple times from the same device can theoretically lead to price gouging—but if you were to search the same flight from a different device or while logged out, the price may be lower. I’ve only noticed this happening once, and it could have been a coincidence, but it’s enough to make me lay off the search bar a bit. The second reason is simply that prices fluctuate so frequently and unpredictably that it’s honestly not worth the regret you’re going to have when you log back in and see that your flight went up $50. Realizing that you should have booked yesterday doesn’t actually save you any money, and stubbornly waiting until tomorrow to see if it goes back down again might mean it just goes up another $100.

I suppose my biggest takeaway from flying often is that saving money up front on flights is rare and unlikely, and your best bet is to try to build up a loyalty to a specific airline to maximize rewards and hopefully save more in the long run.

What are some of your successful or failed flight tips? Feel free to share in the comments!

January 24, 2017

How Many Shows Have You Been To?

A non-fan recently asked me how many Hanson shows I've been to, and I had a little bit of a revelation. I'm always hesitant to give a concrete number to someone that I don't think will "get it." It's not because I'm embarrassed or because I don't want anyone to know, but because sometimes giving a high number feels like the fastest way to be written off as crazy. Of course not everyone will have a negative reaction, and there are plenty of people that can respect being passionate about traveling for a band even if they've never done it themselves. Still, saying “I’ve been to a hundred shows” seems more likely to kickstart whispered jokes than high fives most of the time.

And while I’m not ashamed about the number of shows I’ve been to, I realized that maybe the best way to describe it to someone on the outside is to say that asking me how many times I’ve seen Hanson is like asking you how many times you’ve visited your Grandma, or how many times you’ve hugged your mom in your lifetime. Do we have to set limits on meaningful experiences? Do we always quantify the things that make us happy?

And lastly, the real question here: Do you already respect who I am as a person? Because if you do, then finding out how many Hanson shows I've attended shouldn't change the way you feel about me any more than the number of apples you've eaten in your lifetime should affect the way I feel about you. Hanson isn't for everyone. Following a band isn't for everyone. Expensive handbags and football rivalries and video games aren't for everyone. But mutual respect, compassion, and acceptance can be, and hopefully--if you're lucky--passion can be, too. So whether you're a fellow fan or a curious friend, I hope you've found your Hanson. And when someone asks you how many times, whether your number is five or five hundred, the answer will always be "Not enough."

January 12, 2017

Back to the Island 2017

I seriously considered not even writing a blog post about this trip and just pasting in the setlists for the solo shows to let them speak for themselves. Every Back to the Island Event has had that one thing that stood out above and beyond the rest, and in my opinion, 2017 has been the year of the solo shows.

Isaac’s Show
Isaac went first and set the bar impossibly high. He effectively made up for every eye-roll moment of last year’s mess of a late set the moment he mentioned Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It was completely unexpected and nothing short of breathtaking. He also covered David Garza’s “Too Much” which included the use of a loop pedal and Isaac playing both piano and guitar on the same song. It was a bit high for his voice, but it was great to see him experiment with some new performance techniques and share a song with us that he obviously loves.

We’re just getting started about Isaac's set. It was a total emotional rollercoaster. He played “A Life Without You” for the second time, and last year that song wrecked me. I managed to keep myself together this time, only to fall apart completely with “Call Me” a few songs later (along with the rest of the crowd). “Call Me” is a song I have never really given much thought, but this time Isaac told us the backstory and it made all the difference.  He said he wrote it for a friend who had been given some bad news. I was able to think about the lyrics and realize it’s sweet that he wrote a song for this person who obviously needed a friend to talk to. Then he told us that his friend had passed away from cancer within the last year, and that he wanted to play it in her honor. I lost it and spent the whole song a blubbering mess with my friends holding me in a big group hug. Even standing there wrapped up in my own emotions, I couldn’t help but feel a lot of respect for Isaac for dedicating this song to his friend and for being able to get through a performance of it when he must have been feeling a lot of the same things I was feeling.

I was at a show a few years back and there was an awful moment where someone loudly called Isaac out in front of the entire crowd for not taking the walk earlier that day. He shot back that he missed the walk because he had been on the phone with a friend who just found out she had cancer. The whole crowd went silent and it was awful and sad and we all felt for him, and I’m sure the heckler felt like the biggest jerk alive. I don't know if this was the same friend, but being there for both moments just felt like it all came full circle in the worst way. It was a beautiful dedication and I’m proud of Isaac for doing it and felt honored that he shared that moment with us.

He also explained that “Beautiful Eyes” was written around the same time his youngest sister was born, and he gave it the context of losing a mother during childbirth and said that the girl in the song didn’t just leave him, she “left” him, and pointed to the sky. I’ll never hear that song the same way again, and it just goes to show that not every song is just some cheesy love story without any depth. Also someone got engaged during “More Than Anything?” I mean come on, this set had tears and joy and life and loss and Leonard Cohen and a church hymn, and I really couldn’t ask for more. I'm still going to make you look at the setlists.

Two Tears
A Life Without You
So Lovely
Next Train
Call Me
Beautiful Eyes
More Than Anything
Too Much (David Garza cover)
Hallelujah / Amazing Grace

Taylor’s Show
Taylor’s solo set was thankfully less of a tearjerker. He blew everyone’s minds (and his nose 😂). The crowd lost it when he pulled out “Love Somebody to Know” and “Breaktown,” which is probably one of the most requested Hanson songs in existence. I have never seen so many phones and cameras fly into the air so fast. I have to say, in a totally unexpected turn of events, my actual favorite from his set was “You Never Know.” I’ve always enjoyed that song, but it has never been anything particularly special to me. Taylor just completely nailed it and included a killer piano solo that won over my piano-loving heart. I feel like as fans we’re always quick to talk about rare and favorite songs and there’s always a focus on the setlist, but Taylor’s voice just sounded amazing and on point throughout the entire set. For me, the quality of his performance outshone the excitement of the song selection, which is really saying something considering the great songs he picked. I honestly think his performance of "You Never Know" might be the best performance I have ever seen him give of anything, or at least it felt that way at the time.

I've Been Down
Make It Out Alive
Love Somebody To Know
Cut Right Through Me
Be My Own
Never Let Go
I Will Come To You
Runaway Run
Get The Girl Back
You Never Know
Get Up And Go
Save Me
Follow Your Lead

Zac’s Show
The best part about Zac’s solo was his willingness to share background information about most of the songs he chose. I always want to know more, and Hanson just loves to be vague and leave songs open to interpretation. He talked about how “Juliet” was originally written for his daughter and that it started out using her name instead of “Juliet.” He said “Fire On the Mountain” is about people not figuring out what life is about and just kind of drifting through without ever figuring out some sort of direction or what they believe. He gave “What Are We Fighting For” a political introduction and talked about being fed up with all of the arguing between opposing perspectives.

My favorite part was what he said about “Siren Call,” which is apparently much darker than I had interpreted. He said it’s a song about deep depression and the dangers of giving into those dark feelings, and that the only way out of it is to start thinking of others instead of focusing on yourself. It just gave that song a much more real and tangible meaning to me, and I imagine anyone who has suffered from depression can relate to that constant pull and how hard you have to fight to keep yourself on track and away from the rocks. You can check out what he had to say about it here (fair warning, there is some strong language).

Chasing Down My Dreams
Fire On The Mountain
Siren Call
No Sleep For Banditos
What Are We Fighting For
Save Me From Myself
Do You Believe In Love
Get So Low

Full Band Shows
We voted on themes for the full band shows months ago and 2 of my 3 choices won, so I was pretty happy with the outcome (acoustic won out over my choice of Christmas). The Rock All Night set was my top pick, and it didn’t disappoint. The only thing that felt missing to me was “Do You Believe In Love” with its crazy drum speed, but we got it as a Zac solo later anyway. If I come into knee problems in my old age, I will point fingers back at every BTTI from jumping on the sand, and this show will probably top the list of culprits.

I loved that the acoustic show opened with “Stories,” and I’m positive we butchered the “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’” dance worse than ever. Taylor called out the “dance moves” happening in the back, so I’m sure Hanson could see our failed attempt, but whatever. We always have a blast trying. This show was the first time I heard WYIYD (live or otherwise) since losing my dad, and I wimped out and went to the bathroom when it started even though it was the final song of the show. I could still hear it, but I was removed enough to lessen the blow. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had just stayed there on the beach and given myself over to that inevitable moment, but it was the same day Isaac played “Call Me” and I had already had enough of feeling sorry for myself.

The final fan club show was great, but not quite as great as the one they played at BTTI in 2014. They chose several of my absolute favorite fan club songs (On and On, On the Road, Sunny Day, Sound of Light, Feeling Alive, No Rest for the Weary, etc.). In fact looking back at the setlist, I’m not sure why it didn’t blow my mind a little bit more because it’s perfect on paper.  I think the energy was just kind of dead around us, and the growing number of people standing on chairs and tall guys wandering around didn't help. There was this particularly great moment I witnessed during “Roller Coaster Love” thanks to those chairs, though. If you haven’t seen it live, Taylor shouts “Your roller…” and the crowd pumps their fists in the air and shouts back “COASTER!” One of the girls standing in the chairs ahead of us did this without thinking with a full drink in her hand. She managed to hold onto the cup, but I watched the full contents of the cup go flying forward in a projectile shower all over whoever was in front of them. Thankfully, I think there was a decent gap between her and the next set of people so she didn’t completely drench the crowd, but it was so great watching it happen, and it felt like slow motion seeing it go flying and watching her and her friends clap their hands over their open mouths in disbelief immediately after. I'm also happy to report that I did enjoy "Freak Out" live so much more than the recorded version, just as I hoped I would.

The final show ended with the best group cover of “Back to the Island” they have done yet, facilitated by Andrew Ripp adding in a rap verse. I loved his show and wouldn’t mind seeing them bring him out on tour sometime. John Fulbright was obviously crazy talented with the harmonica and piano, but he also had the attitude and stage presence of Charlie Mars in a wet blanket, so I’ll pass.

The Events
I don't have much to say about tie dye. There were a lot of people asking for pictures, but it was a slightly more organized chaos than my experience with Taylor's tie dye last year. Taylor and Zac were both able to wander around from group to group even with all of the photo requests, and it didn't feel super crazy. I heard the first session was worse, but I wasn't there. It was still a selfie-fest and probably will continue to be unless Hanson collectively says no to photos and sticks to it. The dye seemed diluted (the several minutes of rain at the beginning of our session probably didn't help), so my shirt didn't turn out great. 

Cards Against Humanity was a lot more tame than I anticipated, but still hit enough of the inappropriate territory you would expect from that game. Zac set it up in a way so that he was the judge the entire time and he was the only one who had to read the cards, which I really enjoyed because I could have actually survived being called up for that version if that had happened. The best part was when he misread the completely innocent "vigorous jazz hands" card, and that's all I'll say about that. I'd be happy to see him attempt this game again, and I enjoyed having it after the show to free up more time during the day.

Cards Against Humanity videos via hansonstage (If you weren't a fan of the language in the above Siren Call video, skip this one entirely!)

Family Feud was a little all over the place. I love Isaac to death, but I don't think he was prepared with the rules of the game. He kept forgetting to reveal the rest of the answers that nobody got, and the crowd had to shout at him every time to get him to do it. I got called up for the second round and Isaac got confused and tried to throw it to the other team when it was my turn even though we only had two X's instead of three. I just remember sitting there holding the microphone for what felt like forever before he stopped debating with the crowd and finally let me answer. (Sidenote: The question I got was "Things you'd hate to forget on a trip," and I'm still appalled that in a crowd full of traveling Hanson fans, my first answer of "tickets" wasn't on the board!)  It was all in good fun and had a lot of laughs and was never meant to be a serious competition, but it probably shouldn't have taken two hours to get through 10 rounds. I'd still do it again and preferred it to trivia.

Family Feud videos via hansonstage

I missed a lot of Taylor's dance party, so feel to leave a comment and let me know how it went from your perspective. I wandered in towards the end and it looked like a lot of the crowd had already left for the night. I did witness Taylor laying down on the stage and taking numerous selfies with the people up front, and it went until around 1:30 AM, so I'd say it was a better success than last year's shortened version. He played a Michael Jackson song twice in the short amount of time while I was in there, so God knows what I missed in the hours I wasn't. Zac and Isaac were both around and mingling with fans during the entire party, which was especially nice for someone like me who isn't really into the whole party scene. The overall atmosphere and vibe of Back to the Island has been so different every year, but this year felt the most laid back to me in terms of fans being respectful of Hanson's space.  I don't know if some of the more overzealous people were absent, or if after five years some have calmed down, but it felt like Hanson was around a little more this year and overall, people handled it better than I expected. I hope that trend continues.

It was neat sticking around for an extra night again and getting to see Little Feat and their fans who are a few decades older than most of us and are on their 15th island event. We watched the fans show up and clap each other on the back and shout "Hey there, old man!" before giving big hugs. During the show, we pointed out different people in the crowd and said "That's you in 20 years. That's Isaac in 20 years. This is us in 20 years." And you know, I really hope it is. And I really don't want to talk about how much money I'll have spent on BTTI or how many swimsuits I'll own by then, but I'll be there. #BTTI2037

November 15, 2016

The H-Bomb Show: Why Do You Love Hanson?

If you're reading this right now, I'd be willing to bet you have opinions about Hanson. You may not have a blog of your own, but maybe you can be found discussing them on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps you prefer the forums on, or the safety of a private group text, or maybe you mostly just keep your thoughts to yourself. But whatever your preferred platform, I'd like to challenge you to add a new one to your list in December: The H-Bomb Show.

If you're not familiar with it yet, The H-Bomb Show is a free podcast launched by Nick Navarre (a.k.a. Tall Bald Guy) earlier this year. The show has since explored a range of Hanson-related topics and has included several guest appearances by Hanson fans sharing their stories and opinions. You should really give it a listen if you haven’t heard it yet.

Next, you should consider adding your voice and getting involved. I’m excited to be helping Nick out with a special holiday episode in December, but we can't do it without your help! The episode will revolve around a single question: Why do you love Hanson?

All you need to do is email your name, where you’re from, and why you love Hanson to We’re leaving this pretty open-ended, and it can be as long or as short as it needs to be to answer the question (I know, spoken like a true English teacher).

I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing the variety of great reasons that I know we all have. Don’t let yours go unheard! The deadline is December 4th. Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions.

Check out The H-Bomb Show's episode about this project below for full details.

You can follow The H-Bomb Show on FacebookTwitter, and for updates.

October 30, 2016

Relient K: Slow Down and Not Forget

I want to take a detour from my usual posts about traveling for Hanson and let you guys in on another band that has held a quieter importance in my life over the last 13 years. I’m talking about Relient K. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re probably best described as a Christian Rock band with punk tendencies (though not so much punk in recent years, and not always overtly Christian). Personally, I just categorize them as awesome. A close friend introduced me to their music when we were 15, and I immediately fell in love with their witty lyrics and wordplay before I ever figured out that I had any writing skills of my own.

I listened to their album “Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do” every morning on my drive to school in the 10th grade. They have these great lyrics that for whatever reason I can never seem to fully learn no matter how many times I listen. It's like they say so much in so few words that I find myself just listening and enjoying it rather than trying to repeat it, and it's the perfect mix of serious and silly. I saw them perform for the first time in 2005 when I was 17, one of the first concerts I ever attended. They were the first band I truly loved that I got to see live, and I think I owe at least part of my love for live shows to these guys.

When I rediscovered Hanson in late 2006, somehow Relient K took an unplanned backseat. Sometimes when I’m listening to their music I question how and why that happened, because I don’t feel like I love their music any less, nor does it feel like a competition. I love both Hanson and Relient K for different reasons. They occupy separate spaces in my music fan heart. Still, I’ve got 10 years of Hanson experience and over a hundred shows, and after 13 years of Relient K, I just returned from my 4th. It boggles my mind a little bit because I feel like I love Relient K’s music way more than four shows’ worth implies, especially when you know my Hanson background. I guess it's an excellent reminder that the number of shows you've been to doesn't make you any more or less of a fan than anyone else.

If I’m being completely honest, I think it might come down to the fact that when I went looking for more, Hanson’s fanbase was waiting for me with open arms. There was a fan club and forums full of people talking excitedly about this music that I loved at exactly the right time in my life, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Even today, I’m not sure where to find the largest concentration of Relient K fans, and I think that has made all the difference in me being willing and able to travel to see them the way that I do for Hanson. I simply haven’t made the connections I needed in the Relient K fan base to push me to do more. There were no enablers making it seem “normal” to knock out ten shows in a single tour, so I didn’t. And every time I see them, I regret it a little bit.

But that hasn’t stopped me from seeing them when they come to Myrtle Beach, and thankfully they do that somewhat regularly. I just came back from their stop here on the Looking for America Tour with Switchfoot on October 28th. Of the four times I have seen them, I’ve gone alone twice. It terrifies me to no end, but they’re worth the discomfort of braving the crowd alone. This time I bought a VIP ticket that got me a M&G and photo opportunity with the band in addition to early entry. Aside from one incredibly quick and hideous photo I got with Matthew Hoopes three years ago, this was my first time actually meeting the band. I was terrified and excited and completely out of my element, so naturally the whole thing was a little awkward. Which is pretty much my way of life, so I’m fine with it. Matthew Theissen made small talk about where I’m from, which I completely bombed when he tried to ask what direction my city was in relation to North Myrtle Beach. (Look, I can’t give cardinal directions to my best friend or my mother either, so it's not necessarily a side effect of being star struck. It's a side effect of me being me. For what it’s worth, the correct answer was southwest!) They were friendly and polite despite my shyness, so I have to give them props for that. I hope for more opportunities in the future where I can redeem myself and act a little more like someone that has a personality.

The show was great from their more comedic songs, to their classics, right down to the part where I sobbed openly in front row center. They had released a surprise Halloween EP at midnight that same day, so we got to hear the EP in full. There is one song in particular called “The Cup” about Butterfinger Cups that I can’t actually stop singing, and if you’re a Hanson fan reading this, think Digital Pants quality with killer candy lyrics:

Some kids smile at SweeTarts, sweet hearts
(It’s so sad)
But three cheers for Three Musketeers
Out there fighting the good low-fat food fight, all night
That's right, three cheers for Three Musketeers
Reese's Cup was the candy they all measured up to
Snickers bar's no fun in the fun size

…you get the ridiculous and great picture here. The EP is called The Creepier EP-er, which is an obvious follow-up to 2001's The Creepy EP. Did I mention they make genius titles? Because they do.

On a much more serious note, the tears came at the end when they played a song called “Deathbed.” Morbid as it may sound, this song was instantly my favorite when it came out in 2007. It’s so real and raw and tells an unglorified story of a man who ends up dying of lung cancer after a pretty sad and unfulfilling life. The part that makes it beautiful is the redemption at the end, and the salvation that occurs on his death bed. It’s just a completely beautiful and moving song to me. I cried the first time I ever heard it even though it held no personal connection for me at the time. I had to stop listening to it when my own dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2015. I lost him last summer, and as far as I was concerned, I considered “Deathbed” permanently retired from my music library. I was afraid that a song that once felt beautiful to me would serve as a bitter reminder of my loss, and I didn’t want to be faced with the emotions I knew it would bring.

But life is full of surprises, like having to endure that song alone in front row center, in full view of the band with tears running down my face. I don’t regret it. I met another fan before the M&G and confessed my fears about hearing that song live. I felt like I owed it to her to not be the weird stranger sobbing uncontrollably next to her at the show, and she reassured me that it would be okay if I cried. I’m hesitant to share such a personal story here and I certainly don’t want to upset anyone or draw pity, but I also want Relient K to know how much I truly appreciate that song, pain and all, because through the tears it still reminded me of what I loved about it in the first place. It's nice to be reminded of the beauty and grace at the end of the heartbreaking story.

I'm not sure who this post is for, exactly. I know it's completely out of place for most Hanson fans that read my blog regularly, and it's probably just plain weird for Relient K fans to see this strange girl with a Hanson blog rambling on about a band that she has stayed oddly quiet about for someone that claims to love them so much. I guess it's for me, and maybe also for Relient K, who have certainly given me more than I have given them. I'd like to somehow give them the truth if nothing else.

I don't know that I have accomplished any of what I wanted to say with this blog post. It still feels like a weird and confused mashup of one girl's love for two bands and a little bit of regret for letting one of them seem less important, even if only in my own head. I guess I just feel like I owe this band something more than silence, like leaving out the truth of how much I love Relient K's music for so long is somehow the same thing as lying. So for what it's worth, Relient K's music has been a constant positive force in my life. I'm thankful for these goofballs from Ohio that sing about mood rings and elephants and the art of letting go of unimportant things. Chapstick, and road trips, and things like apathy. I just want to slow down and not forget to say thanks.  

And if you're not familiar with Relient K, have a playlist with a few suggestions!
(You'll have to check out "The Cup" on Youtube because it's not on Spotify yet)