September 15, 2018

String Theory: Denver

Denver was kind of a one-off accident. I never planned to go when dates were announced, but on a whim I decided to look at tickets after they went on sale. The venue looked interesting with seating in multiple layers in a circle around most of the stage, and I was shocked to find that there were cheap seats still available directly next to the orchestra. They were behind Hanson, but I knew they would offer an unforgettable view of the symphony. I bought a pair "just in case" and figured I could always resell later, and if not, a $29 ticket wouldn't be a huge loss. Pro-tip: buying Hanson tickets "just in case" is basically sealing the deal that you're going.

After going to two String Theory shows where it was a struggle to hear the orchestra at times, I knew I didn't want to let my "front row orchestra" seats go. I ended up going, and I'm glad I did. (Let's be honest though; you'll probably never hear me say "I ended up going, and I wish I didn't. That's when I'll know it's time to move on).

I also ended up at a last-minute baseball game with a friend the night before the show, because why not? I'm not really into sports, but baseball is the one I understand the most, and there was the promise of ice cream sundaes in plastic baseball caps. I convinced myself to choose random life experience over naps in a hotel room, and in the spirit of winding up places I never really meant to be, I'm glad I ended up there, too. Go Rockies?

The orchestra experience was everything I've wanted out of String Theory from the beginning. I'm not sure if the superb sound was due to our seat location or the acoustics of the venue, but the sound was without a doubt better than the other String Theory shows I've attended. (A few videos I've seen from mid-crowd lead me to believe the sound was overall better everywhere). We were so close to the orchestra that we could literally read the sheet music over the shoulders of the bass players, and the parts that had been harder to hear before were easy to pick out. We referred to them as the "spoiler seats," and I'm so glad this wasn't my first show because we would have known every song before the last one was finished.

The unexpected best part, though? The conductor stole the show--from our vantage point, anyway. In addition to conducting the orchestra flawlessly, he had the most animated facial expressions and gestures and is clearly passionate about what he does. Don't ever make the mistake of thinking an orchestra can't rock out; we saw living proof, and not just from Hanson. We had huge grins plastered on our faces at several times throughout the show because we couldn't help but love his energy, and I kept hoping nobody was going to look over and wonder why the crazy girls in the corner were laughing during a somber moment. Sorry, Hanson. This is the one where I fangirled over the orchestra more than you.

After the show was over, Hanson came out for a final bow and a surprise acapella chorus of "Weird." They didn't do this at all in Vienna or Columbus, and Pittsburgh got the chorus of "This Time Around." I'm curious to see if they'll continue doing this at future shows and keep choosing different songs from String Theory for each one.

As for the ongoing standing vs. sitting debate, Zac said something in the beginning of the show about sitting back and listening to the music that made me think it was a polite suggestion setting the tone for people to sit. Most of the crowd stood around "I Was Born" at the end like at previous shows, and Hanson seemed ready for it at that point, too. I think we're starting to find our normal for this tour. I'd give Denver an A for consideration to blocking views (one random girl that stood the entire time mid-crowd is keeping them from an A+), and maybe a B-/C+ for catcalling and outbursts. And "Something Going Round?" We stayed 100% silent at the end. I suppose Vienna was an anomaly to remember after all. 

This trip helped me knock a few unexpected things off my anti-bucket list, including my first MLB game and getting to sit behind Hanson for an entire show. I flew home straight into hurricane warnings and packed up and evacuated less than two days later, and my planned 3-day weekend has now grown to an unplanned 9+ day hurrication and counting. In other words, I'm safe and have no more excuses not to write this blog post.

For a closer look at the song choice/storyline, check out my first String Theory post here.

August 9, 2018

String Theory: A First Impression

The Spoiler Debate

Disclaimer: I'm sure it's obvious, but if you're still avoiding String Theory spoilers, stop reading now. This blog is going to be full of them, and it goes a bit more in depth than just the setlist titles.

The whole concept of posting ST spoilers on social media has been a mildly heated topic ever since Zac released the full setlist on just before the first show in Columbus. For the record, I've always hated spoilers for two reasons: 1. It takes away the excitement I get out of the element of surprise, and 2. Sometimes the spoiled content doesn’t happen, and that just leads to disappointment. It's like being told you're getting a new car for your birthday next month. You get to be really excited on that random day a month early, and you'll still be excited on the day you actually get the car, but you never get to live that moment of waking up to an unexpected brand new car. The excitement you'll feel on your birthday is only a fraction of what it would've been if you didn't know in advance. Or God forbid you wake up on your birthday and there’s no car in the driveway (*ahem* Zac mentioning “Bridges of Stone” in a post about String Theory).

The fact that each setlist varies and virtually any song can show up has always been part of the draw for me to attend multiple Hanson shows. For a tour that is guaranteed to be the same setlist every night, I guess that’s even more of a reason to try to protect my first experience with it. I knew I’d only get one shot to be surprised, and I really would’ve preferred that moment to happen while grinning ear to ear in a balcony watching it all go down vs. casually perusing Twitter while getting ready for work and scrolling past a glaring “OMG BREAKTOWN!” tweet that I can’t unsee. 

Consider it a personal preference and one I know I can't enforce, but it didn't stop me from trying to at least protect myself. I ended up knowing over half of the setlist by the time I was at my first show anyway, but that’s life. Kudos to anyone who makes it to their own show spoiler-free. If you’re still trying to steer clear now that the tour is on, 1. I don't know why you're reading this, and 2. Good luck. You might as well get rid of the internet.

The Show

Seeing the String Theory tour is probably the most excited I have been for a show since my first few times seeing Hanson over a decade ago. I'm always excited to go to shows, but it's a different kind of excitement after you've been to so many. You anticipate the happy familiarity and the tiny moments of surprise and change that come with each show, but the novelty factor is pretty much gone. With this tour, I got to anticipate something new and different and it was a refreshing feeling that reminded me of how I felt when everything Hanson was new and exciting. I'd hazard a guess that Hanson can relate.

I felt like an emotional sap the minute I walked onto the floor in Heinz Hall and saw the orchestra setup with Hanson's instruments in front. I don't think I stopped grinning for most of the night. "Reaching for the Sky" was a beautiful introduction to the show. "Siren Call" with all three Hansons on drums gave me chills, and the orchestra made it sound so full and haunting. "Me, Myself and I" was so much more than the clip we were played at Hanson Day, and I think having each brother sing a verse was a genius way to add to the story. The orchestra added a beautiful layer to each piece of music we got to experience. I only wish it had been a bit louder and easier to hear with Hanson's instruments at times.

"Something Going Round" brought an interesting difference between the two shows I saw in Pittsburgh and Vienna. On a regular tour, Hanson cuts the music and singing just in time to let the crowd ring out singing the final word alone. They end it with "You need that something--" silence, just the crowd "--now." I love that moment live. For both String Theory shows, the crowd sang along as usual for the "When the sun goes down, it's here waiting" part. Then Taylor sang the final "Well I've got this something" and did an exaggerated cut gesture with his arms, abruptly ending everything. In, Pittsburgh, this motion was followed with an eerie almost "loud" and powerful silence. It gave the song a strong ending where you can't help but feel the major difference between the full orchestra sound immediately followed by complete silence. In Vienna, his "cut" gesture ending all of the music was followed not by silence, but by a loud fan chorus singing the implied final line proudly and without hesitation: "I've got this something, that's been going round." It was kind of a magical moment and one I'm not sure was supposed to happen. They all grinned so big, and Zac even seemed to be laughing. We either finally got something right that didn't work in Pittsburgh, or we did something so unexpected that it came out epic. I suspect the song was meant to end on the silent note we got in Pittsburgh, but it made for an unforgettable moment either way. It's also a great reminder that no two shows are ever the same, even when they're supposed to be.

"Broken Angel" was probably my one true surprise in the setlist after a month of spoilers jumping out at me and was the source of the only excited butterflies I felt all night. "Breaktown" was breathtaking whether you knew it was coming or not, though I have to say Taylor gave kind of a mischievous grin right before starting it in Pittsburgh, and it got zero crowd reaction when they started the opening notes. I can't imagine the number of gasps it would've gotten if most of the crowd hadn't known it was coming. Hanson gave the invitation to get up and dance during "I Was Born" in Pittsburgh, and a song earlier during "No Rest for the Weary" in Vienna. I absolutely loved the final four songs together and selfishly wish "Feeling Alive" had been included somewhere with them as well. "Tonight" was such a powerful ending to the show, and I don't think they could've picked a better final song. I think it's an absolutely necessary "end" to the story they've created and lived.

ETA 8/13/18- I knew "Battlecry" sounded familiar when I heard it, but I brushed it off as having that "Hanson sound" that is always going to feel familiar. It just hit me today that it is the same song Everybody Else released on their album Wanderlust back in 2011, and it must have been a Fools' Banquet collaboration between both bands. This may be old news to anyone who hasn't attempted to live under a spoiler-free rock for a month, but my mind was blown for a moment. I guess unexpectedly hearing it years later with a different band and an orchestra makes a two week delayed reaction understandable.

The Story

I don't feel like I can fully grasp the story until I get the lyric book and can really look at the lyrics of the new songs that were written with String Theory in mind side by side with the rest. Don't be surprised if there's a future blog post with a fuller analysis. But even without all of the lyrics, I think it's obvious that the story they're telling is their own journey.

The first half is the story of a band starting up, dreaming big ("Reaching For The Sky"), having success ("MMMBop" & "Where's the Love"), and then ultimately coming up against an obstacle that could be their end ("Siren Call," "Got a Hold On Me," "Me, Myself & I"). If we didn't know the story already, the end of the first half might be a cliffhanger, or a crossroads moment where they can choose to keep going or say goodbye. I suspect the obstacle at the end of the first half is the struggle they went through with deciding to break from their record label, but it could just as easily apply to any or every problem they've faced. I'm sure there have been more than we know.

Having each brother sing a verse alone on "Me, Myself and I" was a great way to introduce the feeling of isolation and self-doubt and juxtapose it with the chorus that brings all three together. Though it sounds like a song about ending a relationship, I've always thought there's room for it to be about a band parting ways. The relationship isn't necessarily a romantic one, though they're expertly vague as always. I think for the purposes of String Theory, it's a song about making a hard choice that has the power to shape the band's future. Whatever the conflict, I'm glad Hanson chose onward.

Then they're back on track in part two, still "Reaching for the Sky" and pressing on with renewed determination as seen in "This Time Around" and "You Can't Stop Us." But the second half isn't just one uplifting song after another building to a final happy climax; "Broken Angel," "What Are We Fighting For," and "Breaktown" all serve to bring a little bit of that conflict back. Personally, I think it could allude to their issues during the making of Anthem that led to some talk of the band potentially breaking up. More than any individual breaking point though, it could be about any and every moment they stop and question themselves, whether it happened once in their career or once a day forever. But instead of choosing to wallow in the misery of Breaktown, they persevered ("No Rest For The Weary"), and once again found that spark inside and let it burn into something strong and uplifting with "I Was Born." They end with the positive but powerfully ambiguous note of "Tonight," and I'm again left looking back to my interpretation of that song as being the story of a band that almost broke up. The truth is they might always be on that ledge, but I don't think "Tonight" is there to add a sense of finality or closure. I think it's there as a reminder that every day takes work, and every moment is a conscious choice to either keep pushing forward or to take a step back, and that none of it should be taken for granted. For now, they're still searching for "The Sound of Light," and that's enough to tell me that they still have that hunger and passion to keep creating and doing great things. The mere existence of String Theory is proof enough of that.

I love "Tonight" the most because it mirrors String Theory as a whole. They literally ended a show that tells Hanson's story of struggle and success through their past songs with a song that does the exact same thing. The symmetry is perfect.

The Crowd

I saw several debates between fans before these shows about how everyone should behave for String Theory. People worried about everything from how to dress and when to stand to whether or not it was okay to sing along. I was curious too, but the arguing felt pointless because no matter what side anyone fell on or how passionate they felt, it was all speculation. I figured we'd just have to wait for the first few shows to happen to get a sense for what felt right for this tour, and even then it's down to personal preference. Nobody is going to hand us a set of concert rules with punishments for violators. It's up to all of us to do what we think is right and considerate, and that's something we're never actually going to agree about.

Now that I've been to two shows in vastly different settings, I'm not sure I'm any closer to an answer. The attire ranged from home-made fan shirts to little black dresses and formalwear. As a whole, people were more dressed up for Pittsburgh than Vienna, but that's to be expected when one venue has chandeliers in the bathroom and the other sells bug spray. In any case, wear what you're comfortable in because there's no actual dress code for these shows, and whether you wear a formal dress or jeans and a t-shirt, you won't be the only one.

As for the standing vs. sitting etiquette, I think the jury is still out, and I won't be surprised if it becomes a hot topic for the duration of the tour. There was more sitting in Pittsburgh and more standing in Vienna. As far as I could tell, most people didn't get up in Pittsburgh until Hanson gave the cue to dance during "I Was Born" near the end of the show. At the Wolf Trap in Vienna, there was a lot more standing and sitting every few songs, and to me it felt more like a chain reaction to the people up front standing when they felt like it and everyone behind them standing so they could see moreso than everyone as a whole collectively standing at the "right" time. The only time I heard Hanson comment on it one way or another was Zac saying we "now have permission to dance" at the start of "No Rest For the Weary." I'm sure we all have varying perspectives on this, and we're probably all a little bit right and wrong. Personally, I'm fine sitting and listening unless the person in front of me stands to block my view or Hanson tells us to get up and dance. As long as you're not dancing into someone else's space or being the one person standing up blocking thirty rows of seated people who didn't follow your lead, you're probably fine.

There were several songs where it made complete sense to sing along loudly, and those moments were obvious. The crowd sing-a-long part of "Something Going Round." The "oohs" in "Siren Call." Most of "Tonight." But there were also a few quieter moments where people around me were still singing loudly enough to drown out the orchestra. Like I said before, there were times when Hanson's parts drowned out the quieter orchestra, probably because they're used to playing loud and not having to worry about it at a regular show. I think the same goes for fans singing. Yes, sing along quietly the whole time if you want, but it's not your normal Hanson show so maybe bring the volume down from eleven and wait to belt it out when Hanson gives you the cue. Besides, if you're singing too loudly for me to hear the orchestra, I know you can't hear it either. And man, there were so many breathtaking sounds to miss.

The Verdict

It's a beautiful portrayal of my favorite band and their life's work. It's not perfect, and despite boasting an identical set, it will probably have a slightly different vibe unique to each orchestra they invite to share the stage. For someone that lives for live performances, I oddly can't wait to get my hands on the studio album so I can hear and replay all of the subtleties of the orchestra that are quickly lost in a moment where there is so much to take in at once. If you have the opportunity to see it, go. You won't regret it, and odds are you'll sit and watch it with pride and admiration like a parent at your kid's recital. Because however many years ago, you made the choice to attach yourself to this band and call yourself a fan, and their success feels like your success. Spoiler alert: They'll earn a standing ovation and make you proud.

June 2, 2018

Animal Instincts: 2018 EP Review

You should know by now that I like to analyze anything written; I guess you could call it an instinct. That being my "professional" opinion, I have no idea why this EP is called "Animal Instincts." I tried. I looked up definitions (instinct. noun. : a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned : a natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way). I read the lyrics. And I found nothing in particular that makes the subject matter in this group of songs any more instinctual or primal than any other songs. I suppose you could argue that wanting to stay young and opportunistic is an innate trait in most of us, or that love in even the worst of conditions is an animal instinct that is hard to overcome. But gold digging? Enjoying your weekend? Being attracted to flighty girls? My official comment on the title for this EP is that I'd love to pick Hanson's brains for the reasons behind their choice, because I'm personally at a loss. (Maybe we should have asked that question instead of Taylor's shoe size or whatever during the Q&A at Hanson Day, but that's neither here nor there now). I trust that there's a reason, but my red pen couldn't find it.

1. "Working"

This is the most 50's rock 'n' roll/Jerry Lee Lewis sounding song we've ever gotten from Hanson, and the studio recording doesn't do the live version justice. It's a fast-paced Isaac lead and is basically the non-Christmas version of "Til New Years Night" with way more piano. And man do I love that piano. I probably won't seek it out often on iTunes, but I'll be rooting for it to make an appearance at any and all future fan club shows.

Best lyrics: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in my Sunday best."

2. "Goldminer"

Every time I try to think about this song, I wind up singing "Ghostwriter" to myself instead. I'll trust that you can hear the similarities without me listing them. The best part of Ghostwriter Goldminer is the clever wordplay in the line "She's a goldminer, stealing your cents, robbing you blind" because she's stealing both your money and your sense (homophones ftw!). My other favorite part is when a friend ruined it (aka made it better) by pointing out that the first line kind of sounds like the girl in the song is a prostitute, and now I can't help but hear the whole song in the context of a guy who just wants to pick up girls but can't tell a prostitute when he sees one. And on that note, let's add "Working" to the list of titles I will inevitably confuse with this song.

"Out on the town, you're looking for love.
She's on the prowl looking for money
What can you say? How can you tell? What can you trust?
What can you do? How do you know? Who's out for blood?"

Better call the coppers!

Best lyrics: "She's a goldminer/ stealing your cents/ robbing you blind"

3. "Young and Dumb"

This is the part where I try not to go all "Feeling Alive" on you again and wind up with a full separate post about this song. "Young and Dumb" is definitely the breakout song of this EP, and it's full of lyrical gold.

My first reaction to the title was a flashback to 10th grade English class and Daisy Buchanan's comment in The Great Gatsby when she learns that her new baby is a girl: "I hope she'll be a fool – that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." Of course the context is completely different and "Young and Dumb" isn't social commentary on a sexist world, but the basic idea of romanticizing ignorance as bliss is there.

To be fair, I don't really think being "dumb" the way Hanson is using it is synonymous with literal ignorance. Dumb in this case means not yet jaded by the world; it represents the idea of being younger and a little more naive and wide-eyed in a hopeful way. They're not advocating for stupidity, just reminiscing about a simpler time when most of us had a lot less worry and a lot more optimism. It's nostalgia for the kind of innocence Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden before they ate the forbidden fruit and their eyes were opened to all of the evils possible in the world.

My reaction after hearing the whole song and seeing the full lyrics is that it's a more accurate perspective of how I've always felt about "I Was Born." I'd rather be young and dumb and surrounded by the possibility of still being able to believe that I was born to do something no one's ever done before. The reality is I'm not, and I can relate to this song so much more because of it. "Young and Dumb" is practically someone narrating how I felt while listening to "I Was Born" for the first time.

Best Lyrics: For a song about missing being young and dumb, it sure is packed with great lines full of wisdom. I might as well paste the whole song here.

"Been a hero and a deadbeat/ A pencil pusher and a piece of meat/ Wish I could forget what I know"

"And when my eyes are clear/ I see good intentions are a cheap veneer/ For every evil justified"

"It's hard enough to know it's not enough to know better"

4. "Bad For Me"

I'm actually surprised I like such a sad song, but I really do. It's about a heartbroken guy that is finally realizing he's in a bad relationship with a girl that clearly doesn't value him the same way he feels about her. I think I like it because it doesn't have the expected ending where the guy finally decides to move on, or the unrealistic happy ending where the girl sees what a catch he is and suddenly becomes worthy of his affection. He never follows "Now I see this love's bad for me" with the logical "so I'm leaving;" he just acknowledges the truth of his situation and we as listeners get no resolution. Maybe he stays, maybe he doesn't. All we know is he loves this girl whether she deserves it or not, and he seems resigned to that fate. It's kind of romantic in the saddest way.

Best lyrics: "When you love someone it's easier believing in the lie"

5. "Sophia"

The lyrics remind me a little of Billy Joel's "Always a Woman" where you get the list of potentially infuriating character traits that somehow wind up being endearing when you're in love with the person, but I'm not buying it. Sophia just sounds kind of annoying as a person, though props to her for still being songworthy. Her most redeeming quality is how her name sounds when Zac sings it.

Best lyrics: "Sophia."

Final EP thoughts?

Check out the final episode of The H-Bomb Show podcast June 8th to hear more EP talk.

May 28, 2018

Hanson Day 2018

I think my favorite part about Hanson Day 2018 was choosing not to stand in avoidable lines. It was uncomfortably hot most of the time, and after I got sick from waiting all day in the heat in St. Pete last September, I know better than to hang out on hot sidewalks all day now. Some lines like registration and the store are unavoidable if you plan to do them on the first day, but there is so much room to avoid lines if you want to, and I swear my quality of life over the weekend improved because of it. I walked into the gallery with no wait because I didn't bother trying to go until Saturday. I showed up to both concerts at doors and didn't have to bring an umbrella for shade or worry that someone might cut me in line because there were already 800 people ahead of me. Not caring makes vacation feel a little bit more like vacation, and it makes me super excited for the upcoming seated tour where I will also not have to wait in lines. I can't not wait?

The Store
Hanson tried a new thing this year that fans have suggested in in the past and put up a page on their website listing all of the new store items and prices. It was really helpful to walk into the store and mostly know what I wanted without having to wait my turn to get a good look at everything, and the line seemed faster all weekend because of it. I was also spared the awkward moment of blurting out "What do you mean $80 for an umbrella?!" at an employee in shock because I was able to get that moment of disappointment out of my system on the sidewalk before I ever set foot inside. I'd say it went pretty well. I only bought one shirt, a pop-socket, and a pair of sunglasses (that are too big for my head), so I did okay in the spending department, too. If it's anywhere near as hot next time though, I fully expect to see affordable "Hanson fans" for sale.

I'm not normally one to pay a bit of attention to Hanson's family, but somehow their brother Mac wound up co-hosting karaoke with Isaac this year, and he did a killer job keeping the crowd pumped. There was a really fun mix of Hanson and non-Hanson songs that people chose, and both Isaac and Mac took turns getting up and singing with fans and with each other. The first fan to sing was a guy that picked "Bohemian Rhapsody" that quickly turned into a giant happy crowd sing-a-long, and it was all uphill from there. There was a great "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" duo, some Wilson Philips, someone that sounded just like Alanis Morissette to me, and a strange but great tribute to Tenacious D near the end that Mac seemed thrilled to join in on. Congrats to everyone that got up there and sang! You guys were awesome and made it fun for everyone.

The storytellers "lecture" was easily my favorite event last year. I'm not sure this one lived up to the bar set by 2017 (it was about 7 songs shorter and there was no disco ball surprise this year), but I still enjoyed it. They chose a lot of throwback songs including a cover of "Money" that I'd only heard once on actual Hanson Day ten years ago in my hometown. "Wish That I Was There" was the unexpected standout for me. I don't care much for it on the CD, but the harmonies are just so good in a live acoustic setting.

I joked later that they're a bunch of storytellers for calling this event "storytellers," but I'm happy for any excuse to go to an extra show with or without the added narrative. We did learn that "Madeline" was named after a real girl that was the daughter of one of their producers(?), and also that someone may have stolen Zac's basketball...though I couldn't tell you what song that particular "story" went with.

Game Night
I'm on the fence about game night. I didn't participate in Hansonopoly last year, but this year seemed better because there were no elimination rounds and everyone got to play for the entire event. I'll give them points for that. But when we showed up the sound system was a megaphone...and then a microphone that was as useless as the megaphone...and then just Zac's shouting, which sadly worked better than all of the above. I think they did eventually get a microphone working but I can't remember. In the end it cost Zac his voice for the rest of the weekend, which is a shame since this was before the concert happened. I'm happy for his sake that he didn't also have to make it through a Hop Jam performance.

It was a little bit like tie dye 2.0 with Zac not making it to every table and people getting up to go to him for pictures instead. We played a few different games and the "Freak Out" game that came with our ticket purchase is basically a Hanson version of Yahtzee, or so I'm told since I've never played Yahtzee. It wasn't my favorite because I could never remember what the combination of numbers meant well enough to figure out how to tally my own score.

Our favorite was the silly poker-type game where we had to place cards on our heads and bet who was wearing the highest card without looking at your own. Sometimes simple is better.

Listening Party
I haven't had time to listen to "Turn Off The Machine" and analyze anything independently from the listening party, but I liked it. Zac recorded a voiceover bit for the beginning and explained that it's a musical story of a guy building a robot, teaching it how to do things, and watching it ultimately come to life and spiral out of control, leaving him with the decision of potentially having to destroy this "monster" that he created. Think Dr. Frankenstein--the original Mary Shelley story and not all of the Halloween green-skinned bolt-in-the-neck adaptations.

It reminded me of watching Fantasia as a kid and felt like it belonged with some kind of animation to illustrate all of the different parts. I enjoyed trying to pinpoint where the mood changed and imagining what might be happening during different sounds. I wrote exactly one note during the actual listening session of my initial reaction and tweeted it after we got out and I had a chance to google the video I wanted to reference:

I have no idea if Zac has ever seen that video or if it's pure coincidence, but I stand firmly behind the Swedish Chef comparison for at least a portion of the song.

I have no artistic skills whatsoever and I don't like wine, so I've never had any desire to do the whole wine and paint night thing despite seeing pictures of friends and their various landscapes, beach scenes, and half-empty glasses on Facebook. A Hanson Day version seemed like the perfect time to go a little bit outside of my comfort zone though and try something new with friends. I don't think I'm going to be commissioning any pieces any time soon, but I had a lot of fun and my pansy didn't turn out nearly as bad as I expected.

I saw a few complaints online about Zac not showing up, but it was clear to me when the event was announced that Zac being there wasn't part of the deal. However, the photographer did show up and film part of my painting class...right as we had finished painting one step and were waiting patiently to learn what to do next. Instead of showing us the next step, they started playing "Lost Without Each Other" and filmed us awkwardly singing and not painting for the entire duration of the song because none of us knew what we were doing. I'm sorry in advance if you ever have to see footage of me singing and awkwardly holding a paintbrush.

The Concert
I'll go more into the new EP with a separate EP review eventually (maybe), but I will say that "Working" is great live. It has this really fun 50's rock 'n' roll vibe and I'm absolutely in love with the piano in it. If you don't love the recording on the EP, withhold your judgment until you see it in person. "Young and Dumb" is easily the standout track on this EP, though I was a little nervous about the techno sound at the beginning of the recording until I heard it at the show. I have no idea how Zac sang his two new leads, particularly Goldminer, with his strained voice, but he did a decent job and gave it all he had left.

The only thing I'd change about the show was the downer solos in the middle. "A Life Without You" and "Never Let Go" might be considered rare, but I swear I've heard that combination entirely too many times at the last few Hanson Days and BTTIs, and I'm a little bit tired of needing tissues. Between that and WYIYD at Storytellers again, I could really do with a year of no sad songs. I'll give them a pass on "A Life Without You" because I know they were streaming everything and I'm sure it meant a lot to those that have never been to Hanson Day or BTTI to get to hear that one. But the fact that it's out there now means they can skip it next year, right?

"Tearing it Down" was the best, and the entire crowd was so, so into it. By the time the encore came and Zac was singing "I Don't Want To Go Home," I had completely forgotten anything was wrong with his voice and it sounded great to me. It's entirely possible I was caught up in a moment and just loving it all instead of looking for imperfections. If we all have animal instincts, there's one of mine--being the eternal optimist. I had a great time this weekend being not quite as young and dumb as I used to be, but every bit as childish and silly as always. ♥

May 9, 2018

So Hold On To the Ones Who Really Care

This week, “MMMBop” as we know it turned 21, I turned 30, and that combination has me thinking a lot about how I got here as a fan. It goes without saying that I am not the oldest or youngest fan by a long shot, and I’m proud to belong to a diverse fan base of all ages and backgrounds. I'm not writing this for me because woe is me and at the ripe old age of 30 I suddenly have all of the answers, but for all of us who have grown up loving a band and have had to navigate exactly what that means. Here's what it has meant for me.

If you’d asked me in 1997, I never would have thought I’d be following Hanson at 30 (or 20, for that matter). When you’re nine and daydreaming about meeting your idols, you think about meeting them tomorrow. You envision that one perfect day—and it’s always present day. You don’t think about what happens the day after that or think up some arbitrary cutoff date that means you’re “too old” and now you're supposed to like curtains instead. You don’t think about growing up and still chasing the music you love. You don’t dream about being an extra in a music video in 12 years, or dancing with a 27-year-old ancient-to-you version of Taylor Hanson, or attending their beer festival when you’re all well past legal drinking age. You don't think about how you'll feel when you're 25 and your friends are all walking down the aisle to the altar while you're walking down the aisle to seat 19A.

As an adult though, those thoughts start creeping in, or at least they did for me. When I got back into the Hanson scene and truly became a part of the fan base in 2006, I was 18. I was the perfect age to fall into this weird world of wanting to follow a band and actually being old enough to go out and make it happen without someone telling me no. I had wide eyes and shallow pockets and always wanted more. And with the joys of camping on streets and experiencing my first few times in the front row and meeting the band came the distinct fear that one day it would all go away. I don’t know at what point you get old enough to start feeling nostalgic about moments as they’re happening, but I felt that way constantly from the time I went to my first show.

I was always telling myself not to take anything for granted because I knew it couldn’t last (MMMBop, much?). I remember sitting in a dressing room interviewing Hanson and telling myself to take in every detail because I knew it was all going to be a memory soon. I can remember sitting on sidewalks at 20 and worrying that there might be some sort of shelf life to it all, and that I should “get it all out of my system” or do as much as I could while I was still able. It’s not that I thought I’d quit loving Hanson’s music, but more of an underlying fear that there would come a day when I would be expected to love it more quietly and from the confines of my car and iTunes instead of a sleeping bag 4,000 miles from home. I didn’t know if my career or family might one day not only take the front seat, but all of the seats, or that God forbid I might grow out of them and find out it was all a phase. It's nice to be able to take a retrospective moment now and realize that I haven't outgrown Hanson at all, and if anything I've grown more into them. I haven't spent 11 years getting the traveling fan lifestyle out of my system and avoiding growing up--I've spent it making lifelong friends and figuring out that being an adult and being an adventurous fan don't have to be mutually exclusive things. It just means that at 30, I've racked up a lot more frequent flier miles to keep going.

So for what it’s worth, life is weird and I’m kind of glad my nine year old dreams didn’t come true because reality turned out to be better. I'm even more grateful that my 20-year-old nightmares didn't come true and that I've managed to outlive the shelf life of the "phase" label, and I didn't wake up on my 30th birthday and feel the need to trade all of my concert tickets for collectible china patterns because I'd passed some socially acceptable expiration point. If I got written off as childish and crazy for hanging out on sidewalks at 20, then the people that are still in my life at 30 should realize by now that there's something more to it than that. If not? You know the saying--hold on to the ones who really care, and screw the rest. Or something like that.

And for the record, they say with age comes wisdom, but to quote an equally older Zac Hanson, "hell if I know" what kind of flower is going to grow. At this rate, it's probably a baby turtle.

February 21, 2018

(Un)Popular Opinion: Sea World Edition

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about Sea World and their treatment of animals. Prior to the backlash about Hanson playing there, in my experience as a non-activist average Joe, I had heard a few vaguely negative things about it, but my general disinterest in zoos as a whole was always enough to keep me from going there or seeking out more information. To be honest I’d heard more backlash against PETA than Sea World, so I sit somewhere in the middle with the understanding that you can’t believe everything you read and that every story has more than one side.

I strongly believe in keeping your mouth shut when you’re not educated about a topic, so I’m not here to argue why Hanson should or shouldn’t play Sea World. I don’t know enough to form a strong opinion much less push it on anyone else. I applaud anyone who has done their research and taken the time to examine a variety of sources and biases about a topic that means a lot to them. Hanson has taught us the importance of standing up for what we believe in time and time again, whether that means taking a symbolic barefoot walk or standing up for the underdog despite what others think. Silence will never evoke change, and I have a lot of respect for anyone that is willing to take a stand and speak out about something they feel passionate about.

Lately there have been several posts across social media and calls to action by fans advocating against Hanson playing at Sea World. I know it takes guts to stand up and call out a band that you love for doing something that you hate, and it’s encouraging to know that others feel the same. My issue with these campaigns is that most are being directed at Hanson and signed as though they represent the entire fan base. I’m not interested in quoting or calling out anything specific because there are several that fit this description, and I’m not looking to shame anyone. My point is this: keep standing up for what you believe in. If you truly care about something, don't back down. Write a compelling argument and put it in a public space; start a petition; re-tweet somebody you agree with; be open to a respectful discussion. Continue to protest Sea World long after this isolated Hanson show has come and gone. Things go viral for a reason, and if you have a good point that a lot of people agree with, spreading the word will become effortless. Stand up and shout it out, but while you’re doing it, please don’t claim to speak for everyone, don't exaggerate the number of fans involved, and please do not presume to speak for me or anyone else when you're addressing the band. Let the number of shares, signatures, or encouraging comments speak for themselves--but please, let other fans speak for themselves as well.



(and 2 or 3 friends that agree, and maybe a dozen or so more that will see this and feel the same…but I’ll let them decide if they want to be included)

P.S. Hanson still doesn't owe us anything.

January 14, 2018

Back to the Island 2018

Back to the Island 2018 wins gold for the strangest event yet. The timing couldn't have been worse for a lot of U.S. fans with a snow storm traveling up the east coast, and despite living in a mild climate most of the time, I became one of many with a canceled flight. You never expect to get snowed in in South Carolina, but the day before I left, six inches of snow fell in Charleston and shut down everything due to impassible roads. I found myself scrambling to rebook a flight for the second year in a row. (Last year a thunderstorm grounded my flight from Myrtle Beach, so I had to drive to Charleston instead. This year I just went ahead and booked out of Charleston to begin with, so naturally that backfired, too. Next year I'm hiring a mail boat). Thankfully I was able to work with American to find the only airport in the area with a seat left that would get me to Jamaica the same day, and I made it. And for the second year in a row, my last minute flight change put me on a plane with Hanson. I don't know what kind of weird backwards luck that is, but I'd honestly prefer to forego sharing a plane with Hanson if it means getting to Jamaica on the first try. Maybe next year.

As I finally descended into Jamaica, the usual beautiful blue aerial view of the island was obscured by fog. I spent the first two days swimming in a hot tub in the rain and substituting my usual cover-up with a rain jacket. I was already sick when I arrived this year, so throw in some major coughing to round out the not-so-perfect paradise image. I'm lucky my friends didn't quarantine me for the whole trip.

The rain and the dozens of flight cancelations led to the first concert being postponed an extra day. By day two, it was still too windy for the beach stage, so we wound up experiencing Zac's solo, Chris Carrabba, and the Rock All Night set in what was essentially a giant greenhouse wrapped in plastic that looked like the inside of a tanning bed. The shows were good, but obviously they would have been better on the beach. Still, I appreciate all of the hard work Island Gigs and Hanson put into making sure they happened anyway. The show must go on, and they probably moved mountains to make it happen.

Solo Shows
Zac went first and kicked off the event with "On the Rocks," which ended up being an entirely appropriate theme because the beach near the stage was dangerously rocky. He struggled with one song but I don't even remember which one, so apparently I'm not too phased. Other highlights include his first time ever soloing "Misery" and a brand new song called "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times." It was a cute and funny song that I doubt we'll ever see on an album, but I do hope we get a recording of it on a future member kit or perhaps Digital Pants. It had a great punchline at the end and I really liked it.

Isaac's set was last and probably the most mellow of the three, and I have to give him props for not making me cry this year. One of my favorite parts was seeing him play around with the loop pedal during "Leave the Light On" and adding in a fun and unexpected guitar solo. He told us he was going to play a song he wrote just a few weeks ago, but at the same time seemed to be improvising a new song on the spot while tuning. It was so put-together and sounded so good that I assumed he must be singing the new song after all. When he flubbed the ending I realized that he really had just been making it all up on the spot. It was super impressive for an off-the-cuff song and I hope we'll see the recording on later. Isaac should definitely be proud of himself for that one; I know I was.

Taylor's solo set probably would have been my favorite this year even without the surprise side excursion. About two songs in, he started talking about how some things can only be done on a beach in Jamaica. He said Zac and Isaac would probably tell him it was a bad idea, but they weren't there to stop him. During all of this, I realize he's pulling off his socks and I'm standing there confused and excited waiting for him to drop whatever bomb he's about to set off. He stripped off his over shirt, invited anyone up for it to go for a swim in the ocean with him, and ran off the side of the stage and into the water without further notice.

For all my talk about owning too many swimsuits, this moment is exactly why I'm always wearing them under everything at BTTI. It paid off this year, because when the moment came, I was standing in the back wearing a bikini and a coverup, and it took me all of three seconds to be heading towards the beach. The whole thing was kind of stampede-ish and was probably cringeworthy if you let yourself think about it for more than a second, but it felt more like a Do Go Be moment to me than something to be embarrassed about. After all, it came with an invitation and it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So about a quarter of the crowd followed Taylor to the edge of the water, a smaller number was brave enough (or dressed) to go all in, and just about everyone tripped all over the rocks along the way. I went in towards the back away from Taylor and got caught up on rocks immediately along with two other girls I didn't know. Instead of trying to get near him, we spent a hilarious minute flailing around each other, fully submerged in about a foot of water just trying to stand back up again while the waves kept raking us over the rocks. If you ladies are reading this--thanks for the laughs! My friend Yelena captured a picture of the moment below.

Taylor went on to play two of my favorite solos--"Crazy Beautiful," and "Believe," which I'd only ever heard once in a sad carpeted room in Cancun, so this time was a significant upgrade. I love "Sunny Day" even when it's been raining out, and "Be My Own" was beautiful as always. It was a solid set and definitely my favorite solo show this time.

Special Guests
I hadn't seen Stephen Kellogg since he toured with Hanson back in 2008, so it was fun seeing him again. We actually watched his set from the balcony of our room while eating room service dinner in rocking chairs. It's the best way, really. Chris Carrabba as a special guest really made the trip for me though, because I loved his music back before I rediscovered Hanson, and I got to tell him so. While most of you reading this were defending your honor to Hanson haters back in high school, I was off blasting Dashboard Confessional and Something Corporate without a second thought for those MMMBop guys. Now here I am, 15 years later standing on a tropical island with both of them. Life can be weird and great.

I enjoyed Cards Against Humanity again even though I didn't get the opportunity to play, and I thought the added Hanson-themed cards were a fun twist to mix things up a little from last year's event. The "Old MacDonald had a _____" round that someone insisted he sing all of the answers to was the best.

A post shared by Holly (@_hollywouldnt) on

During the last round, a girl two seats over from me stripped off her dress and proceeded to walk up to the stage in her bra and underwear when her number was called. Everyone was super confused, Zac ignored that it happened from what I could tell, and the game ended after that. I spent a minute trying to figure out if she was wearing a swimsuit (nope) and then trying to reason that her bra covered more than plenty of the bikinis I had seen so what did I really care? I ultimately walked away thinking that even if she had been wearing a swimsuit, that's still a super weird and inappropriate thing to do when a Hanson calls you up to play a game. It hit me during Taylor's solo show that we had all just collectively shamed a girl for pulling off her dress in front of Zac, but then I went and removed my own dress in front of Taylor (more like in the very back in his distant presence) and ran into the ocean with him. It's ironic, but there's one major difference: an invitation.

Family Feud went a lot more smoothly this year, but it felt like there wasn't much crowd excitement. By the end, anyone that wanted to go had the opportunity to participate even if their number wasn't called. My favorite part of the night was when my roommate Rachel answered "Name something you wouldn't want to happen while riding in a taxi" with "Get lost," and Isaac got super shocked and offended for a moment thinking she was telling him to get lost before realizing that was her actual answer. We all had a good laugh including Isaac once he realized he wasn't being insulted.

Tie dye on the other hand was a bit of a letdown for me this year. None of the guys ever made it to the table I was at, and I somehow managed to make my worst shirt yet. It looked completely saturated with dye, but when I opened it up back home it's almost all white. This is where I shrug and hope next year is better and am thankful that it wasn't my first or only shot for a good tie dye experience.

Full Band Shows
The "Rock All Night" set had the potential to be my favorite if not for the change of venue and the somewhat short setlist. I have to say I was pleasantly shocked at how much I loved "Oh La La La" as an opening song because I never really cared for it on the EP. The show was heavy with songs from "The Walk" (Blue Sky, Tearing it Down, Something Going Round) which is always fine by me, and I know so many people were thrilled to finally hear "World's On Fire." Getting to see Chris Carrabba perform "Back to the Island" with Hanson was a great moment and I hope just the beginning of a collaboration I'd love to see again. "You Shook Me All Night Long" was the perfect ending for a rock themed set, and I'm not even a little bit disappointed that they repeated it on the final night.

My favorite part of the Members' Only night was "Coming Back for More" with Stephen Kellogg. It's one of those obscure songs that I forget exists most of the time, which means I always forget exactly how much I love it until I'm hearing it again. It's hard to believe the first time I ever heard it live was also with Stephen Kellogg--ten years ago! "No Rest for the Weary" was another standout, and while I love "I Don't Want To Go Home," I completely tuned out the second half of it because baby sea turtles started hatching next to us by the soundboard. I didn't even realize the show was over at first because I was busy trying not to step on turtles. How's that for an epic finale?

I've never waited long for a BTTI show, but something possessed me to plant myself in the front row for the final show this year. Despite my initial disappointment at the announcement of a singles set, I really enjoyed myself and felt like the crowd energy was strong. I lost about half of "Weird" to silent giggles when I looked over and a random tractor was driving by on the beach, completely out of place during a somber moment. We were all just looking at each other and pointing at it whispering "Isn't it strange?" and dying about it while Hanson seemed unaware.

We found out more turtles were hatching right at the beginning of "I Was Born," and Taylor got excited right along with us and kept making references to them in his speech and telling them to DO, GO, and BE. He changed up the lyrics to "Don't want a ticket to the same marine" and "Don't underestimate the sting of the little turtle" which sounds so silly, but the crowd ate it up. Zac reminded me how great "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" is live, complete with belting the final high note right in my face. No camera or video could capture the wide-eyed crazy look that accompanied those high notes, but I don't think I'll ever forget it anyway.

Dance Party
This year's after party was probably my favorite. I thought the space it was set up in lining the street was perfect. There was plenty of room to dance, a bar within arm's reach, and plenty of places to sit and hang out and take it all in from more of a distance if dancing isn't really your thing. I enjoyed getting to hang out with my friends a bit further back without feeling like I was missing anything but also without feeling like I was being judged for not dancing more. I'm glad I stuck around because I got to see the moment when Taylor decided to bring up the entertainment staff during "Pony," and now I can feel like I basically got to see male strippers at a Hanson event, though thankfully their clothes stayed on. It was hysterical and I'm not sure Taylor knew what he was getting himself into by bringing them on stage, but it certainly made for a unique and hilarious moment for me as a spectator.

The End...for now
So it wasn't the best and it wasn't the worst, but it sure beat being snowed in back home. "Isn't it strange" felt like the theme of the trip, and I can't help but embrace the weirdness and be thankful for another unforgettable experience. Sure we got rain and dark walkways and limited hot water, but we also got turtles and a tractor and synchronized swim dancers and a surprise field trip into the ocean with Taylor. I spent it all with friends who would apparently rather get sick with me than stay well without me, and that's the best kind I could hope for. I live for those random unexpected moments, and BTTI 2018 provided plenty of them.

Whether there's rain, shine, or rocky beaches--Back to the Island is my patch of green.

December 28, 2017

Anti-Bucket List 2017

As soon as Hanson released "I Was Born" this year and started talking about challenging yourself to do exciting and even scary new things, I thought about my own Anti-Bucket List series that I've challenged myself with for the past few years. Here's my 2017--some planned, some definitely unplanned, and all survived and accomplished one way or another:

Anti-Bucket List series posts

December 16, 2017

Finally It's Christmas: Chicago

If you know me at all, you already know I'm an incredibly cheesy human being. I prefer puns to profanity on any given day, and it only gets worse being named Holly around Christmas time. I chose to do the two Chicago shows over the rest of the FIC Tour cities because several of my friends were also planning to go, and as you can imagine, the Christmas cheer got a little extra when we joined forces.

The trip began with me somehow packing a full sized sleeping bag, a giant thigh-length down coat, an extra fleece blanket, a holly dress, boots, and a few Christmas sweaters into a carry-on suitcase. I packed everything else in a personal item and managed to pull off not checking a bag or re-wearing anything. It was the first of many Christmas miracles this trip and probably my most impressive packing feat to date (after all that effort, it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit by the day we left. Go figure).

I'd normally talk about both shows separately, but the the setlists were identical and the biggest difference for me was the fact that I was front row the first night and in the balcony for the second show. The first night, Isaac's son also played the role of an elf roadie and handed his dad guitars while wearing a full elf costume. He kept waving to the audience and hamming it up dancing on the side of the stage. It was absolutely adorable and Isaac was beaming the whole time.

Hanson's performances were beyond amazing. There's a reason a video of "Joy to the Mountain" a fan recorded in NYC went viral; that song perfectly showcases their voices and ability to blend in seamless harmony, and it got the biggest crowd response both nights. Zac's rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas" was gorgeous, "Merry Christmas Baby" felt the most nostalgic and put the biggest involuntary smile on my face, and the finale made it clear that Isaac's voice was the perfect choice for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that manages to somehow make you feel just a touch of sadness while you're also bursting with joy. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that the setlists didn't vary at all, if only because I didn't get to hear my favorite part of the new album, "Happy Christmas." My all-time favorite is "My Favorite Christmas Sweater," but I didn't have much hope for that one being played since it's on neither album. Maybe one day.

After the first show, we managed another Christmas miracle by getting an overly festive Holly photo with Taylor. The other Holly pictured has since mailed it to me in an equally festive holly frame, and it will absolutely become part of my Christmas decor for years to come.

We made the most of our extra day and a half in Chicago and managed to check off a lot of tourist necessities. We went to Millenium Park and saw the Bean, the giant Christmas tree, and a picturesque ice skating scene that we all knew better than to try. We ate deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's, hot dogs and cake at Portillo's, and rode the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier. We braved the Tilt ride at 360 Chicago on the 94th Floor of the Hancock Building, which I thought would be scary since I'm normally afraid of heights. Instead, the unexpected blinding reflection of 1997 Zac Hanson's unimpressed face from the front of my shirt in the window made the experience more laughable than anything else.

The part I expected to be my favorite was the Christkindl German Christmas market, for which the English translation might as well be "Santa Claustrophobia" because it was so overrun with people. We waited in a giant hot spiced wine line before half of our group gave up and left, but I was determined to have my traditional German food to go with it. I'd take the number system and Hanson line cutters any day over a wiener schnitzel kiosk with an infinite number of branching lines and only two service windows. There were times when people who weren't even in the food line were at a stand-still in front of us for minutes at a time simply because there was no room to even leave. It was in no way a joyful experience, but to be fair, the goulash alone was kind of worth it.

By coincidence, SantaCon was happening in downtown Chicago on our full tourist day, so we kept passing dozens of bar-hopping Santas. There was an array of creative costumes, including a full-suited Buddy the Elf and one confusing Santa with severed Coke cans protruding from his face. Someone identified him as "Canta Claus," and now I can rest easy knowing that the worst pun of the entire trip was someone else's doing. In a peak moment of greatness, we caught a glimpse of about thirty or so Santas outside of a bar called "Joy." My only regret was not asking to be in a group picture with them all.

At some point before the trip, (other) Holly had the genius idea to hang stockings from our box in the balcony for the second show. We weren't sure we'd be able to pull it off or if it was even worth trying, but somehow it worked and we found ourselves with a makeshift mantle place with seven stockings, two small battery-powered candles, and a tiny USB-powered Christmas tree. We thought the whole setup was relatively minimal right up until we caught a glimpse of ourselves in a video on instagram later where a couple of blinking necklaces and one light-up sweater had us looking a little more 4th of July than we ever realized (or intended). Thankfully we didn't keep those on the entire time, and we managed to secure everything well enough that nothing fell or shifted. I'm still amazed and excited that we pulled it off.

Come on, it's Christmas; we bring it with us. Stockings, lights--forgive us! #punderfulchristmastime
(lyrics c/o @yelanger)
At the end of the show, the House of Blues trumped our display by surprising Hanson with snow during "Blue Christmas." It was a magical moment that I never expected, and I'm so glad I got to experience it alongside a few good friends and a few badly hand-painted stockings. I don't think I was the only one that teared up a little when Isaac changed the lyrics in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to "Through the years we all have been together, as the fates allowed" and motioned to the crowd and back at himself as he said "we." It was a beautiful ending to a great pair of shows and probably my favorite one-off trip ever.

We went back to the hotel in our fancy dresses and laid our candles and tiny tree on a lobby table to prepare for a candlelit takeout feast. One of the few places still open for delivery to our location was a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, and I think it may be safe to say that cheesy goodness became a big theme of our trip. I feasted on delicious Mexican and pulled-pork grilled cheeses, fried cheese curds, fried pickles, and chocolate milk, and it was everything I've ever wanted from midnight delivery food.

I'll end by saying this: May your days be merry and filled with "Finally It's Christmas" songs on repeat, and forget the candy canes--may all your grilled cheeses be wrapped in quesadillas.

December 12, 2017

MOE Tour: Los Angeles

I always try to write my posts within a few days of a trip if at all possible, but here we are halfway through December, and I’m just now slowing down enough to write about Zac’s birthday show. I’m not sure if that means you’re going to get a more honest account after the rainbows and glitter have fallen off and I’ve come down from the usual tour high, or if it’s going to be a lot more boring because I’ve forgotten half of the fun details. In any case—my bad. Unfortunately car shopping and medical bills and the busiest time of the year at work can get in the way of writing for fun.

I do remember having trouble finding a place to shower and eventually Pricelining a hotel in Chinatown. I made my first Jimmy John's order directly to the line (“deliver to the second blue chair from the door”), and the delivery guy accidentally left his cell phone in my box of sandwiches and had to come back for it. And unfortunately, I also remember feeling super sick at doors to the point that I just knew this was going to be the blog post about “that time I threw up in the front row on Zac’s birthday.” Thankfully the feeling passed and that’s not the case.

There were two particularly special things about this show. One was the guest appearance of Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night to perform “Never Been to Spain” with Hanson. It was a complete surprise and a treat to experience. He gushed about how talented the guys are and talked about his own kid(s?) liking them and being forever impressed at how talented they were as children. Hansons’ faces lit up at the stream of compliments coming from someone they all obviously admire. It was fun for us fans to watch, but I think Hanson enjoyed it most of all.

The second special thing was the random appearance of a giant disco ball. I guess technically there were five large disco balls nestled into the ceiling, but during “Where’s the Love,” the largest one descended to just a few feet above Zac’s head and I’ve never seen anything quite like it at a Hanson show. It felt hilariously appropriate spinning our arms around to “it makes the world go ‘round and ‘round” when there was something the size of a giant globe spinning above the stage at the same time. I think the few other times I’ve mentioned disco balls at Hanson shows I’ve likened them to middle school dances in gyms, but this one felt more like standing inside the night light scene in the movie Mermaids with the spinning fish and waves projected on the walls. It was definitely more magical than a school gym and way more over the top in an awesomely ridiculous sort of way.

Isaac eclipse.

They brought out a cake and let everyone sing happy birthday to Zac, but at the ripe old age of 32, he decided not to go for the traditional Hanson cake smash. They had previously canceled the afterparty for that night, so maybe they had somewhere important to be later where icing might be an inappropriate hair accessory. Who knows. The show ended, I vaguely recognized that I was exiting the building next to Darren Criss, and that was that, the end of another tour.

The best way to put off PHCD is to do something fun after the last show, so we spent the next day at Universal Studios Hollywood despite the fact that it reached 102 degrees. We cooled down with Butterbeer, the Jurassic Park water ride, and frequent visits to air conditioned stores. I loved the Simpsons area and the backlot tour, and my favorite ride (that I probably shouldn't have ridden while still bruised) was The Mummy. I met some minions and wished I'd worn sunscreen and had a great time just being a kid for the day.