January 11, 2023

Back to the Island 2023






Before I even left the resort this year, I was already hearing people praise Back to the Island 2023 as the best one yet. The feedback I’ve heard so far is overwhelmingly positive, and while I’m not sure I would label it my personal favorite, I would agree that it has probably been the smoothest event yet where everything consistently went well overall. The music was well-rehearsed and varied, the weather was decent, the food was better than usual, the fans were relatively calm, and the staff went out of their way to make sure we were happy. There are a lot of little ways things can go sideways at these events (hello, cold showers and food poisoning), but we didn’t experience any of them. In the words of Isaac Hanson via Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah!

Island Vibes

I don’t know if it was due to the new mix of people that attended (with lots of first timers) or if maybe we’re all celebrating the lack of Covid testing and travel restrictions from last year, but whatever the reason, this year felt a lot more chill. The guys were able to mingle a bit more without being mobbed for selfies, and even the occasional cluster that formed around them waiting for a moment of conversation was nothing compared to the absolute swarm I remember forming around Zac in 2018 when a show got rained out. Taylor didn’t mingle much from what I could tell, but maybe his brothers will put in a good word about our behavior and he’ll feel more comfortable next time.

I think partial credit for the overall relaxed and happy vibe also goes to the resort staff, who in my experience were nothing short of wonderful. They were all smiling, friendly, and attentive. I didn’t get the feeling that they were fed up with us and hating their jobs, which is more than I could say for the Level staff at the Melia at times. I had a really nice conversation with one of the food servers at the buffet who seemed genuinely interested in knowing if we could tell that they were happy to have us there. I gave him an honest yes and a thank you for helping make it an enjoyable experience.

Full Band Shows

The first show was my personal favorite. It stayed mostly upbeat, had several lesser played album songs that I was happy to hear (Get Up and Go, Make it Out Alive, Musical Ride, Watch Over Me), and you can never go wrong with “Sunny Day” during an island vacation. My favorite part, though, was the medley at the beginning of the show. They played “Three Little Birds” with “Stir it Up” into “Back To the Island,” and the whole thing had a very mellow, slow tempo reggae feel. But then the reggae subtly morphed into more of a country vibe, which left me wondering what was going on, and suddenly, right in the middle of covering “Back to the Island,” I heard the unmistakable opening to “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. I think it has to take the place of #1 most random song to ever happen at a BTTI, but it was so, so good and honestly my favorite part of the whole trip. It put me in a great mood and set the bar high for the rest of the shows. I tried to tell Hanson how much I enjoyed it during the M&G photo but fully blanked on every identifying aspect of the song in that moment, so I ended up thanking them for “that song in the middle of “Back to the Island” by the Soggy Bottom Boys.” I’m sure they understood. 🤣  

The second show felt like it had an unspoken fan club theme, and I suspect it's the fan favorite. Highlights for me were "Somebody That Wants To Love You," "Running Man" (which has become incredibly rare in the last decade), "Stop Me In My Tracks," and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" featuring Zach Myers. The setlist was top-notch for stat seekers looking to add to their songs heard live list, but I think the crowd around me ruined some of the potential magic. I stood maybe 6-7 rows back on Taylor’s side at the “end” of a row and managed to have just enough gaps between heads that I could see. That changed when Zac came forward for the acoustic set and multiple people (including several tall men) came out of nowhere for a better view and filled in all of those gaps. I'm usually team "let tall people have good spots too" because they can't control their height any more than I can control mine, but that opinion doesn't extend to choosing a good spot in front of someone else halfway through the show.

Unpopular opinion: I'll take the same people in front row for every show over people casually wandering up to third row mid-show any day. At least I literally know where they stand and can plan accordingly, unlike nomadic drunk person #5 who's moving around like the ground is lava and the only path to safety is to carefully guide three friends into every sightline I ever thought about having.

There were also a lot of phones held way above heads in my vicinity at this show. To leave you with a visual, it wasn't my first time seeing "No Matter The Reason" live, but it WAS my first time seeing "No Matter The Reason" live while also watching a man brush his teeth live on FaceTime. Can we please not?


The last show was mostly RGB themed, which I fully expected to happen at some point. I probably would have swapped the order and made it the first night, but that’s just a minor preference and I don’t call the shots. I didn’t get any new live RGB songs out of it, but I loved the random inclusion of “Dying to Be Alive,” and it was fun to hear Hanson cover “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the first time. I always forget what a great whistler Isaac is and am impressed every time I hear it. 

It had nothing to do with Hanson, but I can’t leave out a particularly memorable moment that happened during “If Only.” I know I’ve said the service was amazing, but what I haven’t said yet is that it was almost too good at times. Servers were constantly weaving in and out of the crowd with drink trays, and I got asked a minimum of 10 times per show if I wanted something from the bar, even though my answer was “no thank you” every single time. It was a bit much, tbh. Anyway, early during “If Only,” I see a single brave, unsuspecting server start to squeeze his way to the dense center of the crowd while balancing a tray of drinks. I lost track of him before I could see what happened, but all I could think was “That’s not going to end well.” I hope for his sake that he emptied that tray before the harmonica hit.

Solo Shows

This is the part where I remind you that I’m a 10 year attendee and that my expectations for BTTI have been adjusted accordingly. I’m fully aware that it’s not possible to shock me with brand new experiences and song debuts every single time. I can love Isaac’s performance of “Hallelujah/Amazing Grace” and Taylor’s “Sound like Joy,” but that gut punch, butterfly-in-your-stomach “is this moment really happening?” feeling only comes once, and in my case, both were in previous years. I still loved hearing the songs and have zero complaints about the solo shows, they just didn’t send me into gushing fangirl overdrive like I know Hanson is capable of once in a while.

My favorite part was getting to hear "Climb", and even though I heard it once years ago, it took me a moment to figure out what Isaac was playing when he pulled "Make it Through The Day" out of the vault. The timing of the shows meant we got to watch the sun set during Zac and Isaac's sets, and there's really nothing better than standing on the beach watching your favorite band play while the sun goes down over paradise.



Side Events

Family Feud may not be my jam, but at this point it feels like an inevitability that I need to accept. A friend made a comment about a Hanson version of Family Feud, and I think there’s some potential there. Make up some Hanson related questions and use Hnet members to poll as the audience.

Name a reason that Hanson would be late to a concert.
Name something embarrassing you might do during a M&G.
Name an item you might have to borrow at BTTI because you forgot to pack it.
Name a behavior you don't want to see at a concert.

I don't know that there are enough good questions to get two game nights out of it, but I feel like if we're sticking to Family Feud for the long haul, there must be a way to refresh it.

That's not to say I didn't laugh and enjoy parts of it, and I think the whole crowd walked away with a handful of new "inside" jokes with the band. There were definitely a few "you had to be there" moments. 

As for the dance party, I’m all for letting it stay a pool party forever and think themed is definitely the way to go even if they switch it up. I didn’t get in the pool this year, but give me a reason to pick out cute beachwear and I’m down (I’m just more down if the pool is heated). This year's dance party felt the most active with the most people attending/participating and visibly having a good time over previous years. I don't know if that's because it was moved forward a day and people didn't need to worry about packing or not being hung over on a plane, or if there were just more people at BTTI this year so the crowd was fuller. Either way, it was a good time, and the addition of an acoustic set at the bonfire with AMMM the final night kept me from being disappointed about not having anything to do after the show.

Allen Mack Myers Moore

Speaking of AMMM, I just want to drop a quick mention that I enjoyed them as special guests and appreciated all of the fun covers that they did during their set and during the bonfire. I only got to see them twice on the RGB tour, so I was glad for another opportunity. They were talented, entertaining to watch, and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

Gag Reel

If you've been near me at a BTTI in the last several years, you've probably seen me perched on an island-shaped pool float. Last year, I left my beloved island at the resort, so I had to find a replacement. Enter: 72" watermelon raft. It was the perfect size to lay on, but as a 62" person, I can assure you I did not think things through in terms or transporting it once it was inflated. After one rigorous trip of carrying it all the way down to the beach by myself from our room in the farthest building, I finally realized it would be easier with a friend. We devised a simple way to attach my roommate's ice cream float to it and just carry the two together. It worked well enough, but I'll definitely find something more to scale next year.

But lugging it from one end of the resort to the other was just the start of my watermelon woes. My second day using it in the ocean, I was floating next to my friend, other Holly, who was reading in a lounge float that leaves you mostly submerged. I was lying down, eyes closed and halfway asleep when I heard her begin to scream. I picked my head up just in time to witness several small fish jumping out of the water around/on her and one land directly on her chest while she’s desperately flailing her arms to shoe them away. I barely laughed once before I felt something moving on me and looked down to realize that several fish had jumped right up onto my float and body. For those keeping track, the screaming Holly count is now at two. (To her credit, Rachel also caught a spontaneous float fish, but simply tossed it off and went back to relaxing).

I’m not afraid of fish, but it was such an unexpected jump scare moment that I swear I levitated and flew right off of my float and into the water without even realizing that my brain had made the involuntary decision to jump ship. At the last second I heard someone shout "your sunglasses!" because yep, I noped out of that watermelon fishnet so fast that I forgot sunglasses even existed much less that I was wearing them when I dove into the safety of more fish. Pro tip: when three fish are on you, diving face first into a school of a hundred more isn't the answer. Adrenaline and intelligence aren't always linked.

So other Holly ran out of the water while someone helped me retrieve my sunglasses from the ocean floor. Everyone around us was in hysterics including me, because once the shock wore off I realized how utterly ridiculous the whole thing must have looked. There's actually more to this story, but I'm going to drop a link to other Holly's blog and let her tell you the rest. I’ll never forget a moment of it.

If you think I'm done talking about the watermelon, bear with me a moment longer. As you can imagine, Holly and I and several other friends made camp in the pool the next day. Safer, right? I wanted a few photos laying on my adorably inconvenient watermelon since I knew it was my last time using it. When I flipped from my stomach to my back, one of my friends said “Holly, where did you get that bruise on your leg?” I sat up and looked down to a horrifying discovery: my legs were totally discolored with large black marks. Turns out if you lay on a painted float with sunscreen that isn't fully dry, you run the risk of turning the entire thing into a giant ink pad. My legs were covered in watermelon seed prints. The view from the back was worse, but I ran away to clean it before it could set, so there's no photo evidence. Suffice it to say that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, and my watermelon is now, as the saying goes, "sleeping with the fishes."


Milestones

I can't end without mentioning the fact that this year, we got to celebrate 10 years of Back to the Island. I took a moment to look back at my photos from BTTI 2013, and while I'm lucky not to suffer from FOMO (or rather, my FOMO is so intense it keeps me coming back), the nostalgia is real. That first resort no longer exists; we couldn't go back if we tried. A lot of the smiling faces next to me in those photos are no longer fans, and some, no longer friends. We'll never get to relive the mild chaos of Zac's first tie dye session, and I think it's safe to say that Isaac's days of being coerced into doing the Soulja Boy dance while mixing us drinks are long gone.

A lot can change in a decade, but it's not all bad. They've added the unique experience of solo shows that you can't get anywhere else. We got upgraded from Taylor cooking us fish to Taylor DJing a massive pool party. I've grown from being anxious about my first international trip to feeling like dancing in the Jamaican sand at a Hanson show is my second home. I've learned that the key to my happiness is overpacking swimsuits, that the rain never lasts long, and that there's nothing quite like being in a resort full of people who "get" you and the band. If you attended this year, the first year, or any (or every!) one in between, thank you for being a part of the experience. Happy anniversary. Here's to many more!


November 8, 2022

RGB Tour: Rio de Janeiro








How do you kick off a post for a city that has so many things going for it? There was Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, some of the world's most famous beaches, swimsuits and snacks on practically every corner, and a guaranteed M&G with the band. Dear Mickey: here's a relocation address if you want to maintain the Happiest Place on Earth title.

Tourism

In all seriousness, Rio de Janeiro's reputation as a beautiful travel destination is how we landed on doing the back half of the Brazil tour. As soon as our flight landed, we went to our hotel to drop off our things and immediately set out to see Christ the Redeemer to maximize the best weather day we got in Rio. We skipped lunch to avoid losing sightseeing daylight, and I have never been victimized by stairs so quickly in my life. Really poor life choice there, but thankfully I had an emergency granola bar in my bag, and the payoff of the view was totally worth it. Naturally, we found a hidden escalator on the way back down.

It was incredibly busy, and what you don't see in everyone's carefully angled Instagram shots is the absolute swarm of people just out of frame. It's impossible to put your arms out in the traditional "I'm mimicking Christ the Redeemer" pose without hitting at least three people on each side. It was a little surreal to see such an iconic statue in person at full size, but what I didn't realize is that a big part of the appeal (for me, at least), is that the area around the base of the statue also serves as an elevated lookout with a 360 degree view of the entire city. The cute monkeys chilling on the electric equipment taking chips from a couple of brave tourists were a bonus.

After Christ the Redeemer, we Ubered straight to Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain. Christ the Redeemer offers a clear view of Sugarloaf, and vice versa, so it was neat to visit both in the same day and get to see the differing panoramic views of the city and to be able to look out and say "I was on that peak earlier!" Sugarloaf Mountain has a lower level called Morro da Urca, and you travel between the two by cable car (cue Song to Sing lyrics, but thankfully the cable was just fine). We stayed late and got to spend our first evening in Rio de Janeiro watching the sun set over the city from the top of a mountain, and then stuck around to see the night time view of a million city lights. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day, and I know I will never forget it.

Days like this are absolutely why I do what I do. I wish I could package it up in a little box and gift it to anyone who doesn't "get" why I travel for a band. I got to hear my favorite songs, meet my favorite band, and stand in the middle of one of the natural wonders of the world all in a 24-hr period. When I think about it like that, I want to ask right back, "How could you NOT?"


The Meet and Greet

Oh man, this show. So many words ahead.

So back in January, I attended Back to the Island. For anyone who may not be aware, BTTI always includes an individual photo with just you and the band, and this year, they canceled photos at the last minute. To make up for it, they offered every BTTI attendee the opportunity to choose one show on the RGB tour to receive a free concert ticket and photo makeup. I chose Rio de Janeiro because it seemed like a great way to ensure meeting Hanson in a country where I know it's virtually impossible otherwise, and I'm always down to get a photo with them in a fun new place. After years and years of watching other M&G groups gather at doors and enter seamlessly with a staff member, it did not occur to me that the language barrier might actually be an obstacle. I assumed we would show up early with our passports, find the rest of the M&Gers in front of the venue doors, and we'd be fine without even saying a word.

But when we showed up (exactly on time and not early at all thanks to traffic), the venue and box office were inside a mall. The line was outside in the parking lot nowhere near the venue entrance, and not a single fan with a M&G was in sight. After a pretty terrible attempt at a conversation with box office staff, I understood just enough to gather that we needed to take a right past the box office, and the place we needed to be was in between...something I didn't understand and something else I didn't understand. So we took a right, saw an exit, and the only thing that made sense was to go outside where the line was. I stopped and asked multiple people if they knew where to go for the M&G via a translation app, and at least three of them told us it's impossible to meet the band. We finally found a few girls that knew what M&Gs were and tried to help us, but they didn't know where to go and hadn't seen anyone else with one, either. We finally went back to the same box office staff member who told us to go right, and after another communication fail, he finally physically left the office and walked us to where we needed to be, which ended up being only a few feet past where we had taken an extreme wrong turn and exited the building. By the time he dropped us off, we were very late, they were already calling M&G names, and only two people were left ahead of us. We cut it incredibly close, but thankfully we made it.

The guys were kind as always, and we were given a moment to speak to them with just the two of us before taking our solo photos. I considered asking to hear "Truth" because the "Truth" and "With a Little Help From My Friends" pairing is the one thing I regretted missing the most on this tour that I never got to see, but I decided that it didn't feel right making a song request in a place that sees Hanson so infrequently. (I also had a weird feeling about not wanting to mess up the chemistry of the last setlist of the tour and wanting to let things just play out naturally, but maybe that's going too deep). Instead, I fangirled about seeing waterfalls and thanked them for their time before heading a stampede that miraculously did not send me into a faceplant even after hurdling a ton of randomly spaced steps in the dark.

The Show

One thing I've failed to mention until now is that in Brazil, doors don't open an hour before the show; they open TWO hours before the show. At our first stop in Sao Paulo, I joked that an extra hour of silence is better than an hour of some past openers, but by Rio I was ready for any musical distraction to help pass the time. The fans around me made no attempt to keep personal space for those two hours, and suddenly it made sense why we saw multiple girls passing out and getting pulled over the barricade at several of these shows. Also, for what it's worth, I don't condone squeezing your way to front row after it's full, but here's a freebie tip if that's your style: when you're picking where to go, probably don't choose the spot between two people who obviously came together. I'm no mathematician, but I don't need a probability formula to tell me that your odds of success would've been much higher if you'd simply tried my side that was further from the stage and had a stranger next to it.

And finally, the show. During our brief accidental visit to the line, we were given printouts of the characters from the Don't Let Me Down video (I got an angry looking Reggie Willie head that I prayed wouldn't escape my pocket and make an uninvited appearance during the M&G) and instructed to use them during DLMD. Ironically, Hanson chose to open with that song, which was completely out of their usual order. I have no idea if they were tipped off or if it was a coincidence, but I kind of enjoyed being able to aggressively wave Reggie Willie at them every time they wanted us to fist pump.

During the solos, Isaac opened by saying he was going to play a song that hadn't been played much on the tour, so I immediately started recording with happy memories of Brasilia's surprise "Greener Pastures" on my mind. What we got instead was the absolute cheesiest speech I have ever heard in my life about how women are castles that deserve to be guarded or won or whatever knight-ish imagery can induce the most vomit. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally happy for Isaac and his "put a ring on it" skills and am genuinely glad he has a love that inspires him to put it in a song and share it with the world. I'm sure it resonated deeply with someone just like I'm sure there's a song out there that gives me goosebumps while someone else yawns. I don't even dislike the song, I just can't cheer and swoon with sincerity for a speech that goes out to "all those old-fashioned guys and girls looking for that special forever kind of love".  If people had real-time captions, mine would have been flashing *stares in single.* Also, I did ten shows and heard "For Your Love" at five, so I should really know by now not to trust anything he introduces as rare.

The stark contrast I can't help making here is when Taylor started introducing HIS solo. I honestly did not mean to stack these two moments up for a good brother/bad brother compare and contrast segment, but Isaac, if you want to take notes, here's a pen. I'm not sure how to get you access to Taylor's apparent ability to read my mind, but we'll work on it. Anyway, Taylor started introducing his solo by talking about how he was going to play a song he couldn't stop thinking about all day and about how important the words and the meaning are, and the whole time I'm thinking "It can't be Truth. I'm not that lucky." But then it WAS "Truth," and I'm standing there grinning like an absolute lunatic because they're playing THE SONG while also regretting not mentioning it during the M&G because Taylor probably would have appreciated if I verbalized a thing he was already thinking. They'll never see this, but I still want to say thanks to Taylor for going with his gut feeling, because his gut feeling was also my gut feeling, and that feeling was utter happiness by the end of "With A Little Help From My Friends."

The rest of the setlist was more or less the usual for this tour, but every song was so full of energy, and I really didn't want it to end. "I Don't Want To Go Home" was certainly a bittersweet and true way to finish things off. After the final bow, all three Hansons jumped down off of the stage and grabbed hands down the entire front row, and our non-existent personal space became even smaller as arms shot out all around from everyone trying to get a moment of Hanson's time. I gave up trying to save the inches between me and the barricade and figured I might as well give the girls behind me their best shot. The guys were so gracious, grabbing as many hands as possible and even making two rounds going all the way down the line and coming back up it again. When they were almost done, I looked down and was mildly horrified to find that I was bent pretty far over the barricade from the force of the crowd, and my shirt was pulled dangerously low in the process. I literally couldn't move to fix it until Hanson cleared the area, so I spent the final moments of their goodbyes with an arm slung awkwardly over my chest. We said goodbye to a sweet fan we met in the M&G line, and then it was over.

Beach, Please

We had one extra day after the show, so I put it to good use exploring the beaches. In the spirit of discussing exposing more skin than usual, I have to give a shoutout to Brazilian beach culture, which I really admire because it feels like such a body positive place. We saw a wide range of coverage from tiny thongs to swim dresses and oversized t-shirts on people of all shapes and sizes, and none of it felt out of place. If you know me, you know that I'm a little bit obsessed with swimsuits. If you know me well, you know that I'm always hunting for styles that will cover my backside, a goal that gets harder and harder with current trends. When we decided to go to Brazil, I challenged myself to temporarily let go of my usual quest for modesty and embrace a "When in Rio" mindset. I bought a cute little Brazilian bikini, and while I'm probably not going to roll up to the next BTTI in a thong (you're welcome), it was kind of freeing to let myself not worry that I was showing too much skin or what some random stranger might think, even though I was quoting a modified Twilight script in my head half of the time as the palest person on any given beach.

"Your skin is pale white and ice cold. I know what you are."

"Say it."

"American."


But I digress. Liberating beachwear excursions aside, we also Ubered to the furthest stretch of beach and walked three miles from Leblon to Ipanema to Arpoador and back to our hotel on Copacabana to squeeze in as much beach sightseeing as possible. We tried to watch the sun set from Arpoador rock, but it was so cloudy we couldn't see much. I'm just grateful the rain held off until we got on our red eye flight back home.


So that's it. I came home and had to go back to normal life with work and bills and no infinity pools and no Hanson shows. I guess that's the trade off so I can hopefully earn the money and time off to do it all again somewhere else with a new set of songs, new tourist destinations, new experiences, and a few of the same friendly faces along the way if I'm lucky. If you feel like you're being spared my usual super cheesy endings, don't worry, I've saved you some:

It's called pão de queijo, and trust me, it has just the right amount. 

November 2, 2022

RGB Tour: Uberlandia & Brasilia







Me: "When I get to Brazil, I'm going to make the most of every moment. No show lines, no American food chains, and no wasting time in hotel rooms when I could be sightseeing."

Also me, "Sightseeing" in Uberlandia at 3pm after eating lunch at Outback:


Listen. It was hot, we were exhausted, and Uberlandia isn't exactly a big tourist destination. It may now top the list of most random places I have ever seen Hanson, though to give it some credit, I did manage to see the Statue of Liberty there, despite having never seen the one in the U.S. (Go ahead, random person in my future. Ask me if I've visited the Statue of Liberty. Why yes, I have! In Uberlandia, Brazil.)

We had a great time at the show, and I felt like Hanson did a decent job of changing up the setlist from the night before. To be completely honest, I went on this trip expecting the setlists to have a lot of singles and little variation. I left with the mindset that I was chasing new places first and Hanson second, and happy as I am to see a Hanson show, I really did not expect to be wowed by the setlists. These guys proved me wrong. The acoustic songs were different every night, and I'd say there were at least 4-5 setlist "surprises" at each show. In Uberlandia, I got to hear "Wish That I Was There" acoustic, "On and On" as a Zac solo, "Deeper," "Watch Over Me," "You Never Know" (all the heart eyes for the piano), and a totally unexpected resurrection of the "Low Rider/Ooh La La La" mashup.

I also enjoyed getting to hear "Rambling Heart" again and Taylor's little speech at the beginning that applied to plenty of us in the room that night:
 "It's a new song about an old idea, and the idea is this moment, right here. Who's seeing more than one show in Brazil? I know there's a few travelers here tonight. This one's for you guys."

 

The following night in Brasilia, his speech expanded to something so similar to what I've written here a dozen times, something probably every touring musician, every traveling fan, and anyone following a thing they love on the road has felt before:
"It's about this, here, tonight, and this strange trip of traveling across the planet, getting to do something you love, and walking into a building you've never been and somehow feeling right at home."
When I relayed this quote to my travel partner, she joked that it's true because she feels more comfortable walking into a Hanson show in Brazil than she feels walking into a grocery store at home. I strive for this level of painful accuracy in my blog, and man, did that observation strike home 🤣. Excuse the cheesy moment, but I'm so grateful to have found a band and a fan community that can create that kind of safe and happy space for me literally anywhere in the world. Thanks, Hanson, for inspiring the girl that can't be bothered to drive ten minutes across town for groceries to fly ten hours across the world when the opportunity arises, and for making it feel like home when we get there.

Brasilia

Our trip to Brasilia felt a little bit like a return to Jamaica simply because we booked a Level room in a Melia resort. It was there that I got my first (and last) taste of Brigadeiro, a Brazilian sweet primarily made of chocolate and condensed milk, and O-M-G was it good. If you ever make it to Brazil, do not skip out on the Brigadeiro. 

We spent an embarrassing amount of time at malls because we had three days to kill, there were three within walking distance of our hotel, and I was absolutely determined to find a swimsuit. Spoiler: I left this city with three shirts, no swimsuits, and lots of ice cream receipts. There were miniature McDonald's "sobremesas" ice cream stands on pretty much every floor of every mall, so you could hardly walk away from all of them without stopping. I also tried a "McBrasil" burger, which tbh nobody needs, but I was intrigued by the menu of country-based burgers. Let none of us be surprised that the "McUSA" was covered in bacon. (P.S. Brazilian Starbucks' carry a Brownie Latte. We've all been missing out.)

My favorite thing I did in Brasilia, though, was visit the national park. Parque Nacional de Brasilia is home to several walking trails, wildlife, and its biggest draw--a giant pool that's manmade but filled by a natural spring. We only got to do a short trail and visit the larger pool, but the weather was perfect and really made for a beautiful day of relaxing in Brazil's capital city.

As for the concert, the Brasilia show surprised me, too. I was shocked when Isaac pulled out "Greener Pastures," a song I was convinced I might never hear live since I wasn't in L.A. when Mac made a guest appearance. Zac soloed "Wake Up" again and gave another beautiful performance. I know my biggest hope for this tour was to hear as many new songs from RGB as possible, but my real favorite moment of the night was when they closed the show with two of my forever favorites: Give a Little and Tonight. I did not remotely expect to hear either one of them on this tour and suddenly felt like I'd been missing them both terribly the moment the opening chords began. "Tonight" seemed like more of a tour closer than a way to close out the second to last show, but I loved every moment of the unexpected ending.

I also have to give a shoutout to the fans that organized handing out red, green, and blue ring lights at this show. While we were waiting to go in, we were given little blue battery operated rings and a sheet of instructions to turn them on during "If Only." I've always loved seeing what crowd collaborations fans have come up with at several international shows in past years, but have never had the opportunity to participate in one myself. Thank you to the fans that organized this and for including us in a fun surprise for Hanson! 





October 27, 2022

RGB Tour: Sao Paulo






For anyone interested in the backstory, the planning that led to me seeing Hanson in Brazil went something like this:

"So flights to Brazil are cheap right now. What if we went there?"
"Haha yeah, that would be wild."

And then, just out of curiosity (traveling fan famous last words right there), I looked up how much a flight to Brazil would cost me since it was relatively cheap for my friend. The answer was too much, but then I looked up rewards travel, and I had over double the amount of air miles needed for a RT ticket. Instead of paying $2,000, I could use miles and pay just $40 in taxes. Honestly, how could I not

After we had our concert tickets and our main flights to Brazil, we started researching things to do and places to sightsee. One place that kept jumping out to me on every list was a place called Iguaçu Falls, which is the largest waterfall system in the world with 275 drops spanning 1.7 miles around the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Unfortunately, it wasn't near any of the cities we were planning to visit, and while we did have two days off between shows, the flights were too expensive and too time consuming to really justify the extra trip. I let that dream die and decided to make the most of each city instead.

Then, just a few weeks before we left, I stumbled onto a comment that said the falls were only a 1.5 hr flight from Sao Paulo. We were only coming in one day ahead of the concert, and I didn't really want to sacrifice seeing the city and rolling up just in time for the show, but my travel partner introduced an important question that had never occurred to me: Could we fly to Iguacu falls and back in one day and still have the entire day of the concert to see Sao Paulo? 

So we did a super crazy thing that had about dozen different ways it could have gone wrong and ruined all of our plans, but magically it did not. Our 10 hour flight into Sao Paulo landed at 5:15am on the 14th. We then caught a taxi to our hotel, dropped off our luggage, caught an Uber right back to the same airport, boarded a 9:30am flight with a different airline, spent about seven hours seeing the Brazil half of the falls, then flew right back to Sao Paulo on a third airline to a different airport around 7:30pm. I don't actually know how I got off of a 5:15 am flight after around 22 hours of travel/layovers and then got on another flight and hiked an elevated mile or two, but I have zero regrets. The views of those falls were worth every ounce of stress and exhaustion.

In addition to the hike, we booked a boat ride that took us out into the river surrounded by lush green rainforest and falls on every side. I could practically hear the Jurassic Park theme song in my head and felt like we were floating right into a different world. No amount of rain gear or planning could have kept us from getting fully drenched, but not only did I get to see Iguacu falls, I got to go straight into them. I'd do it again a thousand times over.
















We used up every moment before doors the day of the show wandering Sao Paulo and trying to make the most of our limited time in the city. We walked around Avenida Paulista, got a few pairs of Havaianas from the flagship store, and left behind some of the cutest swimsuits I've ever seen because I hardly expected to see the best options of the trip in the first store I walked into. Lesson learned.

Our last stop was Ibirapuera Park, where I attempted to order a Coke, and our waiter repeated back something that sounded like "Cocoa?" I nodded, because honestly I'd drink whatever they bring me, so with a 50% chance I'm about to be served hot chocolate, I just went along with it. We get our food, my friend gets her drink, and a lot of time passes without me getting a beverage. I decided to give up and find a drink elsewhere later when it finally came. We died laughing.


Not-so-pro-tip: Apparently "Coco" is Portuguese for "Coconut." A fact I now know.

We showed up at the venue just before doors to the largest line I have ever seen at a Hanson show. It took us several blocks of walking to even find the end of it, and every inch we walked was covered in semi-aggressive bootleg merch vendors. I have never seen anything like it and wish I could have taken a photo or video to capture the scene. They REALLY wanted me to have a light up flashing RGB cup on a lanyard, okay? In the end we bought RGB ribbons to tie around our heads because it felt wrong not to join in the festivities, and the lady that sold them to us only raised the price by R$5 when she realized we were American. I'm in no way fluent, but I know what's happening when you say "cinco" in one sentence and then hold up ten fingers when you realize I speak English. I'll consider it a foreign transaction fee.

We entered the venue to the widest front row I have ever seen in my life and managed to get on a corner of it on Taylor's side way past the piano. If I only have one takeaway from doing the Brazilian shows, it's that going to a show in Brazil is like attending a Sing-a-long version of a Hanson concert. Everyone was singing loudly almost the entire time, and I actually loved it. You could feel the passion and the love in the room, and it was exciting to be part of it. There's also something really unique and special about standing in a crowd of people you can't easily communicate with, but the moment the music starts, that all falls away and is replaced with a connection that transcends any language barrier. Music really is a universal language.

September 4, 2022

RGB Tour: Winnipeg






Living in the southeast U.S. comes with a certain "niceness" stereotype. You've probably heard the phrase "southern charm," and if you've ever been to a small town down here, you'll eventually realize that we smile and wave at anyone who drives past on a country road, regardless of whether or not we've ever seen you in our lives. Of course there are always exceptions, but I got a similar vibe from Winnipeg and wasn't surprised to learn that the slogan on their license plates is "Friendly Manitoba."

My interactions were minimal, but everyone was incredibly kind. This could partially be due to the fact that the venue doubled as a church that Sunday morning and most of my interactions with Canadians were people inviting me to the service, but inviting the sleep-deprived disheveled looking girls on the street to church rather than side-eyeing them is extending a bit more grace than some southerners do, so I'm still giving them credit. My favorite moment was a guy in buffalo plaid balancing two armloads of Tim Horton's who strolled right up to us and asked if we were waiting for the concert tonight, "eh?" and used "eh" roughly three more times. It was the most adorably Canadian thing I have ever seen in my life, and like I said, some stereotypes exist for a reason.

The line was surprisingly the hottest I waited in all tour, including North Carolina and Georgia in July, but that's because having shade makes a big difference. At one point before the show, Zac walked out and said "You could not be in more direct sunlight if you tried." Thank you, Joey Tribbiani. I responded maybe a bit too enthusiastically, "Yes, but there's a bench!" (What I probably should have said is "Too bad that shade you're throwing isn't actually helping with the sun.") I don't think he understood my bench excitement, but come on, how many times have you shown up to wait in a line and found built-in seating exactly where you need to be, and it will fit all of your friends? My answer was zero until Winnipeg. For what it's worth, instead of fangirling about seating, other Holly managed to counter his comment with a song request for "World Goes Around," but I'll let her tell you about that. 

Moments later, Andrew came out to set up the fan club banner, and we rigged it to act as just enough shade for the two of us sitting there. Thanks, hnet, for the unexpected SPF membership perk. 

We had a reporter and M&G in our car, and the other three of us were first in line, so everything worked out perfectly so that we all wound up in the front together. I loved that Hanson opened with "Waiting For This," I got irrationally excited about "Crazy Beautiful" like I always do, and it was a weird adjustment seeing Zac back on drums for "Don't Let Me Down" after two shows of frontman status. I guess it got progressively tamer each time I saw it on this trip. Isaac played "For Your Love" as his solo again, only this time he split the crowd participation into two parts down the middle of the crowd. He said "This is the first time I've ever done it this way," and I couldn't help but lean over and joke to my friend, "This is also the first time Isaac has ever said 'this is the first time' and it was true." Jokes aside, the crowd participation was strong and it was a great moment.

I'm really surprised to admit that the best song of the night, though, was "Wake Up." I'll be honest here. It's a fine song, but I don't really connect with the lyrics, so it's not my favorite from the album or even my favorite from the Blue section. So when I say Zac's performance of this song absolutely blew me away, I really mean that with no favorite song or rare or stage antics strings attached. It felt like he put every ounce of everything he had into that performance, and it sounded absolutely stunning. Towards the end I was angry that I hadn't started recording when I realized just how special it was, but I was too busy picking my jaw up off of the ground. As soon as he finished singing, someone screamed "Are you KIDDING ME?" and honestly? Same. How could I ever stay home again with them out there sounding like THAT in random cities?

After the show we waited to say goodbye, but Isaac was the only one who came out. I really don't blame them since they had just completed four shows in four days, and I'm thankful the show was as good as it was when they must have been completely exhausted. Also same, but at least all I have to do is show up.

I Don't Want To Go Home

My friends were all driving back down to Minneapolis the day after the show, but I paid a little extra to fly directly out of Winnipeg instead so I wouldn't have to take off an extra day from work. That backfired spectacularly. While waiting at my gate in Winnipeg, I got a notification that my flight was delayed two hours. My first layover was exactly two hours, so I was going to miss all of my connections. In the end, there was literally nothing that could get me home that same day, so I figured I might as well drive back down to Minneapolis with my friends and just fly out of MSP instead of being stuck alone in Canada overnight. This was incredibly hard for Delta to grasp and they kept trying to reroute me from Winnipeg to Vancouver to Minneapolis before I finally got them to understand that I was GOING TO MINNEAPOLIS IN A CAR and I didn't want a single flight from Canada, period. After five wasted hours in the airport, I had a new route home, my friends came back and rescued me, and I managed to see a bit more of Winnipeg than I originally planned. I also got to witness the laughably terrible rendition of MMMBop that Border Patrol asked us to sing to prove that we really had been in the country for Hanson.

When I finally landed home around 9pm the day after I intended to be back, I could not get to my car in the airport parking lot fast enough. As soon as I backed out of the space and headed towards the exit, I heard an unmistakable rhythmic "thunk thunk thunk" sound from somewhere in the back. Fantastic. I pulled into the closest space, inspected my tires, trunk, and under the car, and saw nothing wrong. I made it about a mile before I knew I couldn't continue driving with that sound and reluctantly pulled into a Walmart parking lot to inspect it again. This time, I discovered that the locking lug nut from my rear right tire had been stolen. I don't know enough about cars to know if the sound I was hearing could even possibly be due to that little missing piece (I only heard it when applying the brakes), but I knew in any case I shouldn't drive it sounding like that, so I called AAA around 9:30pm and was told it would be an hour wait.

During that hour, I dug in my glove compartment and found not only my wheel lock key, but four spare lug nuts. An hour and a half after my quoted hour, I watched a youtube video for how to properly secure a lug nut, dug out the tools in my spare tire compartment, and fixed the thing myself. A quick loop around the parking lot confirmed that that was not the source of the noise, and a second call to AAA provided me with "We're looking into finding someone to help you." At this point I called my mom and she suggested that she could drive the 45 minutes to me and then follow me to my dealership which happened to be just a few blocks away. We'd drop the car there, put my keys in their after-hours drop box, and she would just drive me home and I could call the dealership and explain in the morning.

At 12:30am after three hours of being ghosted by AAA, my mom finally made it and followed me to the dealership, which I turned into only to find a locked gate fully blocking the entrance and no way to leave a car. I burst into tears at this point, because literally what else could go wrong? Left with no other options, I slowly drove it 30 miles home and prayed the whole way, then stayed up to rent a car online because I had to be at work the next morning and my mom had to go out of town in six hours. On five hours of sleep about five minutes away from being dropped off at Enterprise the next morning, I got a call saying that they're sorry but they're completely out of cars. Not the type I asked for, just cars, period. My options are a minivan or a truck, because of course they are. I opted for the minivan and 100% expected to find it stolen after work at this point.

The end of the story is I finally got my car looked at and was told that they never heard any noise, and they took all the tires off and put them back on and didn't find anything wrong. They suggested that perhaps the sound I heard was a water bottle that was trapped in my spare tire compartment. I made sure to let them know that the water bottle got trapped in there AFTER the noise started when I went digging for tools, and thanks for mansplaining, but I did not rent a car for two days and panic that my brakes could go out because I had a freaking water bottle in my trunk. As soon as I took it on the highway I DID hear the noise again, but it went away and I haven't heard it since. At this point, I'm not even going to ask questions; I'm just happy to be home.

This definitely tops my list of worst travel experiences ever, but I am so grateful it happened going home instead of trying to get to the shows, and I'd endure it again if I could go back and record "Wake Up" from the beginning. I'd also do it again for "Rambling Heart" with a side of pierogis.

I'm always hoping that the sand meets the sky, but inevitably sometimes the s*** meets the fan, too. Fortunately, as I heard in Winnipeg, "the world goes around." ❤


August 31, 2022

RGB Tour: Fargo






Consider this your friendly RGB Tour installment of “Places Holly Never Meant to Be.” I knew when tour dates were announced and I only planned for Nashville, Atlanta, and Raleigh that I would want to add something later, but I had no idea where. I figured I would know it when I saw it even if it came down to “I have these two days off in a row; where is Hanson playing on those dates?” The lightbulb came in the form of a friend randomly asking me if I needed Fargo tickets because she knew another friend with extra third row seats. A state I’ve never been and third row seats to a sold out show? My gut answered “Yes, yes I do.”

We got to Fargo from Minneapolis with just enough time to hit the visitors center, grab lunch, and check out a few murals. The visitors center was full of movie references which I’m ashamed to admit were lost on me because I’ve never seen the movie Fargo. I’ve now seen the woodchipper, though, and can make an educated guess about its gruesome role in the film. We actually planned lunch at Wurst Bier Hall before we ever left for the trip thanks to 3/5 of us being adventurous eaters always in search of something new to try, so half of our table was happily eating salad and a bacon flight while the rest of us were reaching over each other tasting exotic sausages. I have zero regrets about my main choice of pierogi in a spicy sriracha butter and curry sauce, the rabbit and rattlesnake sausage dog I tried was decent though not amazing, but my first taste of borscht was a major letdown (the resident Russian in the car assured me it was subpar and I shouldn’t count it anyway).

Despite having third row seats, it turns out I’m not actually capable of turning down open front row even if it means I have to stand and wait in GA rather than sit in a chair. It all worked out, though, because I was able to give the seats to friends who needed a better view. Just to give a little context, this show was outdoors at Fargo Brewing Company with a running train track directly behind the stage, and it was the first show to sell out on the RGB tour. My expectation was for a packed semi-drunk crowd, and Fargo did not let me down.

My first inclination that things might get interesting came when a girl in the second row spilled beer in the lap of the girl next to me before the show started. Let’s call this person “Drunk Girl,” because anything else I can think to call her would be unkind. I wasn’t all that concerned that someone (gasp!) spilled beer at a brewery, and Drunk Girl was super apologetic at first and even started wiping it up with her skirt, which tbh was a tad questionable because she didn’t give any indication that she understood that rubbing this stranger’s thigh with her makeshift skirt-napkin might need approval. The real red flag, though, was when Drunk Girl said mid-swipe “I’m so sorry! But this is a beer store so you’re going to smell like beer” and then shrugged like it was common sense. Hold your beer, North Dakota, because I need to consult Hansonstage to see if I should add this one to my show count or start a new list of the number of beer stores I’ve attended.

The first few songs went fine, if not a little weird when we got to "If Only" and Taylor didn’t jump once. It felt so strange and foreign to me to be jumping without him, but then he finally said something to the effect of “For those of you who know what’s missing, this stage is a trampoline” and turned it into this little “if you know, you know” moment for those who had been to other Hanson shows. I definitely noticed and was glad for an explanation.

Things started to go downhill when I felt a hand squeeze onto the barricade between my elbow and the elbow of the girl next to me around the start of the acoustic set. Before I could react, the hand was followed by a crushing body slam that rammed me hard into the metal barricade. Re-enter Drunk Girl in this part of the story. For reference, I’m pretty small and so was the girl next to me. Drunk Girl was not, and I think she managed to body slam us both at the same time while trying to squeeze in between us. I didn’t know the girl next to me but got the impression that she was fairly young, maybe in her late teens or at least a good bit younger than me. My assumption is that she was probably not used to being bulldozed by drunk women, and while I try not to be either, I felt like between the two of us, I probably had more experience keeping them back. A combination of self-preservation and maybe a little bit of dormant mama bear instinct gave me momentary hulk strength, and I managed to position my elbow and shove Drunk Girl back with my whole body as hard as I could to get her off of us. It worked. For what it’s worth, I’ve been following Hanson for 15 years and have spent all 15 of them often being written off as the weakest link in the front row for wannabe stage rushers thanks to my size. Spoiler alert for anyone making that assumption: it ain’t me.

Thankfully, or so we thought at the time, there was a member of security directly in front of us when this happened. We tried to call him over and he told us “I didn’t see anything,” shrugged, and said “That happens in the front” when I explained what happened. Drunk girl never hit us that hard again since she lost the element of surprise and security was ~watching, but we spent several songs with her shoving up against us, trying to squeeze her arm between our bodies, and just generally being an awful distraction while pressing her entire body against my back. At one point I was being visibly rocked into the barricade while making eye contact with the security guard and motioning behind me so he would see, and he just smiled and shrugged like “What can you do?” I don’t know, your job? 

Drunk Girl even got into a yelling match with one of the other women next to us twice and was so up in her face that everyone around us was yelling for security because it looked like they were about to throw punches. The security guy in front of us literally walked off to point and laugh with another member of the security team instead of doing anything. It was the most condescending thing I have ever seen in my life, like they thought it was so cute these little MMMBop girls couldn’t handle a GA crowd. At that point I knew we were completely on our own, and I almost wished the girl would go ahead and hit me in front of the guy so he’d be forced to kick her out and we could be done with her. Who knows, maybe he would have taken a photo for his mysoginist buddies and said "it happens" instead.

After I realized there was no help to be had and Drunk Girl was still practically laying on my back, I finally turned around and yelled in her face "YOU CAN EITHER ENJOY THE SHOW FROM THAT SPOT OR SPEND THE REST OF YOUR NIGHT TRYING AND FAILING TO GET THIS ONE. YOUR CALL," and turned back around and ignored her. I don't know if I hit on some profound drunk girl logic or what, but I never felt her touch me again for the rest of the night, and I even noticed her singing along happily after that. It was wild.

No matter how many paragraphs I dedicated to her, Drunk Girl did not manage to ruin my night, and I did have one particularly great moment despite the chaos. Rewinding back to Minneapolis for a minute, after the show I briefly met Isaac and Taylor and used the opportunity to ask Taylor to please play “Rambling Heart” if there was any chance it would fit into a setlist over the next two days. He repeated back “you’ll be at the next two shows?” like he was trying to commit it to memory, so I confirmed yes and he said the odds were good that I might hear it. I knew it was already on several previous setlists but had mostly been written out and replaced with something else at the last moment, as was the case in Minneapolis, so I was elated when he walked out onto the stage in Fargo for his solo carrying a guitar.

I love Hanson’s music so much, but if you were to ask me to identify some sort of travel anthem for myself and pick a song that describes how I feel about traveling to shows, I’d tell you it’s Something Corporate’s “I Woke Up In A Car.” I feel every one of those lyrics in my little rambling heart, and “Rambling Heart” is the first Hanson song that really gives me those same feelings of loving life on the road and embracing the chaos that comes with it, even if my doses are much smaller than the musicians that wrote them. It’s a beautiful song and I was grateful for the opportunity to hear it. I was also grateful that Drunk Girl didn’t try to make a comeback during it, because I have no idea what I would have done and I’m glad none of us had to find out.

I’ll leave you with the lines that describe exactly how I feel in those little moments that I'm always chasing, like standing front row in a new city watching a halo of illuminated bugs dancing around a band member playing your new favorite song because you asked. They can be few and far between at times, but they're worth all the drunk girls, the travel fails, and the chaos along the way:

“I'm alive in this moment, watch the world melt away

And every new road feels like right where I belong

I wouldn't want it any other way”