November 17, 2019

Zaccidents Happen: Anderson, Indiana


I’m a little overdue for one of those posts about some show I never planned to go to but then I wound up there anyway at the last minute. This year's "oops I did it again" quota can be filled with a random show at a casino in Anderson, Indiana. I know the fandom scapegoat is generally Taylor, but you can mostly blame Zac this time.

Several months ago I told myself I was going to be "good" and put a cap on not going to too many one-off shows because I'd rather save my money and vacation days for a tour with new music. I made an exception for Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, but Anderson was never on my list of places I needed to play tourist for a day (no offense to Indiana). Then Zac got in a motorcycle accident and temporarily earned himself a spot front and center with a cowbell instead of drums, and my resolve for staying home faltered when my whole reason for skipping these shows had been because I’ve already seen a dozen just like them. I held strong until about two weeks ago when I looked at my work schedule and realized I’d been given off the three day weekend surrounding the Anderson show without asking for it. Add in the perk of having that one trusty friend with equally reckless and questionable decision making skills, and suddenly I found myself with a flight and a pair of concert tickets to a sold out show in a city I'd never actually heard of before. 

The Terrace Showroom at Harrah’s Hoosier Park was easily the weirdest concert venue setup I’ve ever seen. The room was much wider than the stage with randomly placed pillars in the way in several spots and large screens on either side to help compensate for the weird sight lines. The stage was also only about a foot tall with stadium seating designed so that anything above 2nd or 3rd row was above the stage and looking down onto it. We got extremely lucky with 2nd row seats and may have overcompensated for short girl problems with last minute ridiculous heeled boots (BOGO!) as a backup plan in case we were stuck behind someone tall. I’ve never experienced “leg day,” but if it feels anything like jumping to “In The City” in 5 inch heels, I’m fine to continue skipping it forever.



The setlist was very similar to the last few I’ve seen, but everyone was in such a great mood and it was impossible to keep from grinning. Isaac, Taylor, and Zac were full of energy and were all over the stage climbing on speakers, grabbing hands, and in Zac’s case running out into the audience to deliver a little more cowbell to all corners of the room. I saw so many happy faces around me and Hanson really just went above and beyond with making everyone feel like they were in the right place that night.



The guest drummer did a great job, though it definitely felt a little strange to see Zac dancing around unhindered during songs like “And I Waited” or doing some moves so similar to fans letting loose during “Lost Without Each Other.” I have no idea if he was loving his unexpected freedom or if he felt completely out of place and just embraced a situation beyond his control, but it was fun to watch a show with a different dynamic that we'll likely never see again (Dear Hanson, I like when you switch things up, but I sincerely hope your injuries will never feel like some kind of twisted selling point again!). I'm glad to see he's doing well enough to climb on top of speakers and head bang with a cowbell, and though our short unexpected era of #ZacOnDrugs has certainly been entertaining, I'm happy that we'll have a healthy #ZacOnDrums back soon enough.

It's been a pretty epic travel year for me so far, and I always have Hanson to thank for getting me to places like Jamaica, Australia, Hawaii, and, you know, Anderson, Indiana. So whether I'm on a plane fulfilling a decade long dream of visiting the other side of the world, or I'm en route to a 24 hour last-minute trip to a city I've never heard of before, I'm grateful for the adventure. And to quote some really weird recent merch, I guess you could say I'm glad I "Zaccidentally" wound up in Anderson for a day.



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October 13, 2019

Honolulu & Lake Tahoe


The first time I ever set foot on an airplane was for an 11 hour flight to Maui. The second time was a year later for my first trip to Tulsa. If that tells you anything about me, it's that Hawaii is (or rather, was) one of the few exciting places I've ever been that had no Hanson strings attached. I guess 13 years was long enough for that to be true before finally making my way back and firmly tying it into the "places I've traveled for Hanson" category along with just about everywhere else I've been.

When I found out my travel pal Rachel was planning to fly home and roadtrip to the Lake Tahoe show right after Honolulu, I reasoned that when you're flying cross-country, technically everything is on your way back home. And after accidentally seeing it for all of ten minutes back in 2015, I've always wanted to go back and give Lake Tahoe a proper visit (spoiler: I was supposed to be driving to Joshua Tree. Instead, my sleeping friends woke up to find us halfway up a mountain. Unexpected beautiful oops?).

Hawaii was every bit as gorgeous as I remembered, though I never left Maui my first time there, and this time I was on the island of Oahu. Hanson may have been the excuse to be there, but they definitely took a backseat to wanderlust this trip. I added a few extra days before the show and saw beaches all around the island, swam in a waterfall, visited Pearl Harbor and the capital building, attended a traditional luau, and ate a boat load of sushi along the way.

I find it hard to believe I'm a paragraph in and have no more to say about the island and my time spent there, but it was honestly beautiful in a way that words in a blog just can't do justice. This year has truly been a Back to the Island themed year for me, with first Jamaica, then beaches all over Australia, and now a tour around the shores of Oahu (and yes, I'm still as pale as the day I was born).

We booked an Air B'N'B for six instead of going the traditional hotel route and wound up with a presidential suite with a full kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and three balconies, all for about the same price or cheaper than a hotel would have been. There was room to throw a quiet birthday dinner during our stay there and also to bake and devour about a hundred pizza rolls post-show. I'm giving all of our choices a solid A+.

The show was fun, though the fact that it didn't sell out doesn't give me high hopes that Hanson will return any time soon. I loved the opportunity to experience more of a "normal" show after a year of following Hanson with an orchestra, and I took advantage of all the chances to jump and clap and participate that I've missed. The setlist was your typical one-off/state fair combination of singles and greatest hits, but we knew that going into it so it was exactly what we hoped for.


I didn't really expect the Tahoe portion of the trip to be the highlight for me, but it definitely gave Hawaii some tough competition. By the time the 10-day-forecast was available and I was doing laundry for packing, it looked like Hawaii was going to be predictably warm (highs near 90, lows in the 70s) and Tahoe was going to be mild with highs around 75 and lows in the 50/60 range at night. Then the day before I was set to fly out, I double checked the weather only to find that that 75 high in Tahoe had dropped to a high around 43 with a 60% chance of rain and snow (further proof that my usual procrastinated packing is actually the right way to go). I dug in my closet and found a pair of waterproof fleece lined boots and a thigh-length down parka, laid them next to my bikini pile, and laughed while wondering if I was being completely extra. In the end, I Googled packing techniques, found a giant ziplock bag, turned it into a makeshift compression sack, and tossed the coat into my already crammed carry-on.

Within an hour of checking into our hotel, it started snowing. For a couple of people from South Carolina and southern California, this was actually pretty exciting, and I'm glad I was with likeminded people who understood my absurd happiness over a few snowflakes. We took full advantage of the situation and used our extra day to book a trip up a ski lift gondola to get some amazing views of all of Lake Tahoe bordered by now snow-covered mountain tops. I grinned the whole way to the top and inwardly patted myself on the back for being "extra" and packing for the worst case scenario.

When we got to the top, there was a "mountain coaster" which consisted of single bobsled-style coaster cars propelled along a track winding around the top of the mountain and reaching speeds of 20-30mph. I'll admit, I was kind of terrified to get on a coaster where I'd be responsible for pulling handbrakes and pushing a lever forward to go faster. In the end I let myself be talked into it in true Do Go Be fashion, which turned into something more like Do Go Freeze under the circumstances. It turned out to be one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life and worth the momentary worry that fingers in varying stages from numb to stabbing pain might be a first sign of frostbite (one thing I didn't pack? Gloves).



The show in Tahoe was identical to the one in Hawaii with the exception that the crowd made for an unexpectedly impressive choir during "Been There Before," but maybe my spot further back just meant I could hear better. The one thing that oddly stuck out to me was a couple of excited girls I didn't recognize against the stage on Isaac's side. There was a moment when Taylor went over and grabbed a couple of hands and I could see the utter joy and excitement on one girl's face from my seat, and Taylor, too, looked happy to have had that effect. And then, at the end of the show, Zac handed her a pair of sticks. And while I couldn't hear, I'd be willing to bet there was happy squealing to go with her giant grin. She looked so thrilled that I couldn't help but be happy for her.

I also couldn't help but realize that even on my best day, I never give Hanson that kind of obvious outward appearance of how much I'm enjoying myself, and on my worst day, I sure hope I don't look bored. It's a weird spot to be in, and I'm not sure how much of it is due to my own personality and how much is some natural tendency for any fan to shy away from showing that kind of reaction over time. I've never been one to scream or cry in exciting moments; even winding up on stage years ago when things were still pretty new for me, I mostly just smiled and looked nervous. And now, when I'm the excited girl against the stage on Isaac's side getting a smile from the band, I'll grin right back and know there's nowhere else I'd rather be. But I'm probably not going to reach for a hand if it's not reaching for mine first, and I'm definitely not going to squeal and jump if Taylor kneels down and sings three feet in front of my face, and sometimes I wonder if it would be easier for them to perceive my excitement if I did those things.

The other part of me knows that that just isn't me, and on top of that, as much as I can say nothing changes after going to so many shows, the fact remains that it would just be plain weird if I started doing that stuff now. So I guess I'll keep showing my happiness the best way I know how--by continuing to show up and forever gushing about it here afterwards, and by squealing on the inside even if I'm showcasing my best resting exhausted fan face to the world around me. Maybe writing a hundred words on why I'm not fangirling hard enough is my own version of fangirling anyway.

The one other difference between the two shows was one that none of us knew at the time, and that's that Lake Tahoe was the last show they played together before Zac got into a motorcycle accident and sidelined himself from the drums for the near future. I'm incredibly grateful that he's okay, and I don't want to sensationalize his injuries or get all dramatic, but it's moments like this that remind me why I'm always chasing that next show and that next destination. You never know when something unforeseen will slow you down and change your plans, so you might as well pack the snow boots with the bikinis and hope for the best. And sometimes, if you're lucky, that unexpected wrench in your plans will turn out to out to be a wrong turn to exactly the right place.




September 11, 2019

The Life Cycle Of A Concert Addict


1. Waiting for tour dates.

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Your life can be divided into two categories: time spent at concerts, and time spent waiting on concerts. You're either at a concert, or you're planning the next one. It's a scientific fact.

2. Choosing a destination (or ten).

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Of course you’re going to the show closest to your house. But three of your friends will be in Nashville, and the Chicago show is on a weekend, and you’ve always wanted to go to Disney World on Halloween, and suddenly you feel a lot like that mouse being given a cookie.

3. Requesting time off.

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Your coworkers are used to this. They may not know where you’re going this time, but they all know there’s a concert involved. And the moment you get that approval makes everything real.

4. Plotting with friends.

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You have a group chat, and it’s full of everything from hotel room debates to fan gossip and ridiculous scenarios of things that will never happen. This usually includes at least one person who wasn’t going to go and still probably shouldn’t, but peer pressure is strong and FOMO is real.

5. Unnecessary shopping.

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You don’t really need a new concert outfit or a new travel pillow, but your excitement says that you do, and and the eBags ad in your email says that you will.

6. Pre-show nerves.

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It's finally the day of the show, and your stomach will stay in a queasy knot right up until you've secured your spot and you can see the band on stage. Until then, you'll imagine every unlikely flat tire, delayed flight, natural disaster, and flashmob of line cutters that could keep you from your happy place.

7. The concert.
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You made it! You immediately forget all of the stress and months of waiting it took to get you here, because it was all worth it and nothing else matters. Whoever said Disney was the happiest place on earth obviously never stood front row center right against the barricade for their favorite band.

8. Denial.

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When the show ends, you look for any excuse not to leave. You'll spend hours waiting by the bus trying to meet the band or stay up until 3am talking about the day with your friends. Who cares if you have a 6 AM flight? As long as you're awake, it's not really over.

9. Instant replay mode.

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When you get back home, you're still not ready to let it go. You talk about it to anyone who will listen, and you find yourself scrolling the same Instagram hashtags a dozen times in search of new posts (even though the search results are roughly 27 angles of the same ten seconds of one song).

10. Memory lane.

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After a week or so, you stop obsessing so much over your latest concert experience and start to remember all the ones that came before. Old tour pictures and timehop posts fill you with a mix of thankful nostalgia but also excitement for whatever comes next. Which leads right back to…

1. Waiting for tour dates.

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#stillwaitingforthis.


June 9, 2019

Tonight Is The Last Night: Buffalo



You know that feeling when you’re sitting in front of a giant plate of your favorite food, and you reach the point of being full and KNOW you should really stop, but it’s so good and there’s still food on the plate so you keep eating anyway? That’s kind of where I’m at with String Theory right now. No, I don’t feel sick or queasy now that I’ve overindulged, but after ~17 String Theory shows (does BTTI really count?), I think I’m finally ready to put down the fork. It has been a real treat to see things through from start to finish and with plenty of exciting stops along the way, but I’m officially ready to move forward and am excited to see what new project comes next.

Despite being the same String Theory show as every other city I visited, Buffalo was actually a completely unique experience for me due to the trip itself. I bought tickets almost a year ago, but I never made solid plans to go. As it turned out, no one was able to make the trip with me, and I dragged my feet on whether or not to attend alone right up until Hanson Day when I finally decided I didn't want to regret sitting out the "last" String Theory show when I already had a great seat and the time off from work. Finding a direct Spirit flight for a full $250 less than every other airline pretty much sealed the deal. My crammed personal item and I would be making a 24 hour trip to Buffalo.

It wasn't my first time going to a concert alone, but I haven't done it for Hanson since 2007 (and even then I split a hotel with a few other fans). Though I did wind up selling my extra ticket to a friend and not sitting "alone," this was my first time flying somewhere, staying in my own hotel room, Ubering, eating, and just generally doing everything solo. I didn't hate it, and there's kind of a liberating feeling of independence that goes along with putting yourself out there and doing what you want with or without the help or approval of others. In some ways going alone made me appreciate my usual travel companions even more, but it was also nice to step a little outside of my comfort zone and find out that I'm totally capable of doing things for myself, too.

There's another thing I learned by flying solo, and that's that no matter where I go, I'm never truly alone in a room full of Hanson fans. I went to the bar to buy a bottle of water and ran into an old friend I haven't seen in a few years who was there to enjoy the show with her husband. When I found my seat and sat down, the person behind me tapped me on the shoulder, smiled, and identified herself as a friend of a friend. Three seats down my row was another old friend that I met through my local street team over 800 miles away, and later I ran into the pair of girls that called security to toss us a key when I locked us onto our balcony at BTTI earlier this year. I spotted friendly faces everywhere, and a couple of kind strangers even waited with me for my Uber to show up after the show when Hanson took off and I suddenly found myself about to be left completely alone outside at night. I doubt they'll ever see this, but thanks again. All the kind people I interacted with reminded me of the great community we have.

As for the show? On a completely different note from the warm fuzzies I got from *most* of the crowd, I got to see a whole new trend of what happens when people aren't bold enough to rush the stage but still can't quite behave. I think at least a few people might need to amend their claims of "Hanson is my favorite band" to "Hanson is my favorite Instagram backdrop" for accuracy purposes. I've seen the occasional "how cool is this, see where I'm at! Hanson is right behind me!" style selfie from people excited about their spots, and there's really no harm done there. This was not that. This was some weird selfie parade of people wandering past front row to the stage in front of other people's seats and throwing up thumbs-up, OMG faces, and hugging each other in photos with their backs to the stage right in the middle of "Tonight." Part of me wants to make excuses for them and remember that it's always somebody's first show and that there's nothing wrong with being a little over-excited. But then I remember the setting and the fact that even teenage starstruck me would have known better than to run down the aisle at a seated orchestra show and stand in front of each brother taking selfies from multiple angles during the last somber song, and my sympathy morphs back into thinking the adults doing it could have exercised a little bit more self control. #DoGoBehave really made it full circle this tour.

Though the selfie parade may have earned a full paragraph for its standout weirdness compared to other shows, my overall experience was a good one, and I enjoyed the final (for now) performance of a solid set of songs. I may not have the same enthusiasm and excitement for String Theory as I did before my first show, but it's since been replaced with a familiarity that I'm sure will morph into nostalgia before I know it, the same way being sickly full of that favorite meal will turn right back into a craving as soon as you start your diet. (I'm not sure where all the food analogies are coming from. Clearly I shouldn't write on an empty stomach).

I found myself watching the triple drumming of "Siren Call" intently, knowing I might not get to see it performed that way again. I sat through "Battlecry" remembering how magical it was to see at the Sydney Opera House and desperately hoping that it gets reincarnated into a rock song without an orchestra and played to death on future tours.  I looked around and saw the faces of so many others nodding their heads and quietly grinning looking up at the stage in awe, and I got the sense that yeah, I was silly to ever think of it as going alone. Besides, sometimes flying solo and simply showing up to be part of the crowd is how you end up making that lifelong friend you'll find yourself in another part of the world with a decade later, and when you really get lost in great music, it doesn't matter who's sitting next to you. If you've ever let worries of going alone stop you, don't wait for tomorrow. You never know when "Tonight" really is the last, and as cheesy or morbid as that may sound, it's one reason I'll always push myself to avoid those "wish that I was there" moments and do things like fly to New York and share an experience with a room full of strangers over regretting missing out later. So far? I can proudly say I've got an equal amount of selfie parade photos and regrets.

June 6, 2019

In Real Life: 2019 EP Review

This year's fan club EP has been on steady rotation in my car for the last few weeks, and In Real Life and I have sat behind enough school buses together by now that I think I'm ready to share my take on Hanson's latest tunes. I thought this would be relatively short, but now that I'm finished, I find myself sitting next to a bunch of colored pens and a triple Venn diagram wondering how my brain even took this in some of the directions it went. I'll probably change my mind several more times as I begin to read others opinions, and you may have gotten none of the same things I got out of it, but that's always been one of the fun things about music.

COMPROMISE
Whether you see them as brothers first and bandmates second or vice versa, there's no denying that Isaac, Taylor, and Zac by nature have ample experience in the compromise department. The harmonies on this one are A+, as was the decision to have shared leads. Just like with "Me Myself and I," the decision to give each brother a solo verse but then blending together in a beautifully harmonized chorus seems a deliberate stylistic choice that perfectly fits the theme and what it means to work together to reach a common goal. Lucky for us, the common goal in this case was a great new song.

One of my favorite things about this song is that the word "compromise" actually has two meanings, and they subtly include both in the lyrics. The way we usually think of "compromise" and the overall meaning of the song fits the first definition: "a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions." But then there's the second definition. To be "compromised" is to be "impaired or diminished in function : weakened, damaged, or flawed." They give it to us after the very first verse:

Why does it feel so hard
To give just a little trust?
Feels like juggling in the dark
And all you end up is cut.

Going along, getting along, believing
One day things will change but all you feel is

Compromised.


I can totally appreciate the word play of setting us up to see how "compromised" and defeated someone can feel, only to finally admit that "compromise" is the only solution to make things work.

Favorite lyric:  "Give what you get when you get what wasn't given." 

I have to think about it a good three times to make sense of this convoluted line, but I love it. I read an implied "you" at the beginning of that lyric. "(You) give what you get when you get what wasn't given." Basically, if you're giving nothing on your end, don't expect the other person to be the first to offer up a concession. You have to be willing to give something to get something in return. The nerd in me also likes that "given" at the end of the line is a homophone for "give in," when a good compromise usually means that everyone involved is "giving in" at least a little bit to get something that works for everyone.

What would make it better?  The only thing that bugs me is I don't actually hear the "d" on the end of "compromise" at any point in the recording the few times it's used that way. I see it in the booklet. It makes contextual sense. But they don't enunciate it, and I think that makes it easy to miss the slightly different meaning.

WORTH THE WAIT
I don't think there's any room to debate the meaning of this song: it's a gospel praise song, and the thing that's worth the wait is heaven. There's talk of Sunday mornings, the presence of "technicolor dreamcoats," brothers and sisters that can show you the way, and a liner note that outright says "gospel bass player solo." In Christianity, it's common to refer to fellow believers as brothers and sisters in Christ (not to mention nuns are often referred to as "sister" in Catholicism).

It's a different style than we usually get from Hanson and something we'd only ever get in the "safe" confines of a fan club release. It's not my favorite music style, though I have no issue with the lyrics. I do like that they felt comfortable enough to share it with us while also knowing that their fans must have a large variety of beliefs.

I don't actually have a favorite lyric or a suggestion for what could have made this one better. I think it falls into the category of mostly a skip song even though I can't pinpoint anything specifically wrong with it. I just don't care for the gospel sound and it's official that I never will if Hanson can't even make me appreciate it.

THE BALLAD OF SEYMOUR BETTER TIMES

Let's talk about Seymour. He's your typical screw-up just trying to get by in life, and through it all, he just picks himself up, keeps on going, and hums a happy tune along the way. He might sound like the kind of carefree idiot that would star in a sitcom and have us laughing going "Oh Seymour, not again!" with every new misadventure, but I kind of like the guy. I see him as the eternal optimist who knows his life isn't perfect, but he's not afraid to keep looking for the next bright side instead of wallowing in life's latest disappointment.

When his first round of lovely lasses doesn't work out and he's starting to make enemies, he doesn't sweat it or get depressed, he reminds himself that his journey's going to be long so he's got plenty of time to "fight another day." And when his thieving girlfriend is getting taken down by the police, he's not out back in some dark space writing "Hand in Hand" level revenge songs. He's like cool, let me get my slide whistle and I'm out. The fact that he can walk away from every stressful situation with a song makes me think of the line "When you can't get through it, you can listen to it" from "Been There Before." Seymour is low-key a carefree version of all of us that listen to music when we're down.

And all the church talk and "nightly dreaming of those pearly gates?" Paired with the rest of the EP, I can't help but think the choir in "Worth the Wait might be singing right to Seymour and his wayward actions. The whole song sounds like one giant pep-talk to a struggling Christian, and Seymour might as well be the poster child in need of an intervention. What if "Worth the Wait" is even the "simple song" he sings to ease his pain as he walks away from each disaster? More on the conspiracy theories when I get to Better Days.

Favorite Lyric:  *Old ladies singing* No, just kidding.

But on his way to church
Seymour received a sign,
A messenger from the good Lord
In red high heels with blue eyes.

He said "I will praise the Lord in my own way, and revel in his creation every day."


It's the punchline of the song and tells us that despite his best efforts (are they really, though?), Seymour hasn't changed his ways. I laughed so hard at this line the first time we heard the song in Jamaica in 2018.

What would make it better? An acoustic guitar and waves in the background? Seriously, this one's my favorite. The acoustic version without any production elements might be even better.

READING YOUR MIND

I'm going to go ahead and get the unintentional Twilight similarities out of my system so we can move forward and take this song seriously, because it's actually pretty good. Let me just point out a few things I couldn't ignore the first time I heard it with a quick round of who said it, the Zac Hanson/Edward Cullen edition:

"No one needs to know that I climb through your window."
"You give me everything just by breathing."
"I'm reading your mind."
"When I feel you breathing, you make my dreams come true."


Answer key: they're all Zac except the second one.

Okay, so assuming this song isn't actually about Edward and Bella and wasn't ghostwritten for Robert Pattinson, I'm highly curious about the fact that Zac told us that the song was originally written for another artist. For a song that sounds so personal and somewhat specific, it's hard to imagine giving it away to someone else or what other musician might have experiences that would match the song's content. I thought about it and tried to figure out if any artists jumped out as fitting. Who would be singing about forbidden love? A young artist in a serious relationship? Someone with a controversial love life that people might not accept for some reason? The truth is we don't know enough to do more than speculate, so I quit trying and decided to focus on the fact that this is a Hanson song no matter what else it might have been.

Zac also talked about how sometimes you find yourself writing songs at different points in your life about the same things and referenced "Need You Now." So whether or not this song was written for himself or with someone else in mind, I think there has to be at least some of an autobiographical element to it.

When I wasn't giggling about teen vampire fiction or worrying who it might have been ghostwritten for, my first impression of the song was that it's about the intense feelings of young love. You've got a protagonist who is looking forward to getting older when he can be with the person he loves without hiding it. If we want to be serious about literary similarities, we could probably compare it to Romeo and Juliet. It might not have been a window, but Romeo totally climbed up Juliet's balcony, they were both super young, and people weren't accepting of their love no matter how strongly they felt it themselves. The whole song gives off a sense of just needing to be with this other person even if it means having to sneak around and not being able to share your happiness with anyone else.

"Need You Now" gives off less of a sense of forbidden love, but is still so similar the way it talks about watching someone as they sleep (oh look, more Twilight vibes) and the longing to stay with someone rather than having to part ways ("Soon we'll be together all day long" in "Reading Your Mind" and "The sun is always brighter when you stay" in "Need You Now.") I'm glad we found out about the connection between the two songs because I can totally see it, and that song is old and obscure enough that I doubt I would have thought of it on my own. It also makes a little bit more sense about why Zac would be writing a song from the perspective of a young couple in his 30s if it's more of a flashback to a different time.

Favorite Lyric: "You don't have to tell, but I don't want to hide it." 

I like this line because it can mean a couple of different things, and I like to think that he's not saying he's sick of hiding from everyone else; he's saying "I don't want to hide it (from you)." Essentially "Who cares if nobody knows what we mean to each other as long as we both know?" It's followed by "I just need to see that look in your eyes while I'm reading your mind." To me, that look in her eyes is the look that says I feel the same way you do. Is he reading her mind? No, but just looking into her eyes, he knows they feel connected in the same way. It's sort of this genius dramatically intense way to describe young love as it feels to the Romeos and the Juliets of the world. It's pretty spot-on.

What would make it better? I just want more background info.


BETTER DAYS (feat. some stringless conspiracy theories)
It's easier to ignore the potential religious undertones in "Better Days" than in "Worth the Wait," but I can't help but see the two as connected. To me, the "better days" that are coming are worth the wait; they're heaven. Lines like "What we face will one day be inconsequential" and "The will to believe is all that's essential" are vague enough to be interpreted as just having a positive outlook on life and choosing to believe that things will get better with time, but I read them in a more religious context of believing is all it takes to get you to heaven, and your current struggles will one day be "inconsequential" because you're looking forward to one long eternal better day. The songs are practically synonymous; one is just way more overt.

Now for the conspiracy theory path I mentioned above with Seymour. "Better Days" reads a lot like Seymour's outlook on life to me, and even the titles are similar. The speaker in "Better Days" admits to having misadventures with this person and "fighting and seeking" something. Seymour decides to live to "fight another day" and his entire song is one misadventure after another. The part about "trying to live up to our potential" is similar to the brief moment when Seymour tries to change his sinful ways so that "no longer would he stray." The characters in both songs struggle with wanting to live up to some kind of standard, and both have a positive outlook that things are going to turn out okay. It might be a stretch, but I don't think it's completely outrageous to say that the speaker from "Worth the Wait" and "Better Days" could be the same person, and that the two people from "Better Days" are Seymour and this supportive friend (perhaps the "brother" that's offering to show him the way from "Worth the Wait?"). The speaker could even be Seymour himself taking a second stab at changing his "sinful ways" with the help of a friend who is also trying to walk the right path.

I also can't help but see the mention of music in both "Worth the Wait" and "Seymour Better Times." Seymour sings to ease his pain (and as I've speculated, maybe he's singing "Worth The Wait") and includes a choir of "old ladies singing" at the end. "Worth The Wait" has a choir of angels. The line "There'll be a lasting serenade because it's more than just a destination" feels like some pretty targeted advice for a guy who keeps talking about his long journey and leaning on music to help him carry on.

TL;DR? Total conspiracy theory stretch of a conclusion = "Worth the Wait" is some good-intentioned advice aimed at Seymour, and "Better Days" is also about his continued struggles with the help of a friend.

For a less-crazy conclusion, I'll just say that I like this year's EP and its unexpected ability to make me overthink a couple of good songs for a few hours. Is everything secretly tied together with Seymour at the center of the theme? Probably not. I think really it's a group of songs about everyday life and the kinds of struggles we all face, and Seymour just happens to be like the rest of us trying to navigate our way through everything that comes at us (or in some cases, that we get ourselves into). He's by no means a role-model, but he's relatable and flawed in a lovable way and comes with his own catchy song that I haven't gotten sick of yet. I'd consider that a pretty good endorsement and a reason to renew or join to hear it for yourself if you haven't already. And if you have? I'd love to hear what you think.


May 30, 2019

Hanson Day 2019




Watching Hanson Day evolve into what it has become over the last decade feels a lot like growing up in a small town and watching it develop more every time you go back home. I’m not just talking about the growth in the arts district or how much Tulsa has expanded in the last several years, but the fact that Hanson Day itself has grown from a single 45-minute set to a jam-packed four day weekend event. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my first trip to Tulsa for that 45-minute set for anything, but every time they add another event, the whole thing feels a little bit more worth my paycheck. And with four concerts in four days, Hanson Day 2019 is currently at the top of the list for Hanson Day trips worth the expense. If they keep it up, at some point they're going to have to start calling it Hanson Week.

As usual, I chose to add on plenty of the optional events to my Hanson Day schedule. I attended Karaoke, the Listening Party, the Dance Party, Leaders Lunch, Group Pictures, the Gallery, the I ♥ Hanson Store, and Bowling in addition to the Storytellers show, String Theory, the free Members Only concert, and Hop Jam. Just listing everything together makes it feel like a miracle that I didn’t forget to show up to anything. Who knows, maybe I did and still don’t remember.

Every year gets a bit more challenging writing this review because it feels like I’m supposed to cover each and every event, and that becomes somewhat tedious the longer and more similar that list becomes compared to previous years. To cover some of the extras without giving you a dozen paragraphs to fit each one, here are a few condensed observations:

  • I think it could be fun to see karaoke move to Cain's for a trial year to accommodate more fans, and maybe make it a three-brother-event to keep things fresh and justify a larger venue.
  • Pro-tip: the non-Hanson karaoke song database totally includes a few Disney songs. Use this information wisely.
  • Hanson Heads on sticks + fan song requests + fans dancing on stage = the most lively Dance Party yet.
  • I loved how many of us showed up ironically wearing our new “I’d rather be at a Hanson concert” shirts to the dance party. I can’t think of a more accurate setting for mine.
  • I tried my hand at Hanson Day bowling for the first time and somehow managed a strike on my first turn. Don’t worry, my ego dropped back down the moment I accidentally tossed the ball behind me a few turns later.

The one event I feel like I have to elaborate on is the Listening Party. In case you didn’t go and have no idea what I’m talking about, this year Zac wrote an EP called “Edible Digital Pants.” It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds and is full of songs praising junk food, demonizing vegetables, and the ticket included a collectible metal lunch box full of candy, a stress donut, and a fortune cookie proclaiming “You will experience high quality nonsense today.” He wasn’t wrong. Here’s a little more high quality nonsense worth a momentary tangent for you.

A few years back, I tweeted a snarky comment along the lines of “what product will Hanson think up next, fortune cookies?” and wrote a fake example of one (Lucky numbers 1440, 1997, and “soon.” I’ve since accidentally deleted it, because of course I did.) I didn’t tweet it to Hanson, but a fan saw it, thought it was a great idea, and RTed it to the @hansonmusic account. Zac then saw it, must have thought it was funny, and started tweeting me back about making them. I joked that it was my idea first and that we’d have to go 50/50 if he actually went through with it. Here’s a screenshot I posted to Facebook afterwards showing our fake binding verbal agreement:



I forgot all about it until Zac posted a picture on Instagram a few weeks ago revealing that they had, in fact, created some kind of Hanson fortune cookie. I don’t for a minute think that my ancient tweets had anything to do with it or that he even remembered the brief exchange, but it was too great that somewhere on the internet I had “proof” that we had an agreement to go 50/50 on any future fortune cookie production. I thought about bringing it up to him in person, decided it would require too much explaining, and figured I’d just let it go as a great moment of irony. (Besides, it's not like they made a profit off of them for me to even joke that they owed me.) Then after Hop Jam, I was having a completely unrelated conversation with Taylor and several other fans, and out of nowhere I hear some friends calling my name from behind me. Suddenly Zac jumps into the middle of the circle I’d been standing in and dramatically holds out his empty hand to me. Cue total confusion on my part. I think I said something along the lines of “Um, what is that? What are you doing?”



His response? “It’s the 50% I owe you” with a big cheeky grin.



Someone else had obviously told him the fortune cookie story. I’m sure Taylor and the other people in the circle were even more lost than I was, and I didn’t even try to explain. I laughed, pretended to take my cut from his empty hand, and later wished I’d thought to say “I’ll be sure to spend all of that in the Hanson store.”


The weekend was so packed that there wasn’t much time to squeeze in anything outside of the scheduled events, but I did manage to escape to check out The Gathering Place for about an hour. It’s this giant free park with lots of swings, slides, and fun unusual climbing equipment meant for kids, but definitely also enjoyed by adults. It’s a lot bigger than I expected from the few pictures I’d seen, and I’d love to go back with more friends and a little more time to kill. I highly recommend checking it out if your inner kid is screaming for a recess break.



Storytellers
And now, for the real reason I get myself to Tulsa year after year: the music. I feel very spoiled after getting four shows in a row this year, and as much as I always enjoy the side events, I’d gladly give them all up if it meant we could keep up a tradition of more concerts for Hanson Day.

Once again, Storytellers was hands-down my favorite part of Hanson Day. And once again, Hanson dropped the ball on telling any stories. I think a more accurate description is that it was a Hanson history throwback show to the Underneath Acoustic tour, and let me tell you, as someone who missed that tour, I was very excited for this theme. I don't at all hate the idea of transforming the bonus show into a throwback show to a past tour. There are plenty to choose from, lots of memories and nostalgia if you were there, and many fans who missed out the first time. Official petition to change Storytellers to a throwback concert event, anyone? Either that or, you know, add stories.

I was so happy to hear "Lullabelle" again and had only ever heard it once in Florida years ago. To his credit, Zac did try to explain a little bit about that one before he played it. He said it was a song about loss and that it describes his feelings about Cindy Crawford. I never thought much about the meaning when I picked Hollybelle as my hnet username 12 years ago because I was too busy being in love with the melody. Looking back, it's not exactly a very fitting subject to have named myself after, but I guess I could've done a lot worse.

I was just as excited to hear "Crazy Beautiful" as a solo for only the second time, but once again Isaac and Zac joined in at the end and turned it into a full band song. It was gorgeous and a fun way to bring the show back up from a mellow set of solos, but I'm beginning to think I'll never actually get to see the full solo version from the Underneath Acoustic Live DVD. Near the end of the show we were treated with the surprise opportunity to see Isaac play the cello on "Underneath," and then he went on to absolutely slay a cover of "Ain't No Sunshine." I left loving the whole experience and also thinking that the Storytellers show had oddly been a better Isaac show than some of his own solo shows at BTTI. He was just really on point the whole time.

String Theory
Getting to experience String Theory in Hanson's hometown in a room of mostly fan club members was a unique experience. It's hard to say if there was more excitement or crowd participation in a setting that doesn't call for much of it in the first place, but it felt like a special place to be at the end of almost a year of String Theory shows (even if that place was about three rows further back than any of us expected thanks to a surprise pit section. On a positive note, reserving the first three rows for their family is one sure-fire way to deter stage rushing!). There was one magical moment at the end when the crowd began waving their cell phone lights in unison during "Tonight," and I turned to look behind me and saw row after row of the sold out theatre swaying in unison all the way to the top of the balcony. I didn't even attempt to capture it to be able to share it here, but it was a sight worth seeing.

Members Only Concert
I say this with all the love and respect in my heart: thank you Hanson, God, and everybody involved that this year's show did not include "Never Let Go," "A Life Without You," or "With You In Your Dreams." This was the first Hanson Day in quite a few years that didn't make me cry, and I'm really very grateful for that. My favorite part was getting to hear the new EP songs as well as "Runaway Run" as a solo. I'd like to give major props to the girl in the crowd that had a kazoo on her and had the guts to get up on stage when they asked during "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times." I'm not sure why Hanson thought it made sense to bring up a guest to play along with a song none of us really knew yet, but she did fine and I couldn't hear it anyway.

The State of the Band portion answered a burning question that fans have been asking for years now: when will Hanson release a new album? They revealed that if everything goes according to plan, they will release a new album in 2020 called Against The World, followed by an extensive world tour and another new album in 2021. They said there would also be some sort of fall tour in the U.S. at the end of this year to start previewing some of the new music. I can't wait, though I'm hesitant to think of the announcement in terms of what we traditionally think of as an "album" and how it might be released until we hear more details. I'm pretty hopeful that it will be worth the wait regardless of the fine print.

Hop Jam
This year's Hop Jam was a weird mix of great and terrible for me thanks to the fact that by that point in the trip, I'd picked up a mystery cough, had almost no voice, and was generally feeling more rundown than usual. I made it through the first half of the day relatively fine (apart from one unrelated elbow/inflatable slide incident), but by the time Hanson came on stage, I was so dead on my feet that I sat and watched the whole show sitting on the ground in the parking lot. I forced myself up during "Thinking Bout Something" because it's a crime not to as far as I'm concerned, but I was so beat by the end of the song that I was literally laying on the ground for a moment. I'm going to need someone to come slip some vitamin C into all my drinks starting about a week before next year's event.

They closed out the show with an encore including all of the main stage bands + Darren Criss for a fun group cover of Kiss's "Rock And Roll All Nite." At one point Taylor took the microphone and told the crowd that since it was a free concert, we needed to "pay our way" by singing along until we lost our voices. Challenge accepted. I basically prepaid.






So to sum up this year's Hanson Day experience? A pessimist might tell you I waited five hours to buy two shirts, I contracted bronchitis, and I ruined my elbow helping a kid on a bouncy house slide. An optimist might remind you that this year's EP title is "In Real Life," and well, those things certainly are part of it. But the part of me the keeps booking flights back? She has total heart eyes for "Dancing in the Wind," "Lullabelle," "Crazy Beautiful," and the entirety of the Storytellers show. She stood for a standing ovation at a sold out String Theory Performance in Hanson's hometown and got to escape reality and be a kid for just long enough to climb a fortress and captain a ship in the middle of nowhere. She's currently stuffing herself with candy out of a weird lunchbox with pixelated underwear on the front, and she's totally looking forward to May 14-17, 2020.

April 3, 2019

String Theory: Brisbane



My favorite part of Brisbane was getting to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I’ve spent years admiring adorable photos of fans and Hanson holding koalas, so it felt like a must-do when I finally made the trip for myself. What I didn’t realize while seeing all of those photos is that there are actually very strict laws and rules surrounding handling koalas. I’ve read mixed results on which Australian states allow members of the public to hold them, but it is illegal in most; Queensland is one of the few exceptions. Even then, they can only be handled for a maximum of 30 minutes (consecutive or otherwise) per day, and staff seemed very well trained and perceptive to the koalas’ willingness to engage. If one seemed uncooperative or not into being held, it was immediately taken back to the exhibit and replaced with another rather than being coaxed into working longer. Each one had a handler at all times standing just outside of the frame of photos, and we were shown a specific way to stand and hold our hands in order to safely hold the koala. It was a neat experience and one I’m grateful that I was able to do considering how high the demand was and the limited amount of time the koalas are allowed to work each day. I’m happy to say the longest I waited in any line during the Australian tour was the line to hold a koala, and it felt like time well-spent.


Though it is a koala sanctuary in name, Lone Pine is also home to several other species including kangaroos, platypuses, dingos, crocodiles, wombats, Tasmanian devils, snakes, emus, and several species of birds. We were able to feed kangaroos in a petting-zoo style setting, and they were calm and clearly used to human interaction and the not-so-subtle stomping and running of happy children (there were a few intimidating emus walking around too, but they were giving off some major Care of Magical Creatures angry hipogriff vibes, so we kept our distance). I would have liked to spend longer exploring everything, but it was such a hot day that we didn’t stick around more than the hour or two it took to check everything out. I hesitated to leave as I heard they were offering snake photos somewhere as well, but I Googled, decided the results were less impressive than the Britney-style photo I got in Cancun, and retreated to an air-conditioned Uber back to our hotel instead.


After it cooled off a bit, we went exploring again and found ourselves at a place called Streets Beach in Southbank just a few blocks down from the QPAC venue. It's a man-made beach right in the heart of the city complete with sand and palm trees, and it looks exactly like a real beach minus the waves if you didn't know you were surrounded by buildings on all sides. I was impressed by how big and clean it was and how many families were taking advantage on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It felt like we stumbled onto a free waterpark that seemed better cared for than any waterpark I’ve ever paid to visit. I imagine a day of playing with animals and then going to the beach is a perfect weekend to any kid. Top it off with a Hanson show, and you can add 30-year-old American to that list.

Speaking of zoos, let’s bring this back to the reason I was in Australia—String Theory. I’m kidding, though. We observed our final show from a balcony box near the stage Statler and Waldorf style, but the crowd thankfully gave us little to heckle and even the stage rushing at the end seemed more tame than the previous two shows. I had zero complaints for Hanson, though maybe I should deduct a few points overall because nobody tried to bring me ice cream this time.

I really didn’t expect an encore, so I was happily surprised when they broke out “Change In My Life” a cappella at the end. The crowd got really into clapping along and stayed on beat, but some didn't quite get Taylor's "cut" motion at the end which was kind of funny and led him to give us a "shh" finger motion, too. It was a great way to end the show, the Australian tour, and the String Theory World Tour as a whole now that only a few one-off shows are left. I can complain about crowd behaviors and mean every word of it, but the truth is I've also enjoyed this tour very much, and I'm sure I'll be reminiscing about the good old days of seated shows, no openers, and no lines soon enough.

The night skyline view from our hotel room after the show was spectacular without ever leaving the bed. We chose the unusual route of going with more of a budget hotel but then "splurging" on the nicest room they had. I loved it, and I think we were happier there than we would have been in a basic room in a more expensive hotel (think still less than a night at the Fairfield in Tulsa). We ended up with a corner room on the 19th floor with floor to ceiling glass walls and a stunning view of the city. It made for a bittersweet backdrop as we packed our things for the long journey back home.

The flight back to L.A. from Brisbane was only about 13 hours as opposed to the 16+ it took us to get to Melbourne. Pair that with the fact that I actually slept this time, and it really didn't feel that long. We managed to kill the little bit of time we were awake playing Mario Kart, and I have to say there was some nerdy satisfaction in getting to use a Gamecube controller that I've owned for longer than I've been following Hanson thanks to a portable adapter. Amazingly, none of my flights got delayed or canceled, and though I had to run between terminals at LAX not once, but twice because the AA app told me the wrong gate, I didn't have any major flight issues for a change. I did come home to a news story that there was a confirmed case of the measles through LAX about two days before we were there, so shoutout to the public school system for making sure I got vaccinated for that years ago.

Instead, I'm coming home with a heightened case of wanderlust and not a single trace of FOMO. This might have felt like a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I'm sure it did carry some singularly epic moments, but I know better than to make any bold statements about never doing it again. I hope I'll get to go back someday, but I also hope I get to see many other new places before I return. So what's next on my list of top places I'd like to travel? Let's just say I wouldn't be disappointed if BTTI ever made an unexpected move to an island in Greece just once. My airmiles are ready.