November 24, 2011

Eat to the Beat: Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2011


If you consult Urban Dictionary, you'll find this entry about "bananas":

1. a slang word derived from the old saying "bananas" used to describe someone that was crazy. Used now to describe anything in style or cool.

Turns out it also means a half-price, one-size-fits-all costume acquired in mass quantities from K-Mart just hours before Halloween. All definitions seem to fit this situation.

We wanted to dress up for Halloween, but we didn't have the room to pack costumes or the time and money to stop and find new ones. Just as we were about to give up and resign ourselves to the predictable Mickey ears, opportunity presented itself in the form of a $12 polyester banana suit. I picked up one and joked that one of us should wear it. Then we saw the second one lying a few feet away, and the light bulbs went off. Bananas come in bunches.

I have to say I'm a little irked that our costumes were such a hit this year after we spent weeks planning and designing what turned out to be an epic fail last year. Turns out people appreciate the simplicity of a banana more than the complexity of a Hare Band, and that's all there is to it. So we got lots of smiles and cheesy banana jokes thrown our way, and more than a few pictures snapped from a distance. Then there were the people that enjoyed it so much that they asked for pictures with us (most of whom were also enjoying the wine aspect of the food & wine festival). I'd love to see their faces the next day as they looked back at their pictures and went "Wait...I met bananas?" or better yet "Wait...I saw Hanson?" I hope both were a pleasant surprise.

We had a blast dancing around and, well, going bananas (did you really think I'd let it go that easily?). Another highlight of the day? An impromptu M&G with the main event themselves, complete with a kiss on the cheek and a picture to prove it. That's right, I finally met Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Sorry, Hanson. You got trumped.

Hanson went as Storm Troopers:


We spent the second day trying to do everything we didn't get to on day one, which boils down to the Tower of Terror, the Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, and a whole lot of eating.

I ate my way around the world in about three hours.
Coq Au Vin in France

Goulash in Germany

California Rolls in Japan

Strawberry Tart in France

Gelato in Italy

Perogies in Poland (my personal favorite)

Ravioli in Italy

By the end of the night, there was certainly no empty space left deep down inside to mourn the loss of Hanson at the end of another tour.

November 21, 2011

St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale

St. Petersburg 10/28/11

Depending on how you count things, the St. Pete show was my 50th (ish) time seeing Hanson. Landmark material, right? And how better to celebrate than by getting a great spot and hearing your favorite album? Still, I think the fact that they recorded this show made it lose a little something for me. Hanson was aware of the cameras. I was aware of the cameras. And while I'd like to believe that none of us act any different with cameras, I think it's impossible to completely forget their presence. It's hard to dance like nobody's watching when you know there's the potential for repeated viewing if you happen to do something horrible enough to warrant an instant replay or six.

It was also the most cramped I've ever felt at a show. In fact, I might even prefer plain old-fashioned pushing to being thigh-to-thigh and shoulder-to-shoulder with the people around me. At least with pushing, there are ways to make it stop. When you're crammed in so tight that you can feel the girl five people down reaching into her pocket for her cell phone, there's not really much you can do but stay still and hope someone else caves first.

Despite all this, I had a great time. I finally got to hear Lullabelle live, which I suppose means something by default since I branded myself as "Hollybelle" the moment I rediscovered these guys. After the show, we waited by the bus. I decided like 20 shows ago that I should try to get pictures with Hanson at my 50th show; it seems like the obvious thing to do, right? Only that night, the thought didn't even cross my mind (and hasn't until right now). Instead, we let the guys pick out stickers to add to the maps in our tour books. I suppose in the end I'd rather have those silly little stickers than a picture I could recreate after any given show. Maybe I'll remember to get a picture when I hit #100.

(nevermind the "50" residing over Atlanta instead of St. Pete. I'm still not sure which really was #50)

Ft. Lauderdale 10/29/11

The Shout it Out story was probably the best of the three I saw, if for no better reason than Isaac's sassy attitude. He kept joking and snapping his hand back and forth for no apparent reason, and it was hilarious. Someone asked something about unreleased songs, which triggered Zac not only to admit to the existence of some song called "President of Gas," but to also break out into it. Isaac immediately joined in while Taylor looked the other way like he didn't know the other two goofballs on stage much less share any genes with them. He finally gave in and added a third harmony at the very end of the brief preview we got. It was entertaining for sure, but I can't say I foresee it finding a home on any future album.

The end of the tour felt a little strange because this show was technically the last, but the two Epcot shows directly after threw everything off. They weren't really part of the tour, but putting them after the final show made it feel like we didn't get a real ending. Standing in another sold out crowd that night, though, it finally felt like a last show to me. The energy was high, the setlist was really good, and I finally got to hear SIO for the first time of the Musical Ride Tour after hearing every other album at least three times. I ended the tour the same way I began it:  in my favorite silver ballet flats. On day one, I took a picture in my front row seat with my favorite shoes resting against the stage. On the way out of the last show, I tossed them in the trash because they'd been rocked a little too hard (not to mention completely soaked from the rain).

November 16, 2011

Norfolk, Charlotte, Atlanta

Norfolk 10/23/11

Occupy Norfolk wins for being the best occupy group we encountered. They had fliers to hand out and seemed to actually know why they were there, and they were really nice and brought us snacks and brand new pillows without us asking for a thing.

And then there was the incident nobody really understands. Let's just say there was some expired NyQuil, a homeless man, and a lot of confused shouting involved. No one will ever really know what happened that night, but I have a feeling that it may be for the best.

For some reason I really wasn't feeling the show when it started. I felt sick and out of it and generally miserable--perhaps some latent affects of the NyQuil? Or maybe I was just run down from being sick in the first place, but I spent the entire time before the show began with my head resting on the barricade, and it took a lot to not do the same through Charlie Mars's set. Even the first few Hanson songs didn't do it for me, but at some point I got over it and had a good time.

No thanks to the crazy girls pushing in the crowd, of course. I was never directly hit by whoever was doing it, but the girl behind me got shoved into my back repeatedly. Normal at a GA show, right? Except I turned and looked several times to see a whole group of girls being slammed into each other and trying to call for security, but they were too far back for anyone to notice. For a few seconds, it looked like someone was trying to start a mosh pit. I was able to motion to a guard off to the side who finally came over to check out what was going on. As soon as he came and stood over the barricade, about 10 hands shot into the air and all pointed at the same two girls, who then looked around as if they didn't know what was going on. If it were a cartoon, they would have been whistling and looking shiftily at the sky. I ended up having to call security over twice more and I think the culprits were finally removed, but not before throwing a full cup of beer over the barricade and all over my friends, and not before Isaac noticed and gave a brief speech about "watching over" the people around you before starting "Watch Over Me."

Then while we jumped during "If Only," the barricade in front of us rocked back so hard I thought for a second that it was going to fall on us. My friend a few people down with a different segment in front of her said she only ever felt hers shift forward a few inches closer to the stage. The one in front of me literally fell in towards us at about a 45 degree angle before landing back in its original position. I think we all jumped a little more carefully after that.

Out by the bus we thanked Isaac for his attempt to calm the crazies behind us in the crowd, and he ranted with us about how obnoxious it is for people to pay good money to have their time ruined by that kind of behavior. There was talk of hypothetically wanting to punch such people, but I think his mind changed when he thought about the ratio of male to female in the crowd. "Of course, I don't hit women," he recanted with a grin. Neither do I, Isaac. But that doesn't stop me from really wanting to sometimes.

Charlotte 10/25/11

I'll get my rant out of the way first. I HATE Amos' Southend, have hated it since I was unfortunate enough to witness my first full-length Hanson concert there in 2007, and have continued to hate it all five times I've been there. Why? The sound sucks, the lighting sucks, and you can't see from anywhere.

But for all the crappiness of the venue, the guys always put on a particularly good show in Charlotte. And to continue a tradition, this one was a day after my friend Laura's birthday (last year it was on Valerie's birthday). To carry on a different tradition, we surprised Laura with cupcakes and then unceremoniously smashed them in her face. It was a good night.

P.S. Props to Holly #2 for making some amazing cookie dough cupcakes!

Atlanta 10/26/11

Little Five Points:  home of the weird and creepy. This year we met a girl dressed in pirate attire who introduced herself as a pirate ninja. Funny, I always thought the two were mortal enemies in the books of nerds everywhere, but she clearly didn't follow anything by the book.

I always say the shows are good, but this one was particularly good. The energy of the crowd seemed extra strong, and that can make or break a show. Putting aside all of the amazing energy and crazy dancing for a moment, the one part that stood out to me the most was Zac's performance of "The Walk." Most of the time, Hanson shows to me are about having a good time with friends. I live for the high-energy, upbeat songs, and the deeper moments are few and far between. Something about that song that night though was so perfect that I want to use sappy words like "flawless," "captivating," and dare I say "moving" to describe it. I just stood there and listened and almost forgot where I was until it ended, and I could tell by the looks on the familiar faces around me that I wasn't the only one that felt that way. It's moments like those that keep me coming back.

November 15, 2011

Lancaster, NYC, Falls Church, Philadelphia, NYC

Lancaster 10/17/11

The Chameleon Club in Lancaster is easily my 2nd least favorite venue (Amos' Southend in Charlotte holds first place). Picture a shoebox with one too many pairs of shoes shoved inside and you'll get the general layout and organization. Now picture a pair of shoes on the 2nd level with a really gross pair of cheap knockoff heals scuffing up against them all night--that's where I ended up. Thankfully the show itself was one of the best I saw this tour and made up for the minor details. The guys had a lot of energy and seemed to be just as excited as we were to be back to playing shows after the week-long break. Finally seeing Isaac play the piano almost made missing the other shows worth the wait, and we definitely got a kick out of  "Somethin' Going 'Round" as the encore.

New York 10/18/11

The New York show was significant for three reasons: 1) It was my first trip to NYC, 2) I won tickets for the show via Hanson's Musical Ride Tour contest (remember this post? turns out it paid off), and 3) I decided to try to drive my car into the city. Two out of three of those turned out well. We managed to get into the city with just a $12 toll, and I stretched the remainder of my luck and found free street parking just a block away from where we were staying with Rachel's friends. By some miracle I parallel parked without any trouble, and my car was untouched the next morning. Getting into the show with my won tickets proved a bit more difficult, but thankfully in the end I had two friends with me that held me a spot inside while I tracked down someone who could find my name on the guest lest and let me in. It was definitely worth the wait to save $50 on the ticket.

The story was entertaining but I can't say I remember much about it. I recall a Hanson comparing The Walk to Deathly Hallows part 1 and Shout it Out to Deathly Hallows part 2 where they get to kill Voldemort in the end, and I specifically remember Zac saying "booyah!" after connecting slavery to the roots of rock and roll music. We shook our heads. Even Zac Hanson can't "booyah" slavery (obviously this is all paraphrased and out of context, so don't quote him too closely on that).

Falls Church 10/19/11

Rain, rain, rain, rocket-launched guitar picks, cameras rudely in the aisle. Oh, and I laughed really hard when Isaac tried to hand Taylor a guitar pick WHILE Taylor was playing the guitar. Not sure how Isaac expected him to pick it up, and Taylor was giving him a look that said the same thing with a little more attitude.

Philadelphia 10/20/11

Parking in Philly was definitely more of a nightmare than anywhere else I've been. Anywhere that allows parallel parking in the middle of a median is nuts in my book. Here we hit a few used music shops and picked up some more music for the road since CDs were our only option in my car. We picked up some Green Day, No Doubt, Creedence Cleerwater Revival, and ABBA before cutting ourselves off (and for the millionth time couldn't find any SoCo).

During the show, we watched from the balcony as security dragged off some drunk girl trying to violently shove her way to the front, and Zac declared "Sometimes having a good time means having one less drink." And sometimes having a good time means one less crazy person in the packed, sold-out crowd.

At the end, Charlie Mars came back out on stage and had Hanson sing and play backup to a new song with a title I can't remember and a dragging I can't forget. Maybe they knew it, too, because they didn't end the set with it and instead came back out and played, well, something else that I'm sure I enjoyed more at the time. Perhaps my lack of memory isn't all in part to the lameness of the performance so much as the fact  that it's been a month and I saw a lot since then.

New York City 10/22/11 VH1 Save the Music Event

There's a first for everything, and this show was the first time I saw Hanson play an elementary school auditorium. We didn't bother to try to wait and get good seats for this since the focus of the event was for families and kids. It was cute watching Hanson play for the kids and try to get them to dance and have fun, and they invited the children to stand in front of the front row. Isaac tried to get them to jump on cue to the drumbeat during parts of "MMMBop" and "A Minute Without You," and Taylor taught them to twirl and "get down low" during "Give a Little." It was also the first time I've ever had my view blocked by a dancing balloon, but I happily put up with it just picturing the hopping kid on the other end of the string.

At the end of the show as Hanson was leaving the stage, the host announced that there would be one more song, to which the crowd erupted in cheers and all three Hansons looked like they might throw knives, clearly not being aware of this extra song. The host quickly realized his mistake and added "'--but not by Hanson! YOU guys are going to sing!" And we did. We sang Happy Birthday to Zac as someone brought out a massive cupcake with a candle that they trusted Taylor to light, and for the first time I watched them not smash cake in anyone's face.

November 5, 2011

Northampton, New Haven, Boston, Portland

Northampton 10/7/11

Northampton feels like so long ago that I really don't have a lot to say about it. We showed up probably two hours before doors, and since it was seated we went exploring. It was here that we encountered our first "Occupy _____" group. I was completely unfamiliar with this movement prior to this trip, but I'm more than educated about it at this point after finding disgruntled Occupy crews in almost every city we hit. This particular bunch was small in number and gathered in front of the Bank of America, chanting and holding home-made signs but seemed a bit less organized and represented than most others that we saw.

The show was good. We had front row seats so it was nice to walk up and get a good spot without having to wait in line forever, and we were super happy that The Walk won the album voting. Out of all the shows I did, this was the only show I actively voted for on a regular basis, so I was incredibly happy when my pick finally won. "Tearing it Down" was a definite highlight. It's a decent song on the album, but it easily plowed through to one of my favorite live songs as soon as I heard it. We actually sat down during the acoustic set which was another memorable moment because really, how many times do you sit at a Hanson show? There's something fantastic about sitting with your feet on the stage instead of standing with some heavy-breathing girl pressed against your back, screaming the lyrics to "Go" with more energy than Zac gives during "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade."

New Haven

As soon as we showed up at Toad's and saw a slew of drunk Yale kids, we knew we were in for an interesting night. Several scaled some metal structure and the police had to shine a light on them to make them come down. One ran over to me and Valerie and stole a fry out of our bag before we could respond, and I stopped another from sneaking under the blanket of a fan who had her head turned. The next day, a random girl wearing a banana costume asked "Are you really waiting for HANSON?!" I responded, "Are you really wearing a banana suit?" You know it's bad when you're being judged by a girl in a giant banana.

While I wasn't overly excited about hearing Middle of Nowhere as the winning album, I was pleasantly surprised by  how good the show was. It also probably ranks as the loudest show I've ever been to with all of the screaming echoing in the room. Zac later explained to us that it was due to the layout and shape of the room, but I'm not convinced that it wasn't just due to the insane over-excitement of a lot of the people there. At some point during the show, I saw Isaac wiping his nose and filed it away in my head with a simple "huh, they must be getting sick." No kidding, as we would soon find out a few days later.

After the show was this weird phenomenon of girls without pants. I guess the venue opened up to be some kind of dance club after the show because there was a huge line of scantily clad girls and oddly normal looking guys waiting to get in. Almost every girl was wearing the same one-size-fits-none tube skirt, and I saw a whole lot more of New Haven than I ever wanted to that night. Let's just say if you ever hear me say "she must be from New Haven," don't take it as a compliment.


Boston was the site of my first parallel parking job of the trip, and I was darn proud of it. Unfortunately, it was also the place where my poor mutilated tire decided to fight back (long story---I basically tore my hubcap during the SIO tour last November and never fixed it), so I spent an outrageous $7 on scissors and a good 15 minutes trying to saw off the offending piece to keep it from puncturing my tire. My poor car puts up with a lot for this band.

We were in the balcony for the show and it provided a good view of a surprisingly full floor. I've since heard people say that the show sold out, but I'm not convinced. Still, it was a decently full venue for such a large capacity. The energy was pretty high and the major highlight here was hearing Hanson cover Weezer's "Troublemaker." I expected it to become a tour staple, but this turned out to be the only night they played it.

After the show we sat out by the bus and huddled for warmth like dorks and had a pretty good time just talking to friends and getting to know people. It was here that I unknowingly received the high five of death from Zac that ended up getting me and eventually every person that traveled with me sick. Sorry guys, I didn't want that something either.


This is the single weirdest city I've ever visited due to the homeless population. Dad jokingly told me to stay away from the "Maine-iacs" but had no idea how much truth was in that statement. There was the guy that offered to sell us drugs and then offered them for free when we refused (for the record, we still refused), the old bald man that fawned over my nail polish before proudly showing off his own, the guy that creepily stopped to say "I like you. You look good," then walked away, and many, many more people that gave a generally weird vibe. I didn't necessarily feel in danger, just more of a "what kind of twilight zone am I in?" feeling.

The one upside was some of the most amazing food at a local restaurant called Sprouts & the Bomb Diggity Bakery. It was so fantastic that we ate there twice.

Of course we got fantastic spots only to find that the show would be canceled halfway through due to the sickness going around to everyone on the bus (and unfortunately me at this point). From what I remember, they came out and played a few songs, then disappeared backstage for a few minutes. At this point, we knew something was up, and not necessarily something good. When they came back out, they announced that Underneath had won the voting, but in order to give us a better show, they would play SIO instead. They only got through one song before quickly realizing that wouldn't cut it, either. I can't remember too many specifics except they seemed to be struggling to do songs with Isaac and Zac leads to let Taylor's voice rest, but with everyone being a bit sick, it was still too much. I watched Taylor mouth "Watch Over Me" to Zac, and Zac shout back "No, it's too much." It seemed obvious that Taylor wanted so badly to continue the show, but it just wasn't in his best interest and his brothers knew it. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed, especially after having camped out and gotten close to front row center, but I'm glad they made the responsible call that might have saved them more sickness and damage to their voices in the long run. Seriously, no hard feelings from me. I know they would never cancel a show without very good reason, and I'm glad they're all okay. I can't say I'll be making the drive back to Portland when they reschedule, though.

November 4, 2011

The Musical Ride Tour in List Form

Shows Attended:
1. Chicago 9/27
2. Chicago 9/28
3. Northampton 10/7
4. New Haven 10/8
5. Boston 10/9
6. Portland 10/11
7. Lancaster 10/17
8. New York City 10/18
9. Falls Church 10/19
10. Philadelphia 10/20
11. New York City 10/22
12. Norfolk 10/23
13. Charlotte 10/25
14. Atlanta 10/26
15. St. Petersburg 10/28
16. Ft. Lauderdale 10/29
17. Epcot 10/31
18. Epcot 11/1

Albums Heard:
-Middle of Nowhere: 3
-This Time Around: 4
-Underneath: 3
-The Walk: 3
-Shout it Out: 1

Shows canceled:
.5 Portland 10/11
1. Albany 10/12
2. Pittsburgh 10/13

Trip Casualties:
1. rear hubcap
2. windshield wipers
3. right headlight
4. Hanson pen
5. necklace for Hanson pendant
6. Valerie's hairbrush
7. favorite shoes
8. tent
9. GPS
10. GPS #2 (no kidding...I'm on my 3rd GPS in a month)
11. Silver glitter hairbow

Number of...
-Days on the road: 28
-Times we got lost: 0
-Rotating travelers in my car: ~10
-Energy drinks consumed: 2.5
-Chocolate milks consumed: 20395828
-Miles traveled: OUCH
-States visited: ~15
-Bananas in the bunch: 6
-Priceline deals: ~5
-Terrifying parallel parking jobs: 2
-Cakes/cupcakes smashed: 2
-Hours in my day: 1,440

...okay, just kidding on that last one.

All in all it's been an incredible month and I'm already missing the road. Show reviews and a few photos to follow soon.

November 3, 2011

Where's the Love?

I've started and restarted this post because I can't seem to get what I want to say exactly right. I've witnessed a lot of rude behaviors this tour and have been very disappointed at the obvious lack of common decency and consideration for others. There's so much I want to say and so much I shouldn't. Then I realized that Hanson has already said it, so I'll let the lyrics speak for themselves:

Something's been going on and I don't know what it is
You don’t mind the taking girl, but you don’t know how to give
You drove me crazy but I don’t know baby
You’re thinking that it’s me you’re fooling
Where’s the right in, all our fighting?
Look at what you’re doing

Where’s the love
It’s not enough
It makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and…
Where’s the love
Give it up
It makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round

Can you tell me what you see whenever you look around?
We’re tripping all over ourselves and pulling each other down
We’re separating, consciousness is fading
Are you thinking that it’s me you’re fooling?
Where the right in, all our fighting?
Look at, look at, look at what we’re doing

(Repeat Chorus)

Dark clouds all around. lightening, rain pouring down
Waiting for the bright light to break through
Face down on the ground
Pick us up at the lost and found
We’ve got to change our point of view, if we want the sky blue

We’re segregating, consciences are fading
You’re thinking that it’s me you’re fooling
Where’s the right in, all our fighting
Look at what we’re doing

(Repeat Chorus)

Won’t you, won’t you give it up

No, really, give it up.

October 3, 2011

Superfreaking Awesome (Chicago pt. 2, 9/28/11)

There's no easy way to write down a dream setlist, the Hanson fan's fantasy draft of songs. I could probably spend an hour with a pen and paper writing, crossing out, and rewriting without ever coming to a final conclusion. Instead, it might be easier to just sit back and point at this show. Maybe Asheville '08 is still my favorite, if only because I was a new enough fan at the time that I had never heard a lot of those songs--but this show ranks pretty darn close if not higher.

The Story

Okay, so I'm a bit biased because Underneath is my favorite album and this show was the night of the Underneath story. For anyone who doesn't already know, this means fan club members got to enter the venue early and listen to Hanson ramble on about everything from how the album was made to how much Zac loves Mexican food before the actual concert began. Beth and I waited in line all day and ended up in the front row right in front of Isaac, so we had a great spot to watch from.

The story was decently entertaining. The guys assumed correctly that most of us had already seen their documentary, Strong Enough to Break, so they tried to keep any duplicate information to a minimum. What we got instead was a lot of goofing off and a lot of Zac pretending he didn't know what was going on. Isaac ended up doing a Cookie Monster impression (I couldn't tell you why) that sounded a little off at the end, so he joked that it was really a Cookie Monster slash Yoda impression. He did it again and perfectly nailed what some split-personality version of Cookie Monster and Yoda might sound like. Just imagine in ten years when Isaac's had it with Hanson and you're taking your kid to see "Isaac and Friends: The Musical." There would be dancing puppets with gravelly accents. What? It could happen. I wonder if we'll all still fight over front row for that. There was some ninja talk and maybe something to do with Mexican ninjas, but that part is a bit foggy. If anyone remembers more and wants to leave it in the comments--feel free!

For the Q&A portion, someone asked a technical question about guitars that went over my head, and then someone asked how they juggle all the different responsibilities that go along with being a touring band and owning your own record label. They gave the generic "you do what you have to do" answer and commented that there isn't a lot of sleep involved, and sometimes the only person you can rely on to get something done is yourself. The next question that I remember was about the rumor that they won't be releasing any more full-length albums. Their answer was in line with what I've been thinking/saying all along--that nothing is set in stone, and that even if they decide to do something different with more frequent EPs, it doesn't mean they'll never do another full-length album. They're just not sure what they want their next project to be, and seem to be leaning towards trying something outside of the box. Isaac tried to ask the crowd what we thought about them possibly trying EPs versus albums, and Zac shushed him every step of the way. When Isaac finally got the question out, Zac said "Ugh! Now they're all going to think it's happening for sure!" He was half joking, but I think he really did want us to understand that nothing is set in stone.

Somewhere in all of this, Taylor told us about how they decide what projects to take on and tried to use the variable "X" to explain a hypothetical situation. To paraphrase, he said something like "One of us will say 'I think we should try this new idea'." Only what he actually said was "I think we should try X." Now I knew he meant X as a variable, but my brain is always looking for a joke, and boy did it find one in this particular wording. I'm about as straight-laced as they come--no drug or alcohol use here. But leave me to be the only fan to burst out laughing because all I can think of is that Taylor just inadvertently endorsed the use of Ecstasy to come up with new ideas for their music. An awkwardly silent second or two later, more fans started giggling as they caught on, and Taylor finally stopped to laugh and say that he was NOT talking about trying Ecstasy. I was still laughing too hard to really catch what he said, though.

ETA: A youtube video just reminded me that Isaac left the stage twice during the story. Naturally, when he came back, Zac asked if he had to go number two. Classic Zac.

The Show

The show itself was fantastic. Meiko was a great mix of this socially awkward facade with killer "F you" song writing skills. Word to the wise--don't make her mad. She just might write this catchy insulting song about you and look all adorable and naive while singing it, so you really can't be mad. I'm looking forward to seeing Charlie Mars at my other shows, but I'm a little sad that I won't be seeing any more of Meiko this tour.

Hanson's set had me from the beginning because it was mostly songs from Underneath, but the other wild cards they threw in went together really well. The only song that didn't really seem to fit to me was "Carry You There," but I like it well enough to let it go. Perhaps something from "The Walk" would have been better. "Thinking of You" and "Madeline" were some nice surprises, and I'm always open to watching Zac headbang like a crazy person during "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade."

"Broken Angel" was this really personal moment during the show for both me and Beth. For me, it represents the whole reason I was there, the whole reason I've been anywhere for Hanson in the last four years. It's the song that I stumbled onto on youtube five years ago when I rediscovered Hanson, the one that gave me my first taste of wanting more. Hearing it live for the first time felt really special to me, and I know I stood there for at least half of the song with my eyes closed, just soaking it in and remembering that very first time. I'm not a very emotional person, but I started to feel that prickly tearful sensation that I've only ever felt one other time at a show.

...and then the girl behind me screamed as loud as she could and I turned around and gave her the best death glare I could come up with. She didn't scream again, but it was a complete buzz kill.

If you follow the Hanson world at all, you'll know that the big climax of the show happened when Hanson brought Meiko out on stage and covered "Superfreak." She did a great job giving the song this funky acoustic makeover, and then Isaac rapped a verse of "Can't Touch This" and everybody lost it. I've never been happier to be in the front row in front of Isaac than when that happened. He kept making these hilariously fitting facial expressions, and again I'm convinced he could do some kind of cartoon or puppet character if singing ever fell through.

Not my video, but whoever took it filmed Isaac at all the right moments:

The show ended with this ridiculous display of all three Hansons doing those clapping pushups. I'm impressed, guys, I really am. Because after a killer 23 song setlist (one ending in "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade," nonetheless), I was ready to fall over and pass out of exhaustion. And then Taylor starts doing pushups with claps like he's still good to go. Has anyone considered the fact that they might be vampires? Because between that display of energy, their ability to "dazzle" just about anybody in the same building, and the fact that they don't seem to sleep, it's enough to have me convinced.

The night ended with a good-humored homeless man shaking a cup at us and doing a little jig while singing "If you're Hanson and you know it, spare some change!" I truthfully told him that all of my spare change had already gone to Hanson.

October 2, 2011

And We Won't Go Down (Chicago, pt 1, 9/27)


The first night was good. Beth and I managed to stand in a great spot in the balcony behind a roped off set of reserved seats, that, luckily enough, nobody ever showed up to claim. We got in place just in time to really watch Meiko's last song, "You and Onions Make Me Cry." I stood around for a few minutes after the set was over, then decided it was a good time for a bathroom break. By some phenomenon I've never experienced, Hanson was on stage before I got back to my spot. I suppose I'm used to standing and waiting for what feels like (and often is) hours , so this was just completely weird to me. We had a good view and plenty of room to dance, though I suspect anyone that could see us thought we were nuts during "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'."

A definite highlight of the show was when Isaac announced that they were going to play a song they had never played live before and dedicated it to his wife. I spent the entirety of the song feeling a mixture of enjoyment and confusion because I had no idea what the song was and whether it was a new Hanson song or some cover I wasn't familiar with. It had a bit of a country vibe to it, so we suspected cover. After it was over, Isaac explained that it was from a band called "Unamerican," which still didn't ring any bells (we found out later the song was called "Tonight's the First Night"). He nailed it, of course. Maybe it's due to the fact that his anniversary was so soon and his wife was there (as Taylor let slip before the song), but Isaac was really in his element for these shows.

"In the City" was another highlight. I've never cared much for the album version of this song, but give me a reason to jump and I'm all yours. Speaking of jumping...this song provided the single most terrifying moment I've ever experienced in my life. A few songs prior, a man with a cane had pushed into the reserved area in front of us and sat down. We weren't exactly happy, but security told him he could stay and it was near the end, so we moved over a little so Beth could still see and focused back on the show. We paid him little attention, but it's hard to completely forget the person suddenly blocking your view. All that I noticed was that he didn't visibly react to the music at all, simply sat there without moving while Beth and I put all of our remaining energy into keeping up with Taylor's jumping. And just at the climax of the song, at the very end when we finally stopped to catch our breath, I watched the weirdest thing happen. This guy leans over the balcony in front of him (which was at least a foot wide, like sitting at a bar), puts both his hands and head over, struggles to lift his left leg over, and simply lets go.

Watching this happen was absolutely terrifying. That final second of seeing his feet go over was awful, and I had no doubt in my mind at the time that he was committing suicide. I'm sure this was an overreaction in a tense moment, but I still can't think of much else that would send someone head first out of a balcony willingly without regard to the people below. I won't waste your time with speculations of why, and I think anyone that claims to know why is wasting your time too--this is simply what I saw and how my mind reacted to the scene in front of me. I had a split-second thought of trying to grab his feet and save him, but thankfully my mind managed to register that I would probably go over with him if I tried, so I stayed put.

While all this is happening, I'm getting tackled by a security guard trying to stop him. Maybe "tackled" is too strong of a word since I somehow stayed on my feet, but I definitely took a sharp elbow to the head and ended up with hair all in my face and crooked glasses from the blow. The guard took out the short section of rope in front of us and missed grabbing his feet by seconds. Then we all stood there completely flabbergasted with hands clasped over our open mouths and vaguely registered that Hanson was talking about it from the stage.

It was an awkward ending, and Hanson didn't come back out. I was so upset that people were chanting for an encore, but I suppose most had no clue what had happened and just wanted another song. I know from talking to others that night and the next day that no one had any serious injuries, which is a miracle. But I swear, every time I say I've seen the most epic thing possible at a show, something trumps it. If I ever see anything crazier than this, I'm out. Game over. It was fun while it lasted.

September 20, 2011

Hanson in Friends Format: Seasons 1-6

I suppose the excitement of my impending Hanson overdose combined with insomnia lead to this particular brand of ridiculousness.

In an earlier blog post, I compared Hanson shows to Friends episodes and claimed that I could pinpoint a defining moment from each show. I know I can, but I’m kind of curious to see which moments make the cut. As a result, I bring you a follow-up post: Hanson in Friends format, seasons 1-6. This will be incredibly vague and/or boring unless you are 1) me, or 2) someone who was with me at some of these shows. This one’s more for me than you.

Pilot (MONA Recording)
-5/5/07 The one where it all started in the middle of nowhere

Season 1 (The Walk Tour fall ‘07)
-10/11 The first one where I was covered in beer
-10/16 The one where I almost got in a fight
-10/17 The one where Zac screamed in my face backstage and a drunk girl climbed on my back

Season 2 (The Walk Tour spring ’08)
-5/5 The one with the granny panties on stage
-5/6 The hometown show with the sinking bridges
-5/7 The one where tour ended on my birthday, the openers stripped, and I drove home with an expired license

Season 3 (The Walk Around the World Tour ’08)
-10/3 The one where Morgen was sent away by the police and the macarena and robot were born
-10/4 The one where I caught a guitar pick and fell asleep in the shower
-10/10 The one where they brought back “Thinking of You”
-10/28 The first one I didn’t mean to go to

Season 4 (The Use Your Sole Tour ’09)

-5/16 The (second) one with the surprise party
-10/11 The one where Cheap Trick played the encore
-10/12 The one where we walked 2 miles to get to the 1 mile walk
-10/18 The one with Devil's Nachos
-10/22 The one with the schizophrenic guy that wouldn't stop proposing
-10/23 The one with Holly sandwich pictures and cupcakes on Laura's face
-10/24 The one where the most memorable part was the exhaustion
-10/26 The one where I spilled pancake syrup in my sleeping bag

Season 5 (Shout it Out Tour ’10)
-3/10 The one where we danced (badly) in a music video
-5/22 The one where I got free tickets and food poisoning
-7/30 The one where I danced (badly) with Taylor and a Blues Brother
-7/31 The one with the cockroach the size of my hand
-10/31 The one that was covered in glitter
-11/5 The one that was perfect
-11/6 The one where we were first in line but went in last
-11/8 The one with free Disney passes
-11/9 The one where I accidentally called 911 on a rollercoaster
-11/10 The one with the sketchy walk in the dark
-11/12 The one where we had a dance party in the balcony
-11/13 The one where we accidentally got front row
-11/14 The one where we fell in love with Noodles & Co

Season 6 (2011)
-3/11 The one where I let a “that’s what she said" joke slip
-5/10 The one with church pews
-5/14 The one with the haunted mountain
-6/30 The one at the fancy hotel

A few outtakes in picture form...

The one where we (okay...Morgen and Beth) danced to "Falling for You" in McDonalds

The one with the impromptu ice cream party
The one where 50 people camped out

The one with the awesome costumes

The one where I accidentally looked like Isaac

Season 6 will resume production September 27th and continue through the month of October.

September 7, 2011

8 Reasons Why I Follow Hanson

If you’re reading this, you've either asked me this question yourself, or you've been asked it at least a dozen times. Here's a completely inadequate explanation of why.

1. Amazing music.

It’s the obvious answer, but it's the cornerstone of this obsession and can’t be left unsaid. The harmonies, the lyrics, the instruments, the energy, the passion…all of the variables they put into making music just work for me on some higher level, and I can’t get enough. If you find something that makes you happy, you hold onto it.

2. Every show is completely unique.

It’s amazing how you can technically do the same thing over and over again without it ever really being the same twice. I can easily pick out at least one memorable moment from every single show I’ve been to. Think of it like Friends episodes—there’s The one with the smashed birthday cake, the one where they played with Cheap Trick, the one where Zac screamed in my face, etc.  You’ve seen it before, you have an idea what’s going to happen, but you can’t help but watch it again and again.

3. Friends.

Because it’s impossible to do this and not end up with friends all over the country. Each show is more than a chance to reunite with Hanson, it's a reunion with friends. Whether it’s the fact that we’re all easily persuaded into going to shows (cookies, anyone?), or I don’t bother planning to go to shows without them anymore, I haven’t been to a show alone since 2007. It's about more than seeing three boys.

4. Escapism

es·cap·ism  noun 
habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine

No  matter what else is going on in my life, for that hour or two I’m in a crowd, there’s nothing else. It's safer and more satisfying than drugs, kids.

5. Sightseeing.

You never just see Hanson; there's so much more on the way. Chicago, Disney World, a giant statue of Superman in Metropolis, Tulsa, Oklahoma of all places, Arkansas mountaintops, Noodles & Company. Next month I’ll visit 7 states I’ve never been to before and a handful of others I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing courtesy of these guys. They’re an excellent excuse to see the world and feel at home at the same time.

6. The joy of randomness and the unknown.

While you may end up in Chicago or Disney World at some other point in life with or without following a band, there are some experiences I never would have had otherwise. Sleeping on sidewalks, showering at truck stops, walking barefoot in countless cities, wearing goofy homemade group Halloween costumes, being extras in a music video, renting a Cadillac and driving it halfway across the country, accidentally dialing 911 on the corkscrew of a roller coaster. All ridiculous, and all things that never would have had a reason to happen otherwise.

Then there's the randomness and unknown factor of being at a show and knowing that virtually anything is possible. They sing a song you've wanted to hear for 10 years, they bring out a special guest you never expected, God forbid that special guest you never expected is YOU, they throw birthday cake, they cover "Oh Darling!" and leave you feeling like you've betrayed the Beatles by liking it more when Zac sings it. And anything could happen until you walk out of the door and leave wanting more.

7. The joy of familiarity.

Sometimes the parts you know are going to happen are just as good as the surprises. The 30th time you spin your hand around during "Where's the Love,"
the way you've sang Penny and Me so many times that the crowd carries on even when Taylor messes up, the way you respond to the cowbell in TBS like you're one of Pavlov's dogs. There's a reason you always order a number 6 at Wendy's, right? You're okay with the same experiences over and over again because they're the ones you enjoy most.

8. In an MMMBop they’re gone.

It’s cheesy, but I’m not going to be young and free enough to do this forever.  I know that one day maybe soon, I'll inevitably end up with more responsibilities and less free time, and I'll be able to do a show or two per tour if I'm lucky. I intend to milk this time for all it's worth and not look back and wish I had done something fun. Because in 50 years, I'd rather still be answering "why did you" than "why didn't you."

This post now has a sequel, located HERE.

August 9, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion: Help me win tickets!

Because a month on the road isn't cheap.

Help a fellow fan out and sign up through my link? By signing up, you can win free tickets and prizes yourself, and by signing up through my link, you're helping me win for NYC at the same time. Two birds, one stone. Pretty please? I have a feeling it's expensive just to breathe in NYC (wouldn't know, I've never been); I could definitely use some free tickets.

Click here and sign up if you're feeling generous today :

Please and thank you!


I guess this post is useless now that the contest is over, but it's worth keeping around for an update. Thanks to the lovely people that viewed and used my link, I won the tickets AND fourth place in the Musical Ride Tour Contest. I didn't expect to win either one. Big hugs to those who helped!

June 20, 2011

94.7 Fresh FM/Gaylord National DC Show

This show was one of those last minute accidents, the kind where I normally amuse myself by looking up flights, laugh at the ludicrous prices, and admit defeat, all while never really believing I might end up going.

The problem is we egg each other on. With my friends, if one person is considering going to a show, everyone will inevitably entertain the idea of going, even if only for the 5 minutes it takes to look up prices and mileage and count themselves out. One thing led to another, and Valerie and I somehow convinced each other to go. (The $44 round-trip flight I found from Myrtle Beach to DC sealed the deal.)

Let me throw out a literary term to sum up this trip: juxtaposition. The art of placing two things side by side for comparison, or in this case, a stark contrast. Before making it to our final destination, an upscale hotel stay complete with VIP entry to a private Hanson show on Night #2, we apparently had to survive night #1, maybe prove ourselves worthy? Who knows. What I know is that in order to make it to the main event, we had to stick out a painful half hour or so of being lost in a scary area of DC while in desperate need of a bathroom and endure a pretty creepy hotel stay.

We ended up staying at a mildly sketchy Comfort Inn, and I swear we missed some kind of crucial memo about what was really up at this hotel. The desk clerk with crimped hair, massive hoop earrings, and six pounds of makeup probably should have been a warning sign. There were several couples milling around, all dressed relatively nicely for it to be past midnight at a Comfort Inn, and we couldn't shake the feeling that we were getting strange looks and people would stop talking when we walked by. The highlight of the night had to be the moment we ran into a woman outside in the parking lot, who first asked us if the hotel had a pool, then upon finding out that it did, invited us to go skinny dipping with her. The fact that she looked completely normal and was really friendly about it somehow makes it even creepier than if it had been some random sketchy guy. THAT would make sense. Woman in a cute dress in the parking lot? Not so much. Needless to say, we declined, retreated to the room, and didn't come back out until daylight.

We ventured to downtown DC the next day for a little dose of normal after the strange night, and we treated ourselves to Noodles & Co. I blame Rachel for introducing us to this place last fall because it's awesome, and there's not one within a three state radius of home for me. When we were still in the deciding stages, I texted Valerie "Noodles & Co." Quite honestly, it may have been one of the deciding factors of the trip; that's how much we love it. I also had my first DSW experience where I found a belt to use in place of the one that got left on my bedroom floor in a packing frenzy (on sale for $9 down from $42! I think I'm in love).

We checked into Gaylord National around 3 and were instantly blown away by the size and decor of the hotel. We drove past limousines on the way to parking, passed multiple ballrooms on the way to check in. We kept thinking we found the front desk only to find ridiculous things like a Hertz car rental office instead. There was even a Swarovski crystal store with Faberge eggs.

The room itself was a little less intimidating and had all of the usual amenities of a double bed hotel room, only tastefully decorated and clean in a way that didn't leave me sleeping with a t-shirt over the pillow like I did the night before (a useful trick for anyone who can't stand to sleep on foreign pillows but doesn't have room to bring one...or in retrospect, I suppose I could have just packed a pillow case.) One wall was floor to ceiling windows overlooking the big main street and a bit of the Potomac River. This was hands-down the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in.

 The instructions we received for the VIP package stated that we could line up beginning at 4:30, so we ate our leftover Noodles & Co, then walked around the hotel and took pictures until it was time. There were maybe 30 people waiting when we got there. The radio host went down the line and took pictures with everyone, then disappeared and came back with a microphone and a guy holding a camera. I swear I must have "pick me" tattooed on my forehead because he came directly up to me and Valerie, asked us our names, then promptly started filming and asking us questions, nevermind asking us if we wanted to participate (this "pick me" talent? Not always a good thing, like when I was randomly selected at the airport for additional screening on the way in). He asked us a few questions about being excited to see Hanson and what our favorite part of getting to see the show was, then disappeared again only to come back a few minutes later and ask for a redo with a few different questions. When the camera was off, he commented that we didn't seem all that excited. We assured him that we were happy to be there and assumed that he was looking for that "OH MY GOSH I'M GOING TO MEET HANSON I'VE LOVED THEM FOR YEARS AND I WANTED TO HAVE THEIR BABIES!" excitement, and we were fresh out. Our suspicions were confirmed after the show when he elicited screams from several girls after offering up Zac's empty drink cup, a sweaty towel, and "lint straight from Zac's pocket."

There were 200 people total, 100 of which were VIP. We ended up behind a rope at the side of the stage on Isaac's side with a perfect view of all 3 brothers, which is a good accomplishment for two people under 5'3". I enjoyed opener Justin Trawick, who reminded me of a mix of Jason Mraz and Stephen Kellogg. There didn't seem to be a lot of dancing and the show was a little more laid back, but crowd participation was pretty good for singing parts. They had us sing "And we won't go down" during TTA, and it stayed strong. They told us that American Airlines destroyed yet another guitar on their way over, so we got to hear Strong Enough to Break with just Isaac on guitar while Taylor played a tambourine and a shaker instead. Nobody missed the irony in the fact that the broken guitar was needed for "Strong Enough to Break," so they kept changing up the lyrics to fit the situation ("We just play like broken guitars in a deaf man's charade"). Isaac gave the Give a Little speech, which is something I hadn't witnessed before. It was mostly what Taylor normally says, with the added bonus of a really awkward wording that made for a great that's what she said moment that had me doubled over in silent laughter. Ten songs later, the guys headed upstairs for the massive M&G.

Everyone with VIP passes was given an 8x10 cardstock photo to be autographed as we headed upstairs where the guys were set up behind a table. There were no posed photographs, but the radio station had someone taking candid photos the whole time of everyone shaking hands and talking with Hanson. When it was finally our turn, the guys were kind enough to sign both my wristband and the supplied photo. I intended to just get the wristband signed because I didn't know for sure that the photo would survive my strict no-carry on flight home, but Isaac grinned and reached for the picture after signing my wristband and told me he hoped it would make the flight home (side note--it did). We talked to Taylor a little about tour and were a bit rushed with Zac, and then it was over.

Afterwards, we got takeout from Baja Burrito, then sat on the grass behind the hotel and watched the fireworks show. It was a perfect way to end a good day, and the beds were fantastic. My only complaint is that my 6 AM flight meant we only got to spend about 3 hours in them. The flight home proved to be more like your average Hanson show than the show itself, complete with disagreements over the line and two people fighting over a seat that technically belonged to me and neither of them. For $44, I'll gladly put up with it.

May 20, 2011

MMMecca: The Annual Pilgrimage to Tulsa

Tulsa is where it all began for me four years ago. I still remember telling my best friend how absolutely nuts of me it would be to go, and then the look on her face the very next day when I told her I was going to call my parents and ask for a plane ticket for my 19th birthday. I remember the begging and the reasoning, the sincere claims that it would be my first and last trip to Hanson's hometown over 1,000 miles away from my own. The words "unique experience" come to mind. I meant every word of it.

I had no idea that it was just the beginning.

I just returned from my 5th trip to Tulsa in 4 years. I know well enough now that it won't be my last.

On the Road
I’ve developed some kind of sick enjoyment for insanely long roadtrips. True, the first 400 miles/7 hours alone is a bit of a downside, but the next 12 hours with friends is half of the fun and well worth the first lonely leg of the trip. I can honestly say that all money and time issues aside, I prefer to drive all 1100+ miles than to fly. I’ve flown twice and driven three times, and the hours in a car beat the infinitely less hours in a plane every time. I was honestly sad when I had to fly out for the TBS video shoot instead of riding with friends.

For this trip, the road fun began with us accidentally renting a Cadillac. Cue cheesy Hanson-related puns about Cadillac blues or not needing a Cadillac to carry us to Tulsa. Basically the rental company somehow sold out of the type of car we had reserved, so we were left with the option of a Cadillac or a minivan. I will forever be impressed with the trunk space of a Cadillac that housed four suitcases, four sleeping bags, and a random assortment of other stuff without difficulty. It was also much easier to drive than the Chargers we usually end up with. Perhaps Enterprise should make this mistake more often.

The trip began with seeing Hanson in Nashville and spending time with Holly in the city before we hit the road. She tried to introduce us to the wonders of cookie dough egg rolls, but sadly we went too late after the fryer was turned off. The waiter felt bad and actually gave us some of his own birthday cookies and ice cream on the house! It was good, but Nashville still owes me the experience of cookie dough egg rolls. The next day we had chicken at McDougal’s (yum!) and had a good time taking pictures at a random baby picnic table outside.

The initial drive to Tulsa was strangely uneventful this time, and I give major points to Laura for staying awake in the middle of the night as the rest of us passed out. We stopped at a Waffle House around 3:30 AM to try to wake ourselves up and left with stomachs full of greasy food and a side of frostbite.

In the City
I think I convinced myself that there wasn’t much left for me to see since I’ve played the part of a Tulsa tourist before, but I managed to eat lots of good food at restaurants I had never been to. We hit the Dilly Delly, the Blue Dome Diner, and the Brook, all of which had fantastic food, and all of which were politely accommodating to our small caravan of 12 people. My 2nd Joe Momma’s experience was even better than my first, and we all giggled like teenage girls as one of us left a number for our cute waiter and we constantly cracked him up with unintentional that’s what she said jokes. Before the event, we got to go to the Philbrook Museum (free admission!), and despite the fact that I’m normally fairly indifferent about art and museums, I thought it was gorgeous.
I had also convinced myself that I didn’t need to buy any souvenirs (I already had 2 Tulsa shirts from previous trips), but apparently Tulsa is aware of my weakness for limited edition stuff. I walked into Ida Red and Dwelling Spaces intent on only purchasing a Tulsa is My Graceland t-shirt. I walked out with a t-shirt, a tote bag, and a poster. In my defense, the owner of Ida Red told us that they only produced 25 tote bags period and would not be making any more, and it was reasonably priced. I figured I could always sell it on eBay and get my money back.
Dwelling Spaces got me with a cute, retro-pop looking screen print poster that depicted various landmarks around Tulsa as well as a headshot of Hanson and a shot from the TBS video. I almost got away without it, but then the owner had to tell us that they only made 30 screen prints, and they were numbered and autographed by the artist at the bottom. They later made slightly smaller regular poster prints, but the colors were a little different and they weren’t limited or autographed. Tulsa: 2 (3 if you count the 2009 canvas print still sitting in my closet), Holly: 0.

Facing the Blank Page
I should know better by now, but I’m still disappointed in all of the fans that line up early for these events. It’s a touchy subject for me because I’m well aware that there are multiple people that I actually know and like that do it too, but I still can’t do it or agree with anyone that does. I know tons of people line up early and no one ever gets in trouble over it; I’m well aware that I could get away with it too. But the way I see it, Hanson and the various venues they play put up with us camping out for days on end at every other show, so if they’re going to ask us not to line up early 1 in every 50 shows, I can respect that wish. When we showed up right at 5, the designated line-up time for the 8 PM session, none of us was surprised at the 100+ people already there.

Inside Cain’s, there were rows of chairs on the floor and two small sets of bleachers on either side in the back—we opted for the bleachers. The show was fantastic. It started with some sort of technical difficulty that prompted Zac to sing Happy Birthday at random to stall while Taylor tried to fix something on the drums.

I know my birthday was a full week before, but it was still kind of neat getting to hear it (I loved the climax—“Happy Birthday whoever you are, happy birthday to you”). When it still wasn’t fixed, they went into the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday, and then Jimmy Crack Corn, “Hanson birthday style” (“Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t care, ‘cause it’s your birthday!”).

They played all of the songs from this year’s membership kit, and I really loved the way they did “Sunny Day” with the stomp-claps and transitioned directly into Cecelia. I really hope to see that combination at regular concerts in the future, but somehow I doubt the chemistry of that moment will ever be exactly right again. There was something weirdly perfect in that moment of stomping in bleachers in heels, praying that I wouldn’t fall and barely catching glimpses of Taylor holding a guitar through raised arms and around tall heads.

I’m hesitant to say that was the best moment, though, because then Hanson did something I’ve been wanting them to do for years. They played Stories. Better yet, they let us sing the first verse, which was another one of those rarely unifying moments as we all stood there singing about having a special connection worth telling your grandkids about. Was the connection between us? Between us and Hanson? Does it matter? Read as much or as little into it as you want, the simple version is I loved it.And yet somehow my favorite moment of the whole show is one I’ve experienced multiple times in the past. Three words: “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’.” I didn’t expect them to play it, and we definitely never had any kind of discussion or conscious agreement about what to do if they played it, which is what made the moment we all piled out of the bleachers that much more awesome. As soon as that cowbell started, we all jumped out of the bleachers and into the empty floor beside us without a second thought. There was no special look, no “Hey, let’s get down and dance!” just the same instinct in all of us. We were in the very back and I know no one could see us, and I think that’s part of why it was so fun. It was nothing more than a bunch of goofy girls living in their own little world for a moment and having a blast.

I enjoyed the Q&A session, but they didn’t remember to repeat most of the questions so we had a hard time hearing in the back. I was floored by their impromptu performance of the National Anthem at a fan’s request, and I had a brief thought of how crazy it is that Hanson could almost make the National Anthem be my favorite song. They’re that good. We were the first group picture, and I think we threw Leigh for a loop by requesting to have MORE people in our group than the allotted 10 when most people probably want less. We squeezed in a whopping 18 plus Hanson, and it was over.

Then we spent what seemed like our life savings on merchandise.

On the Road Again
Instead of driving the 12 hours back to return the rental in one day, we booked a tee pee in Arkansas for Sunday night. That’s right, a tee pee. In Arkansas. Like I said, the roadtrip is half of the fun. Unfortunately, Whitney’s allergies were getting really bad, and it was obvious within 15 minutes of looking around the campsite that we wouldn’t be able to stay if we wanted her alive. We did want her alive, so we explained the situation and the staff was polite and refunded our money under the circumstances. It was a little disappointing, but we stopped at a lookout on top of the mountain to take pictures so we would still get a little bit of the experience.The wind was stronger than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. We take jumping pictures just about everywhere we go, but I’m 100% serious when I say I refused to jump anywhere up there for fear of becoming airborne and falling down the mountain. The wind lifted all 2+ feet of my hair off of my head and even tried to remove my shirt a few times. Laura is a fantastic photographer, so we had a mini photo shoot and took some time to turn Valerie’s sweater into a makeshift cape and do superman poses.

ater, we stopped at a Sonic for dinner. As we waited for our food, I spotted a DVD logo beneath the built-in navigation system that none of us had noticed. I had just bought 5 of 5 at the event, and the idea was born. Sitting and eating hotdogs in the driver’s seat of a Cadillac while watching 5 of 5 is definitely one of my favorite road memories to date.
Back at our hotel for the night after Whit had gone to sleep, Laura, Valerie and I stayed up looking at pictures from the windy mountain. There was a lot of giggling and gasping at some of the horrible faces we made in the pictures. About halfway through, Laura and I noticed that there was a weird stain on Valerie’s shirt in one of the pictures. It hadn’t been in any of the previous pictures, and it was in the perfect shape of a J. Thinking it must have been weird lighting or something on the lens, we continued to look. The J was in other pictures, too—always on Valerie’s shirt, but never in the same place.

We were on a mountain in Petit Jean state park. Jean was the name of a traveler who had died and been buried at the top of the mountain. Make of it what you will, but I could have kissed Whitney and her allergies for the fact that we were making this discovery in a hotel room in Alabama rather than in a remote teepee on the top of that mountain. (sorry, no J pictures for now. They’re Laura’s.)