October 28, 2013

Anthem Tour: Portland & Seattle

Portland, OR, Sept. 28th, 2013

I had no idea what a weather wimp I was until this show. It was rainy and cold and I was completely miserable and unprepared. My shoes and socks got drenched to the point that water began soaking OUT of them instead of in; it was that bad. Naturally, I would choose to visit Portland just in time for one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. to make rainfall history (cliffnotes version: The day after we were in Portland, news outlets reported that Portland saw more rain this September than in any recorded history dating back to1872).

At least the company was good, and we got to catch up with a few old friends and make a few new ones (the drunk, semi-shirtless girl that started laying on me during the show excluded). I also got to mark Voodoo Donuts off my imaginary bucket list.
Photo courtesy of @maalaearose https://twitter.com/maalaearose/status/384062438221430785

Seattle, WA, Sept. 30th, 2013

We were cold and miserable enough in Portland to make a rain gear stop on the way up to Seattle. It's amazing the difference a pair of rain boots and a proper rain coat can make (both in your happiness and in your carry-on luggage). This show was Paul McDonald's last and a lot of fun. Hanson showed up during the last song of his set dressed in white denim floral jackets that were reminiscent of Paul's wardrobe during American Idol.  Taylor pushed his way through the crowd with a camera before jumping on stage, and Zac started playing an entirely different drum beat, eventually forcing the song to become a great cover of "Maggie May" instead.

We got a great balcony spot and felt like Statler & Waldorf watching the packed, sold-out crowd from above. Through the course of the night we watched two people pass out and a fight break out over front row that left Taylor politely threatening fans to step back or get no show. I guess we chose the right night to stay off of the floor.

The weirdest part though was the fight right next to me in the balcony. It started when the girl on my right strayed a little too far from her spot and left a gap between us, so someone tried to squeeze in. The first thing I did was turn and tell her that I intended to dance and jump and have fun and not move an inch for her. As a result, she and her mother spent the next half hour brutally pushing the girl that was next to me, but trying very hard not to touch me at all. They would literally pound this girl with their elbows on one side, and then turn and apologize to me because they were starting to touch my arm a little. It was the strangest thing. It ended with the first girl leaving, the one that pushed in stayed next to me, and somehow I never had to move an inch. I was torn between feeling grateful and completely and utterly confused.

The acoustic set was particularly good. Isaac asked the crowd if we would prefer him to play the guitar or the piano. The rarity of Isaac on piano won by a landslide, and we were treated to a solo of "More Than Anything." I've always been a little indifferent about "Kiss Me When You Come Home," but hearing Taylor play it as a piano solo earned it a lot of bonus points I didn't know it had in it. The show ended with a collaborative cover of "It's a Long Way to the Top" with Paul and J.P., a tradition I've witnessed with three openers now. Don't ask me who did it best; it's always a good time.

October 26, 2013

Anthem Tour: Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 26th, 2013

I don't know if you've ever camped out for a show before, but I'm sure you can imagine that the experience is not always pleasant. And truth be told, it's a subject I usually avoid bringing up because there's really no way to say "Hey! I slept on a sidewalk for Hanson" and not be judged for it.

Be that as it may: Hey! I slept on a sidewalk for Hanson. This is probably not new information, nor is it new ground for me (get it? puns). Whereas parents will tell their kids "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," I tend to live by the philosophy of "Don't do anything you wouldn't post on the internet."  So here I am, living up to that rule as well as the argument I'm constantly throwing out to people that judge me for camping out in person:  If I cared that much what everyone thought about it, I wouldn't do it in the first place.

The reason I'm bringing it up is because I only took two pictures in L.A., and they're both of sleeping bags. Why? Because I have plenty of pictures of Hanson and walks and friends. This, however, was my first time sleeping on a 30 degree incline down Sunset Blvd. in the heart of Hollywood. I suspect it doubles as my last:



Remember when you were a kid at the fair, and they had those long slippery slides that you went down on a burlap mat? You know, the ones where you raced your friends to the bottom and had to keep going one more time to break the tie?

This was kind of like that, only the end goal was to NOT beat your friends to the bottom. Let's just say it was a long night, and that the street sign pictured at the bottom of my sleeping bag served a functional purpose beyond communicating parking laws.

All that and we were still some of the very last people in the front row; it happens sometimes. We knew it was L.A. and that meant Hanson would have friends and some famous admirers in the audience. Nikki Reed performed with Paul again, and Joe Karnes of Fitz and the Tantrums joined Hanson for "Get the Girl Back." A few days later, I heard a rumor that Andrew McMahon was there, too, and whether or not this means anything to you, it meant total jealousy to me. (If you've somehow lived under an Andrew McMahon-less rock, go check out his music. NOW.) When I got back home a few weeks later, I found that he had instagrammed a photo from the show and captured me in a moment of looking completely bored. Hey, it was before anyone hit the stage, i.e. power nap time for anyone that slept on concrete the night before. If I ever see Andrew on stage with Hanson one day, I promise the reaction photo will look a lot different.
Photo courtesy of Andrew McMahon: http://instagram.com/p/ewCBzpApTi/

On the topic of Anthems and Andrew McMahon, I'll leave you with reason #1025968 I love his music so much. My own personal anthem for travel, his song "I Woke Up in a Car":

Well I woke up in a car.
I traced away the fog
so I could see the Mississippi on her knees.
I've never been so lost; 
I've never felt so much at home.
Please write my folks and throw away my keys.
I woke up in a car.

(...or, as the case may be, on a sidewalk.)

October 22, 2013

Anthem Tour: Anaheim

Anaheim, CA, Sept. 25th, 2013

It felt wrong to be on Disney property and not ride any rides. I'd pick Disneyland over waiting in line for Hanson any day if I could afford it, but I already used up my spontaneous theme park money on Knott's Berry Farm at the beginning of this trip. And in the true spirit of cheapness, we also chose to forego Pass the Line and just went for decent spots in the back for this one. Lucky for you, that makes it the one show this tour I took a few pictures at.

I assume the show was sold out because I've never seen a House of Blues so packed before. Paul McDonald's set was a bit different than what we had come to expect because his wife, Nikki Reed, joined in for a few more mellow songs. They looked really happy together. It was also wingman Jonathan Pears' birthday, so Hanson and Nikki brought out a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" and "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" with the crowd to celebrate.

Taylor wore his best Paul McDonald attire for the occasion.

And Zac tried, too.

A happy (somewhat blurry) good time was had.

Isaac hinted on the walk that they would start changing the shows up a bit, and they didn't disappoint. Zac's solo was "Get So Low," and we got to hear a great new cover of "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," complete with Taylor on bongos. Then they took us back a good 16 years and kept the bongos out for the first part of "MMMBop." I've never seen so many cell phones shoot into the air so fast (and even an iPad...which is just bad concert etiquette, my friend). For once, I'll let a few photos do the rest of the talking. Consider this Anthem blog the picture book edition.

October 18, 2013

Anthem Tour: Tucson & San Diego

Tucson, AZ, Sept. 22nd, 2013

One downside of doing multiple shows on a tour (and the entire reason I started this blog) is that inevitable moment of "Tucson, Tucson...which one was Tucson again?" that's happening to me right now.

I don't at all mean that the show was forgettable, I just mean that I forgot, you know? (Kind of like how when my dog eats something, it doesn't necessarily mean it was edible, either). And sometimes all it means is that nobody shoved you or called you names that night, and you had a fairly relaxed good time.

Tucson walk
What I do know is that the lady in charge of security at the Rialto was really nice and efficient, and that I already emailed the venue to tell them just that because I think positive feedback is just as important as complaints. She took the time to map out the walk and take it with us and seemed happy to do it. She cared about making sure people didn't walk in the road, and she brought extra bottles of water that she offered us when we got back. It was a welcome change from the kind of venue staff that looks like they can't wait to be rid of you and treats you like a pest rather than a paying customer (I'm looking at you, Bluebird Theater. I also believe in leaving Yelp reviews).

Other than that, I know this was the day Rachel finally got drumsticks from Zac, and the day we saw an old man in a wedding dress ride a bicycle down the street--large boombox in tow--belting out some gloriously bad 80s song that I wish I could remember. I also really wish someone got it on video.

San Diego, CA Sept. 24th, 2013

I remember San Diego. It's the one with no public restrooms. Let this be a lesson to you should you find yourself sitting in front of the San Diego House of Blues for many hours at any point in the future. I don't mean the HOB didn't have a public restroom; I mean the million Starbucks, clothing shops, 7-Elevens, etc. in about a five block radius had no public restrooms, and there is no "I'll just hold it until we get home" in that scenario. It was also super hot and I spent a good hour napping in the fetal position under my umbrella because I'm a wimp in any weather extreme.

San Diego is also the one where Isaac wiped out straight off of the stage and took the piano down with him at the end of the show. "Going out with a bang" has never been so literal.  It was after the final bow and Taylor and Isaac had swapped sides of the stage to grab fans' hands in the crowd. I missed the big moment because I was busy avoiding death by being crushed into the barricade while Taylor greeted the people around me. I just heard the massive bang and turned to see the piano on its side and Isaac popping up from the floor with a sheepish grin and a wave that said "I'm okay!" From what I understand, he had been grabbing fans' hands and someone pulled a little too hard or perhaps wouldn't let go. To try to regain his balance/keep from being pulled down, he grabbed the piano for support, failing to remember that the "piano" is actually a much lighter keyboard in a mostly hollow piano shell. It's not built to hold the weight of an adult male, hence why Taylor no longer cavorts around on top of it. I'm glad pride was the only thing injured, at least.

October 15, 2013

Anthem Tour: Salt Lake City & Las Vegas

Salt Lake City, UT, Sept. 20th, 2013

SLC was a lot of fun because I got to see a few friendly faces I hadn't seen since the last tour.
I know, my tan is your pale.
That day was a toss up between San Diego for the hottest day of the tour for me because the line was sitting in direct sunlight all day. Salt Lake City is probably where I started working on this serious watch tan I had by the end of the trip ----> 

I accidentally found an Old Navy behind the venue and bought shorts, partly because I wasn't prepared for all the heat, and partly because I don't know how to exit an Old Navy without buying something first. After that, Zac wandered out past the line to shop for some kind of sport/game equipment and was nice enough to stop and talk to the fans in line and take pictures. It's one of the few times I've met the guy in daylight, not counting walks. Rachel and I chose that day to wear our semi-matching nerd shirts, so we took advantage of the situation and added a third nerd to the herd for a quick picture.
The most memorable part of the show for me was finally getting to hear "A Song to Sing" with the extra verse (click for an instant replay. Video courtesy of Taylor M., not me). It started out as a Taylor solo, but then his brothers quietly joined him for that final chorus and extra verse. It was the rare kind of moment I just wanted to watch silently and not sing along for fear of missing something I might never see again.

After the show we had a fun conversation with Isaac that turned out like some kind of "Greatest Hits" compilation because we discussed punching and kermit, both topics we've covered with him before. Perhaps we just look like people that want to discuss physical violence and puppets. (My muppet shirt was even hidden by my hoodie at the time). Just as we started talking to Taylor, some guy showed up behind us and Taylor's face lit up as he jumped the rock next to us to get to him. He was nice and came back to talk to us and the rest of the line after a quick bro-hug. We found out via twitter later that it was Matt Wertz and we just didn't recognize him in the dark.

Las Vegas, NV Sept. 21st, 2013

In Vegas we picked up two more friends for the trip and spent another hot day in line and seeing a little of the city. I spent my obligatory 25 cents in a slot machine just to say I've gambled in Vegas, and that was that. I felt more accomplished for buying a $1 hot dog, to be honest. The barefoot walk was easily the hottest walk I've ever been on, and I saw some really brutal blisters in the aftermath. Mine were just filthy. 

There were two distinctly memorable moments for me during this show. The one that I prefer to remember was that Zac played a request for a friend's birthday for a song that meant a lot to her. I was so happy she finally got to hear it! The second moment was getting gum in my hair.

Here's how it happened. I was the last person in the front row on Isaac's side, and the barricade wasn't long enough for me to be on it with my friends. There was just enough room for ONE person to stand where the gap was between the security guard and the barricade. It wasn't a good spot, but I took it because the one draw was that nobody was in front of me.

Naturally when a tall drunk girl in a dress the size of a tube sock wedged herself between me and the security guard, I didn't appreciate it. She turned to me and said "Oh I'm sorry, you can still see, right?" I guess she wanted me to put on a fake smile, grudgingly lie and say "yes," and whisper angrily to my friends behind her back for the rest of the night. Instead I gave her the truth which was a big fat "No?" infused with a DUH! She turned back around and acted like she had done her duty by asking and had no intention of moving. Options ran through my head, and I picked the one that seemed the most civil that would still get me my spot back: I just squeezed back in front of her and refused to move. No pushing or elbowing or anything violent, just a quick squeeze back into my own space that I held onto a little better this time.

A few seconds later, I felt a light touch in the middle of my back, and though it's never happened to me before, it was so predictable I knew exactly what was happening. I pulled my long hair over my shoulder, and sure enough there was a wad of nasty purple gum stuck near the bottom. Did she want me to cry and leave? I don't know. I pulled it out easily (thankfully!) and told the security guard. He didn't seem interested in doing anything about it, so I did.

I turned around and asked her, "I'm sorry, did you want this back?"

She threw her hands up and shrugged, opened her mouth wide, and gestured animatedly inside as if showing me that there wasn't gum inside proved that it wasn't hers. Right. Her mouth was empty because her gum was sitting in my hand. At a loss for what else to do, I said "Here you go!" and stuck it to her arm to be rid of it. I heard the security guard laugh and didn't see her again.

Problem solved I guess, but is there gum sticking etiquette, guys? My brain didn't even come equipped with the proper response to such a silly action. What should one do in that situation?

October 11, 2013

Anthem Tour: Denver

Denver, CO, Sept. 18th, 2013

Every city has at least one street everybody knows to stay away from in that questionable area of town. You know the one where you live. At home for me, it's part of Racepath. In downtown Charleston, it's Spring Street. And in Denver (correct me if I'm wrong, locals), apparently it's Colfax--the street The Bluebird Theater is on. No one told us this before we booked a hotel a mile down the street from the venue.

Of course no one told us there would be flooding and all the decent hotels would be booked and that we would be idiots to wait until the day of the show, or that a homeless man would be camped out sunbathing next to our car, either. It was a little Victorian themed bed and breakfast, and on such short notice, we were put in the basement where the owners lived with one shared bathroom for the "floor." The Great Gatsby Room was introduced to us as "the dungeon," and we were told not to worry, that only the second floor was haunted. It set the tone for a couple of overly paranoid out-of-towners to be a bit more jumpy than usual.

The basement stairs leading down to our room.                                      Our room door.                        
                     Our door from the inside.        Creepy file cabinet in the bathroom. Live, Laugh, Love, Linger.    

The show was fun, minus a little scuffle with a fan who didn't seem to think it was fair that we managed to save ourselves room to dance and she didn't. Digression time.

Front Row 101

Having front row is 50% getting it and 50% keeping it. Your struggle is not over the minute you step into your favorite space; you have to be proactive once you're there or you won't be there for long. I'm not suggesting that you throw elbows or go all Incredible Hulk on the people around you; I'm saying that if you bend down or turn to the side or make any sudden movements at all, that space will inevitably shrink from the people around you edging into it. It's not always intentional, but it's show science. You move, and your spot will, too.

So to the girl who so rudely screamed at me for holding my own space: I'm genuinely sorry you didn't hold your spot better; I know it sucks to have front row and not be able to enjoy it because you can't move. I'm sorry your friend didn't come early enough to save a spot for herself up there with you, and that you thought if I would just move over and crowd all the people to my left, she could squeeze in, too. I wasn't fond of the idea of pushing my new friends into the wall on that side. I'm sorry Isaac didn't see you slamming your elbow down onto my friend right on top of his sound pedals--that would have been gold to watch. I wish you better luck and manners at your next show. P.S. You should have been eyeing the girls on your other side; they were the ones that took your beloved space while you were glaring at me.

In all seriousness, I know that probably sounds a bit harsh/too mean, but it was really unfair for Rachel and I to be screamed at and elbowed when we never moved an inch to take anyone's space. I wish it had gone better for everyone, and as snarky as I sound, I really am sorry this person didn't have a better experience. I'm just also sorry it was taken out on us for no apparent reason.

*puts soapbox away* Back to the show.

For having a spot right up against the stage in front of Isaac, I saw very little of him that night. The spotlights were so intense that I wore sunglasses for most of the show and still could only make out his silhouette at best.

I was excited to hear "Need You Now" for the first time, and Taylor's solo of "Weird" was a nice surprise, too. I'm a sucker for piano, and I really enjoyed getting to hear the piano part stand out so much with nothing but his voice. It was nice hearing "Already Home," too, but it felt like maybe it went back into the vault for reworking since we didn't hear it again.

After the show, security greeted fans by the bus with shouts and threats to call the police. Naturally, everyone responded well to that kind of treatment and showed the same courtesy to the venue as they extended to us. Meaning of course that everyone moved to the other side of the street and stood, if anything, more determined to stay than before out of spite. I had to laugh a little watching two brave fans literally skip past security on the sidewalk knowing that nobody can be faulted for skipping in public.

All three guys eventually came out and were nice enough to chat and take photos for a while with those still waiting, much to security's annoyance.

The next morning we got brave and looked in the "Linger" drawer at the hotel:

         Nordstrom "Body Bags"

October 10, 2013

Anthem Tour: Albuquerque

Albuquerque, NM, Sept. 17th, 2013

I don't have a lot of luck when it comes to travel plans. My last Hanson trip ended with me calling AAA to come jump our car at midnight on my birthday in the middle of nowhere, SC. The trip before that was to Jamaica, and our bus broke down on the way home--roughly six times, no exaggeration. This trip was no exception. Let me give you a timeline (we won't discuss the canceled flight on the way home yet):

Sept. 14th
5-10 PM I work
10-midnight I drive home, then finish packing the car.

Sept. 15th
12-3:30 AM I drive to the Charlotte airport, 3.5 hours from my house. I intend to pass out as soon as I board my 5:45 AM flight.
4-5:30 AM Airport check-in & boarding
5:45-7 AM We sit in the plane. We sigh and look at our watches and make angry status updates on our phones. Passengers traveling to Connecticut are asked to exit the plane and rush to another flight. We know this is a bad sign for the rest of us. Turns out there's a fuel leakage and we need a new plane.
7:30 AM I stand in line back in the terminal, waiting to find out how United proposes to get me to L.A.
8:10 AM My connecting flight from D.C. to L.A. leaves. I'm still sitting in Charlotte.
9:45 I board a new direct flight to L.A, 4 hours after my original flight.

After I finally landed in L.A. around 12:30 west coast time, Rachel picked me up and we rushed to Knott's Berry Farm for the rest of the day.


We hit the road to Albuquerque on Day 2 and visited the Grand Canyon on the way there.

On show day, I participated in the smallest walk I've ever seen with less than 50 people. I also stuck to the front of the walk, where I stepped in some kind of microscopic needle-like booby traps before the rest of the crowd. If you walked and didn't feel them, you're welcome. I picked them all up in my own feet first.

It was a great first stop on the tour because it was a seated show, and Paul McDonald opened his set by coming down into the crowd and walking the aisles with his acoustic guitar (leaving J.P. and his hoard of instruments on stage). We saw Paul & J.P for 10 out of 11 shows, and they put on a good show for every one. Check them out.

And then I got to stand in my favorite place in the world, even though I've never been to New Mexico before:


It felt like a great show, but I'm sure I'm a little biased. Isaac put on a KILLER performance of "Being Me." I literally think it was the best performance I've ever seen from him of anything, ever. I know that's a strong claim to make, but it was that good. We were excited to hear their new cover of "Happy Together" for the first time, and I remember particularly enjoying "Juliet" with Zac on the piano and Taylor on drums. I ended the night by fulfilling something on my imaginary Hanson bucket list--drumsticks!

October 8, 2013

Anthem Tour

I missed my flight. I rode roller coasters. I saw the Grand Canyon and got yelled at in French. I stood front row center for a seated show and got a pair of Zac Hanson's drumsticks...

and that was just the first three days.

Tour season. For a traveling fan, it's time to see and do anything. You go into it knowing there will be a mix of amazing memories and the kind of huge WTF moments that can only come out of sleeping on a sidewalk in a foreign country. You welcome the good and the bad and the air of craziness that accompanies it all. Consider this post a prequel to show-specific reviews that I'll post later when I'm 1) better rested, and 2) less sick. Traveling fan 101: you will be sick when you come home. Always. If you come home well-rested and healthy, you didn't hit the road hard enough.

My trusty car did the entire east coast run last tour, all the way up to Maine and straight back down through Florida. The poor thing just wasn't up to that level of dedication this year, so I did the most responsible thing a girl in my situation could do--I flew to L.A. where I met up with my friend Rachel (who owns the same car but newer) and did the entire west coast in her car instead. It made for a crazy, beautiful tour symmetry.

On day one, we hit Knott's Berry Farm. Day 2 was the Grand Canyon, and then came the Hanson shows:

Sept. 17th Albuquerque, NM
Sept. 18th Denver, CO
Sept. 20th Salt Lake City, UT
Sept. 21st Las Vegas, NV
Sept. 22nd Tucson, AZ
Sept. 24th San Diego, CA
Sept. 25th Anaheim, CA
Sept. 26th Los Angeles, CA
Sept. 28th Portland, OR
Sept. 30th Seattle, WA
Oct. 2nd, Vancouver, BC, Canada

There was little sleep and lots of driving, eleven shows, eight barefoot walks, dozens of friends both old and new, and 21 days lived at warped speed out of a car. I couldn't possibly capture it all in a blog post or a photo review, but I'll do my best to share what I remember.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite travel quotes as a permanent disclaimer:

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen."- Benjamin Disraeli