January 17, 2014

(Back to) Back to the Island 2014

I no longer believe in the concept of a "once in a lifetime experience." That phrase is an excuse to let yourself do something when you're feeling a little reluctant or if you want to convince yourself that something is better than it really is. I called Tulsa a "once in a lifetime experience" once; seven trips later, I've given up. And now, back from my second time in Jamaica with my favorite band, I've simply resigned myself to a new mantra: "There's a first time for everything" (and often a second, third, fourth, and so on).

This year held many improvements over last year's event, and the biggest and most important improvement was the music. I went home last year thinking about all the best parts of the event and then realized that the music didn't even rank in my list. I was stoked about the tie-dye, the snorkeling, and Isaac's drink mixing session; the shows were almost an afterthought for me. This year the music was the best part by a landslide, as it should have been all along. I read somewhere that Hanson played a total of 89 unique songs over the course of the four day event. EIGHTY NINE. I'm not doing the math on how many unique songs we got last year, but it felt like maybe 15 (okay, that's an exaggeration). This year only three songs were repeated: "Best of Times" (they seemed to be filming some sort of video for it), "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'," and "Every Word I Say." Repeats are welcome when it's two versions of EWIS, and I'm always down to do the TBS dance.

If you want to check out the full details of the setlists, you can head over to hansonstage.com and click Database > setlists by date. I met the owner, Katie, in Jamaica. She's fantastic and I've used her site to keep track of my own setlists for years. It has some pretty neat features so if you haven't yet, check it out!

The Activities

For me, the activities started with Hancyclopedia Trivia with Isaac. I do have to say it may be impossible to top last year's drink mixing with Isaac that had him taking shots straight from the bottle and attempting the soulja boy dance. The trivia felt pretty short, and the next day Matt Wertz showed up for Isaac's event. Turns out he was supposed to be at ours too but forgot.

Zac's tie dye event was much less chaotic than last year's big cluster of people. He told us in advance that he would be coming around to each group, so there was no giant mob circling him the entire time (with the exception of a few fans that did seem to follow him from group to group). Zac also did his tie dye homework this year and came prepared to teach us not only the basic "cinnamon roll" twist pattern, but also a new heart pattern, and told us to soak the shirt in vinegar to help keep the dye. I brought an extra shirt to dye so I could do a test run before ruining the one provided in our merchandise package, so I decided to try a heart on the plain one. I had Zac draw the heart and tie that portion for me, then did the dye myself.

So if you'll excuse the totally necessary pun: Zac held my heart in his hand and I dyed.


Taylor's after party was also better than his cooking class last year. Zac, Andrew, Dimitrius, Paul McDonald, and Matt Wertz all made appearances on the stage to show off some dance moves as Taylor chose the music. Isaac hung in the back and from what I hear did a few shots with fans. When I found him I got a cheers with my water, you know, the partier that I am and all. 

The Solo Shows

One of the big appeals of this trip was the announcement of Hanson's first ever solo shows. Each night, one brother took to the stage alone for a 45 minute set. It was a really unique experience getting to hear so many songs solo that have always been full-band songs to me. Every Word I Say, Get Up and Go, RAIN? I mean where did that come from?! I do have to laugh because Isaac introduced the song by saying they had never played it before, but I definitely heard Rain live in Tulsa once. I will absolutely not complain hearing it again as an Isaac solo in Jamaica, though.  Taylor's set seemed pretty quick with just seven songs, but he was the first to do a solo show.  It opened with a weird coincidence where it started raining during "Make it Out Alive," so I sang "We may not make it out all dry" quietly to my friend Rachel, and the very next verse Taylor sang the same thing. The standout performance here was definitely "Every Word I Say," which I can imagine may be the only time we ever hear that as a solo. 
Zac's set had 9 songs that opened with "This is the Jam," which had never been played before. I always envisioned it being this sort of big crowd anthem in my head, but there wasn't really any crowd participation like I had hoped. The set ended with a KILLER rendition of "Devil's Nachos." That song had been played live one time before, I was there for both, and let me tell you his performance in Jamaica blew the one in D.C. waaaay out of the water. 
He kept joking that the crowd needed to be louder or that he would just put down the guitar and walk off, and how he had only ever seen that happen at metal shows but that maybe we would see something similar later. At the end he did just that, laid the guitar down on an amp that left us suffering a horrible sound until someone came and moved it, and by the time we realized what was happening, he was gone. A few people seemed confused and thought he was mad but I thought it was a genius way to exit before anyone could mob him, and he gave us the rockstar exit he had already alluded to earlier in his set.

Isaac joked that they saved the best for last, and his show was a pretty great way to end their first ever solo sets. We got a full 10 songs out of him and probably the rarest songs with "Rain," "Too Young to Kill," and "Someone." The crowd energy felt huge for his set, and you could tell every person there was having a great time just watching him do what he does best. I can't wait to see the product of all the recording during "Best of Times."
The trip felt so incredibly fast I can hardly believe it's over. If you challenged me to pick a favorite part, I don't think I could. The music really blew me away this year, and a few of my favorite highlights include:
  • "In a Way" opening the 2nd show. The DRUMS. 
  • Getting to hear "Every Word I Say" not only full band again, but as a Taylor solo for the first time. 
  • Isaac's solo set. Period. 
  • "Devil's Nachos." 
  • Finally got a photo with Taylor where I don't look like I need 12 more hours of sleep and a hairbrush. I then made a fool out of myself during the M&G photo op, so I guess the world is balanced once again.    
You can check out more photos on my facebook page HERE, and if you're curious about last year's BTTI event, there's a review of that HERE too.