January 17, 2015

Back to the Island 2015: Cancun

This is the hardest review I’ve ever written. I sat in front of a blank screen for the last four days, finally wrote a couple of pages that I hated, and sent them to a friend knowing that I would get sincere feedback. Her response? “I think it's hard to write what you know people want vs. what you want to write.” Dead on. I think the problem is I feel like I’m supposed to get out the glitter and paint this postcard fabulous picture of the BEST VACAY EVER!!1!! when really, it wasn’t that level of epic for me. Yeah, it was fun. Worth the money? Always. And I’ll go back until something physically stops me because I love it all even when I hate little pieces of it. But for reasons I can’t quite nail down, it just wasn’t the best of the three BTTI events for me. I keep reading all of these happy, excited comments about how it was the best trip for so many people, and I can’t help but wonder if there's something wrong with me that I don't agree. We saw all of the same songs, had variations of the same experiences. So what has made me so hard to please that someone else’s best day of their life can feel like a 7 on a scale of 1-10 for me?

I can’t blame the music.  Ironically, I was pretty disappointed when I found out about the Christmas set that ultimately turned out to be one of my favorite shows to date out of the 80+ I’ve been to. Top 5 material at least. “In a Little While” blew me away that night and might have been my favorite performance of the trip. The whole feeling of standing
in the gazebo with the insane wind blowing past us, dancing like fools wearing holly and santa hats was a moment memories are made of. When I think back about this trip, I’m not going to daydream about the disappointing empanadas I ate or the fact that I missed getting a picture with a monkey. It’s going to be that moment dancing in the gazebo and belting out Christmas songs on a beach in January with friends.

I definitely can’t blame all the lyric mistakes either because I live for stuff like that. It’s like watching a live gag reel and just feels more genuine and real than something that has been rehearsed into monotony. If you went to the first BTTI in Jamaica (or read the blog), then you’ll remember Isaac accidentally jumped back into the chorus of “Wish that I Was There” when they were supposed to be starting “Deeper.” I laughed so hard and thought it was the best thing ever—until now. Here’s the 2015 scenario: Isaac is doing his solo show. This group of people standing in chairs starts screaming a request in unison, and it’s one of those annoying moments where you hope he won’t play it on principle, because everyone has requests and most of us are polite enough to keep them to ourselves mid-song. But then I realize they’re requesting “Sometimes” from Three Car Garage, and I’m prepared to give them a pass if he plays it because I would LOVE to hear that song. Isaac hears and says that if he can wrap his mind around how to play it, maybe they would get to hear it after the next song.

He makes it through “Someone” and then launches into this story about how they used to play “Sometimes” every show in 1998, and it’s so obvious that it’s a buildup to playing it. Except when he starts playing, the chords don’t sound right. And when he starts singing the lyrics, they’re ones I have never heard before. I’m looking around watching people singing along and feeling terribly confused about why these people all know this non-Sometimes song, and why in the world Isaac hasn’t noticed that he’s singing the wrong song yet. I start getting excited because I know there’s going to be a brilliant “aha!” moment. He HAS to realize it at the chorus. I catch the word “Smile” and vaguely recall it as the title of a Hanson song, even if it’s one I’ve never heard. Not Isaac, though. He just plows right on, singing a fabulous, error-free rendition of not Sometimes. The moment of realization came a verse or so later, but you know it’s bad when I recognized the song before Isaac did and I had never even heard it before.

Later, he forgot the first verse of “Best of Times,” Taylor forgot a verse of “I’ve Been Down,” and Isaac physically choked and started coughing mid-song during the last show (he said "Sorry, I choked!" To which Zac responded "Yeah, you definitely choked"). There were a lot of gag reel moments (emphasis on "gag" for the latter) and some great on-the-spot song writing (“Sand in My Crevice” and the male version of “Madeline”) that kept me laughing at every show. I love getting that kind of glimpse at these events that would never happen on tour.

I’ll admit the extra events fell short of amazing for me this year, partly due to the resort setup. I was so excited that they brought back Isaac’s Mixology from the first BTTI, but it didn’t have the same fun, relaxed atmosphere as before. I think the entertainment staff in Jamaica had a lot to do with how fun that one turned out and made it entertaining to watch even for someone that doesn’t drink. Taylor’s afterparty included some epic surprises this year with guest appearances by Isaac in a wig and unidentifiable animal costume, an anonymous hippo, and Dimitrius in some strange tribal showgirl getup. It was funny to watch, but with the smaller, darker setting, the whole thing felt more like something to watch than something to participate in. It was less of a party and more of a literal zoo. Zac is always such a trooper during his events mingling with different groups and trying to provide that personal interaction everyone wants, and this year was no exception. He sat down at our table and started rambling about Fifty Shades of Grey, always the entertainer with the most random topics, but it still felt off somehow. I also prefer tie dye for the simple fact that it’s easier and the end product is more useful. I guess my blue duck is a conversation piece, but I'm not sure that's a conversation I want to have.
(Sidenote: I’m just going to go ahead and pitch the idea of Karaoke with Isaac for a future BTTI event. We walked into a drunken karaoke session on our extra night, and I immediately thought of the lyrical mishaps and crazy afterparty antics. Maybe combine it with the afterparty somehow? It would provide epic laughs for everyone and would be fun even if you don’t participate.)

I know I'm stepping on a lot of toes here, but I have to say I was also disappointed by the cameras. I mean no disrespect to anyone who brought one or took photos or videos, but as an overall observation, I think the sheer volume and obvious presence of them killed it for me a little bit because there always seemed to be one in my way, and when there wasn't, there were still 87 flashes going off. If you weren’t in the front row, they were going to block your view, end of story. I was sad during Zac’s solo show when someone’s husband/boyfriend shot his arm into the air in the middle of the crowd and held it steady two feet above his head for an entire song. Youtube will have a great view, but I never saw Zac once during that song. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy taking a ton of photos or videos, I can respect the fact that those things might mean more to someone else, and that if you pay $2,000+ to go to the event, by all means, take photos if that’s what you value. Just don’t do it in a way that interferes with or takes away from someone else’s $2,000+ experience. If you can doublefist cameras without blocking my view or bumping me constantly, have at it. BUT THERE IS NO POLITE WAY TO HOLD A SELFIE STICK IN THE FRONT ROW AT A CONCERT. None. No excuse. Don’t. I feel like this person’s friends should have intervened, you know? Friends don’t let friends use selfie sticks at shows. I love you, friends, enough to tell you when your genius idea is actually terrible. Please do the same for me.

I've seen a lot of discussion and judgment about the girls who chose to "camp out" for the shows on this trip. The general consensus seems to be some version of why would you pay that much money just to sit in front of the stage all day and not explore more and do some sightseeing? I didn't wait long for any show, but I can play devil's advocate and totally identify with the girls that did: Let's be honest here. I didn't pay $2,000 to see Mexico. If I wanted to go on a relaxing vacation to Cancun, I would. I would go to a nicer resort, go during a warmer time of year, and pay a lot less money to do it. Maybe you paid $2,000 for a vacation with a little Hanson on the side, but I paid $2,000 to have a little vacation while I see Hanson. It all depends on what you value. Do what makes you happy and don't worry about anyone else. If you value being front row over seeing ancient ruins, I support you. If you value sleep over Hanson and went to bed early and missed three songs, go for it. It's not hurting me. And if what makes you happy is complaining about what makes other people happy, then I guess carry on and we'll all get exactly what we want at the end of the day.

The last thing I have to mention is the surprise excursion. When we got our itineraries just weeks before the trip, my eye immediately caught the phrase "depart resort" before the final show. My brain ran rampant with ideas, and combined with the final setlist being called the "Desert Island Mix," I suspected we were being taken away to an actual island for the last show. My hunch was right, and we found out the day before that we were being escorted by bus and boat to the lovely Isla Mujeres (Hanson missed a golden joke opportunity here. The English translation is "Island of Women.") They loaded all 400ish of us into 7 or so buses, and there was a full-blown mob trying to get on the first bus (full disclosure: yeah, I was in it). Then all of the buses were loaded onto two ferries, aka a "booze cruise." The mob fighting to be first on the bus and first on the boat felt like how I imagine it would have felt to be on the Titanic and knowing that there weren't enough life boats ("Not enough by half!"). Somewhere, someone is asking if the boats will be seated by class, and that's just a whole other tangent I'm not exploring in this post. Like I need further ammunition to tie Titanic to Hanson shows.

This was the return dock. The one we were let out on
was a little wider and full of unexpected turns.
When the boat stopped, we were let out onto the dock of death. It was fairly narrow to accommodate all of us, maybe wide enough for three people to safely cross side by side. It also had no rails and no lights in some areas, and felt like it went on for a mile. Basically it's a miracle no one fell or got shoved off. It felt a little bit like being in a video game only I knew some cute little tortoise shell guy wasn't going to come fish me out if I fell off of the track.

All chaos aside, I love my favorite band for kidnapping me so they can perform an amazing show on a secluded island. The setting was gorgeous like a wedding reception. The barricade was a white picket fence, which I feel is full of some kind of ironic symbolism. Who needs a 2-story house and 2.5 kids when you can have front row at a Hanson show on an island? "White Collar Crimes" was every bit as fantastic the second time as it was back in May at its debut, and I loved all of the Walk Era throwbacks that reminded me of when I first fell into this crazy wonderful mess of traveling for Hanson.

So maybe the whole thing didn't make me squeal or cry or feel the need to text all of my friends the minute I landed back in the United States, but it made me smile. It made me laugh until I cried a few times, and it made me thankful that I'm able to even do things like this time and time again. I'm not walking away disappointed or let down that it wasn't the best week of my life; I'm walking away going man, how lucky am I if this ISN'T the best Hanson show experience I've had so far? I'm thankful for every weird minute.

And I didn't get that amazing perfect picture with a Hanson like I did last year, but I still came home with one pretty epic shot:

ETA: How could I forget to mention one of my favorite moments? "Two Tears" during Isaac's solo show was awesome. I loved being part of the crowd of baby Taylor voices. A+++


Laura R. said...

That should be on a shirt...friends don't let friends use selfie sticks. Also, while your snake picture is cool, I am amazed at the picture quality. The colors are soooooooooo vibrant! So, nice picture :D

Megan Quinsee said...

Thanks for the review Holly! I tend to favour your reviews over some others. ;) xx

Mel said...

I wonder if a lot of the people that said it was the best week of their lives had not been to another BTTI or event. So you are totally justified in saying it wasn't the best trip for you. That being said, I'm completely jealous you got to go, and get to go to all of these events!

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up indeed! And nice to read a review that isn't full of 'most amazing days ever, best concert ever blabla' nonsense other fans usually post (prob while still on a high from the holiday). For a real review I come here and you didn't disappoint! Thanks!

Rachel H. said...

Great review! I agree, it was definitely lacking something for me that wasn't lacking last year. I didn't get any personal interaction with a Hanson besides the photo ops, the selfie stick in the front row was obnoxious, and the resort over all didn't feel as fun or exciting to me as Jamaica. I got to see a ridiculous number of songs played for the first time (both first time ever and personal firsts) and that made the entire thing worth it for me.

Danielle L said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've written Holly. I will say though, that I think the people who thought it was the best ever vs. those who didn't is really all about perspective. For example, it was my first BTTI so first time seeing Hanson in an environment like this in such a candid way.'m also going through a really hard time in my life right now and it was the ultimate escape from everything which made the trip that much more special, and easier to allow the good to outweigh any annoyances/bad. So.. just my 2 cents as one of the "BEST TRIP EVER" people, lol :)

My review is at http://www.idigmusic.net

Kelly said...

Holly's Hanson reviews never disappoint! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience (and for leaving the snake in Mexico :)

Michelle G said...

Michelle G.

Holly you are dead on about the Hanson fans camping for front row. Some girl on tumblr just tore Hanson fans apart for doing that! I was like Hello they came for Hanson and frankly traveling outside the resort would have scared me.