May 29, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 2: Play

title photo provided by @vdarkbeauty

Hanson Day 2016 was so jam-packed with events that I don't even know where to begin. I attended karaoke, the dance party, lectures, State of the Band, group photos, parts of the Mayfest and Blue Dome festivals, and the third annual Hop Jam in addition to the Hanson show. Honestly, this two part series probably could have been a three part series with part 1: Music, part 2: Isaac's lecture, and part 3: Everything else. If you missed part 1, you can check out the music review HERE.

Karaoke & Dance Party

I really wasn't sure what to expect for this first trial of Karaoke. I knew it could be a disaster if nobody had the guts to get up and sing, but it turned out that was an unfounded worry. There were so many brave entries (enough that not everyone got to participate, unfortunately), and a few lucky ladies had the unexpected pleasure of singing with Isaac. One even got to perform with both Isaac and Taylor! I'm sure nobody came to karaoke expecting to round out the 3rd space in Hanson and fill in for Zac.

I planned to offer my moral support but had no interest in putting myself in the spotlight for this one. (At one point I ran into Isaac and he asked if I planned to sing. My word-for-word response was "Not if you paid me.") But then my friends signed up for one of the few songs I actually knew all the words to, and we were all in matching shirts, and the power of friendly peer pressure and a lot of begging won me over. I was so, so close to sitting it out, but in the end I'm glad I joined in. It's definitely one for this year's anti-bucket list and not something I EVER thought I'd do (also now on the list--directly lying to Isaac's face. It was accidental karaoke, I swear!). I wasn't even that nervous when I got up there, which I think was due to the super supportive crowd and the fact that we made Emily hold the microphone. It was fun to watch all of the other performers and I hope they'll keep the event going for another year. I also really want to spell it "Karaokie" because Oklahoma.

The dance party served as sort of a bachelorette party for one of my friends that I hadn't seen in a while, so we all had a blast together. The venue was much more crowded than Cain's which was good and bad in my opinion. It felt more active and fun than past years from where we were standing, but it was almost too crowded at times. Taylor didn't get drunk or play "Another One Bites the Dust," to the dismay of many, I'm sure.

Afterwards we stood around outside and met a random guy who kept asking why we were standing in line even though (for once) we weren't. We got to talking for a while and he ended up climbing the face of the violin shop next door for us. I don't know. Good times.

The standout event outside of the music for me had to be Isaac's lecture. I think the message that he shared with us took a lot of courage and came from a place of sincere conviction. He had the kind of passion where you can tell someone really cares about what they're saying, and I couldn't help but listen intently. It felt intimate in a way that is difficult to accomplish in a room full of hundreds of people.

The lecture was called "You Matter," and he started by talking about how each one of us has a place in the world and how he believed that us being in that room together was no accident. I tend to agree. He encouraged us to feel good about ourselves and our self worth and to trust our instincts. I wish it could have been streamed for everyone or posted for us to all hear again later, because it was so inspiring and had a great message about believing in yourself and doing good for other people that I think everyone needs to hear once in a while.

He  even got into the scientific side of emotions and talked about the effects of endorphins and seratonin and oxytocin in different social situations and how the effects essentially mean that love is a drug and that doing good for others can be one too because of the chemical reaction it creates in the body. He hit on the fact that social media/notifications/etc. can trigger a dopamine release that feels good for a moment but is the same chemical that is related to addictions and is ultimately a negative thing because it's an empty positive feeling. The irony of seeing a few people using their cell phones through the entire lecture wasn't lost on me in this moment.

He ended by talking about the chain reaction of doing a good deed for someone and how it makes that person want to go on to do good for someone else, and the whole chain of positivity that it creates as a result. This really hit me on my flight home when I wound up seated in a row with a single mother traveling with a two year old and a two month old. I was already in my seat when she showed up with a baby strapped to her chest and a toddler in a wheeled car seat. She was clearly struggling and I wasn't sure how to help since I was a stranger and these were her babies. A woman in the next aisle asked if she needed help, and the mother let out a grateful "Yes!" and began to unstrap her two month old. She handed the baby over to this complete stranger and I was shocked, but then completely inspired by how willing this lady was to help and how gently she held and rocked the baby. I helped the mother lift the car seat with her two year old and together we buckled it into the plane. I put his cute little frog headphones over his head and helped brush his hair out of his face so that he could watch Little Einsteins, and the mother turned to me and said "If it weren't for the kindness of strangers, I wouldn't have survived this trip." I couldn't help but smile and think of Isaac's lecture.

A few direct quotes I jotted down in the "Embrace a Courageous Future" notebook they handed out:
"Music is innately a spiritual thing." -I
"Take the road less traveled and don't be afraid. You were born for right now." -I
"Generosity is the cure to loneliness." -I
"I believe that there is a God, and that is why I believe all of these things."-I
"Twitter is not love."-I
"Thou shalt watch What About Bob."-I
(yes, that happened)

Books Isaac suggested:
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Taylor's lecture was about not leaving songs unwritten and being brave enough to do what you feel passionate about and seeing it through. He told a fun anecdote about how he was inspired to write "Dying to Be Alive" in some situation where he didn't have his regular music equipment with him, so he wrote it on a keyboard propped up on a broken ironing board that kept involuntarily lowering while he was playing. He mentioning people vomiting in the background but I missed how that fit into the whole story. That's dedication to your craft, though! He also discussed and played part of "With You In Your Dreams" again, I sobbed again, and this is me putting in an official request to leave it out of the lecture lineup next year, please and thank you.

The only note I made during Taylor's lecture:
"Don't leave the song unwritten"- T. He said not just literal songs, but in any profession, even if you're a plumber. Which I interpret as...don't leave the drain unclogged?

Zac's lecture was called "Choo Choo Trains of Thought" in true before and after Jeopardy form. Every little boy likes to build trains, right? We basically watched Zac built one with his voice. One of the weirder lyrics on his thought train was "Trying not to freak out from the bodies floating in my bubble bath." He explained that we were the crazy ones because while we were picturing dead bodies, he was just picturing taking a bubble bath with G.I. Joes. There were some lines about going down to the river with the postman, and nature's divide. It's definitely a train of thought style song, and you can interpret where you think that train is going. I'm not entirely sure, but I enjoyed it more than his previous Hanson Day songs.

A few notes:
"I believe in you. It's just the song doesn't." -Z, on our apparently bad rhythm
"You can call me Sir Topham Hat." -Z

During State of the Band there was talk of a world tour in 2017 and a new Christmas album for next year as well for the 20th aniversary of Snowed In, working title Wintry Mix (full pun approval here). I can't wait to see what else is in store and maybe do a bit of world travel myself in my 10th year of following this band.

Until then, up next?

May 24, 2016

Hanson Day 2016 Part 1: Loud

When I started this blog, I just wanted a place to keep track of all of my show memories so I wouldn’t forget them. I never consciously decided to weave in any specific theme or overarching message, but over time I think one naturally appeared anyway. Ask any fan that has ever traveled for this band, and they’ll tell you that Hanson has given us all so much more than mp3 tracks and an autograph collection. The theme is that music is this wonderful catalyst and the byproduct is friendship and genuine human connection. It’s a topic I seem to talk about more and more frequently as those friendships continue to build and grow within the fan community.

This year, I want to go back to ground zero: the music. For me, a truly great show is rarely ever isolated to just the music; it’s a combination of the performance and plenty of other variables like the company, location, or some specific interaction. This particular show didn’t fit that mold for me. Don’t get me wrong, the friendships and all of those other variables were great as usual, but something about the new music just firmly planted this one in the “other” category in the best way possible. It's great to be able to get something more than auditory satisfaction from music, but I think at the core it's still important to be able to connect to the music on an individual level and not get completely taken away by the wonderful byproducts we value so much. Something about this show felt more personal and internal than communal to me and fit well with Isaac's discussion of music and spirituality having a place together. This one was all about the music for me.

The songs they debuted blew me away in a way that I haven’t felt before at any of my 100+ shows (the closest was hearing Use Me Up for the first time live at the MOE in 2009). That probably sounds like a huge exaggeration, and maybe I got caught up in the moment a bit, but that's my honest first reaction. The music felt fresh and inspired and enthusiastic in a way that I didn’t get from the last few EPs (or maybe ever, if I’m being honest).  I’ve made the comment here before that going to a Hanson show is not a religious experience for me, but I have to say this is the closest I’ve come so far to revoking that statement. The music from Play in particular was just outstanding to me. There was one song called “Feeling Alive” that made me feel like I wanted to cry because it was so good and so right. It made me emotional for no good reason that I could identify other than pure satisfaction of a song well done.  I don’t even remember how it went, but I remember how I felt. Maybe the feelings I had were facilitated by the vaulted ceilings and the crowd of raised arms below me at the Brady, but it felt like a Hanson revival of sorts. I hope the recording can capture even a fraction of what it felt like to be in that room for me.

If you watched the Making of Loud live streams at all, there was one that started with a short clip of Zac playing a song on the piano that had the line “Do you believe that somebody’s made for you.” It was really pretty and I was worried that it was going to be another great segment that would go into the Hanson vault for years to come, so I was surprised and delighted to hear it at the show. It went from what sounded like a ballad in the stream to this epic pop song that Zac said has the biggest vocal range out of any Hanson song yet, and is probably only second in speed to “White Collar Crimes.” It sounds like Queen and Hanson and birthday cake and money raining from the sky. I am not leaving disappointed.

I don't remember much about "Joyful Noise" or "Man on Top" except that I liked both of those a lot too, and "Man on Top" had a "na na" part that I swear was just a few syllables shy of being the Clarissa Explains it All theme song. Sorry if you'll never unhear that now.

The songs from Loud are all catchy and earworm worthy and my brain can't seem to decide which one it wants to put on a permanent loop. I think it's a toss up between "No Rest for the Weary" and "Stop Me in My Tracks" so far. They ended up removing the kazoo parts, and I have to confess I think it was a good call because it sounded great without it. I'm not sure the world was ready for the sound of a swarm of bumblebees humming along to Hanson music. I've just read through all of the lyrics and I can't even tell you how excited they make me, especially "No Rest for the Weary." I'll cut the Loud commentary short because I'll do a full review of the EP later since I already have it in hand.

I've mostly avoided reading other fans' opinions and commentary on the weekend so I could figure out where I stood first without second guessing myself, so I don't know if I'm the lone crazy that absolutely loved it all or if I'm speaking for the class again. Maybe people will read this and go "OMG, were we even at the same show?" and think I'm being sappy as usual, but I hope there's a pretty big group of "OMG, me too!" I can honestly say I have so much confidence in the sound of this new music, and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for Hanson and for us.

Part 2: Play (Hanson Day Events)