May 28, 2018

Hanson Day 2018

I think my favorite part about Hanson Day 2018 was choosing not to stand in avoidable lines. It was uncomfortably hot most of the time, and after I got sick from waiting all day in the heat in St. Pete last September, I know better than to hang out on hot sidewalks all day now. Some lines like registration and the store are unavoidable if you plan to do them on the first day, but there is so much room to avoid lines if you want to, and I swear my quality of life over the weekend improved because of it. I walked into the gallery with no wait because I didn't bother trying to go until Saturday. I showed up to both concerts at doors and didn't have to bring an umbrella for shade or worry that someone might cut me in line because there were already 800 people ahead of me. Not caring makes vacation feel a little bit more like vacation, and it makes me super excited for the upcoming seated tour where I will also not have to wait in lines. I can't not wait?

The Store
Hanson tried a new thing this year that fans have suggested in in the past and put up a page on their website listing all of the new store items and prices. It was really helpful to walk into the store and mostly know what I wanted without having to wait my turn to get a good look at everything, and the line seemed faster all weekend because of it. I was also spared the awkward moment of blurting out "What do you mean $80 for an umbrella?!" at an employee in shock because I was able to get that moment of disappointment out of my system on the sidewalk before I ever set foot inside. I'd say it went pretty well. I only bought one shirt, a pop-socket, and a pair of sunglasses (that are too big for my head), so I did okay in the spending department, too. If it's anywhere near as hot next time though, I fully expect to see affordable "Hanson fans" for sale.

I'm not normally one to pay a bit of attention to Hanson's family, but somehow their brother Mac wound up co-hosting karaoke with Isaac this year, and he did a killer job keeping the crowd pumped. There was a really fun mix of Hanson and non-Hanson songs that people chose, and both Isaac and Mac took turns getting up and singing with fans and with each other. The first fan to sing was a guy that picked "Bohemian Rhapsody" that quickly turned into a giant happy crowd sing-a-long, and it was all uphill from there. There was a great "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" duo, some Wilson Philips, someone that sounded just like Alanis Morissette to me, and a strange but great tribute to Tenacious D near the end that Mac seemed thrilled to join in on. Congrats to everyone that got up there and sang! You guys were awesome and made it fun for everyone.

The storytellers "lecture" was easily my favorite event last year. I'm not sure this one lived up to the bar set by 2017 (it was about 7 songs shorter and there was no disco ball surprise this year), but I still enjoyed it. They chose a lot of throwback songs including a cover of "Money" that I'd only heard once on actual Hanson Day ten years ago in my hometown. "Wish That I Was There" was the unexpected standout for me. I don't care much for it on the CD, but the harmonies are just so good in a live acoustic setting.

I joked later that they're a bunch of storytellers for calling this event "storytellers," but I'm happy for any excuse to go to an extra show with or without the added narrative. We did learn that "Madeline" was named after a real girl that was the daughter of one of their producers(?), and also that someone may have stolen Zac's basketball...though I couldn't tell you what song that particular "story" went with.

Game Night
I'm on the fence about game night. I didn't participate in Hansonopoly last year, but this year seemed better because there were no elimination rounds and everyone got to play for the entire event. I'll give them points for that. But when we showed up the sound system was a megaphone...and then a microphone that was as useless as the megaphone...and then just Zac's shouting, which sadly worked better than all of the above. I think they did eventually get a microphone working but I can't remember. In the end it cost Zac his voice for the rest of the weekend, which is a shame since this was before the concert happened. I'm happy for his sake that he didn't also have to make it through a Hop Jam performance.

It was a little bit like tie dye 2.0 with Zac not making it to every table and people getting up to go to him for pictures instead. We played a few different games and the "Freak Out" game that came with our ticket purchase is basically a Hanson version of Yahtzee, or so I'm told since I've never played Yahtzee. It wasn't my favorite because I could never remember what the combination of numbers meant well enough to figure out how to tally my own score.

Our favorite was the silly poker-type game where we had to place cards on our heads and bet who was wearing the highest card without looking at your own. Sometimes simple is better.

Listening Party
I haven't had time to listen to "Turn Off The Machine" and analyze anything independently from the listening party, but I liked it. Zac recorded a voiceover bit for the beginning and explained that it's a musical story of a guy building a robot, teaching it how to do things, and watching it ultimately come to life and spiral out of control, leaving him with the decision of potentially having to destroy this "monster" that he created. Think Dr. Frankenstein--the original Mary Shelley story and not all of the Halloween green-skinned bolt-in-the-neck adaptations.

It reminded me of watching Fantasia as a kid and felt like it belonged with some kind of animation to illustrate all of the different parts. I enjoyed trying to pinpoint where the mood changed and imagining what might be happening during different sounds. I wrote exactly one note during the actual listening session of my initial reaction and tweeted it after we got out and I had a chance to google the video I wanted to reference:

I have no idea if Zac has ever seen that video or if it's pure coincidence, but I stand firmly behind the Swedish Chef comparison for at least a portion of the song.

I have no artistic skills whatsoever and I don't like wine, so I've never had any desire to do the whole wine and paint night thing despite seeing pictures of friends and their various landscapes, beach scenes, and half-empty glasses on Facebook. A Hanson Day version seemed like the perfect time to go a little bit outside of my comfort zone though and try something new with friends. I don't think I'm going to be commissioning any pieces any time soon, but I had a lot of fun and my pansy didn't turn out nearly as bad as I expected.

I saw a few complaints online about Zac not showing up, but it was clear to me when the event was announced that Zac being there wasn't part of the deal. However, the photographer did show up and film part of my painting class...right as we had finished painting one step and were waiting patiently to learn what to do next. Instead of showing us the next step, they started playing "Lost Without Each Other" and filmed us awkwardly singing and not painting for the entire duration of the song because none of us knew what we were doing. I'm sorry in advance if you ever have to see footage of me singing and awkwardly holding a paintbrush.

The Concert
I'll go more into the new EP with a separate EP review eventually (maybe), but I will say that "Working" is great live. It has this really fun 50's rock 'n' roll vibe and I'm absolutely in love with the piano in it. If you don't love the recording on the EP, withhold your judgment until you see it in person. "Young and Dumb" is easily the standout track on this EP, though I was a little nervous about the techno sound at the beginning of the recording until I heard it at the show. I have no idea how Zac sang his two new leads, particularly Goldminer, with his strained voice, but he did a decent job and gave it all he had left.

The only thing I'd change about the show was the downer solos in the middle. "A Life Without You" and "Never Let Go" might be considered rare, but I swear I've heard that combination entirely too many times at the last few Hanson Days and BTTIs, and I'm a little bit tired of needing tissues. Between that and WYIYD at Storytellers again, I could really do with a year of no sad songs. I'll give them a pass on "A Life Without You" because I know they were streaming everything and I'm sure it meant a lot to those that have never been to Hanson Day or BTTI to get to hear that one. But the fact that it's out there now means they can skip it next year, right?

"Tearing it Down" was the best, and the entire crowd was so, so into it. By the time the encore came and Zac was singing "I Don't Want To Go Home," I had completely forgotten anything was wrong with his voice and it sounded great to me. It's entirely possible I was caught up in a moment and just loving it all instead of looking for imperfections. If we all have animal instincts, there's one of mine--being the eternal optimist. I had a great time this weekend being not quite as young and dumb as I used to be, but every bit as childish and silly as always. ♥

May 9, 2018

So Hold On To the Ones Who Really Care

This week, “MMMBop” as we know it turned 21, I turned 30, and that combination has me thinking a lot about how I got here as a fan. It goes without saying that I am not the oldest or youngest fan by a long shot, and I’m proud to belong to a diverse fan base of all ages and backgrounds. I'm not writing this for me because woe is me and at the ripe old age of 30 I suddenly have all of the answers, but for all of us who have grown up loving a band and have had to navigate exactly what that means. Here's what it has meant for me.

If you’d asked me in 1997, I never would have thought I’d be following Hanson at 30 (or 20, for that matter). When you’re nine and daydreaming about meeting your idols, you think about meeting them tomorrow. You envision that one perfect day—and it’s always present day. You don’t think about what happens the day after that or think up some arbitrary cutoff date that means you’re “too old” and now you're supposed to like curtains instead. You don’t think about growing up and still chasing the music you love. You don’t dream about being an extra in a music video in 12 years, or dancing with a 27-year-old ancient-to-you version of Taylor Hanson, or attending their beer festival when you’re all well past legal drinking age. You don't think about how you'll feel when you're 25 and your friends are all walking down the aisle to the altar while you're walking down the aisle to seat 19A.

As an adult though, those thoughts start creeping in, or at least they did for me. When I got back into the Hanson scene and truly became a part of the fan base in 2006, I was 18. I was the perfect age to fall into this weird world of wanting to follow a band and actually being old enough to go out and make it happen without someone telling me no. I had wide eyes and shallow pockets and always wanted more. And with the joys of camping on streets and experiencing my first few times in the front row and meeting the band came the distinct fear that one day it would all go away. I don’t know at what point you get old enough to start feeling nostalgic about moments as they’re happening, but I felt that way constantly from the time I went to my first show.

I was always telling myself not to take anything for granted because I knew it couldn’t last (MMMBop, much?). I remember sitting in a dressing room interviewing Hanson and telling myself to take in every detail because I knew it was all going to be a memory soon. I can remember sitting on sidewalks at 20 and worrying that there might be some sort of shelf life to it all, and that I should “get it all out of my system” or do as much as I could while I was still able. It’s not that I thought I’d quit loving Hanson’s music, but more of an underlying fear that there would come a day when I would be expected to love it more quietly and from the confines of my car and iTunes instead of a sleeping bag 4,000 miles from home. I didn’t know if my career or family might one day not only take the front seat, but all of the seats, or that God forbid I might grow out of them and find out it was all a phase. It's nice to be able to take a retrospective moment now and realize that I haven't outgrown Hanson at all, and if anything I've grown more into them. I haven't spent 11 years getting the traveling fan lifestyle out of my system and avoiding growing up--I've spent it making lifelong friends and figuring out that being an adult and being an adventurous fan don't have to be mutually exclusive things. It just means that at 30, I've racked up a lot more frequent flier miles to keep going.

So for what it’s worth, life is weird and I’m kind of glad my nine year old dreams didn’t come true because reality turned out to be better. I'm even more grateful that my 20-year-old nightmares didn't come true and that I've managed to outlive the shelf life of the "phase" label, and I didn't wake up on my 30th birthday and feel the need to trade all of my concert tickets for collectible china patterns because I'd passed some socially acceptable expiration point. If I got written off as childish and crazy for hanging out on sidewalks at 20, then the people that are still in my life at 30 should realize by now that there's something more to it than that. If not? You know the saying--hold on to the ones who really care, and screw the rest. Or something like that.

And for the record, they say with age comes wisdom, but to quote an equally older Zac Hanson, "hell if I know" what kind of flower is going to grow. At this rate, it's probably a baby turtle.