May 30, 2019

Hanson Day 2019

Watching Hanson Day evolve into what it has become over the last decade feels a lot like growing up in a small town and watching it develop more every time you go back home. I’m not just talking about the growth in the arts district or how much Tulsa has expanded in the last several years, but the fact that Hanson Day itself has grown from a single 45-minute set to a jam-packed four day weekend event. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my first trip to Tulsa for that 45-minute set for anything, but every time they add another event, the whole thing feels a little bit more worth my paycheck. And with four concerts in four days, Hanson Day 2019 is currently at the top of the list for Hanson Day trips worth the expense. If they keep it up, at some point they're going to have to start calling it Hanson Week.

As usual, I chose to add on plenty of the optional events to my Hanson Day schedule. I attended Karaoke, the Listening Party, the Dance Party, Leaders Lunch, Group Pictures, the Gallery, the I ♥ Hanson Store, and Bowling in addition to the Storytellers show, String Theory, the free Members Only concert, and Hop Jam. Just listing everything together makes it feel like a miracle that I didn’t forget to show up to anything. Who knows, maybe I did and still don’t remember.

Every year gets a bit more challenging writing this review because it feels like I’m supposed to cover each and every event, and that becomes somewhat tedious the longer and more similar that list becomes compared to previous years. To cover some of the extras without giving you a dozen paragraphs to fit each one, here are a few condensed observations:

  • I think it could be fun to see karaoke move to Cain's for a trial year to accommodate more fans, and maybe make it a three-brother-event to keep things fresh and justify a larger venue.
  • Pro-tip: the non-Hanson karaoke song database totally includes a few Disney songs. Use this information wisely.
  • Hanson Heads on sticks + fan song requests + fans dancing on stage = the most lively Dance Party yet.
  • I loved how many of us showed up ironically wearing our new “I’d rather be at a Hanson concert” shirts to the dance party. I can’t think of a more accurate setting for mine.
  • I tried my hand at Hanson Day bowling for the first time and somehow managed a strike on my first turn. Don’t worry, my ego dropped back down the moment I accidentally tossed the ball behind me a few turns later.

The one event I feel like I have to elaborate on is the Listening Party. In case you didn’t go and have no idea what I’m talking about, this year Zac wrote an EP called “Edible Digital Pants.” It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds and is full of songs praising junk food, demonizing vegetables, and the ticket included a collectible metal lunch box full of candy, a stress donut, and a fortune cookie proclaiming “You will experience high quality nonsense today.” He wasn’t wrong. Here’s a little more high quality nonsense worth a momentary tangent for you.

A few years back, I tweeted a snarky comment along the lines of “what product will Hanson think up next, fortune cookies?” and wrote a fake example of one (Lucky numbers 1440, 1997, and “soon.” I’ve since accidentally deleted it, because of course I did.) I didn’t tweet it to Hanson, but a fan saw it, thought it was a great idea, and RTed it to the @hansonmusic account. Zac then saw it, must have thought it was funny, and started tweeting me back about making them. I joked that it was my idea first and that we’d have to go 50/50 if he actually went through with it. Here’s a screenshot I posted to Facebook afterwards showing our fake binding verbal agreement:

I forgot all about it until Zac posted a picture on Instagram a few weeks ago revealing that they had, in fact, created some kind of Hanson fortune cookie. I don’t for a minute think that my ancient tweets had anything to do with it or that he even remembered the brief exchange, but it was too great that somewhere on the internet I had “proof” that we had an agreement to go 50/50 on any future fortune cookie production. I thought about bringing it up to him in person, decided it would require too much explaining, and figured I’d just let it go as a great moment of irony. (Besides, it's not like they made a profit off of them for me to even joke that they owed me.) Then after Hop Jam, I was having a completely unrelated conversation with Taylor and several other fans, and out of nowhere I hear some friends calling my name from behind me. Suddenly Zac jumps into the middle of the circle I’d been standing in and dramatically holds out his empty hand to me. Cue total confusion on my part. I think I said something along the lines of “Um, what is that? What are you doing?”

His response? “It’s the 50% I owe you” with a big cheeky grin.

Someone else had obviously told him the fortune cookie story. I’m sure Taylor and the other people in the circle were even more lost than I was, and I didn’t even try to explain. I laughed, pretended to take my cut from his empty hand, and later wished I’d thought to say “I’ll be sure to spend all of that in the Hanson store.”

The weekend was so packed that there wasn’t much time to squeeze in anything outside of the scheduled events, but I did manage to escape to check out The Gathering Place for about an hour. It’s this giant free park with lots of swings, slides, and fun unusual climbing equipment meant for kids, but definitely also enjoyed by adults. It’s a lot bigger than I expected from the few pictures I’d seen, and I’d love to go back with more friends and a little more time to kill. I highly recommend checking it out if your inner kid is screaming for a recess break.

And now, for the real reason I get myself to Tulsa year after year: the music. I feel very spoiled after getting four shows in a row this year, and as much as I always enjoy the side events, I’d gladly give them all up if it meant we could keep up a tradition of more concerts for Hanson Day.

Once again, Storytellers was hands-down my favorite part of Hanson Day. And once again, Hanson dropped the ball on telling any stories. I think a more accurate description is that it was a Hanson history throwback show to the Underneath Acoustic tour, and let me tell you, as someone who missed that tour, I was very excited for this theme. I don't at all hate the idea of transforming the bonus show into a throwback show to a past tour. There are plenty to choose from, lots of memories and nostalgia if you were there, and many fans who missed out the first time. Official petition to change Storytellers to a throwback concert event, anyone? Either that or, you know, add stories.

I was so happy to hear "Lullabelle" again and had only ever heard it once in Florida years ago. To his credit, Zac did try to explain a little bit about that one before he played it. He said it was a song about loss and that it describes his feelings about Cindy Crawford. I never thought much about the meaning when I picked Hollybelle as my hnet username 12 years ago because I was too busy being in love with the melody. Looking back, it's not exactly a very fitting subject to have named myself after, but I guess I could've done a lot worse.

I was just as excited to hear "Crazy Beautiful" as a solo for only the second time, but once again Isaac and Zac joined in at the end and turned it into a full band song. It was gorgeous and a fun way to bring the show back up from a mellow set of solos, but I'm beginning to think I'll never actually get to see the full solo version from the Underneath Acoustic Live DVD. Near the end of the show we were treated with the surprise opportunity to see Isaac play the cello on "Underneath," and then he went on to absolutely slay a cover of "Ain't No Sunshine." I left loving the whole experience and also thinking that the Storytellers show had oddly been a better Isaac show than some of his own solo shows at BTTI. He was just really on point the whole time.

String Theory
Getting to experience String Theory in Hanson's hometown in a room of mostly fan club members was a unique experience. It's hard to say if there was more excitement or crowd participation in a setting that doesn't call for much of it in the first place, but it felt like a special place to be at the end of almost a year of String Theory shows (even if that place was about three rows further back than any of us expected thanks to a surprise pit section. On a positive note, reserving the first three rows for their family is one sure-fire way to deter stage rushing!). There was one magical moment at the end when the crowd began waving their cell phone lights in unison during "Tonight," and I turned to look behind me and saw row after row of the sold out theatre swaying in unison all the way to the top of the balcony. I didn't even attempt to capture it to be able to share it here, but it was a sight worth seeing.

Members Only Concert
I say this with all the love and respect in my heart: thank you Hanson, God, and everybody involved that this year's show did not include "Never Let Go," "A Life Without You," or "With You In Your Dreams." This was the first Hanson Day in quite a few years that didn't make me cry, and I'm really very grateful for that. My favorite part was getting to hear the new EP songs as well as "Runaway Run" as a solo. I'd like to give major props to the girl in the crowd that had a kazoo on her and had the guts to get up on stage when they asked during "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times." I'm not sure why Hanson thought it made sense to bring up a guest to play along with a song none of us really knew yet, but she did fine and I couldn't hear it anyway.

The State of the Band portion answered a burning question that fans have been asking for years now: when will Hanson release a new album? They revealed that if everything goes according to plan, they will release a new album in 2020 called Against The World, followed by an extensive world tour and another new album in 2021. They said there would also be some sort of fall tour in the U.S. at the end of this year to start previewing some of the new music. I can't wait, though I'm hesitant to think of the announcement in terms of what we traditionally think of as an "album" and how it might be released until we hear more details. I'm pretty hopeful that it will be worth the wait regardless of the fine print.

Hop Jam
This year's Hop Jam was a weird mix of great and terrible for me thanks to the fact that by that point in the trip, I'd picked up a mystery cough, had almost no voice, and was generally feeling more rundown than usual. I made it through the first half of the day relatively fine (apart from one unrelated elbow/inflatable slide incident), but by the time Hanson came on stage, I was so dead on my feet that I sat and watched the whole show sitting on the ground in the parking lot. I forced myself up during "Thinking Bout Something" because it's a crime not to as far as I'm concerned, but I was so beat by the end of the song that I was literally laying on the ground for a moment. I'm going to need someone to come slip some vitamin C into all my drinks starting about a week before next year's event.

They closed out the show with an encore including all of the main stage bands + Darren Criss for a fun group cover of Kiss's "Rock And Roll All Nite." At one point Taylor took the microphone and told the crowd that since it was a free concert, we needed to "pay our way" by singing along until we lost our voices. Challenge accepted. I basically prepaid.

So to sum up this year's Hanson Day experience? A pessimist might tell you I waited five hours to buy two shirts, I contracted bronchitis, and I ruined my elbow helping a kid on a bouncy house slide. An optimist might remind you that this year's EP title is "In Real Life," and well, those things certainly are part of it. But the part of me the keeps booking flights back? She has total heart eyes for "Dancing in the Wind," "Lullabelle," "Crazy Beautiful," and the entirety of the Storytellers show. She stood for a standing ovation at a sold out String Theory Performance in Hanson's hometown and got to escape reality and be a kid for just long enough to climb a fortress and captain a ship in the middle of nowhere. She's currently stuffing herself with candy out of a weird lunchbox with pixelated underwear on the front, and she's totally looking forward to May 14-17, 2020.