December 31, 2019

BTTI Fantasy Setlists

I know I’m probably supposed to be reflecting on the past year or even decade of my life on the last day of 2019, but despite being thankful for all the great travel and music experiences I’ve had recently, I can’t help but look forward to the next one--the first music experience of the new year and decade. I try not to place too many specific expectations on Back to the Island and just enjoy whatever happens, but I've been really excited about Hanson's music ever since the Wintry Mix Tour. Think of this as a fantasy draft that is probably never going to happen and is definitely not meant to be some super-demanding request (though hey, I have zero complaints about any of it actually being fulfilled.)

These are my current picks if I could create the solo setlists and one full band concert at BTTI 2020. I overthought a lot but also tried to keep it ~relatively realistic. Disclaimer: I’d also gladly accept as many new songs as they're willing to add, and I'll probably change my mind and regret leaving something out as soon as I hit "publish."

And if I got to have one real request out of all of it...I'm going to say "Rip It Up" because it seems really fun and I never got to hear it, and now I'm going to run away before I can hit backspace and overthink a different answer.

What would your dream list look like? Consider this an invitation to a fully nerdy setlist conversation via Facebook comments since I know the comments section on here isn't always user friendly.

P.S. Shoutout to for making past setlists and lists of songs by lead singer so readily available.

December 15, 2019

Wintry Mix Tour Part Two: Austin & Dallas

In case you missed it, here's part one.

I'm truly not sure where to begin for the Texas half of my Wintry Mix trip because things got weird fast. We spent an entire day in a car driving down to Austin from Omaha, then didn't bother with hotel arrangements until 1am when we spontaneously decided not to camp out. I'm not kidding when people ask my plans and my answer is "I don't know yet." A lot of the time the plan is no plan, and so far it always works out. What's the worst that could happen, we end up on the street?

Thanks goodness we decided not to camp though, because when we rolled out our blankets to sit on in line the next day, one friend in our group got a pretty nasty surprise. It may not be in my usual vocabulary, but this situation can only ever be called the s*** sleeping bag story. The story is that three of us are comfortably lounged on an old school New Kids On The Block sleeping bag, but it just won't fit four people, so Heather goes to the car to get her brand new sleeping bag that has never been opened since we chose not to camp. She pulls it out of the bag, folds it in half, and for a split second I think I see a big dark stain underneath that looks vaguely like smeared tar, but I say nothing, because at the time I did not know that this was a new sleeping bag. Maybe she camps all the time in actual wilderness conditions. Maybe this sleeping bag has been dragged through rugged muddy mountain terrain or perhaps dropped in a puddle like my sweatpants. What do I know of its past lives?

Or maybe, just maybe, let's say for argument's sake that some sadistic human being pooped on it and returned it to Walmart, and then Walmart resold it without ever checking the condition of the item they accepted back into their inventory. I'd like to be joking, but no, 1,000%, this is what actually happened to us, and I still can't believe it. So she did what any rational person who has just purchased a s*** sleeping bag would do. She called the Walmart where she purchased it and somehow with a straight face and serious tone managed to deliver the line: "Hi, I'm calling because I would like to know what is the protocol for buying a sleeping bag that has literal feces on it?" Meanwhile, Morgen is crying laughing hysterically in the background, and I'm trying and failing to shush her so they won't think it's a prank call. I WISH it was a prank call.

In the end, Walmart tells her that they can only refund her money (a whopping $10) if she brings the sleeping bag back with the receipt. That's right. They want us to roll up and repack this poop burrito of a blanket and put it back in our car where we just unknowingly drove with it for seven hours. That's gonna be a massive NOPE. Dear Walmart, I saw this thing in person, and I'd pay me $50 just to promise NOT to bring it back. Trust me, you do not want it in your store. You don't even want it in your garbage can. In the end, we left it in a dumpster where it should have been thrown in the first place before some psychopath returned it to Walmart, and where it DEFINITELY should have been thrown once Walmart took it back if they had any protocol for inspecting returned items. There are two takeaways here: 1. Don't buy sleeping bags from Walmart, and 2. Always keep your receipts, because God knows if you ever find yourself in need of a bathroom, you can always just use whatever you have on hand and Walmart will pay you to take it away and make it someone else's problem.

If you have any desire to harass Walmart a little bit about this or at least boycott one location, you can check out Heather's original post here. And heads up if you're a fan that goes to Hanson Day: this thing was bought at a Tulsa location. At this point I don't care about $10; I'd just like a little reassurance that Walmart isn't going to accidentally sell me another human being's poop in the future. That's what I call really crappy customer service. (sorry not sorry)

And speaking of crap customer service, Emo's in Austin did a really weird thing. About an hour before doors, they sent out a security guard named Tree in a giant cowboy hat who seemed cool and all until he split the line maybe 20 people back and then pulled person #20 and everyone behind her forward to create a 2nd line that would be entering at the same time. Meaning person #20, 21, 22, etc. would be entering right next to #1, 2, 3 and so on. I was in the 30s or 40s so none of this really affected me, but I totally get why the front of the line flipped out. Tree gave lots of speeches about how he's been doing his job for 20 years and how he knows how to handle lines, and he kept saying who was he to say that someone who showed up 30 minutes before doors didn't deserve to be up front just like everyone that had waited for hours? Then he went on about how if anyone cut in line, he'd send that person and whoever allowed it to happen all the way to the back. It was a bizarre mix of morals that I didn't quite understand, but the fans up front finally took it upon themselves to reorganize, so hopefully nobody got too screwed over by the whole thing. I just stood back and watched and was further grateful that we opted for a hotel.

The shows were very similar to the first two I went to in Denver and Omaha, but I was in no way sick of the songs and the overall upbeat vibe of the show that they created for this tour. We got a different new solo from Zac in Austin called "One," and I think I liked it, but I only heard it once out of the four shows so I don't remember much. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get to hear the title track for "Against the World," especially since we could hear them sound checking it from the line in Austin and they posted a video for how we should sing along. I suppose I'll be grateful because I want the album to feel as new to me as possible when it comes out, so there's one more song I still have to look forward to hearing for the first time. I won't be surprised if we get some of these new songs in Jamaica next month, anyway.

After the shows we were lucky to catch Isaac and Zac who were kind enough to stop and take photos with everyone. We ended up with some unintentionally bad paparazzi MOEY style photos with Zac in Austin, which I probably like more than the normal one. Then in Dallas we got caught up in a weird smashed dog pile of strangers when we tried to bend down to let people behind us meet Hanson too, and it was kind of awkwardly great and ended with Zac being amused enough to take a photo. The picture doesn't quite capture how weird it felt to have my knees wedged into a stranger's abdomen, though. Good times.

So in the end, I didn't get to do all the sightseeing and touristy things I told myself I was going to work harder to do this year. I didn't eat a single bite of barbecue in Texas, we saw a pretty cool aquarium from the outside while it was closed, and the most authentic sightseeing we did the whole time was inside a Buc-ee's (move aside, Wawa and Sheetz, we have a new winner in truckstop hybrids of greatness). Truthfully though, I'm not really sad about that. I didn't do much that would sound impressive to people outside of other fans, and I don't have any well-crafted instagram posts of epic landmarks, but I got back that feeling of chasing the music that I think was a little bit missing for the one-offs or my 15th time seeing String Theory. I'll always be happy to see new parts of the world when I have the chance, but it turns out even gorgeous beaches and tiny penguins can't quite give me that butterfly-in-my-stomach feeling of hearing a favorite rare song or the excitement of getting a brand new one. And I don't care what tripadvisor says is the top attraction in any given place, you can't tell me that Hanson's vocal chords aren't a national treasure everywhere they go. This trip gave me back the excitement of following the music first and the world second, and I'm so ready to take on the best of both with this next album and tour.

December 14, 2019

Wintry Mix Tour Part One: Denver & Omaha

When I travel to Hanson shows, I’m usually guilty of not making the most of my time. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been where I barely saw more than a sidewalk or the inside of a venue. I’ve driven over the Hoover Dam in the dark but never actually saw it. One time I went to New York City and mostly just visited a Chipotle and a Subway (well, THE subway, too, but I actually do mean the sandwich chain). Bottom line: the list of places I’ve been is far more impressive than the amount of sightseeing I’ve done in most of those places. 2019 has been an epic travel year that helped to change some of that for me, and somewhere along the way while hiking waterfalls and playing the piano backstage at the Sydney Opera House, I had to ask myself what in the world I’ve been doing with my life up until now. How could I possibly go to all of these amazing cities and not take advantage of the things they have to offer? I told myself that I’ve been doing it all wrong and that I need to make more of a point to set aside time to do more touristy things when I travel.

And then came the Wintry Mix Tour. The fun thing about Hanson never coming anywhere near you is if you’re going to have to travel to get to a show anyway, it kind of doesn’t matter which one(s) you pick. So instead of driving myself ~7 hours to my closest show in Atlanta, I opted to fly to Denver where I met up with a few friends and road tripped from Denver to Omaha to Austin and then ended in Dallas. Over the course of five days, I hit four new states and six states total. It all sounds very Do/Go/Be on paper, but in reality, once again I found myself sightseeing a blur of dark highways, sidewalks, and hotel beds. No matter how much I wanted to carry on the wanderlust streak of 2019, it was absolutely nothing like my grand adventures in Australia and Hawaii and Lake Tahoe earlier this year. Somehow it still felt right.

Just before doors opened for my first show in Denver, it began to rain. The temperature continued to drop and within minutes, the rain turned into a slushy mix before fully committing to snow. I was freezing, but I can’t imagine a more perfectly ironic way to usher in the Wintry Mix Tour.

The show opened with “Finally It’s Christmas” and then jumped right into an upbeat new song called “Don’t Ever Change” followed by “Rock ’n’ Roll Razorblade” and “Lost Without Each Other.” Four songs in, I was already feeling a little winded and asking my friend “What kind of Benjamin Button setlist is this?!” since they usually wait until the end to tire us out with those songs. The only time the show slowed down at all was for a brief acoustic set in the middle with three new songs—“Annalie” (Zac lead), “Better Man” (Zac solo), and “Serious Woman” (Taylor solo). I would have loved an Isaac solo to go with the rest, but at least he got to slay (sleigh?) "Run Rudolph Run" at the end of each show.

“Annalie” is destined to go down in Hanson history as a classic earworm of a Hanson song. It is ridiculously catchy and got stuck in my head for the rest of the trip after only hearing it once. It sounds a little Simon & Garfunkel and has this super happy upbeat sound that I can’t get enough of (like "Cut Right Through Me," but better). I’m forcing myself to wait to listen to it again until the album drops so I don’t overdose on bad quality live recordings right now, because I totally will if I let myself. “Better Man” is one I need to see the lyrics before I come to any solid conclusions, but boy can Zac sing. “Serious Woman” is another I couldn’t grasp many of the lyrics in person, but the piano reminded me a lot of Andrew McMahon in his SoCo days, and Hanson can bring that on in droves as far as I’m concerned. I'm definitely excited for the release of Against the World.

The biggest setlist change between Denver and Omaha was one that might have left a few others disappointed that Taylor switched out a new song for an old school throwback, but the minute he sat at the piano and started talking about Underneath Acoustic Live, I got the biggest involuntary grin on my face. The UAL version of "Crazy Beautiful" is one of two songs that drew me back in as a fan, and I wanted to hear the solo version live for years before it finally happened. I smiled the whole way through and felt like an idiot for being so much happier to hear this old song in the place of something new, but what can I say? It's a great song, I'm forever in love with the piano, and I love that even after twelve years of shows my heart can still speed up at the sound of a great piece of music. The only thing that would've made me happier was if he did the faster part at the end, but that just gives me something else to hope for in the future.

The Omaha show also got a soundcheck party for fan club members. I have to say it didn't actually resemble a real soundcheck considering they didn't practice any of the songs they played at the show, but it was better for that reason, and I think it would have been dull if it was just a normal soundcheck of songs we'd get to hear again later. The best part was getting to hear "White Collar Crimes" simply because if Zac is up to the challenge of playing the drums on that song, then I feel reassured that he has healed well since his accident. The worst part was getting back in line afterwards, being first behind everyone with a number, and then being told by a fan that "We're going to continue with numbers but aren't sure where we left off, so we're going to restart you at #100 and work backwards." That earned a solid "nope" on my end, and I was so confused by this logic and why we were even starting numbers up again an hour before doors. I think my confusion was mistaken for some sort of newbie cluelessness, but really though, I've been to lots of shows and worn plenty of numbers between 1 and 100 and don't need someone to fansplain it to me (totally trademarking "fansplain," btw). I've just never been to a show where the number system includes estimates and rounding up, and I'd like to keep it that way. 😂(We compromised and everyone walked away happy in the end.)

As for the rest of the trip outside of the shows? I don't have any fun rollercoaster or waterfall stories this time. First off, it was freezing. I kind of forgot to eat on day one and got a terrible migraine because it turns out you can't rock out in full force with only half a Voodoo Donut in your stomach (I truly forgot everything EXCEPT for the donuts.). On a positive note, I learned that placing toe warmers on TOP of your foot is far superior to sticking them to the bottom. I also learned that in the event that you forget to eat more than half a donut on day one, eating half of a large pizza by yourself on day two is not a suitable solution, especially when day three includes 17 hours in a car. We argued a little about whether or not we'd have time to make a detour into Iowa, but it turns out the argument was taking place IN Iowa, so that one resolved itself. We met Taylor after Omaha when it was 20 degrees out, and his face looks exactly the way my entire body felt for the first three days. And finally, if you're going to drop your only pair of sweatpants in a mud puddle, definitely do it at a truck stop at 3am so that you can freak people out when you run into the bathroom holding mysteriously brown-stained pants at arms length while you make your way to the sink. I only wish the sleeping bag story coming up in part two was nearly as misleading and funny.