January 14, 2021

And The Winner Is...: Listener's Choice

Confession #1: I don't like setlist voting. This is probably old news if you know me personally or have kept up with this blog, but I feel like it's an admission that needs to happen before I can talk openly about a series of shows with a "Listener's Choice" theme.

Confession #2: The "Listener's Choice" setlists were my favorite of all four themes (if we can look past my wildly festive love for all things Christmas). I know, I know, this feels kind of incongruous with confession #1. In my defense, all of my favorite parts of these shows were the surprise songs HANSON threw in, not necessarily the songs fans voted on, so I still stick by my dislike of voting in general. However, if voting on half of the setlist is how we motivate Hanson into one-upping our votes with killer picks of their own, sign me up. Direct me to voter registration. Send me the campaign materials and the unsolicited texts and consider me a supporter of this party. 

The energy at these shows was high from the beginning I think partly because the setlists were amazing and partly because they were the last shows for the foreseeable future. The first night, people lost it at "Georgia." People lost it again at "Save Me." But the moment we collectively lost it and COULD. NOT. GET. IT. BACK?

"Kind of a Girl."

First off, as someone who hates setlist voting mostly due to ruining the element of surprise, consider me surprised. Delighted. Fired up. Dead, buried, and brought back to life because this random left-field performance was THAT GOOD. Everything about it was tight--the drums, Isaac's guitar solo, and Taylor seemed very much in his element throughout the song.

While I never had the pleasure of seeing it performed by the original band, I'd say Hanson's "cover" did it justice and I was thrilled to see it played at all three shows. I fully regret not taking the one opportunity I had to see Tinted Windows live, and it makes me sad to think that the talented group behind this song has suffered the loss of one of their own. I'm glad Taylor chose to play it, and I think it was a nice way to honor his bandmate and friend.

At the first two shows, "Kind of a Girl" was followed by "Voice in the Chorus." This one seems to be under the radar of most fans and feels all but forgotten by even the band, but I like it. Everything about this song screams SIO tour to me. Maybe my appreciation for it is biased and based more on memories than music, but "Voice in the Chorus" works for me the way a certain scent might bright you back to a specific place or moment. Hearing it live puts me right back into a crammed front row of some hole in the wall venue with Isaac headbanging and that one piece of otherwise perfectly styled hair that would fly free while the whole room is losing it because there is so much energy on stage. It's definitely one of those songs that thrived in a specific moment of time, and I think maybe that time is over unless Hanson chooses to revive it, but even then it wouldn't be the same. It's still nice to hear it once in a while and remember how fun it can be.

I thought that nothing could top "Kind of a Girl," but then the second show made a "Kind of a Girl" sandwich on "Troublemaker" and "Don't Stop Believing" bread with a side of "Stories" and then "Dream Girl" for dessert. You can stop reading right here and just imagine mindblown emojis for the rest of the post, if you want.

So let's talk about "Troublemaker." Back in 2011, Hanson did a proper recorded version of it for Billboard's Mashup Mondays. You can add Weezer to the list of bands I loved before I rediscovered Hanson, so I was excited for this cover and remember watching that video over and over. About a month later I got to see it performed live at the Boston HOB and I remember being ecstatic and thinking "YES! Now it's going to be a tour staple at the rest of the shows and I'll get to hear it more!" Naturally, they never played it again. Fast forward almost 10 years, and they finally broke it out of the vault only for the 2nd show of the Listener's Choice series. It was kind of great getting to hear Taylor sing the line "Having seven kids" now that it's true, and I'm not even sad that he didn't get all the lyrics right because he practically had a novel in 20pt font taped to the floor, and I sure didn't know all the ones I used to know either. It was still an epic surprise and one I really did not mind being front row for. I won't drag you down "Don't Stop Believing" memory lane too, but it's a great crowd song that lets Zac roam the stage, and it made an already great setlist combination even better.

The final show had a similar setlist to the first two with the added bonus of "Sunny Day" at the end, though I was a little too distracted to fully enjoy it watching security try to contain a very happy drunk girl to her increasingly distant table as well as some guy who wandered up to sip his beer and head nod front row Isaac. This definitely fell into the category of "not my table, not my problem," but it was just close enough that I couldn't entirely ignore it, either.  Predictably, my favorite part of the third show was "Thinking Bout Something" because luck dealt my friends and I three side by side tables in the center, and it felt like a giant line dance going on. Over the years it seems like less and less people participate in the dance, but after hearing TBS six times over the course of these streaming shows, it feels like it's making a little comeback. Feel free to join us next time! The best part is laughing when you trip over your own feet, or in some cases, your friend's.

One of my favorite parts of writing these reviews is often retelling the random outtakes that happen along the way, but there's really not much to tell when the only places I went were Cain's and my hotel room. The most exciting thing I did outside of the shows this time was spend more money on Cheesecake Factory delivery than the hotel, and that awkward moment I got literally stuck in an elevator because my backpack strap got caught on the handrail. One moment I was walking out behind my friends, and the next they turned around and I had disappeared to ride back down to the first floor while crying laughing. At least one of the three stayed behind to free me. You're the real MVP. 😂

It's hard to believe this series of livestreamed shows has come to an end, but here we are in January 2021 with one heck of a year behind us and still plenty of obstacles to get through before we can enjoy "real" concerts again. While I know there was a certain amount of risk involved in choosing to go to any of these shows, I am confident in my own safety precautions, and I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be in the room with these songs, these musicians, and a few of my friends. Even in the months between when I was stuck at home, planning table decorations, having mild panic attacks about buying tickets, talking about the best (and occasionally worst) parts of the shows, and just generally having something to be excited about again lifted my spirits in a way I don't think anything else could have.

Thank you to Hanson, to Cain's, and to the fans who made this experience not only possible, but relatively safe and incredibly enjoyable during a time when we all needed some good days (and no thanks to the lady in seat 13D, who provided me neither safety nor enjoyment, just ranty blog post material). I'm going to miss this like crazy and look forward to "seeing" you all on the island, even if that island is digital and it takes us another year to trade the stream for the ocean in real life. It'll be worth the wait.

Credit to Yelena for the photo on the right side of the title graphic. Thanks!

January 12, 2021

Fight or Flight: Traveling Fan Problems

Last week I flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the final installment of Hanson's monthly livestream series. I had every intention of making this anecdote just an introductory paragraph, then moving onto reviewing the show. Then I started writing and found out I had a lot more to say and really didn't want half of the review to be an angry rant about someone that had absolutely nothing to do with Hanson. Consider this one a #travelingfanproblems outtake and keep an eye out for the actual review over the next few days.

I've made a lot of conscious choices throughout the course of the pandemic not to police other people's safety behaviors outside of my own and to instead try to keep myself out of situations that are beyond my control and my comfort level. Turns out I finally found my breaking point on an airplane. My initial flight out of my hometown ended up being half empty, and I had a window seat with an empty middle seat and a lady sitting at the aisle. I was a little surprised she didn't get up and move to give us both more distance when it became clear that there were empty rows around us, but figured it wasn't worth the hassle of making her get up and moving my bags so I could have my own row for such a short flight.

Right before we took off, she started eating a candy bar. I told myself it's fine, she's totally allowed to eat, and if she eats the whole time to prolong her time without a mask, I'll just get up and move after it's safe to get out of my seat once we're airborne. We taxied for a while. She put the small remainder of her candy bar in the seatback pocket (ew?) and started working a crossword puzzle with her mask under her nose and barely over her mouth. I gave her a few minutes before I said anything, because yeah, eating is allowed and her candy bar was still out. After a solid five minutes or more when she hadn't touched her food, I decided to speak up. I leaned forward and politely asked, "Could you please put your mask over your nose?"

Her reaction was to stare at me and immediately pull the mask not over her nose, but entirely under her chin. For what it's worth, I work in retail and have seen a wide range of anger, confusion, and some people who don't get out much and are just plain unaccustomed to mask etiquette. I've had several older customers who have trouble hearing pull their masks down in an attempt to hear me better as if that will somehow help (I suppose it might be a subconscious cue to get me to pull my own mask down so they can hear me better.) I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and kindly repeat my question thinking maybe she just didn't hear me and wasn't thinking when she pulled it down. So I repeated: "I'd be happy to move to a new seat once we take off, but for now I'd feel a lot better if you would put your mask over your nose."

She immediately leaned closer to me and shouted (mask still entirely under her chin leaning over the empty seat between us) "I'M EATING!!!" Then continued to rant loudly about how she has "the antibodies" and therefore can't possibly make me sick, and oh, by the way, she's going to take it off again later to take some pills so I better be prepared to deal with it, and also, as it turns out, I need to chill. 

There was a lot packed into this rant and so, so many things I wanted to argue back as there was something wrong with literally everything that came out of her mouth (and I'm not talking about the germs). In the end I knew that saying anything at all would just prolong the time I would spend with her maskless yelling and I didn't actually want to be part of one of those viral news videos, so instead I waved over the closest FA and interrupted the safety demonstration, asked her to please let me move, and got myself the heck out of that row. I felt a little crazy interrupting, but as a friend later pointed out, I interrupted a safety demonstration to actually demonstrate real safety.

Since I never got to tell her any of the things I wanted to say, I decided to write her an open letter:

To the lady in seat 13D, 

I hope you and your antibodies are doing well. A close friend of mine has contracted covid twice in the last two months, so I was unaware that you have a superior kind of defense that means neither of us can get sick in your presence. This is rather impressive and I sincerely hope you have alerted someone in the medical field to do testing on your singular immunity. 

You seemed a little confused during our brief interaction, so I thought you might be interested to know that I'm very familiar with dictionaries, basic functions of the digestive tract, and have an aptitude for following directions. I've double checked with Webster just to be sure and have confirmed my previous understanding that eating is the act of "putting food into the mouth, chewing, and swallowing it." I've done a bit of further research and can find no source that includes the act of sitting adjacent to a piece of chocolate under the term "eating." (I know some people claim they can gain 10 lbs just by looking at a cupcake, but I'm fairly certain that this is just a figure of speech and not an actual mode of digestion recognized by American Airlines.) Urban Dictionary provided some less common and more colorful definitions, but mere proximity to a food item was still not listed. I hope this helps.

Your confusion is nothing to be ashamed of. I, too, was confused by something you said. I know you tried to explain to me how you would need to remove your mask again to take your medications later in the flight, but I'm not following the process of removal for something you haven't put on in the first place. I'm a visual learner and can't quite picture this scenario based on the information provided, so I would love to hear your insight into how that works. 

I realize my last point may be a bit sensitive, but you seemed pretty comfortable getting close to me during our brief encounter, so I hope you won't find this overstepping. I've heard rumors of some women going years without taking the time to get to know their own bodies and certain parts going largely ignored due to lack of proper education. I know it must be embarrassing to ask especially at your age having gone so long without proper awareness, so I thought I might spare you the trouble by providing a brief educational video on the topic for your benefit (you may find the :12-18 second mark most useful). 

Best of luck,


P.S. I hope that your super antibodies protect against more than just Covid if you trust eating opened food out of seatback pockets.