April 30, 2022

So You're Thinking about Going to BTTI...







With the recent announcement of BTTI 2023, I've seen a lot of questions from hopeful first-time attendees and thought it might be helpful to write a more logistical post in addition to the reviews I've shared in the past. Think of this as a practical overview of what to expect in place of my usual fangirling and gushing about how much you'll love the shows. (Spoiler: you're also going to love the shows).

Booking Your Room

It's no secret that repeaters who have been to previous BTTIs get first dibs on rooms based on the number of times they've attended. I know this can be intimidating and give the impression that the event could sell out before the public sale date, but the good news is that this has never actually happened. There have been a few times when it sold out within a few days of the public sale, and one year it sold out within minutes of going live to the public (Cancun), but the last few haven't had that kind of rush. What will happen, though, is certain room types start to sell out. You may not be able to get your first choice of room type, but there are no bad rooms anywhere, and you get to participate in everything regardless of which room you choose.

If you can't book right away and rooms do sell out before you have a chance, this doesn't mean you're just out of luck until the next one. Island Gigs offers a waiting list and continues to contact people in order as rooms open up, and fans are also allowed to sell their own rooms when their plans change. This always happens, and every single year fans buy last minute rooms from each other. If you're serious about going, keep an eye out, ask around, and keep saving like you're going. You might have to wait a few months, but odds are good that you'll find a room if you don't give up.

You'll need a $400 deposit up front if you have a roommate, or an $800 deposit if you plan to room alone or find a roommate later. If you have a roommate, only one of you needs to initiate the booking process. Sale dates, payment plan info, and more can be found on the official BTTI page on hnet.

You and your roommate also need to be active fan club members at the time of the event to attend, but let's be real: if you're prepared to spend $2k+ on a trip to see Hanson, a $40 membership should not be your hill to die on.

Planning Your Travel

When you book your room, you are paying for your stay at an all-inclusive resort, meaning food and drinks are covered, but your flight to the event is not. No matter where you're coming from, you'll need to fly into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay (MBJ). Once you arrive, Island Gigs will arrange bus transportation from MBJ to the resort as long as you are not spending extra nights elsewhere (meaning if you plan to fly in 3 days before the event and stay at a cheaper resort before going to BTTI, you have to figure out your own transportation to the BTTI resort. I have never done this, but I'm sure other fans could offer advice). 

I have seen customs in MBJ have no line whatsoever, and I have spent two hours in line waiting to be let through. There's no way to know what version you will get, so if you are flying in the day of the first show, plan for potential delays. The resort is about an hour and a half drive from the airport, and the only event on the first day is the concert around 9-10pm.

For return flights, nothing is ever planned on the final day of the event dates, so you are safe to leave without missing anything (ex. BTTI 2023 is Jan 5-9. They won't plan any events for the 9th, so you are safe to fly home any time that day). However, the dance party the night before is known to run late. With that hour and a half drive to the airport and the additional time you should arrive before your flight, do yourself a favor and don't pick the first flight out. They'll put you on a bus at least three hours before your flight time if not sooner.

Resort Life

If you're familiar with the concept of "Hanson Time," you can thank them for preparing you for Jamaica Time as well. It's not that things are necessarily running behind schedule or on a time crunch, but more of a laid back, everything will happen when it happens and be fine sort of vibe. Your room service, dinner at a specialty restaurant, or those extra towels you called and asked for might take their time showing up. Go ahead and accept this, remember that you're on vacation, and try to relax.

Another good thing to know about the resort is that it is pretty spread out, and each building has three levels and no elevators. You might be doing a fair amount of walking depending on where your room is, so getting down to the beach and realizing you left your sunglasses on the bed might be the moment you decide you didn't really need them anyway. It's not a mile walk or anything, but something to be aware of if you're used to one big hotel with everything in one building...or if your knees don't like stairs.

And that bed you left your hypothetical sunglasses on? It's either going to be a single king bed or two twins. You can't specify which one you want when you book, and requests aren't guaranteed. If you're rooming with a spouse or a stranger and have a strong bed preference, you'll probably want to reach out and try to put in a request anyway. 

Shows & Events

One of my favorite things about BTTI is it feels so much more relaxed and calm compared to tour shows. I'm not saying the crowd is quiet or that the music is all mellow, but that anxious "I need to get to the venue" and "I need to get in line" feeling doesn't exist. Traffic can't make you late. You don't have to worry about a bag check at doors. There ARE no doors. You don't have to stand through the opener or even show up to their show if you don't feel like it. There are no lines (except for the M&G photo). Some will choose to wait longer by the stage for a good spot, but most show up right before the show. The stage is on the beach, and there is plenty of room to spread out in the sand. You can stroll right out of the pool, throw on a coverup, and roll up to the stage area five minutes before show time while double fisting ice cream cones or daiquiris if that's what you want.

Side Excursions

If you prefer some exploration alongside your relaxation, there are optional side excursions arranged by Island Gigs for an additional fee. These options may appear on the booking page when you reserve your room but can also be added at a later date right up until the event begins as long as there is still space. (My memory is murky here. They may not be offered at all when you book your room and only show up later. I just know you don't have to book them right away.) Most involve water and a certain level of physical activity. Below are a few examples from previous years:

Dunn's River Falls
Blue Hole Adventure Tour
Bob Marley's 9 Mile Tour
Martha Brae River Rafting

If you're interested in something not offered by Island Gigs or prefer to do an excursion on an extra day outside of the time offered to us, you can also contact the resort or ask in person once you arrive. One year I came a day early and randomly wound up swimming in the Luminous Lagoon because I asked the front desk what was available and it sounded fun.

Pro-tips for Dunn's River Falls:  
1. Bring your own water shoes and a towel for after.
2. Wear a swimsuit and don't carry any electronics that can't get wet. There are moments you may be fully submerged. You can rent a locker for anything that needs to stay dry.
3. Beware of aggressive selling techniques for souvenirs and be prepared to give a polite but firm "no thanks" if you're not interested in buying. Some of the sellers will try to grab your hand or put merchandise in it and ask for payment if you're not prepared. 

Is It Worth It?

I can't answer this for you. If you love Hanson's music and relaxing on the beach, almost definitely yes. If you want to go to spend time with friends or with the possibility of coming home with a few new ones, also yes. If your idea of the perfect vacation includes bringing your spouse and kids and doesn't include sand or swimsuits, then this one's not for you (the event is 18+ and all rooms have a maximum capacity of two).

The other thing you should know is that if the thought of spending time with Hanson on a beach is factoring into your decision at all, the only guaranteed face time we get with the band is during the M&G photo. Some fans have been lucky enough to run into one of them and have a conversation at other moments during the event, but you're not going to find a Hanson lounging in a chair by the pool or find yourself seated next to them at dinner. That being said, they are incredibly kind and gracious to greet every one of us attending, and the M&G photos are a "holy grail" opportunity you really can't get anywhere else. The trip is what you make of it, and if you show up with an expectation to have fun with fellow fans while relaxing on the beach and listening to great music, then you're going to have an amazing time.

The real answer here is if you have been considering going for a while and have just never taken the plunge, I think it's worth trying at least once. The worst thing that can happen is you realize you don't love it as much as you thought you would, and then you can save up for a different vacation next time without having to always wonder if you've been missing out. The other worst best thing that can happen is you realize you have been missing out, and now you can't imagine not going every year. Fair warning...it's called BACK to the Island for a reason. 😉



And if you do want all the sentimental/FOMO reasons you should go, I've got you covered:

BTTI 2013
BTTI 2014
BTTI 2015
BTTI 2016
BTTI 2017
BTTI 2018
BTTI 2019
BTTI 2020
BTTI 2022
Packing List
HDay vs BTTI
How To Tell Your Loved One That You're Going To Jamaica

April 1, 2022

How To Get Front Row At A General Admission Concert


Today we’re going to talk about a topic on par with the likes of Bruno, Fight Club, and recent inductee Jada Pinkett Smith: how to get front row at a GA concert. If you’ve clicked on this link, it’s probably safe to assume that you are either 1) dying to know all of my best front row tips, or 2) terrified that I’m about to reveal yours. I have thought a lot about whether it is my place to share trade secrets that have taken many of us decades to learn, and I realized that it may be best to consult someone else who is passionately invested in this topic before publishing this blog. I reached out to the best person I could think of for the job, and after a lot of consideration, we have decided that it’s time to put our differences aside and work together to help everyone get the front row they deserve.

Joining me today is fellow concert addict and front row expert, special guest blogger Caroline. Below you will find a carefully curated collection of tips and tricks that we felt it was time to share with the greater music fan population. We hope that you will use these tips widely, share them indiscriminately, and think of us fondly as you rock out against the barricade!

1. Post your plans to line up in as many public places as possible. You’ll want to show up early, and you’ll also want to make sure that everyone knows what time you plan to arrive. Be as specific as possible; no one likes a Vaguebooker. The best thing to do is share on all your social media accounts and cross-post in fan groups for maximum effect. The goal is to have as many fans as possible know what time you are lining up so that they will admire your dedication and tailor their own plans to arrive after you out of respect.

2. Invite everyone to camp with you. Sitting on a sidewalk for hours (or days) can be boring and uncomfortable, but with the right attitude, you can turn it into a fun adventure that others won’t want to miss. There's also no need to worry that too many people will show up and there won't be enough room for everyone up front. You’ve probably heard front row referred to as a "magical experience" and brushed it off as a figure of speech, but the truth carefully guarded by generations of concert addicts is that front row actually is magic and has expansive properties that cannot be detected from a distance. Fun fact: rumor has it that the creator of Doctor Who was a massive music fan and based the TARDIS structure on the phenomenon that occurs when one touches the barricade in front row and is suddenly able to see its true infinite capacity. Allons-y, y’all! There's room for all of us.

3. Post live updates about your line experience to all of your social media accounts. This not only provides hopeful future front row enthusiasts a step-by-step guide that they can follow at a later date, it also provides a trail of timestamped evidence should anyone accuse you of not waiting in line or not being first. Oh really, you didn’t see me sitting here at the front of the line all day? That’s odd, because here’s me at 6:03 am drinking coffee in my sleeping bag with a backwards three smeared on my forehead that already has 72 likes and three identical comments that say "I'm on my way now!!!"

4. If you are near the front of the line, keep in frequent contact with the venue staff. After years in the live music industry, many employees develop a condition known as Going To Forget Order Syndrome, or GTFO for short. Individuals with GTFO suffer from an inability to remember numeric patterns and often have difficulty with basic counting and remembering the order in which to complete tasks. You’ll want to check in with staff frequently to be sure that they remember which line goes in first and that you are at the front of it.  (A good rule of thumb is to check in at least every half-hour up until doors open.) Your instincts may suggest to remain calm and patient, but studies have shown that the familiarity of loud noises can help release the deeply trapped memories of how to do their job. Do not be afraid to raise your voice as it can actually put the staff member at ease and help restore their ability to retain order.

A second, less common but growing condition among venue staff is the Inability to Differentiate General Admission Fans, also referred to as IDGAF. In this case, the individual has seen so many fans throughout years of concerts that they all begin to blur, and over time they lose the ability to differentiate faces, i.e., the first person in line looks exactly like the last. Research suggests that memory retention of a familiar face in someone suffering IDGAF typically lasts between 10 minutes and an hour, so similarly to GTFO syndrome, the best thing for you to do as a fan is repeatedly remind them of your presence. Don't worry that approaching them too frequently may become annoying and make them less likely to help you in the future as you will be safely forgotten before the show even starts.

5. If you are unable to wait in line, have a friend save you a spot until you arrive. All they need to do is save you a number and vouch that you are "coming soon," or better yet, “coming back any minute." There is no need to ask those behind you in line if this is okay; music fans are known for their kindness and generosity above all else. They will respect the fact that you have more important things to do than sit on a sidewalk for hours and will instinctively trust that you have a good reason. Be careful not to mistake perceived standoffishness for rudeness or dislike. More than likely, they are simply too intimidated by your front-of-line connections to speak to you first. A well-timed wave and smile as you step ahead of them will be greatly appreciated, and many friendships have begun this way.

6. If camping out isn't an option for you, you can try faux camping. Not all of us are cut out for sleeping on sidewalks, and there's nothing to be ashamed of if you are one of the thousands of fans that suffer from an allergic reaction to prolonged exposure to sidewalks commonly known as "sidewalk intolerance." Sidewalk intolerance affects roughly 1.5 in every 10 fans, and common symptoms include increased irritability, heightened sensitivity to hard surfaces, and a sudden, intense need to be literally anywhere else upon exposure. There is no known cure, but faux camping can offer a safe alternative to traditional concert camping. 

For those that don't already know, faux camping is exactly what it sounds like: you show up early, get a number, and give the impression that you are, in fact, going to sleep outside in line (bonus points if you put on pajamas because they do half of the work for you. You don't have to actually say "I'm totally going to sleep out here!" when fuzzy panda bottoms will do it for you). Then you leave, come back in the morning, and imply that you've been there all night. Make a few off-hand comments like "man, that sidewalk was rough on my back" or "I tossed and turned all night," but avoid being overly specific in case you missed something important. If you do a good enough job, no one will question your absence, and you can avoid those awkward explanations about your status as someone who absolutely loves front row but won't can't sleep outside for it. 

7. If you do not have any friends to hold you a spot and can't faux camp, you can use your anonymity to casually blend into the front of the line at the last minute. You need precise timing for this move and should not attempt it any sooner than ten minutes before doors. The goal is to slip unnoticed between groups of friends without leaving enough time for anyone to stop you. If you're lucky, you'll be surrounded by passive fans who either won't notice or won't be brave enough to speak up. This may seem unfair to some, but you know the truth: You are just as deserving of front row as someone else who put in hours waiting in line. It's not your fault that they don't have a life and you do. 

*You should not attempt this method unless you are prepared to fight back or run in the event of an altercation. Exercise caution as results may vary.

8. If you have more cash than integrity, a great alternative to waiting in line is simply buying your way in. This tactic is only for the brave, but if you're a good judge of character and can spot the right like-minded person, you can open a lot of doors for yourself (namely, the one into the venue). Some would call it bribery, but really it's just being resourceful enough to use the tools at your disposal. Remember: Just because it's not for sale doesn't mean it can't be bought!

(Pro tip: Be sure the staff member you approach does not suffer from IDGAF or GTFO. They may be on board in the moment, but you will be no closer to front row if they've forgotten what you look like when doors open, or worse, they think you’ve paid to be let in last.)

9.  In the event that you cannot secure a spot at the front of the line, get to the barricade by any means necessary. With a little determination, acting talent, and brute force, the literal end of the line doesn’t have to be the end of the line for you. Try looking for gaps in the crowd and shout a random name followed by "Excuse me! I'm just trying to get back to my sister!" while forcing your way through as though she's up front waiting on you. Oh, there she is! Right between the two people in front row center. 😉 

If your hand-eye coordination is strong, another option is to double fist two open drinks in the air while shouting "Sorry!" and sloshing them dangerously. The key is to slosh just enough to make someone want to step back, but not so much that they want to punch you in the face. If you're not successful the first time, simply turn around and try another route in the crowd or another method entirely. The possibilities are endless; be creative!

So there you have it. Nine tips and tricks to help you get front row from experts who have witnessed the effectiveness of each method countless times. Remember, you deserve front row regardless of how you get it, and don't think twice about anyone that says otherwise because they are not worth your time.

For more concert hacks & live updates from future events, you can follow Caroline on Instagram @rowzb4hoez.