May 23, 2023

Hanson Day 2023

Do I even need to write a blog post about Hanson Day this year when Hanson released a perfectly accurate summary on a t-shirt?

I bought it immediately, but I also couldn't help making a few adjustments to reflect my own Hanson Day 2023 experience:

We may joke about chair duty, but HDay from the volunteer side is still a lot of fun. I'm often asked if I like helping out or if it's hard or if I miss having more free time, and the truth is we all give exactly the amount of time we are willing to put in. Nobody's required to give up their hard-earned vacation, and we all know what we're signing up for. I absolutely miss having more time to spend with friends that I didn't get to see a lot, but that's always true no matter what city I'm in or how long we had together. And as we discovered years ago, learning the logistics of stacking chairs efficiently in a confined space with a time limit is as good a bonding exercise as any to make new friends. Now we have the added bonus of hanging out while we "work".

In between holding doors and faux chair complaints, I made sure to max out every free moment with events. This year I attended HTP Live, Karaoke, Underneath Acoustic Revisited, the ST Leader Dinner, Grace Unknown, the Hanson Day concert, the Neon Ballroom Dance Party, the scavenger hunt, and the gallery and store. There's a reason "sleep" didn't make my t-shirt edit.

HTP Live
I enjoyed HTP live a lot last year, but this year's will hold a special place in my memory thanks to Isaac. He made a simple joke that fell flat(...ulence. Yes, his joke was as bad as the one I just made and on the same topic. Something about "Ripping in the Wind") that left him red-faced and practically crying laughing trying to get back on track. We were all dying laughing right along with him in the crowd even if his brothers were looking at him like they couldn't believe they share genes. You do you, Isaac. I can confidently say that whole segment was a gas. One day I'll have to tell him my own story about misreading the first two tracks on Underneath as "Strong Enough to Break Wind."

The reporters did a great job as well and got Hanson to give a few answers I had never heard before. They talked about their process of choosing themes for their fan club EPs and revealed that they gave each other characters/personas while writing No Sleep for Banditos. We knew Zac didn't wear pants for the recording (a fact that he kept bringing back up at HTP), but we didn't know it was because Taylor created a pantsless character for Zac to portray. Who knows what other gems are hiding behind the scenes of these writing sessions?

I say it every year, but I'm kind of obsessed with how supportive the crowd is for this event. You can forget every word or sing in a terrified whisper and rest assured, these people will have your back. Doesn't matter if you're 12 hours away from yelling at each other in line later, you're still gonna be besties shouting the same lyrics in 3 minute increments all night. The overall atmosphere is like drunken kumbaya vibes with random bursts of Isaac, and it really is a good time whether you wind up on the stage or just hang in the crowd.

I was too occupied to pay attention at times, so I’m sorry if you absolutely killed it and don’t get a mention. Here are a few highlights:
  • Isaac opened with “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors and closed with a spontaneous cover of Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
  • Most memorable moment goes to watching Isaac agree to play Ken for a group that chose “Barbie Girl”….and then slowly realize what the song is actually about while he was on stage.
  • Isaac clearly enjoyed joining a fan that chose “Hero” by the Foo Fighters. He said he had spoken with them about it earlier in the day and seemed genuinely excited to share that moment on stage and bring it all full circle.
  • Round of applause for the fan that brought Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” into the mostly pop mix.

Scavenger Hunt
The scavenger hunt was a new event this year that involved a mix of checking into physical locations around downtown Tulsa and completing tasks on to earn digital pins on the website. Despite the fact that I mostly cheated (all the applause for whoever decided to gift us a hints page AND a solutions page), this felt like a fun little detour down memory lane as I checked into and walked past so many places from the ghosts of Hanson Days past. The best part was running into two fans we didn't know while doing the first physical checkin, and then we just sort of adopted each other for the next hour and joined forces to get as much done as we could before having to split ways for the next event. We made it through15 clues wandering the sidewalks of Tulsa with perfect strangers, and while I'm not sure finding good company was the objective of the scavenger hunt, maybe it should have been.

It made me think I'd love to see a photo scavenger hunt in the future that encourages a bit more social interaction. Take a photo with people from at least six different states at the center of the universe, find two fans wearing the same Hanson merch, etc. I don't think it could be a paid event or award everyone prizes, but it would be a fun way to meet new people and get a few Hanson mentions on social media as well if you hashtag all the photos. 

Underneath Acoustic Revisited
I missed the Underneath tour era, so I was really excited for the opportunity to hear these songs in the acoustic "in the round" setting. The performance did not disappoint, and I can't recall a single messed up lyric or missed note from the entire show. The sound and performance quality were genuinely flawless. "Believe" was stunning, and it's probably weird to say that "Penny and Me" was another standout with how many times I've heard it live (106 according to hansonstage), but it was oddly great and somehow managed to sound and feel more special than hearing it on a regular tour. My favorite song of the entire trip, though, was getting to hear "Rip it Up," which I tried to request once years ago but never heard live until this moment. I suspect I may never hear it again, and it was a really fun era-appropriate way to end the set.

A few other observations:
  • "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade" while sitting still in a chair is an actual crime.
  • The "in the round" setup was a great idea, but the capacity felt too large to pull it off. I would have preferred breaking the event down into several significantly smaller sessions old school Hday style, or just increase the capacity to fit everyone and put Hanson on the stage.
  • They should have dragged their "Dirrty" cover out of the vault instead of adding in TTA. It's a totally off the wall opinion, but tell me you disagree.

Grace Unknown
I was on the fence about attending this one and dragged my feet on tickets right up until the deadline. It's not that I thought there was anything wrong with the event concept, but to be completely honest, the topic falls into the same category where I put museums and nonfiction, aka- things that I recognize have value but do not interest me personally. I finally decided that whether the outcome was being pleasantly surprised or being sufficiently educated for any future fan commentary on the event, I ultimately didn't want to miss out. Thankfully, "pleasantly surprised" won in the end.

Isaac and guest speaker Charlie Baker talked about the importance of framing the way we think and how we shouldn't be asking ourselves "What is the meaning of life?", but instead ask "What gives my life meaning?" They discussed how we're not meant to carry the weight of the world or solve all of life's problems, but our time is better spent focusing on the people and things in our immediate world. Overall it felt like an exercise in the power of positive thinking and of being self aware of our own reactions.

I also really enjoyed Isaac telling us about an experience where he had a gut feeling about calling a friend and how it turned out that the friend was going through a tough time and really needed that call. I've been fortunate enough to be in the crowd a few times in the past when Isaac chose to share a more personal anecdote, and he has a real talent for storytelling and connecting with people in those moments. He's great at making you feel like he is sharing something special with you on a personal level while also making 300 other people feel the same.

At the risk of undermining every valuable thing that was said during the event, I have to admit my favorite part was when a random adorable husky snuck out of the backstage curtain trailing a long leash to ask us for pats and attention before being slowly reeled back in right before the lecture began. For a brief excited moment, I thought we were going to get to discuss the joys of therapy dogs. Puppy snuggles totally help give my life meaning.

Hanson Day Concert
I want to have great things to say about this show, but the somewhat embarrassing truth is I'm about two sentences away from pausing to check hansonstage to remind me what they played. I know the show opened with the new EP, but I was too busy to stream the new EP before the show, and it's always hard hearing a brand new song in a live setting where I'm going to miss at least 40% of the lyrics and be distracted by the crowd. The other thing I remember without phoning a friend is that the encore was weird. Literally. And that felt pretty anti-climactic to me.

*opens new tab, consults setlist, returns with slightly jogged memory*

Okay, so I would also like to give a shoutout to "White Collar Crime," which despite slipping my mind always gets my adrenaline going. It was my favorite of the night. I'll also add an honorable mention for "Tonight," which probably would have ranked much higher in my memory if there hadn't been some distracting things going down in the crowd near me at the time. I don't think the setlist was bad, it just didn't include any particular "wow" factors this year in my opinion, and they're usually pretty good at throwing in a few good curveballs at HDay shows. (for example, I don't need to consult hansonstage to tell you they played "Boomerang" last year!!) For what it's worth, though, I love being up close and feeding off of the energy of the band and the crowd around me, and I was near the back for this one. I think being tired, far away, and having the option to sit did me zero favors, and I hope my own personal mediocre experience won't be too Debbie Downer for anyone who had the time of their lives. There's still nowhere else I'd rather be.

Neon Ballroom Dance Party
This year's dance party was probably my favorite one yet. I loved seeing all of the fun bright clothing everyone chose (A+ to Hanson for coming through with the blacklights!!), and my own outfit snowballed into some sort of accidental neon Barbie look. Walking into Cain's with another wig-clad friend felt a bit like Romy & Michelle walking into their high school reunion.

My favorite part of the night was when a small dance circle of maybe 7 friends kept growing until we had a circle of probably 20+ random fans all cheering each other on and taking turns dancing in the middle. Thanks for jumping in on the fun if you joined! You all have better moves than I do; I'm just here for the sequins.

It's Time To Go Home
I'm pretty sure there's a direct correlation between my sappiest endings and how soon after the event I write them, because post-show magic does have a shelf life. "Day after" posts are when you get two paragraphs out of me on how flawlessly Taylor played a song I've already heard 40 times. Two days in, my opinions still feel shiny and new, and I'm rushing to finish before I can spoil them by reading others. But sometimes life gets in the way and I find myself at the end of my 6th workday in a row with my still-packed suitcase and unfinished blog. Four days ago I might have been tempted to spin you a cheesy conclusion about how the scavenger hunt is a great metaphor for every Hanson Day where we show up unsure of what we're going to find or how we're going to pull it off, but happy for the experience along the way. Today? I'm just going to wrap up the end of Hanson Day and what comes after on this concise shirt. If you think this is a "Weird" ending, blame Hanson; they did it first.