June 20, 2011

94.7 Fresh FM/Gaylord National DC Show

This show was one of those last minute accidents, the kind where I normally amuse myself by looking up flights, laugh at the ludicrous prices, and admit defeat, all while never really believing I might end up going.

The problem is we egg each other on. With my friends, if one person is considering going to a show, everyone will inevitably entertain the idea of going, even if only for the 5 minutes it takes to look up prices and mileage and count themselves out. One thing led to another, and Valerie and I somehow convinced each other to go. (The $44 round-trip flight I found from Myrtle Beach to DC sealed the deal.)

Let me throw out a literary term to sum up this trip: juxtaposition. The art of placing two things side by side for comparison, or in this case, a stark contrast. Before making it to our final destination, an upscale hotel stay complete with VIP entry to a private Hanson show on Night #2, we apparently had to survive night #1, maybe prove ourselves worthy? Who knows. What I know is that in order to make it to the main event, we had to stick out a painful half hour or so of being lost in a scary area of DC while in desperate need of a bathroom and endure a pretty creepy hotel stay.

We ended up staying at a mildly sketchy Comfort Inn, and I swear we missed some kind of crucial memo about what was really up at this hotel. The desk clerk with crimped hair, massive hoop earrings, and six pounds of makeup probably should have been a warning sign. There were several couples milling around, all dressed relatively nicely for it to be past midnight at a Comfort Inn, and we couldn't shake the feeling that we were getting strange looks and people would stop talking when we walked by. The highlight of the night had to be the moment we ran into a woman outside in the parking lot, who first asked us if the hotel had a pool, then upon finding out that it did, invited us to go skinny dipping with her. The fact that she looked completely normal and was really friendly about it somehow makes it even creepier than if it had been some random sketchy guy. THAT would make sense. Woman in a cute dress in the parking lot? Not so much. Needless to say, we declined, retreated to the room, and didn't come back out until daylight.

We ventured to downtown DC the next day for a little dose of normal after the strange night, and we treated ourselves to Noodles & Co. I blame Rachel for introducing us to this place last fall because it's awesome, and there's not one within a three state radius of home for me. When we were still in the deciding stages, I texted Valerie "Noodles & Co." Quite honestly, it may have been one of the deciding factors of the trip; that's how much we love it. I also had my first DSW experience where I found a belt to use in place of the one that got left on my bedroom floor in a packing frenzy (on sale for $9 down from $42! I think I'm in love).

We checked into Gaylord National around 3 and were instantly blown away by the size and decor of the hotel. We drove past limousines on the way to parking, passed multiple ballrooms on the way to check in. We kept thinking we found the front desk only to find ridiculous things like a Hertz car rental office instead. There was even a Swarovski crystal store with Faberge eggs.

The room itself was a little less intimidating and had all of the usual amenities of a double bed hotel room, only tastefully decorated and clean in a way that didn't leave me sleeping with a t-shirt over the pillow like I did the night before (a useful trick for anyone who can't stand to sleep on foreign pillows but doesn't have room to bring one...or in retrospect, I suppose I could have just packed a pillow case.) One wall was floor to ceiling windows overlooking the big main street and a bit of the Potomac River. This was hands-down the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in.

 The instructions we received for the VIP package stated that we could line up beginning at 4:30, so we ate our leftover Noodles & Co, then walked around the hotel and took pictures until it was time. There were maybe 30 people waiting when we got there. The radio host went down the line and took pictures with everyone, then disappeared and came back with a microphone and a guy holding a camera. I swear I must have "pick me" tattooed on my forehead because he came directly up to me and Valerie, asked us our names, then promptly started filming and asking us questions, nevermind asking us if we wanted to participate (this "pick me" talent? Not always a good thing, like when I was randomly selected at the airport for additional screening on the way in). He asked us a few questions about being excited to see Hanson and what our favorite part of getting to see the show was, then disappeared again only to come back a few minutes later and ask for a redo with a few different questions. When the camera was off, he commented that we didn't seem all that excited. We assured him that we were happy to be there and assumed that he was looking for that "OH MY GOSH I'M GOING TO MEET HANSON I'VE LOVED THEM FOR YEARS AND I WANTED TO HAVE THEIR BABIES!" excitement, and we were fresh out. Our suspicions were confirmed after the show when he elicited screams from several girls after offering up Zac's empty drink cup, a sweaty towel, and "lint straight from Zac's pocket."

There were 200 people total, 100 of which were VIP. We ended up behind a rope at the side of the stage on Isaac's side with a perfect view of all 3 brothers, which is a good accomplishment for two people under 5'3". I enjoyed opener Justin Trawick, who reminded me of a mix of Jason Mraz and Stephen Kellogg. There didn't seem to be a lot of dancing and the show was a little more laid back, but crowd participation was pretty good for singing parts. They had us sing "And we won't go down" during TTA, and it stayed strong. They told us that American Airlines destroyed yet another guitar on their way over, so we got to hear Strong Enough to Break with just Isaac on guitar while Taylor played a tambourine and a shaker instead. Nobody missed the irony in the fact that the broken guitar was needed for "Strong Enough to Break," so they kept changing up the lyrics to fit the situation ("We just play like broken guitars in a deaf man's charade"). Isaac gave the Give a Little speech, which is something I hadn't witnessed before. It was mostly what Taylor normally says, with the added bonus of a really awkward wording that made for a great that's what she said moment that had me doubled over in silent laughter. Ten songs later, the guys headed upstairs for the massive M&G.

Everyone with VIP passes was given an 8x10 cardstock photo to be autographed as we headed upstairs where the guys were set up behind a table. There were no posed photographs, but the radio station had someone taking candid photos the whole time of everyone shaking hands and talking with Hanson. When it was finally our turn, the guys were kind enough to sign both my wristband and the supplied photo. I intended to just get the wristband signed because I didn't know for sure that the photo would survive my strict no-carry on flight home, but Isaac grinned and reached for the picture after signing my wristband and told me he hoped it would make the flight home (side note--it did). We talked to Taylor a little about tour and were a bit rushed with Zac, and then it was over.

Afterwards, we got takeout from Baja Burrito, then sat on the grass behind the hotel and watched the fireworks show. It was a perfect way to end a good day, and the beds were fantastic. My only complaint is that my 6 AM flight meant we only got to spend about 3 hours in them. The flight home proved to be more like your average Hanson show than the show itself, complete with disagreements over the line and two people fighting over a seat that technically belonged to me and neither of them. For $44, I'll gladly put up with it.