December 28, 2017

Anti-Bucket List 2017

As soon as Hanson released "I Was Born" this year and started talking about challenging yourself to do exciting and even scary new things, I thought about my own Anti-Bucket List series that I've challenged myself with for the past few years. Here's my 2017--some planned, some definitely unplanned, and all survived and accomplished one way or another:

Anti-Bucket List series posts

December 16, 2017

Finally It's Christmas: Chicago

If you know me at all, you already know I'm an incredibly cheesy human being. I prefer puns to profanity on any given day, and it only gets worse being named Holly around Christmas time. I chose to do the two Chicago shows over the rest of the FIC Tour cities because several of my friends were also planning to go, and as you can imagine, the Christmas cheer got a little extra when we joined forces.

The trip began with me somehow packing a full sized sleeping bag, a giant thigh-length down coat, an extra fleece blanket, a holly dress, boots, and a few Christmas sweaters into a carry-on suitcase. I packed everything else in a personal item and managed to pull off not checking a bag or re-wearing anything. It was the first of many Christmas miracles this trip and probably my most impressive packing feat to date (after all that effort, it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit by the day we left. Go figure).

I'd normally talk about both shows separately, but the the setlists were identical and the biggest difference for me was the fact that I was front row the first night and in the balcony for the second show. The first night, Isaac's son also played the role of an elf roadie and handed his dad guitars while wearing a full elf costume. He kept waving to the audience and hamming it up dancing on the side of the stage. It was absolutely adorable and Isaac was beaming the whole time.

Hanson's performances were beyond amazing. There's a reason a video of "Joy to the Mountain" a fan recorded in NYC went viral; that song perfectly showcases their voices and ability to blend in seamless harmony, and it got the biggest crowd response both nights. Zac's rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas" was gorgeous, "Merry Christmas Baby" felt the most nostalgic and put the biggest involuntary smile on my face, and the finale made it clear that Isaac's voice was the perfect choice for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that manages to somehow make you feel just a touch of sadness while you're also bursting with joy. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that the setlists didn't vary at all, if only because I didn't get to hear my favorite part of the new album, "Happy Christmas." My all-time favorite is "My Favorite Christmas Sweater," but I didn't have much hope for that one being played since it's on neither album. Maybe one day.

After the first show, we managed another Christmas miracle by getting an overly festive Holly photo with Taylor. The other Holly pictured has since mailed it to me in an equally festive holly frame, and it will absolutely become part of my Christmas decor for years to come.

We made the most of our extra day and a half in Chicago and managed to check off a lot of tourist necessities. We went to Millenium Park and saw the Bean, the giant Christmas tree, and a picturesque ice skating scene that we all knew better than to try. We ate deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's, hot dogs and cake at Portillo's, and rode the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier. We braved the Tilt ride at 360 Chicago on the 94th Floor of the Hancock Building, which I thought would be scary since I'm normally afraid of heights. Instead, the unexpected blinding reflection of 1997 Zac Hanson's unimpressed face from the front of my shirt in the window made the experience more laughable than anything else.

The part I expected to be my favorite was the Christkindl German Christmas market, for which the English translation might as well be "Santa Claustrophobia" because it was so overrun with people. We waited in a giant hot spiced wine line before half of our group gave up and left, but I was determined to have my traditional German food to go with it. I'd take the number system and Hanson line cutters any day over a wiener schnitzel kiosk with an infinite number of branching lines and only two service windows. There were times when people who weren't even in the food line were at a stand-still in front of us for minutes at a time simply because there was no room to even leave. It was in no way a joyful experience, but to be fair, the goulash alone was kind of worth it.

By coincidence, SantaCon was happening in downtown Chicago on our full tourist day, so we kept passing dozens of bar-hopping Santas. There was an array of creative costumes, including a full-suited Buddy the Elf and one confusing Santa with severed Coke cans protruding from his face. Someone identified him as "Canta Claus," and now I can rest easy knowing that the worst pun of the entire trip was someone else's doing. In a peak moment of greatness, we caught a glimpse of about thirty or so Santas outside of a bar called "Joy." My only regret was not asking to be in a group picture with them all.

At some point before the trip, (other) Holly had the genius idea to hang stockings from our box in the balcony for the second show. We weren't sure we'd be able to pull it off or if it was even worth trying, but somehow it worked and we found ourselves with a makeshift mantle place with seven stockings, two small battery-powered candles, and a tiny USB-powered Christmas tree. We thought the whole setup was relatively minimal right up until we caught a glimpse of ourselves in a video on instagram later where a couple of blinking necklaces and one light-up sweater had us looking a little more 4th of July than we ever realized (or intended). Thankfully we didn't keep those on the entire time, and we managed to secure everything well enough that nothing fell or shifted. I'm still amazed and excited that we pulled it off.

Come on, it's Christmas; we bring it with us. Stockings, lights--forgive us! #punderfulchristmastime
(lyrics c/o @yelanger)
At the end of the show, the House of Blues trumped our display by surprising Hanson with snow during "Blue Christmas." It was a magical moment that I never expected, and I'm so glad I got to experience it alongside a few good friends and a few badly hand-painted stockings. I don't think I was the only one that teared up a little when Isaac changed the lyrics in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to "Through the years we all have been together, as the fates allowed" and motioned to the crowd and back at himself as he said "we." It was a beautiful ending to a great pair of shows and probably my favorite one-off trip ever.

We went back to the hotel in our fancy dresses and laid our candles and tiny tree on a lobby table to prepare for a candlelit takeout feast. One of the few places still open for delivery to our location was a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, and I think it may be safe to say that cheesy goodness became a big theme of our trip. I feasted on delicious Mexican and pulled-pork grilled cheeses, fried cheese curds, fried pickles, and chocolate milk, and it was everything I've ever wanted from midnight delivery food.

I'll end by saying this: May your days be merry and filled with "Finally It's Christmas" songs on repeat, and forget the candy canes--may all your grilled cheeses be wrapped in quesadillas.

December 12, 2017

MOE Tour: Los Angeles

I always try to write my posts within a few days of a trip if at all possible, but here we are halfway through December, and I’m just now slowing down enough to write about Zac’s birthday show. I’m not sure if that means you’re going to get a more honest account after the rainbows and glitter have fallen off and I’ve come down from the usual tour high, or if it’s going to be a lot more boring because I’ve forgotten half of the fun details. In any case—my bad. Unfortunately car shopping and medical bills and the busiest time of the year at work can get in the way of writing for fun.

I do remember having trouble finding a place to shower and eventually Pricelining a hotel in Chinatown. I made my first Jimmy John's order directly to the line (“deliver to the second blue chair from the door”), and the delivery guy accidentally left his cell phone in my box of sandwiches and had to come back for it. And unfortunately, I also remember feeling super sick at doors to the point that I just knew this was going to be the blog post about “that time I threw up in the front row on Zac’s birthday.” Thankfully the feeling passed and that’s not the case.

There were two particularly special things about this show. One was the guest appearance of Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night to perform “Never Been to Spain” with Hanson. It was a complete surprise and a treat to experience. He gushed about how talented the guys are and talked about his own kid(s?) liking them and being forever impressed at how talented they were as children. Hansons’ faces lit up at the stream of compliments coming from someone they all obviously admire. It was fun for us fans to watch, but I think Hanson enjoyed it most of all.

The second special thing was the random appearance of a giant disco ball. I guess technically there were five large disco balls nestled into the ceiling, but during “Where’s the Love,” the largest one descended to just a few feet above Zac’s head and I’ve never seen anything quite like it at a Hanson show. It felt hilariously appropriate spinning our arms around to “it makes the world go ‘round and ‘round” when there was something the size of a giant globe spinning above the stage at the same time. I think the few other times I’ve mentioned disco balls at Hanson shows I’ve likened them to middle school dances in gyms, but this one felt more like standing inside the night light scene in the movie Mermaids with the spinning fish and waves projected on the walls. It was definitely more magical than a school gym and way more over the top in an awesomely ridiculous sort of way.

Isaac eclipse.

They brought out a cake and let everyone sing happy birthday to Zac, but at the ripe old age of 32, he decided not to go for the traditional Hanson cake smash. They had previously canceled the afterparty for that night, so maybe they had somewhere important to be later where icing might be an inappropriate hair accessory. Who knows. The show ended, I vaguely recognized that I was exiting the building next to Darren Criss, and that was that, the end of another tour.

The best way to put off PHCD is to do something fun after the last show, so we spent the next day at Universal Studios Hollywood despite the fact that it reached 102 degrees. We cooled down with Butterbeer, the Jurassic Park water ride, and frequent visits to air conditioned stores. I loved the Simpsons area and the backlot tour, and my favorite ride (that I probably shouldn't have ridden while still bruised) was The Mummy. I met some minions and wished I'd worn sunscreen and had a great time just being a kid for the day.

November 10, 2017

MOE Tour: Anaheim

I was home for exactly nine days between the Minneapolis show and my trip to California. Three days in, a pretty big thing happened. A drunk driver in a large van ran a stop sign in front of me on my way home from work that night. I hit him in my compact car going almost 60 mph. The van rolled, the front end of my car was completely obliterated, and I have God and the invention of airbags and seatbelts to thank for the fact that I'm here writing this right now. I consider it a miracle that my worst injury was an abrasion across my chest and shoulder from the seatbelt; it's a badge of honor I'll gladly wear considering the alternative.

Despite some soreness and a pretty gross looking shoulder area, I was determined to still make it to California. I made sure to leave my travel backpack at home and only bring rolling luggage I wouldn't have to carry. I asked kind strangers on planes to lift my suitcase into the overhead bin for me, and they obliged before I could even explain why I needed the help. (They probably assumed I was just a tiny girl with a tendency to overpack and zero upper-body strength, but whatever.) It was kind of a rough start, but I was just happy to be there and thankful that my final MOE tour trip was all flights and didn't rely on my car at all.

I had no intention of trying to tell Hanson about it during the group picture after the Anaheim MOE. There wasn't time, and you can't really shake someone's hand, say "Hey! I almost died since you saw me last week. It's great to be here," and walk away. Instead I lined up against the barricade to pose for the picture, and then Zac's hand clamped down on my injured shoulder and I realized too late that I really should have thrown out some kind of "don't touch Holly today" disclaimer first. The picture was over before there was even time to protest, so I had a literal grin and bear it moment. I haven't seen the picture yet, but there's a 50% chance I look like the half-grimacing little girl in a family photo who is only behaving because her mom is pinching her behind the scenes.

The MOE setlist was identical to the one I attended in St. Pete but with "Get Out of My Heart" added in the middle. During the Q&A portion, they called on a girl several rows back whose question was simply if they remembered her. (I wasn't even sure they could see her well enough to know if they did or didn't.) Isaac went into Hancyclopedia mode and saved the day by actually being able to recall and provide details to the situation she described pretty convincingly. Someone asked a very specific question for Taylor about EDM and his DJ sets that went about 90% over my head and probably at least 60% over Taylor's. The last question I remember was from a younger girl who asked about their most embarrassing moment on stage, and they talked about a botched performance of "Piece of My Heart" from years back where they all just went completely blank trying to perform it live. It's kind of hard to imagine them having that kind of frozen stage fright now.

We stood about halfway back in the crowd after enjoying front row for the MOE, and I was amply reminded that a large part of why I love being up front is not having to watch the show through 27 moving phones. Thankfully we were on a slight incline and could see over most of them, but they were an ever-present part of the Anaheim experience. If everyone is going to have their phones in the air anyway, at least Isaac has learned to make use of it during "Weird" this tour. Watching a sea of lighted phones swaying in unison is actually a pretty neat sight--when it's called for.

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I was happily surprised to hear "Crazy Beautiful" for the first and only time this tour. It's always going to be one of my favorites, and I didn't realize I'd been missing it until it showed up on this setlist. I also finally got to hear Hanson's cover of "Wildflowers" by Tom Petty that I'd been hearing so much about, and it was a beautiful way for them to honor his memory. You should check out this video they shared if you didn't get a chance to witness it for yourself.

And then there was "I Was Born," usually my own personal patronus against WYIYD, that suddenly felt a lot more serious and emotional hearing it for the first time after the accident. Because while I may not know exactly what I'm here to do, it seems clearer now more than ever that I'm meant to be here, period. I'm not the only person who has ever survived a car crash, but I'm ecstatic that I can do, go, and be all of the things that were always possible. I'm infinitely grateful that they still are.

November 4, 2017

MOE Tour: Minneapolis

Minneapolis was an afterthought that I added after finalizing my other nine shows. A friend offered to let me come stay with her and go together, but I brushed it off at first because it didn't feel worth it to book another flight just for one show. Then that thing happened where I looked up flights out of curiosity, and here we are. Minneapolis became the one place I went this tour that I had never been before.

I planned an extra day for sightseeing, and my host Yelena made sure I had a memorable experience. I got to try my first giant bowl of pho as well as strawberry bubble tea at a great local Vietnamese restaurant. I love trying new things, so I ordered their special and ate all kinds of things that I could identify on paper, but none of which I recognized in the bowl. We had a nice conversation surrounding the identity of one particularly tentacle-looking item (there weren't any tentacles in the ingredient list for this particular dish). I picked out a different unidentifiable piece just in time to realize it was actually my own napkin that I had unknowingly dropped in my bowl. Points for solving that embarrassing mystery before it made it to my mouth, at least. We'll never know what the "tentacle" was, but for what it's worth, it didn't taste like a paper product.

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We also visited Minnesota's largest candy store and the Mall of America. I got to eat my favorite German chocolate, take a picture in a Tardis, ride a Spongebob rollercoaster, and see a random art exhibit made of rainbow string. I loved it all and wish all days off on tour could be so amazing.

Obligatory crazy line story: A homeless man stopped by, mumbled something incoherent, and proceeded to try to pass around the world's largest flask. It's actually kind of a sweet gesture considering how cold we must have looked. Bonus points to the random guy that stopped, accepted the offer, turned his head to take a hearty pretend sip, and thanked him and handed it back. You brought the entertainment, Minneapolis.

Once we were inside for the show, there was a fun mishap where the person behind me didn't realize her full water bottle didn't have a lid. When she tried to squeeze it in her arm to hold it, it gushed all over me and soaked the plaid shirt I had just taken off and laid on the barricade. It was an accident so we all laughed about it, and I was just happy it was only water. I also knew I could leave my plaid shirt hanging over the barricade to dry during the show before needing to go back out in the cold with it, so no harm done.

The setlist had a couple of changes including "I Will Come To You" in place of WYIYD, "And I Waited," and a fun new cover medley of "I'm a Man," "Gimme Some Lovin'," and "Long Train Running" with Taylor playing the congas.  Isaac came close to spoiling the medley for me during our confused setlist conversation back in Norfolk, but I stopped him and told him I'd rather find out for myself. I'm glad I was able to make it to another show and hear it in person; the only downside was not getting to see the congas in action on more songs!

The end of the show--like all the rest--was full of the highest energy songs. Everyone jumped and clapped and used whatever was left of their voices, and Isaac was into it enough that he tossed his water over the front of the crowd to cool everyone off. My plaid shirt got doused for the second time of the night just in time to leave; I guess it just wasn't meant to be dry.

After the show by the bus was one of those awkward setups with a fence and no real way to interact with Hanson. And yet it was happening. People were passing Zac CDs through a small gap in the side of a fence, and he was signing anything that would fit. There were awkward chain link fence selfies and half-anonymous conversations because visibility isn't the best in the dark with a fence in your way. I have to give major props to the fans though because once the crowd died down a little, everyone was pretty considerate with taking turns using that one sad gap to get to Hanson. I had every intention of not bothering, but then everyone was so nice and I realized that I was wearing a blanket, and I thought what other moment will I ever find myself wearing a blanket in public with a fenced-in Hanson? Isaac and I took advantage of the ridiculousness, and I went home with one of my favorite Hanson pictures to date.

November 1, 2017

MOE Tour: Norfolk

Norfolk is the city where I could no longer ignore or deny being sick. I had a Nyquil label's worth of symptoms, and it was probably for the best that I was heading home to rest afterwards instead of continuing on to the next tour stop. Consider this just one of the many reasons it was particularly unfortunate that I wound up with a child directly underneath me during the show. 

I was in the front row in front of Isaac, and part of the way through the show, a little boy and a little girl (~ages 8 and 4?) were let in front of the barricade.  It's not the first time I've seen this happen, and it really didn't bother me--at first. They started out just sitting still on the bottom of the barricade, no harm done. Then they got restless. They walked in and out of the barricade area over and over, and it was incredibly distracting. One would come back with a water bottle, or a sweatshirt, or (finally!) a pair of earplugs since they were so close to a speaker, never sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time. Every time, the boy kept coming back to sit in his same spot on the ledge of the barricade in front of me. And every time, I had to tuck my arms uncomfortably behind the barricade for fear of elbowing him in the head when I clapped. (For a while, I was terrified I was going to sneeze in his face and wasn't sure what to do about it. I ended up maneuvering the most awkward sneezing-behind-the-barricade move that left me equally terrified I was going to break my nose on the bar. You're welcome, kid's mom.)

The weirdest part is they didn't seem to be enjoying the show and looked thoroughly unhappy to be there. They never smiled or clapped or even appeared to be looking at Hanson, and I have never felt more judged during "If Only" in my life than the moment I looked down to see an 8-year-old boy glaring at me while I jumped. At one point a random third party child joined for a song and then disappeared, and mom conveniently showed up long enough to record "Penny and Me." At the peak moment of weirdness, the little girl curled up with her hoodie pulled over her head and WENT TO SLEEP in front of me on the barricade. It was the weirdest daycare circus I have ever witnessed at a show, and I'm really not sure why security was letting it happen. Hanson completely ignored their presence, and I felt like I was in some Twilight Zone episode of the MOE Tour.

We've reached the Unpopular Opinion portion of the MOE tour posts. Please understand that I am not against children going to Hanson shows. I'm not, and I've seen plenty who were well behaved and had a blast. It's no secret that the guys love seeing kids having a good time at their shows, and I'm not against accepting special treatment when it's freely offered, either. What I am against is parents putting their own desires above the needs of their children. Check out this completely unnecessary concept map I drew if anyone needs further explanation for things that I thought were obvious.

*stows soapbox carefully in overhead bin* Moving along...

There were two great standout moments at the Norfolk show. The first was that they skipped "With You In Your Dreams" and played "Save Me" instead, which was a much needed emotional break after my previous night in Raleigh. Taylor introduced the song by telling us good luck trying to top the crowd enthusiasm for "Save Me" at the South American shows. I'm sure we didn't even come close, but it was a fun surprise anyway. After the show I tried to thank Isaac for playing it in place of WYIYD, but he misunderstood and started talking about how they usually like to switch things up more for fans that go to a lot of shows, but they were worried it wouldn't be enough this tour. I rambled off a lot of compliments about how they had chosen the right combination of songs and told him that I was fine with it being mostly the same each night because I loved the set they had created. I left the venue thinking "I think I just gave Isaac an oral rough draft of what my first blog post for this tour should be," and then I came home and wrote it.

The second moment came during Taylor's altered introduction to "I Was Born." He delivered a pretty convincing speech that included telling us we were all lucky that we had a parent figure to raise us and change our diapers and put up with all of our literal crap so that we could grow up to do and be whatever we want. He demanded that we all pull out our cell phones and text our moms a "thank you" message right then and there. I texted mine after the show: "Taylor said to text you that I love and appreciate you. I do :-)" She's not even phased anymore. She replied "Love you too" and didn't even ask for context.

The show ended with Zac wringing out his sweat-drenched shirt into a puddle front and center on the stage while the retail employee in me was internally screaming "NO! Someone's going to have to clean that up!" The more compassionate side just felt bad that Zac was sick; he spent the whole show sweating and downing cups of hot liquid and somehow still sounding like a vocal superhero. It feels like the guys have been sick for most of this tour, and I'm forever impressed that they manage to stick it out night after night and still put on such a killer show. At least they don't have to worry about sweating on a child's face mid-performance, right?

October 28, 2017

MOE Tour: Raleigh

The MOE Tour did a decent job of breaking my new tradition of crying every time I hear "With You In Your Dreams." Most nights, I didn't. There's definitely some desensitization that comes from being exposed to the same song night after night, and I guess it was bound to happen naturally over time anyway. It makes me a different kind of sad to think that I might be getting over the effects of WYIYD, but rest assured, it hit me as hard as ever in Raleigh.

This is probably an overshare and hopefully not too sad for anyone reading, but it's what I'll remember when I look back on this show whether I write about it or not. I rarely have bad dreams. Crazy, illogical, saga-length WTF dreams? Absolutely. Regularly, even. But bad dreams? Almost never. I woke up from one of the few nightmares I've had in my life in the middle of the night before the Raleigh show. In the dream, my dad was back and everyone around me was acting like everything was fine and normal, but deep down, dream me knew it wasn't really him. I spent the whole dream being so frustrated that I was the only person that knew the truth, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make anyone understand that it wasn't really my dad. I woke up angry and upset that I couldn't even have a moment back with him in a dream, even for just a minute of fake happiness.

As you can imagine, when they played "With You In Your Dreams" later that night, I lost it. I spent the whole song sobbing in the front row in front of Isaac with my head tucked down into the barricade a lot of the time. I was glad to have my friends next to me, even if one of them was crying too and my poor other friend was stuck in the middle trying to console us both. It wasn't a pretty moment, but it serves as a decent testament to the power of music. Thank God for tissues, friends, and the restorative power of a good drum beat during "I Was Born" a few minutes later. Life goes on, and thankfully so do setlists.

Despite that moment, I really did enjoy the show. Raleigh had one of the higher energy crowds from that string of shows in my opinion, and every fan I encountered all day long was really nice and excited to be there. It was a good crowd with no pushing and plenty of jumping and clapping--all the right chemistry for a great night. Thanks, Raleigh show fans. You guys were awesome. Let's do it again some time.

It got even better when we went outside after the show to wait for the afterparty and found a taco truck parked right there in the parking lot. I threw caution to the wind and ignored the relatively shady appearance of the fading hand-painted letters and the man riding a giant angry jalapeño in favor of filling my empty stomach. Those street tacos were a delicious surprise, and when I ran into Zac later I started excitedly rambling about how they need to hire a taco truck to follow them on tour. Dear Hanson, if you're going to use any more of my suggestions in the future, please make it this one. #tacotrucktour

October 24, 2017

DO GO BE: Let's Get Fired Up

I may not have fully embraced the concept of "I Was Born" at first, but I still love the motivation to get out and do something fun. We picked up the challenge in a (slightly) safer, less adrenaline-inducing way and decided to fly in a hot air balloon over the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina during a day off from following the MOE tour.

I'm a little weird about heights. I'll ride the tallest, fastest ride at any theme park as long as I'm strapped in securely, but I won't climb the 10 foot ladder at work. I'm naturally clumsy and generally uncomfortable in any situation where I might be responsible for my own safety, so I wasn't really sure how I'd fare in a hot air balloon. It actually ended up being an extremely relaxing ride that didn't scare me at all. It was quiet, peaceful, and gorgeous, and I'd recommend it to anyone in good enough physical shape to climb into the basket. (What I don't recommend is forgetting not to use hairspray when it specifically says not to in the waiver and having to frantically wash it out in a rest stop sink 30 minutes before the flight so your hair doesn't catch on fire.)

Our pilot asked us where we were from, which always leads to how did you meet, and then leaves us at the inevitable "Hanson? Like MMMBop Hanson?" He was intrigued and even ended up looking up "Fired Up" and playing it for us while we took off. It was a pretty cool moment. Cheers for going on a hot air balloon ride, doing something a little scary, and being fired up. Literally.

October 14, 2017

MOE Tour: Atlanta

Every roadtrip seems to have that one low point where everyone is too tired to go on. The seven hour drive from St. Petersburg to Atlanta was that moment for us. We originally planned to drive as far as we could after the St. Pete show, stop at a hotel for the rest of the night, and finish the drive after checkout. In reality, we made it about 30 minutes outside of St. Pete before completely giving up and beginning to search for a hotel (one foiled attempt to switch drivers that spiraled into some sort of delusional crying laughter about “prostitute fires” sealed the deal that we all needed to stop to sleep). It took roughly eight phone calls to hotels in three or four cities before we realized we weren’t going to find something right off of I-75 so soon after hurricane Irma, and we finally found a place about 20 minutes off of the interstate in Dade City, wherever that is. In my most sleep-deprived moment, I turned back to look at a pile of assorted things I was about to carry inside and completely lost it. I realized I was about to walk into a hotel a disheveled mess at 2 AM carrying chocolate milk, a sandwich, and a bottle of peroxide. In the moment it felt like the most ridiculous situation, and I wound up face-down against my suitcase in the trunk just whimpering because I was too tired to even cry. That night definitely goes somewhere in my top 10 most desperately needed sleeps.

Screenshot from a video that probably never needs to see the internet.
We got in a surprisingly short line in Atlanta around 4pm. We were still so exhausted that we planned to aim for the balcony because it was seated, and the idea of standing for an hour before the show just sounded awful. By some miracle, I saw a few front row spots still open when we got inside. I walked about 10 feet towards my happy place, then felt myself turn around almost involuntarily and walk back up the balcony stairs instead. I sat in a cushioned seat before Hanson took the stage and during most of the slower songs, and I still don't regret that decision.

I'm not even going to lie to you. I'm looking at the setlist right now trying to decide what I need to say about the show, and I've got nothing. I had fun; I'm glad I went, but I was still tired enough that it probably didn't stand out to me the way it must have for someone seeing their first, last, or only show of the tour, or even just someone who got more than six hours of sleep in the previous two days. I auto-piloted through it and my brain and body did all of the right things at the right moments, but it's kind of a haze looking back. It's not a testament to being jaded or burned out; it's a PSA about what happens when you don't take care of yourself and make sure you get enough rest. Maybe it's also a PSA about aging and trying to do the same crazy stuff you've been doing for 10 years. I did it to myself and I know it (though they manage to put just enough time between tours that I'll probably still think I can power through three days on virtually no sleep next time, too). I'm sure it didn't help that we had to drive all night after Atlanta without sleep too so there was no time to rest and retain any memories, but that's a really fun story for the next blog post and actually doesn't have anything to do with a Hanson show for once.

Fortunately, being crazy enough to drive around on little sleep and spend dozens of hours in line does have the perk of making new friends. So here's an actual Atlanta review from one I made this tour. Enjoy!

October 7, 2017

MOE Tour: St. Petersburg

St. Pete was simultaneously one of the best and worst shows of my trip. It was sunny and almost 90 degrees and was held in an outdoor venue in Florida. The wait in line actually wasn't half bad, and I got to meet a few new friends. I just didn't realize exactly how ready I am to escape into the safety of artificial heat or AC at doors on a normal day until it wasn't an option this time.

I started feeling a little sick right around the time I finally secured my front row center spot before the MOE. I racked my brain for what I had eaten and drank and came to the quick and horrifying realization that I had only had three things to drink all day: chocolate milk at 5 am, coffee around 9 am, and a Pepsi around 2 pm. I was a dehydrated idiot that had spent all day in the sun, and the sun continued to shine directly on my back as the pre-show fan club event started. I tried to clap and sing along and exhibit some level of enthusiasm, but really I was just sweating and woozy. Taylor tried to amp up the crowd during "Dance Like You Don't Care" demanding participation during the line "jump in the air like a wild man," but I couldn't even pretend to jump. I felt like the obvious wet blanket on the fun in the front row just standing there while everyone around me looked excited, and I hoped Hanson wouldn't see my lackluster reaction and think I was bored.

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After about six songs, we were treated to a Q&A session. I'm not a big fan of these in general because people have this funny way of 1) asking things that have been asked a hundred times before, 2) asking something nobody else cares about, or 3) asking when Hanson is going to return to (insert city/state/country here). The one question from this event that stood out to me was someone asking about the inspiration behind "Runaway Run." I remember them saying that they hadn't really shared much about that song with us before. They said it's a song about longing from a younger perspective which somehow got them spontaneously singing the Beach Boys and emphasizing "Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long" and telling us to instantly erase that from our memories. Too late, Hanson. It's one of the few things I actually did retain. I don't think they specifically mentioned the connection between that line and the opening line "And I waited for you," but I assume that's the correlation anyway. They also talked about the trend of songs today not being subtle at all and mentioned appreciating the art of adding sexual tension to a song without being so obvious about it (inadequate sick person paraphrase here). Kudos to whoever asked that question, because I enjoyed hearing more about "Runaway Run" and it elicited an answer I had never heard them give. It also got them to add that song to the setlist later.

We had to start lining up for pictures after the Q&A, so I immediately went to the bar and overpaid for some much needed water to rehydrate first. I knew I must have looked ill or made an impression with my earlier lack of energy when it was our turn for the group picture because Taylor skipped the formalities and greeted me with "Are you tired?" I explained that I felt overheated and told him I thought I'd be fine since I stopped and got water. Thankfully I really was fine for the rest of the show, and I'm happily clutching that water with both hands in our picture as though someone might take it from me.

There was some crowd drama after that, but by the time the show started I don't think anyone could focus on anything except the awesome performance in front of them. And despite all the anxiety, I think the St. Pete crowd energy might have been the best I saw out of all seven of the shows I've seen so far. Hanson was on fire and put every ounce of energy they had into the show, and so did everyone in the audience. That bottle of water worked a miracle and I felt so alive and energized the entire time. The crowd jumped and poured sweat in unison. There was a moment during the show when I was singing and clapping and I realized that every single person I could see was doing the same, and it hit me how great it is that you can basically be yelling at someone one minute and then join a pretty impressive choir with them the next because we're all here for the same reason, and the only reason those fights happen in the first place is everyone is so passionate about this band. Hanson made it abundantly clear to us that night why we were there and why we'd always keep coming back, dehydration, disagreements, and all.

I'm looking at the setlist and am genuinely baffled how it could possibly look the same as every other setlist from this tour on paper but still feel so different and so perfect while it was happening. I don't mean "different" because it felt like a different set of songs or a new concept; it didn't. It just felt different from the night before and the night after and the other hundred nights I've seen Hanson because every performance is its own individual experience, and the only possible explanation is that music is freaking magic. I know it. Hanson knows it. Every other fan that comes back time and time again knows it. There are no adequate words, pictures, or livestreams that can explain it; you either know it or you don't. I'm so thankful that I do.

October 5, 2017

MOE Tour: Nashville & Birmingham

I already gushed about how much I loved the setlist in my first post about this tour. Unfortunately, loving the same setlist seven times in a row doesn't really translate well into writing seven completely different blog posts about the music. This is how I wound up writing my first double "show review" where I didn't actually mention the shows. Oops. I promise I enjoyed them and they were worth every minute and penny; I just won't bore you by telling you how much I loved "Fired Up" again (oh wait, yes I will. It's great).

So here you go, a show review about everything but the shows in Nashville and Birmingham.

My friends kept saying something about bachelorette parties on the way to Nashville, but I didn’t think much of it until we were there and I witnessed it for myself. They started a bachelorette count when we showed up around 3pm, and by the time we went home, they had counted at least 20 separate parties. I had no idea that Nashville was the Vegas of the east, but now I’ve seen undeniable proof. It was a Saturday and there was some kind of food festival going on, so downtown was packed with people. Pedal bars drove up and down the street all day long; one finally had the foresight to blast MMMBop as they pedaled by just before doors. Every bar and restaurant had their doors propped open with the sound of live music pouring into the street, which left us hearing a mix of no less than seven different songs at any given moment. It might be the only time I’ve ever been glad to get into the show to get away from all of the music. I can’t even imagine the chaos a walk would have added to the mix.

We enjoyed a low-key show from the balcony and feasted on fried pickles right up until show time. I got to spend this particular show with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while which was more memorable for me than any specific moment or song.

Most memorable show moment: getting to hear "I Don't Want to Go Home" for the first time on tour, complete with Zac's PG-13 altered first verse.

The bus crowd after the show was a little wild and we wound up leaving before any of Hanson came out. Someone from one of the 20+ bachelorette parties had an inflatable doll that was pretty inappropriate for the little girl standing next to it, and someone had the weirdest fan sign I’ve ever seen in my life. It featured Zac’s face and body photoshopped in next to what I assume was a picture of the girl holding the sign, and both were in a laying/sleeping position. It read “I’ll be With You In Your Dreams,” and I hope there was a better explanation than the ones going through my mind when I saw it.

We got some sleep after Nashville and headed to Birmingham the following morning. It was scorching hot for the first half of the day and poured rain in the afternoon. My umbrella did double duty protecting me from the sun and the rain, and I felt justified in my packing choices when I got to break out the rain boots and rain jacket. Several people told me I reminded them of “It” because of my yellow jacket and red umbrella reminiscent of Georgie’s iconic single red balloon. I bought it all before the remake came out, I swear. We played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed UNO with some strangers in line, because why not? I wish I had exchanged info with the girls because they were really nice.

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The crowd at the Birmingham show was a little rowdy. One of our UNO friends had a M&G but got pushed out of front row by someone that came in after them, so that was really disappointing to find out. Someone passed out in the middle of the crowd before the show even started, and a police officer who was there got called over to deal with some mild argument about a 2nd row spot. After that, the officer ended up stepping up on the barricade and passing out bottled water because it was packed and and getting hot.

Most memorable show moment: getting to hear “A Song to Sing” in place of “With You In Your Dreams.” 

The bus crowd after this particular show trumps my previous weirdest bus experience in Phoenix from last tour. Everyone was loud and excited and quite possibly drunk. Zac came out first and playfully screamed at the crowd which just riled everybody up more and made them scream back louder. I was standing on an end past where the barricade ended, and when he came our way there was a surge from behind and I almost got pushed into him. I got pushed so far into his personal bubble that I ended up just turning my back to him for lack of anywhere else to go while he tried to reach for items to autograph from the people behind us. It was too crazy out there to try to trade places with people and take turns like I would in a calmer situation.

Here's exhibit A of what I mean: When I turned to face the crowd behind me, I realized that a fan I didn’t recognize had her arm wrapped around my friend Holly’s neck, cell phone in hand, trying to angle her phone just right to get Zac in the background of a selfie. Holly had a confused and shocked look on her face, and I blurted out something to the effect of “Can you let my friend go? I want her to live.” The girl immediately let go and apologized profusely; turns out she was just so excited at seeing Zac that she honestly didn’t realize she had snaked her arm around Holly’s neck and was close to choking her in the process. I lost it at that point and felt right at home in the chaos standing there laughing so hard I was crying and snorting with my back completely turned to the reason I was out there in the first place. Security had a little bit of a better handle on things by the time Taylor came out next, but I watched him sign a tree-shaped air freshener with a reaction like it was just another copy of any of their albums, so I can’t say it got any less weird. Isaac came out last and made me cry laughing again with a single sentence: “Sorry guys, Taylor definitely won’t be coming out tonight." That's funny, I could have sworn I just watched him smell someone's autograph.

We ended up walking to Waffle House because we were starving and apparently not ready for the weirdness to end. Our waitress had a nametag that said "Baby Mama," and that is indeed what everyone was calling her. A homeless man came inside carrying a bouquet of flowers and tried to offer it to the staff and then some other customers and told us he had just taken them from a hospital. All of our meals were supposed to include bacon, but Baby Mama asked my friends if it was okay if I got the last piece because the kitchen ran out. Then another homeless man came in asking for food and said he didn't mind if it was sautéed, grilled, or filleted (in that order!), and we started side-eying him hard for accurately quoting "Dance Like You Don't Care."

And people ask me why I go to the same show over and over again. This could never get boring even without an ounce of music.

October 2, 2017

MOE Tour: New Orleans

New Orleans was one of my favorite shows of the trip; I guess my first show usually is. One of my friends that I went with got a M&G so the rest of us opted to camp for front row to make sure we would all be together. It was a colorful experience to say the least, though not my best or worst camping experience by a long shot. The weirdness peaked when a lady walked up and asked who we were waiting for. Someone answered “Hanson.” “Oh yeah?" She says. "I’m a breast cancer survivor. See?” and pulled up her shirt before we could reply. I turned my head and thought it felt mildly appropriate that we would get flashed in New Orleans of all places. I thought it was too bad we didn't have any mardi gras beads on us, and maybe that was an insensitive thought under the circumstances, but my sympathy begins and ends somewhere between abstract conversation and unwanted physical proof. I can only guess that maybe she misheard and thought we said “cancer” rather than “Hanson,” but really I couldn’t tell you why admitting we were waiting for Hanson would lead to that reaction. It’s just part of the weird territory that comes with the risk of camping, I guess, or an excellent hearing aid ad. I'm sure it's also reason enough not to camp if that's not your thing.

Taylor and Isaac took the time to come off of the bus and say hi to everyone in line a few hours before doors. They recorded a little bit of Isaac greeting people in footage that we'll probably never see, and they talked about how much they appreciated all of us coming out to the show and how they wanted to do something special for all of the fan club members with the fan club line this tour. Taylor asked me point blank what time I got in line, and I considered lying or at least telling him that I felt like I should lie, but the truth came tumbling out before I could form a wittier response. At least I didn't ramble about the flasher, though it's here now for their reading pleasure should they ever come across it. It's no real secret what we all go through for a great spot at any given show anyway.

Strange line experiences aside, the show was a great start to the tour for us. “Madeline” acoustic was an instant highlight of the night because of the perfect harmonies. Taylor gave a nice little speech about “Strong Enough to Break” and how they knew they could make it as a band because they had already met us fans and knew we would support them. Truthfully I don’t know exactly what he said that night vs. any other night; it’s a speech important enough that he repeated some variation of it every night. It was still meaningful to hear and I think it’s very true that the loyalty of their fans has been an undeniable part of their continued success. I haven’t personally been around to support them since those early years back in 2003-2004 when they broke from their label, but I’m proud to be here now and happy to see their appreciation for how far they’ve come and how they’ve made it to where they are today.

They switched up the setlist a little by adding in a fun cover of “In a Little While” inspired by their own visit to a U2 concert the night before, and “I Was Born” was easily 20x better than when they performed it at Hop Jam earlier this year. I found out this tour that something about "I Was Born" live just puts me in a great mood every single time. I definitely needed it every night after frequent exposure to “With You In Your Dreams," and it felt kind of like being handed a giant piece of chocolate after the dementors are gone.

I don’t normally take videos during shows, but Rockin’ Robin acapella was too good not to share with my non-fan friends back home and felt like a good moment to let a video do some no-explanation needed bragging for Hanson's harmonies.

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We were starving after the show, so we opted to go eat rather than attend the afterparty (crawfish etouffe ftw!). It was still going on by the time we finished and walked back, so we got to attend the last 30 minutes or so. Isaac was hanging at the bar and everyone was dancing and having a good time rather than standing around staring at Taylor. I think by that point everyone who came to gawk had either left or gotten enough drinks in them to loosen up. I walked up towards a big empty space a few rows from the front for just a moment to take ONE picture, just one of the setup, and Taylor immediately pointed in my direction and demanded that I/we/whatever other guilty stand-still parties were in my immediate vicinity “dance! Don’t just stand there!” and started talking about how he didn’t care how stupid we looked as long as we were moving and having a good time. I took it as my cue to drop the phone back in my pocket and disappear back into the shadows in the back of the crowd rather than my cue to bust a move in the spotlight. I'm a little more "Look at You" and a lot less "Give a Little" these days. #standingintheshadows #maybeIcoulddisappear

The Middle of Everywhere Tour

My first (and longest) stretch of the Middle of Everywhere Tour began with seven shows in the southeast. I drove from my house in South Carolina to a friend in Nashville, left my car there, and did the rest out of her car before driving myself back home at the end. I managed to cover 9 states and 4,800 miles in the 11 days of the trip, miraculously without ever leaving the southeast and without ever setting foot on an airplane (that’s more than the distance it would take to drive from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S. and back if anyone is counting). It definitely wasn’t the most logical or time-efficient routing, but I had a blast driving circles around my favorite band with some of my favorite people with the added bonus of TSA not being around to tell me to consolidate my liquids. It was all well worth the mileage.

I knew from the beginning not to get my hopes up about the setlist being particularly special or surprising. The nature of a tour to support a Greatest Hits album was always going to be a heavy focus on singles and songs that have been setlist staples for years. That being said, I still surprised myself a little by falling in love with the set. If you haven’t seen a show on this tour yet and want to remain surprised, maybe skip this post and check it out later.

The setlist felt like there was a clear division of three parts. Part one opened with a fairly energetic and upbeat set of classic Hanson songs like TTA, “Where’s the Love,” and “Waiting for This.” The second part transitioned into a more mellow, ballad-filled midsection (“Go,” “Weird,” “With You In Your Dreams,” etc.). My favorite part of every night was the end (how’s that for irony?). There was a clear turning point with “I Was Born” where the show really takes off and goes from calm and reflective to all of my favorite things about a Hanson show—jumping, clapping, dancing, and so much sweat that the finale should always be a shower. I may be off base, but the choice to use "I Was Born" as that turning point to take the set from somber to electric feels a little symbolic of their career and this tour, like everything up until that point was a nice look back at the past, but here's our new song and we’re still going full speed ahead. "Fired Up" has a special place in my heart this tour and I'd be fine hearing that version performed every night for the rest of Hanson history. Every show ended on a high note without a single hint of nostalgia, for me at least. Or maybe I just like the idea that whatever Hanson does next, it will feel every bit as energized and passionate as Taylor gets during "Fired Up" and "In the City." They had me convinced it will.

Maybe you completely disagree and were disappointed by a setlist full of the same singles night after night. You’re probably not alone if you were. At the risk of sounding jaded or preachy, I think I can honestly say I’m a little bit past the hunt for rare songs. I’m not immune to that excitement and probably never will be; I do have a list of songs I’ve heard live and how many times and I’m still thrilled to add to it, but those additions are much fewer and further between now, and I think there comes a point when you’ve basically heard everything and you go back to just being really happy to hear the songs you love with the people you care about. This tour was that for me, a celebration of all of my favorite parts of a Hanson show. They’ve completely spoiled us this time, and I’m not sure how I’ll ever go back to having an opener or two or feeling like the show is over at 19 or 20 songs after finishing out night after night of 27-29 songs and over two hours of uninterrupted Hanson on the MOE tour.

I'll post a review of each show "soon" once I can wrap my head around everything I want to say, and probably after I get rid of this nasty cold I picked up on the road like I always do. You can keep an eye on the blog or check back at the bottom of this post for links. And if you haven't made it to a show yet this tour? Drink plenty of water, pack your comfortable shoes, and don't forget to live in the moment because this band offers so much more than a great instagram story.

New Orleans, LA
Nashville, TN
Birmingham, AL
St. Petersburg, FL
Atlanta, GA
DO GO BE: Let's Get Fired Up
Raleigh, NC
Norfolk, VA

Part 2:
Minneapolis, MN

Part 3:
Anaheim, CA
Los Angeles, CA