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?