March 28, 2019

String Theory: Canberra & Gold Coast

Trying to write about the last half of the Australian String Theory Tour feels like a bigger challenge now that I’ve thoroughly gushed over the Sydney shows. The fact is Hanson nailed every show, and that kind of leaves me with nothing to say that isn’t going to sound repetitive. I’ve already shared several in-depth reviews, and I’m not going to try to invent fluffy new adjectives for “Battlecry” 13 shows in. If you don’t know how awesome it is by now—do yourself a favor and get to Tulsa or Buffalo, buy the album, or go the completely free route and search #hansonstringtheory on instragram. (Good luck weeding through roughly 90 billion recordings of “MMMBop” first, though.)

Canberra and Gold Coast felt almost interchangeable to me thanks to unintentionally winding up with almost identical third row Zac seats for both shows. Add in the fact that both crowds rushed the stage during “No Rest For the Weary,” and I legitimately can’t separate some of the minor details to know which happened at which show.

The one thing that definitely sets the two apart for me is the ice cream incident at the Canberra Theatre. Imagine this: You’re attending a String Theory show, and for reasons you can’t explain, you’re absolutely starving about four songs in. Like stomach growling, actual painful level of hungry even though you ate dinner. You find yourself shamefully looking forward to intermission just so you can run to the concessions area and grab a snack so that your stomach will calm down and let you enjoy the second half of the show in peace. You get there as fast as you can, but a hundred other people were faster, so you go back to your seat hangry and empty-handed. As you’re relaying all of this to the friend that thought you got lost going to the bathroom, you spot…ice cream vendors? That can’t be real at an orchestra show. You almost wonder if you’re having some kind of hunger-induced desert mirage hallucination, but no, it's dessert and no mirage. There are real employees with coolers strapped around their shoulders wandering up and down the aisles holding up ice cream bars as if you’re seeing The Braves rather than String Theory. You flag one down and within moments, you’re having ice cream brought directly to your seat and feeling smugly superior to that long concessions line.

The only downside was we couldn’t finish them before the second half started, so suddenly we’re those people in the third row eating ice cream on a stick during a formal orchestra show. I have to say that trying to eat an ice cream bar with a crunchy chocolate shell during “Reaching For The Sky” is actually super awkward and somewhat difficult. I quickly realized that biting it would not be an option at all during such a quiet song, which left me with the challenge of at least keeping it from melting all over me until I could take a bite. I dared to glance at my friend to confirm that she was having the same dilemma, so then we became the people eating ice cream and stifling laughter. Forget the challenge of clapping on beat; try timing all the crunchy parts of a rapidly melting ice cream bar with the beat of TTA. Thanks to the Canberra Theatre, "Eat to the Beat" now has an entirely new meaning for me that has nothing to do with Epcot. I'm torn between now always wanting ice cream at shows and hoping this never happens again.

As for the stage rushing, I’m not a fan at all, and I didn’t participate (granted if I’d had a front row seat, I'm sure I would have jumped up in the rush to make sure I kept it). I know there was some chatter during the U.K. tour about whether or not it's okay to rush the stage, and most fans seemed to be in agreement that it's disrespectful and inappropriate. I'm not sure if the crowds at these shows didn't share that opinion, or if they found themselves reacting differently when faced with the option in real life, but a few fans bolted full-speed down the aisle in Canberra starting an actual stampede, and people were climbing over seats around me to get closer in Gold Coast. The poor staff looked completely overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do. I noticed at least one girl who had been in a front row seat was suddenly 3-4 people deep, and one mom was climbing seats trying to get back to her younger daughter who made it up front with a drumsticks sign in the mad dash.  (Further unpopular opinion- please don't let your adult-height kid hold a three-foot poster above her head for 15 minutes. It's nice that she got drumsticks, but I couldn't see Zac for the last several songs, and I'm sure the people directly behind her saw nothing at all). In all honesty and despite my own personal feelings, Hanson didn't really react. They definitely didn't prompt people to do it beyond their usual "let's pick things up" cue to stand, but they didn't discourage it after it happened, either.

At one point in Gold Coast I turned to look around the room as Hanson was about to give their final speech before bowing, and some woman (let's call her "Sloppy Susan", because apparently I predicted this behavior) was standing in a seat a few rows behind me shouting “IT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!” at the top of her lungs. Then Taylor said “I’m so glad you mentioned that; why don’t you come up and tell us a little bit about it?” Just kidding. That only happened in her head. In the real world, I looked at her like she was nuts, Hanson ignored her, and I heard her mumbling “Well, it would’ve been a good announcement to make” as she climbed down from the chair in defeat. If you really care, maybe quit mistaking row J of a symphony performance for your own personal Facebook wall and go do something to raise positive awareness instead.

The shows were good, but the ending of both felt more like a zoo than the actual zoo did, and I’m kind of okay with String Theory coming to an end for now if this is going to be the new norm. I should only ever dread the end of a show because it's over, and not because I fear for an inevitable stampede that I'm either going to have to watch angrily or contribute to the problem myself with an "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality. Both options feel more like a fail than some energy-filled crowd unity thing to me. Regardless of however Hanson feels about it (and we're all just speculating unless Zac decides to give us a "How To Fanson @ String Theory Pt. 2" post), I still find it extremely inconsiderate, and I really hope the Tulsa crowd will be more respectful to each other.

On the tourist side of things, we got to see the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra where Australia's coins are made, Kangaroos lounging in a friend's backyard, and beaches we probably would have enjoyed more if it wasn't so cloudy in Gold Coast. I got to drive in a parking lot for about 30 exciting seconds, though I'm convinced I never need to try this on an actual road. I fully enjoyed my first authentic Tim Tam slam complete with a glass of Milo and am thankful to my Aussie hosts for showing me how it's done. I'm always down to try chocolate milk products, and there are definite bonus points if I'm getting to use a chocolate cookie as a straw.

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