October 10, 2021

Listener's Choice: ATW + Concert Series

When You Have No Flight To Guide You

Welcome to the trip that almost didn't happen. I'd like to start by giving a shoutout to American Airlines for having more cancellations in one day than Hanson had in all of 2020. What a truly remarkable accomplishment.

I started out with a flight to Tulsa the night before the first show. As in, about 24 hours early. As in, if anything goes wrong there should be a multitude of other options and plenty of time to get me there. Wrong.

First, my flight from my home airport was delayed. No big deal; I go to the counter and they're able to switch me to a later connection that still gets me to Tulsa about 1.5 hours after my original flight. I'm all set...until the flight from my home airport gets "delayed" until 6am the next morning due to maintenance. My first thought is okay this sucks, but that's still plenty of time to get in tomorrow afternoon, and if I'm going to be stuck overnight somewhere, I might as well be stuck at home.

Then things get crazy. First, I get an email saying I've been automatically rebooked on a new flight and telling me there are other rebooking options if what they gave me didn't work. What they gave me was a flight that landed during the first show...in a city in Arkansas? So apparently that's a thing now, canceling your flight and sending you to an adjacent city. When I speak with an agent they tell me that the news is grim and that even looking at all options from their partnerships with other airlines, there are no flights that can get me to Tulsa until 11:30pm the following night. AFTER the first show. I tell them I'm willing to drive a few hours to a different airport if needed, but the results are the same. There's nothing in a 200 mile radius from home that can get me to Tulsa before that first show. I even check outside airlines, well aware that I'd just have to pay for another flight out of pocket, but the results are no better. The universe does not want me in Tulsa on October 1st.

Thankfully, my friend that lives in Tulsa is a part-time superhero and offers to pick me up in a different city if I can get to another airport in the vicinity of Tulsa. I have the agent check the next closest airport to her. Still nothing. So after four hours in the airport, I give up and let them rebook me on the 11:30pm flight the following night and walk out close to tears, resigned to accept the fact that if I'm lucky, I'll get ONE show.

I'm in my car about a block from the airport when I get a call from my friend telling me that she found a flight to Kansas City that she can drive to that would get me in that same night. The kicker: the flight is at 8pm. I look at my clock and it is 7:20 and I'm no longer in the airport. I activate illegal U-turn mode. I call customer service and by some miracle, someone answers on the first ring and confirms that there are seats on both flights if I want it. I tell her YES, put me on that flight, and explain that I am running back into the airport as we speak. She goes "Wait, you’re not in the airport? What time is it in your time zone?", and when I tell her, she tries to talk me out of it and says that the flight is already boarding and I still have to make it through security and they might not let me board. She tells me that if she changes my flight and I don't make it, then I've also lost the other flight for the following night. I tell her to do it anyway, she reluctantly listens, and I sprint through security and thank God for southern hospitality as I dash past the few people in line, asking their permission while I'm already ahead of them. They all give me encouragement and tell me "GO! You're going to make it!"

I'm the last person on the flight, but I do make it. I message my friends that the crisis is averted, sorry for the long drive ahead, but see you tonight after all, etc. I go to put my phone in airplane mode at the same time I get a notification from my airline app: flight number whatever to Kansas City has been canceled. We're taking off and I'm now on a plane to nowhere useful because I no longer have a connection and it's too late to deplane. I desperately message my friends and tell them please look for anything else while I fly.

Once I'm in the air long enough to get wifi, I see that my friends have miraculously found a flight into Oklahoma City, which is even closer to Tulsa than my canceled Kansas City flight. I spend the whole short flight terrified that there won't be a free seat for me, but my luck takes a positive turn and I manage to get a seat on this savior of a flight. Suddenly I'm back on track to get to Tulsa the same night, and my friends get to cut their drive in half. It's a win-win. I get to the Oklahoma City gate with plenty of time...only to see another message that says "Delayed" with no new ETA for takeoff. We wait 30 minutes, then an hour past takeoff time while maintenance tries to figure out what's wrong. Finally somebody comes to the counter and tells us the plane won't be able to take off until 7am the following morning, BUT, they have us a new plane in another terminal, we just have to get over there and wait for them to do safety checks and we'll be on our way. THANK GOD.

We all make the trek across the airport and wait. And wait. And then we're being told that maintenance will have an updated boarding time for us soon because of course there’s some maintenance issue with this new plane too, and then I'm cackling out loud by myself in a crowd of people because literally what else is there left for me to do? I've just spent a combined 8 hours in two airports and I'm only 150 miles from home. I could have driven to this airport in less than half that time.

We finally, FINALLY take off, everyone around me grumbling at the super late arrival time, and I'm just discreetly grinning under my mask because I really had resigned myself to not seeing the first show. My friends pick me up and we find ourselves eating gas station hot dogs and taquitos at 3am, get to our hotel at 4am, and don't actually go to bed until 5. It's the most obnoxiously real "tour" thing that has happened since 2017, and I love it.

Here We Go Round Again

We all bent over backwards to get me there, so the only thing left to do is gush over how worth it all that effort was. Right? The truth is I had a lot of fun, but I was also a little disappointed by the setlists being the exact same songs both nights, and it reminded me a lot of how I felt after the first BTTI: happy to be there, underwhelmed by the setlist repeats, and then guilty for not just being happy. My expectations were probably too high for these shows because I really loved the January Listener's Choice series and the fact that Hanson snuck a few surprises into those sets. I had no real reason to think this would be the same, but I was expecting at least a little deviation from the voting and was definitely not expecting all of the same songs twice. I can’t help but wonder if maybe it was a case of Hanson knowing we all loved the January Listener’s Choice shows but not really understanding why we loved them so much and missing the mark while trying to replicate it. I can’t speak for the class, but I think the positive reaction to the first Listener's Choice overall had less to do with us getting to vote and more to do with what we got to vote on, the extras Hanson brought on their own, and the fact that the shows weren’t identical.

Only Love

Rest assured, despite the disappointments, I can still muster up some of my usual cheesy praise: The mere existence of the piano in “Crazy Beautiful” is a work of art in itself. “If Only” acoustic feels a little bit like trying to feed myself ice cream with my non-dominant hand while wearing my shoes on the wrong feet because it’s so foreign not to be jumping, but I love it despite the innate feeling of wrongness. I'm considering converting to the church of Isaac every time I hear “Only Love.” I'm pretty sure the guitar part of "Don't Ever Change" actually changes every time, but I love the feel of that song and the ridiculous strobe lights it's necessary to switch on my light up mask when it gets played. Also, “Stronger” is the best song of 2021 so far and is so gorgeous and raw that I may be at risk for salmonella.

Just As Long As I Get To Go

In conclusion, attending an underwhelming Hanson show is still better than attending no Hanson show, and I had fun regardless of the setlist, I just wish I could be writing a different blog about how I had fun because of the setlist and not despite it. In the grand scheme of things it's an absurdly first-world problem, and sometimes you have to actively choose to get over yourself and have a good time and turn down the tempting option to have a pity party instead. Poor me, getting to attend multiple shows and having to hear a bunch of songs I like TWICE. I think I'll survive.

On a happy note, one of my favorite moments was getting to hear “Carry You There” at the end of the first night, partly because I was so happy it beat WYIYD, and partly because it felt like an anthem for this trip that almost didn’t happen. I found myself giggling during “You don’t need a Cadillac,” because after my flight experience, I SO needed a Cadillac. I’m grateful to have friends that are caring and crazy enough to drop everything and drive to carry me there in the middle of the night just to make sure I don’t have any FOMO and miss something epic during the first show (#irony). Now let’s pretend I’m just as grateful to have a favorite band considerate enough to play the same show twice in case I really did have to miss the first one. 

September 4, 2021

Against The World

Welcome to another edition of ex-English teacher Hanson fan gets carried away analyzing lyrics and seeing connections between songs.

You don't have to read my past posts about "Tonight" and "Feeling Alive" to make sense of this review, but at the very least you'll need a TL;DR summary: "Tonight" is about a band that feels defeated and is struggling not to throw in the towel and give up. "Feeling Alive" is a continuation of said band having made it through that rough night to the next morning and feeling ready to fight together and push forward.

Thematically, I think "Against The World" fits nicely into a grouping with these two songs as well as "This Time Around." I won't draw you another Venn Diagram, but all of them have similar themes of going into a battle and being willing to protect something that's worth fighting for, regardless of the potential outcome.

I love, love, love the lyrics in ATW because they manage to tell the story of an underdog band striving to keep going in the face of difficulty (oh hi, Cliffs Notes String Theory!) while also being full of references to Hanson's past work (which in itself feels like some meta connection to all the Hanson references in "Tonight." What can I say--Hanson aren't the only ones who like to reach). The word nerd in me is in love with the first line of the song which somehow manages to be an entirely new lyric while mashing up references to two past ones:

"If tonight we reach, it won't be for the first time." = "Tonight is the first night, tonight is the last night." + "I am reaching for the sky."

They're saying that they're no strangers to "reaching" for something more, which is evident if you know anything about Hanson's history and past songs. The first verse talks about belonging with the "restless," the "rebels," and the "dreamers." It's vague enough to apply to just about any scenario where people persevere in the face of obstacles because they feel driven by a passion, but I think it fits well with casting them in the company of other musicians who have been cut by the metaphorical rock 'n' roll razorblade. "Only the good die young" is certainly a Billy Joel reference, and I may be reading too much into "Landslide" being a reference to Fleetwood Mac, but it definitely tips me in the direction of interpreting this whole verse as Hanson feeling a kinship with other hardworking artists.

The second verse reminds me the most of that drive to fight in "Feeling Alive" and also has connections to "Reaching For The Sky" with its mention of climbing a ladder despite having reservations. They're not that Broken Angel from pre-Underneath anymore--or rather, they're not going to allow themselves to be defined by it--and they aren't going to let some broken wings stop them from jumping in and giving it everything they've got.

The final chorus is the most reminiscent of "Tonight" with the subtle lyric change from "If tonight we reach, it won't be for the first time" to "But tonight we reach, it might be for the last time." It's a shift from saying "IF we reach" to a more definite "Tonight we reach," but shifts the uncertainty to the outcome. The line "Can't swear we'll still be standing at sunrise" means they know that they might not win, but they think it's worth the fight anyway. Know what else says that? "Tonight I won't stand still, even if we don't survive" and "Don't wait for tomorrow's daylight, 'cause it just might be tonight." And if they don't win? Well, you can't say they didn't give it their all.

One of my favorite parts is the very end when Taylor's singing "I hear you say, let me hear you say it's just you and me and us against the world." Even though it comes after about a dozen repetitions of that title line and might be brushed off as typical Hanson phrasing variation, I can't help but notice that for the first time in the song, it sounds like he's speaking directly to the audience. In all the other choruses it's easy to believe that "It's just you and me and us against the world" might be the band singing to each other; it's Hanson vs. the world. But that ending, that "I hear you say, let me hear you say" feels like tearing down the fourth wall and inviting the audience just like he calls for a lifting of hands and voices in "Feeling Alive." Suddenly we're invited to be part of the "Us," and we're a much larger force to be reckoned with than three guys on their own. It feels like a thanks for sticking by them even when it hasn't been easy and crediting a little bit of their drive to keep going to fans that have done the same.

It also hit me that "you and me and us" is lyrically parallel to "me myself and I" and further highlights the difference between giving up because you're feeling alone and soldiering on when you have someone to fight beside you. I have no idea if that was intentional, but it was a beautiful coincidence if not.

It's a great song worthy of its title track position. If only I didn't need Dramamine to accompany the music video.

P.S. I have no excuse for thinking the first chorus sounds like Wilson Phillips, but it was my first reaction the moment it started playing, and I am here for that sound. 

August 29, 2021

I Get Around: Iowa State Fair

I had no intention of being at this show. When it was announced well over a year ago alongside the possibility of a world tour with new music, I told myself I'd rather save my PTO for something more worth the effort. Why spend money on a flight to Iowa for a one-off show with a predictable setlist when I could buy a flight to a tour stop, potentially hit 5+ shows in a row, and get new music? It was an easy pass for me.

Fast forward to the summer of 2021. Out of my last 17 shows, 16 were at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. I'm grateful for every one of them, but suddenly the prospect of seeing Hanson open for the Beach Boys in Iowa seemed downright exotic. Throw in an unexpected John Stamos appearance, and two weeks before the show, my resolve to hold out crumbled. The only problem was I had already requested off part of the week right before to see Hanson in Tulsa again. I would have to make a last minute time off request and also somehow operate as a functional adult at work on about three weeks of no actual downtime. I started to talk myself out of it as fast as I had gotten on board.

The deciding factor came down to one final question that I asked myself, a variation of the same question I've used more than once to push myself to do/go/be when I'm starting to question if I should stop/stay/rest:

Years from now, are you going to remember that extra day of sleep, or are you going to remember the night you saw Hanson join The Beach Boys and John Stamos on stage?

It works every time.

I'd love to tell you that we showed up early and enjoyed the food and the rides and say clever things about how we had the perfect summer day where Hanson opened for The Beach Boys, and the fair opened for Hanson. But truthfully, it was hot and crowded in the middle of a pandemic, and as I get older my motion sickness on rides grows inversely proportional to my trust in fair construction, so we showed up at 5:30pm just in time to find a secluded corner to eat a corndog. 

Hanson's set was mostly as predictable as I would have guessed over a year ago, but just seeing them that happy and getting to be there to support them made it something special anyway. They played longer than I expected for an opener and got in a full 13 songs. Highlights for me were getting to hear "Give a Little" for the first time in what feels like way too long, and living through the awkward moment of attempting the TBS dance alone since I bought my ticket too late to sit with friends. It's definitely more of a group project. I was surprised that they didn't play any of the new singles from Against The World, but I got to hear them all the week before and really can't complain. I just thought it was a good opportunity to share their new music with a larger audience.

I really wasn't sure what to expect from The Beach Boys set, but the show was incredibly fun. They blew through song after song with a full ten-piece band including John Stamos on drums and guitar, one of the original member's sons, and a guy that can really nail an unexpected flute solo. The whole crowd sang along, and it was impossible not to join in and dance like we were all going to be in a music video about surfing.

I expected Hanson to show up for the encore, but I did not expect the encore to be three songs or for one of them to be a Hanson song. They started out with "Summertime Blues," and I immediately thought of the videos I've seen of tiny Hanson singing it a capella. Next was "Where's The Love" where The Beach Boys band played the music and Hanson provided the vocals. I know Taylor usually gets in the occasional "round and round" arm spin on WTL, but it was cute seeing the whole band get into it for lack of anything else to do with their hands. (Cue Taylor making dad puns and pointing to Mike Love after saying "Where's The Love".)

"Fun, Fun, Fun" was the highlight of the night with Taylor singing lead and Hanson looking so gleeful to be up there with musicians they've clearly admired since childhood. At one point John Stamos disappeared, then ran out to the front center of the stage and opened his jacket to reveal an old school Hanson shirt to the crowd. We ate it up, and I think Hanson was really enjoying the love and antics as well. 

I feel like this blog is starting to sound like the song title with the amount of times I've used the word "fun," but it really, really was. It was great to see everyone on stage and in the crowd having such a good time and enjoying what felt like a celebration of live music together, regardless of who we actually came to see or what decade we were born. I'm glad I got to experience The Beach Boys and a moment of music history that will never happen in that same way again. Getting to see an older band show up decades after their original hits and still filling the stands with fans spanning several generations was as treat that I can only hope is a glimpse into our own future. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be looking up at 80-year-old Hanson, surrounded by fans of a younger band and feeling connected by a timeless love of good music, and I'll think back on this day.

Whether I have that luxury or not, I certainly won't be 80-years-old looking back on that fantastic night of sleep I got in my 30s (if only because I've deprived myself of most of them). No regrets.

August 27, 2021

Underneath & The Walk: ATW + Concert Series

While I love being a “traveling fan” and all of the fun and memorable things that go along with following a band, I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. I’m no stranger to sacrificing sleep and downtime in order to chase another show, and as a result, out of the past 26 days of August, I have spent exactly one resting at home. I’m on day eight of eight work days in a row, and I’ve been ready for a nap far more times than I’ve been ready to write this blog. Spoiler: I’ve had time for neither. I don’t usually like to wait this long before writing a show review because I start to forget things, but sometimes life and Uncle Jesse get in the way. Thank God this post has been far more delayed than any of my recent flights, at least.

I knew when the ATW + Concert Series was announced that I should try to reign myself in and not go to every show. I skipped July, but I knew that if I made it to just one set, it would have to be August because Underneath and The Walk are my two favorite albums. I’ll spare you the story I’ve already told of how I rediscovered Hanson, but the main point is that Underneath has sentimental value to me as the album that drew me back in, and The Walk feels important because it was the first album since MON that I was around for in its entirety. I got to pre-order it, listen to it the day it dropped, and experience my first tour with it. Both played significant roles in me becoming a life-long fan.

Since it has already been a few weeks since these shows and it’s always hard to summarize every detail even if they happened yesterday, I thought a list format might be best for this one. Here are a few of my takeaways:

1) When you're sleep deprived and laying at a certain spot on the sidewalk in front of Cain's, and the sun is at just the right angle, the building being constructed across the street totally resembles the building on the Against the World cover. Kind of.

2) HOLY CHAIRS. Did we get old, or did back to back shows in the same city just make bringing chairs easier than usual? Whether they were rented or brought from home by those who drove, almost every single person in line had a chair. I really mean this, and it was bizarre. I’ve waited in plenty of Hanson lines and there are always a few chairs, but they are usually in the minority. This time I was in the minority sitting on the ground. I’m okay being the outlier because I know I can’t bring a chair with me to any other shows, so I might as well not get too comfortable (also, I may or may not have packed a small cot, so can I really talk about excess camping luxuries?) #whenyougetoldandstartusingachair

3) Speaking of camping, if you are a light sleeper, you will not sleep here. This was my first time attempting it in Tulsa, and OMG, it was SO LOUD! There’s an overpass right next to the venue, and it stays busy and full of big trucks all night long. The second night I intentionally moved further away from it, but was instead accosted by—I kid you not—a small tornado of empty pizza boxes rotating loudly against the sidewalk for what felt like hours. Earplugs and ZZZQuil weren’t enough to get me more than a combined two hours of sleep either night. Not sure I’ll ever do that again, but those are famous last words, so no promises.

4) I was happy to hear “Dancing In The Wind” for the first time in what felt like forever, but I definitely missed Taylor on electric guitar. (thankfully those pizza boxes waited until the following night to traumatize me, so I wasn’t stuck thinking about them dancing in the wind during this song)

5) “Broken Angel” and “Believe” were absolutely flawless, and I will continue to be a sucker for a piano ballad for the rest of forever.

6) The first chords of “Great Divide” opening up a show might be the single most nostalgic sound in the Hanson catalog for me. The only thing missing was this throwback that will make no sense to you if you didn’t attend the first leg of the original Walk Tour.

7) Isaac’s solo of “A Minute Without You” on the second night is probably my new favorite performance of AMWY ever. This one requires an actual longer story. When it was time for solos, Isaac came out and started “Deeper,” which was confusing for two reasons: 1. “Deeper” is not on The Walk, and 2. “Deeper” IS on Underneath, and as such, was already played the night before. He didn't make it very far before he stopped, laughed, and admitted that he was playing the wrong song. (It felt like a great throwback to the very first BTTI where Isaac did the opposite and accidentally started playing "Wish That I Was There" instead of “Deeper.” Something about this song calls for entertaining mishaps.)

He switched to AMWY instead, which still wasn’t on “The Walk” and only made slightly more sense, but I’m just here for a good time and not to make setlists, so what do I know? The thing about AMWY, though, is we all know every piece of it by heart and have been singing along for decades. If you take Taylor out of the equation, we don’t stop knowing where to sing the “Oh, yeahs!” And if you take out the drums, the electric guitars, the piano, and just strip it down to an acoustic guitar with a single voice—apparently we don’t change the volume we’re used to singing at, either. So when Isaac asked us to join in some crowd participation to back him up, we did. We sang one particular “oh yeah” back so enthusiastically that he stopped playing and said we were so loud that it made him forget the words. It made for a good laugh and I think set us all on an unspoken goal to continue to sing even louder for the rest of the song. Challenge accepted.

8) It felt like Hanson had really practiced and prepared to bring their best for both of these shows. I watched the livestreams in July and noticed several missed lyrics and chords, particularly on the new songs, but they were MUCH more polished this time. These were solid A+ shows to be proud of.

9) I know I can't keep acting like every show after a year's worth of seated tables is the closest thing I've had to normal, but being back in a GA crowd in Cain's did feel a little more like a normal Hanson show than the seated show in Virginia. The moment that really sealed it for me was dancing elbow to elbow during "Lost Without Each Other" and not being able to let loose with an awkwardly excessive amount of room to spare. I was able to disappear back into the comfort and "safety" of a crowd without 6 feet of dancing space on all sides (ironic, huh?), and there was something nice about that even if I loved the spaced out tables for other reasons. Totally missed that space for TBS, though.

10) Cheesecake factory closes at 10pm. I'm putting this here in hopes that one day, we will remember this fact well before 9:45pm, which in my experience is the peak time to recognize a sudden need for Cheesecake Factory.

11) I can always count on Hanson to make my face light up. 💚💙❤️

August 12, 2021

#FiredUp: How To Be A Decent Human

The original version of this post has been the source of a few disagreements. I will not apologize for standing up for my friend, but I hate to think that the words and the method that I chose to use may have led some to miss the very important point I was trying to make. I’d like to cut out anything that leaves room for disagreement and present you with all that I know to be 100% fact. If you don’t agree with everything below, I have nothing left to say to you.

So here are the facts: If you are are gossiping about a disabled person and calling into question the authenticity of their disability, you need to do better. If you are scheming about who might be using ADA and how it will affect you, you need to do better. If you are contacting a venue and discussing someone else’s disability without their consent, you need to do better. If you resent a disabled person for using the accommodations legally provided to them, you need to do better. If you are joking about how “nice” or convenient it must be to have a disability to get early entry, you need to do better. If you have ever faked a disability, causing others to question the validity of those with real needs, you need to do better. If you witness someone behaving this way and recognize that it is wrong, but still say nothing to them, you need to do better. If you are defending someone who is behaving this way, you need to do better. 

Yes, there are a million other ways we can all improve to become our best selves, but this post is not about any of them. This is about pointing out a specific issue within this fan base that I was blind to until it affected one of my close friends, and I’m sorry for anyone with a disability who has ever experienced the above treatment or worse. I hope that by pointing it out, we can examine our behavior and the behavior of those around us a little more carefully, and that in the future, we do what’s necessary to put an end to it if we catch ourselves or others judging someone based on a disability.

July 15, 2021

Against The World: Only Love

Lyrically, "Only Love" is my favorite single yet from Against The World. I swear I fell in love with it a little more every time I looked over the lyrics while trying to write this post. That's not to say I don't also love the sound, but the word nerd in me can't get enough of how much is packed into these lyrics. Each verse tells a different story but follows the same general format: a struggling character desperate to run away from something on a self-destructive streak.

In the first verse, we meet a "lost soul" that the speaker describes as "just another proud man still hiding from the vow on his hand." He leaves his three children and his wife to chase another woman and feels no guilt for leaving his family.

The second verse describes a different scenario and presented me with a grammatical crisis that is unfortunately going to lead to the following tangent before I get on with an explanation. As someone with a very literary/grammatical brain, I sometimes stumble over a set of words if they're not spelled or punctuated correctly. Throw a comma in the wrong place, and I will read that sentence exactly as you wrote it and not necessarily as you meant it, for better or for worse. So when I audibly heard that first line sans any visible grammatical cues, and with the knowledge that sometimes songs emphasize sentences differently for the sake of sound, I struggled with how to mentally punctuate the thing and make sense of it.

First, I couldn't tell if the line was:

I have weakness as she sings as her heart beats to the rhythm of the saints.


I have weaknesses she sings as her heart beats to the rhythm of the saints

Neither one quite made sense to me, but then I saw someone point out that "The Rhythm of the Saints" is the title of a Paul Simon album and song, and after Googling lyrics, everything fell into place:

"I have weaknesses," she sings, as her heart beats to "The Rhythm of the Saints." 

God bless well-placed quotation marks. Sometimes they're totally neccessary.

Grammatically induced tangent aside, "I have weaknesses" is the first lyric in "The Rhythm of the Saints," meaning the scene in verse two opens up with a woman singing along to Paul Simon, assumedly in a car on the run from some kind of "darkness" (another "The Rhythm of the Saints" lyric). She stops, robs a cashier at gunpoint, and keeps on running "without a care." 

The third verse is where we see an obvious change. We do get a new character, but it's not the same format anymore. The song progression goes from "he" in the first verse to "she" in the second verse to "I" in the third verse. Up until this point, the speaker has been telling us stories of other people, but this time he's getting more personal. He starts out with an admission of flaws similar to the previous two characters, admitting he is aware of his "demons and broken dreams and running headlong into false plans." But unlike the first two verses, this one doesn't end in a line describing how he kept running without feeling remorse. Instead, we get the best two lines in the song:

So whether hipsters or holy rollers, we find ourselves holding court on our knees./
But "broken" won't define you, 'cause love can always find you.

Instead of continuing his self-destructive string of bad decisions, he acknowledges them and stops to "hold court on [his] knees," a position that implies prayer. If you'd prefer to skip the religious context, I think you could also choose to interpret it as a man in a position to beg someone for forgiveness after owning up to his mistakes. 

Whether you choose to interpret his relationship as one with God or one with a spouse, family member, or friend, the answer is the same: only love (and its implied counterpart: forgiveness) can save him. 

Personally, I can't ignore 1. The church imagery from the music video, 2. Hanson's occasional tendency to include religious references in their music, and 3. The fact that just plain seeing Isaac in that collared white shirt in the promo images screamed "Preacher!" before I ever heard the song. When I think about Preacher!Isaac, I can't help but think about growing up in my own Southern Baptist church and how incredibly similar the entire message in this song sounds to some of the sermons I've heard. It's got parables, references to lost souls, and an uplifting encouragement to accept love and be saved from your past sins. It starts with a couple of cautionary tales, gives a personal testimony, and ends with a call to you personally. That's sermon formula 101.

And while that may be my personal takeaway from this song, "love" as a theme is such a big universal concept that leaves us open to make our own personal connections. No matter your perspective, it's a rock-solid song about how love and forgiveness are tied together. It's about looking for redemption and letting love save you from a self-destructive path, and that's true whether it's God's love, romantic love, familial love, or simply learning to love yourself. ❤

Disclaimer: Hanson has not released official lyrics for this song, so this analysis is based on my best take after listening and comparing what I heard to what other fans have heard. Sorry if there are any inaccuracies!

June 30, 2021

And We Won't Go Down: Doswell, VA

Photo Credit: kingsdominion.com

On The Road Again

On paper, this trip to see Hanson in Virginia should have been so easy and perfect it was a no-brainer for me to attend. It's a five hour drive, we had great seats and no need to wait in line, and we decided to spend the first half of the day at a theme park literally a mile from the venue. What's not perfect about a summer show close enough to drive to, especially when the opener is a couple of roller coasters?

Well, it turns out a lot of things. This trip was the epitome of the "just roll with it" mentality necessary for any frequent traveler. Our plan A was pretty simple: I drive up to Richmond from South Carolina and stop to pick up my friend from the Raleigh airport (the halfway point) on the way up. It was a plan that died almost immediately when her first flight was delayed enough to miss that connection to Raleigh. All of the options the airline gave her would get her in to Raleigh the next day--the day of the show--which would be pushing it to get us to the show on time and would definitely kill our plan to visit King's Dominion. I was determined to get those thrill rides.

So while she was in the air to Dallas with no idea how she was getting to the east coast, I was frantically searching flight times into every major city on my driving route (hi, it's the Carolinas. I passed four tractors on the way. Raleigh WAS the major city.) "Find something on the way that gets us there tonight" quickly turned into "how far out of the way am I willing to drive to get us there tonight." The answer was Norfolk, which added an hour and a half to the drive and meant I was going to do most of it alone. Still better than having to skip King's Dominion entirely. By some absolute miracle, I was able to get her flight changed while she was flying and get her one of the last seats on that plane.

But then I started driving, and things quickly went downhill for my travel day, too. My phone wouldn't connect to my android auto, so I was stuck holding it in my hand for the first hour. Then it started downpouring while I was holding the map and navigating a narrow two-lane road between tobacco fields. Thankfully, I finally got it connected before I had to get on the interstate, but the rain was freak Jumanji monsoon levels of absurd. It rained off and on the entire way and ended up adding another hour and a half to the drive. My five hour drive creeped up into the 10 hour range, and I've never been more grateful that we chose to come in a day early.

Welcome to the Roller Coaster Ride

Things finally started looking up when the weather cleared and we found ourselves at King's Dominion the morning of the show. Our first ride on The Dominator coaster was amazing, and I was so, so happy to be back at a theme park for the first time since 2019. Then we got on our second coaster, Intimidator 305, and at the first turn, my vision got fuzzy and started to black out. I have never experienced anything like it at the dozens of parks and countless thrill rides I've done. I was telling myself "Don't pass out. Don't pass out." It only lasted a few seconds, and I was worried something might be wrong until we got off and my friend turned to me and beat me to the sentence: "I started blacking out on that first curve." It was a weird relief to realize it had happened to both of us, and Google tells us that apparently this is totally a thing that can happen on that ride, and that they already added extra brakes to it to try to stop it from happening. No thanks, never getting on that one again.

We went on a few more, I got queasy because apparently I'm old now, and I had to sit one out that I knew would make things worse. I finally decided to join in again when we made it to the Drop Tower and reasoned that at least it would be so quick I wouldn't have time to feel worse. The young employee running it had a microphone and was being goofy singing "ring around the rosy" when we made it to the top. He got to the "ashes, ashes, we all fall down" part...and then nothing happened. We sat in silence for a few seconds and I was sure he was building the anticipation of not quite knowing when we would drop, but then more time passed, and still nothing. Then several people talked over each other at the same time on the speaker and we finally heard "Don't panic. There is a maintenance issue and maintenance is on their way. We'll get you down. Just don't panic. Also you may drop at any time." He would be quiet for several seconds and then start talking again, each time emphasizing "Don't panic," and very much sounding like HE was panicking.

I wasn't worried about being hurt, but I was beginning to worry that 1) we'd be stuck up there in direct sunlight in 90 degree heat and 2) I was actually going to miss a Hanson concert due to being stuck on a ride a mile away, and we literally could have seen the concert from that spot if we had just been sitting on the other side of the ride. After several more panicked announcements including a promise of free water and passes to skip a line of our choice once they got us down, we finally dropped about 10 minutes after we got stuck. The whole thing was pretty anti-climactic after a lot of buildup from the guy with the microphone who kept emphasizing that he didn't know how long we'd be stuck while also reminding us in a frantic voice to stay calm. Dude needs some serious crisis training. I got my free pass and walked away thinking "Too bad I can't use this to skip a future Hanson line of my choice."

Every Single Time I See You, I Start To Feel This Way

The show took place on the fairgrounds in Doswell, VA. We're talking a big open field with porta-potties, food tents, and everyone shamelessly getting ready in their cars. The openers were from Nashville and talked about how wild it felt to drive for 20 hours for just one show but that it was a great experience and felt worth it. As I looked around and recognized dozens of faces from all over the country--none of which were from Virginia--I couldn't help but think "You're preaching to the choir here." At the end of their set, the sky exploded into several minutes worth of that Jumanji rain, and none of us had any rain gear. The whole crowd got completely drenched, and all we could do was laugh and be grateful for a little cool-off in the heat.

I didn't think I'd have some big emotional response to seeing Hanson for the first "normal" show since I was fortunate enough to see every one they've played since January 2020. But then they were climbing the stairs to get on the stage, and I could see them grinning, and suddenly my stomach was full of butterflies and anticipation, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. It felt like coming home in the same way most shows feel to me, but this one felt a little extra special. "Waiting For This" was the perfect song to open with, and the crowd went wild when it started. The setlist was your standard one-off set of singles and fan-favorites just as I expected, but the excitement never died down and the crowd was living for it.

One different thing about this show was the presence of a short catwalk, which I had personally never seen at a Hanson show. Isaac came forward to do guitar solos on it several times, and Taylor was all over it any time he wasn't glued to the piano, grabbing hands, shaking the tambourine, and generally having a great time being back in a crowd. The band seemed to be having just as good of a time as we were and really thriving off of the crowd. It was an interesting experience being in the front row for it because it meant sometimes Taylor was technically behind me, and I'd have to turn around to see him jumping at the edge of 4th row. I wish I had anything more specific to share with you, but honestly the whole thing just felt good and right and gave me the best concert high I've felt in a while. 

"And We Won't Go Down" feels like an appropriate title in so many ways. We made it through the rain, the flight delays, the ride malfunctions, and on a bigger scale, the last 16 months since Hanson played their last full capacity show. It's kind of like being stuck up at the top of the Drop Tower. While I was up there, I was going "Yeah we're leaving after this. I may be done with theme parks," but as soon as it was over and I had time to process that I was safe, I was taking my pass to the nearest roller coaster for my next adrenaline fix. All the crazy hours driving in the rain, the detours, the months and months in masks could leave me feeling like I want off the ride for good and that the hassle and risk aren't worth it. But all it takes is that one moment at the top--that one moment in the crowd--to remind me that it's worth the unexpected twists and turns that get us there, that sometimes you just have to trust the safety nets and the science, and that I'll always be stepping off the ride, fast pass in hand for the next one, going "Again!"

June 7, 2021

Against the World: Don't Ever Change

The first time I heard "Don't Ever Change" wasn't earlier this week on RollingStone.com or at midnight on Spotify, it was at a concert in Denver in 2019. The show opened with "Finally It's Christmas," "Don't Ever Change," "Rock 'n' Roll Razorblade," and "Lost Without Each Other." Four songs in, I turned to my friend and asked her "What kind of Benjamin Button setlist is this?!" Hanson had chosen to start the set with the type of adrenaline-inducing songs I had come to expect at the end of a show rather than the beginning, and there was no question that newbie "Don't Ever Change" belonged in that designated rock segment of the setlist.

Now that I have the official studio recording in hand and after a few (dozen?) video watches, I can honestly say for what feels like the first time in my history as a fan, I like the studio version better than when I heard it live. That's not to discredit basically every studio version of a Hanson song ever, but I mean it as a testament to just how much I normally love the feeling of a great rock song going straight to my ears from the stage without the filter of a computer or inferior car stereo. I LOVE this band live, and I love the rush of experiencing a killer rock song in person. To realize I liked this one better on my computer was a bit jarring and out of character. It's a very weird feeling to watch the music video, go "This rocks, I can't wait to hear it live!" then go oh wait, I already did. Four times.

My friend who attended the Wintry Mix tour with me even tried to tell me that she had never heard "Don't Ever Change" before. I had to show her video evidence on Youtube that we had, in fact, stood in a room with that song at least once. In our defense, it was really hard to make out the lyrics, none of the venues we went to had the best sound equipment, and it's challenging to fully appreciate any new song when it's accompanied by a cacophony of shouting and concert talkers. I've been to plenty of gigs with questionable sound quality where my brain effortlessly fills in the gaps for missing words or blundered guitar riffs-- mcuh in teh wya yuor brian cna sitll raed jmulbed wrods--but that's just not something you can do with a song you've never heard before. I hope I get to write another blog in a month or two and recall this moment and just how wrong I was after hearing it live again. 

As for a song analysis? I'm not sure I can give you the type I had in mind for this series of blogs. The lyrics (now that I've properly heard and read them) are straight-forward. If there's any hidden meaning in there, it's deep and my shovel is broken. "Don't Ever Change" is a song celebrating the qualities of a loved one who seems strong, independent, and unafraid to be themselves. It sounds like a vaguely British Tinted Windows song birthed in the early 80s, perhaps in one of the cars in Disney's Rock 'n' Rollercoaster ride. I mean all of that as an overly-specific compliment.

The bridge is phenomenally addictive, easily the Queen-iest part, and I would love to hear an entire song in that style. It also has my favorite lyric: "You're my first day's thought and my last night's prayer." The first time I played it in my car, I caught myself raving in my head thinking "I am LIVING for this bridge!" Then I did some kind of unintentional word association and suddenly found myself making troll puns (see notes below). Welcome to my stream of consciousness; at least there were no raisins this time.

I intended to share my hand-written notes on this one too, but I started doodling on it, and if you think you've had secondhand embarrassment from my dancing skills, just wait until you see the blob that is me drawing a candle. Thank God for free graphic design programs and that I write better than I draw...most of the time.

June 1, 2021

Against The World: ANNALIE

Against The World

Let's have an honest talk about Against The World for a moment. Since its official announcement, fan reactions have been varied somewhere between excited, disappointed, upset, and totally shocked. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, I think it's safe to say that none of us were expecting to be told that ATW would consist of seven songs released one at a time over seven months. I won't lie, I fell solidly in the shocked category at first, and if I had to choose my own three letter acronym the day of the announcement, I'd swap out the "A" for an "F" and reverse the order. Since then, I've thought a lot about how it made me feel and whether I had the right to feel anything at all apart from acceptance. To give you yet another unnecessary food analogy because it's what I do, here's the one I've landed on for an accurate description of my expectations vs. reality regarding Against The World:

Finding out the specifics about Against The World was kind of like having your aunt tell you that she’s bringing her famous sweet potato casserole to Thanksgiving. It’s your favorite dish and you’ve eaten it every year since you were a kid, but this year she shows up and it has raisins in it. Technically she did exactly what she said she was going to do—she brought the casserole—but you weren’t expecting raisins because you didn’t know raisins were even on the table as a possibility. Historically, there’s never been raisins, so you’re disappointed because you made what you thought was a safe assumption based on the information you were given. Basically, Hanson brought the raisins to Thanksgiving, and we weren’t prepared.

It's been a few weeks now, and after having time to digest the announcement--raisins and all--I've accepted the fine print and am excited and ready to hear the rest of the songs. But that still leaves me with a big question as a blogger: how does one properly review an album released in this way? Do I wait until November when we have the whole thing? Do I go song by song? Should I stop at the halfway point and review the first four? Since the announcement, Hanson has made it clear that they are proud of each song from ATW and that they want to give each one the proper attention it deserves. Taking that into consideration, it only seems fair that I try to do the same. I've done a few nerdy analytical posts about single songs in depth in the past, but I normally like to review a full album all at once. Since I also normally like to receive a full album all at once, we're going to try this Hanson's way: a blog post per song, per month, right up until the end.


I loved "Annalie" the first time I heard it previewed at the Wintry Mix tour in 2019. I came home with it stuck in my head for weeks, and I can vaguely remember telling Hanson at some point that they better not scrap it from the Against The World track list. I gushed in my blog and said it was "destined to go down in Hanson history as a classic earworm of a Hanson song."

Now that we have the studio version and the music video, the thing that stands out to me the most is the train imagery. The initial teaser for the release was a cryptic invitation to RSVP with a photo of a train, and the confirmation email included a round-trip "ticket" to Memphis.

The music video followed shortly after and includes similar shots of trains and fields. 

But the most interesting part about the trains is that the lyrics themselves don't actually refer to trains, tracks, railroads, or anything of the sort, just lots of descriptions about traveling through Memphis. So how do I still come away from this song feeling like there were trains hidden in there anyway?

It's all in the sound. The drums, for lack of a better term, have that sort of "chug-a-chug-a" train rhythm where you can practically hear the wheels clicking on the tracks. And the background "ooohs" in the verses? Those are reminiscent of some impressively harmonic train whistles (Think "choo choo," but where the "ch" is silent). I'm a little surprised that they did this all without a single verbal train mention, but I'm also kind of impressed because the image still comes across so clearly that it can't possibly be anything but intentional.

As for the lyrics, if you take it at face value, it's a pretty straight-forward song about a guy searching for this girl, presumably having "lost" her and wanting her back in his life ("Annalie, come home"). He paints her this image of how they could be happy traveling around iconic places in Memphis, emphasizing that it's not really about what they're doing as long as they're together ("I don’t really care where we stop/Just as long as I get to go").

My favorite line is "empty pockets filling our hearts," which reminds me a lot of the feeling I get listening to Simon & Garfunkel's "Looking For America." The sound of the two songs is nothing alike, but there's this similar vibe of two people aimlessly wandering, enjoying their time together, but with a melancholy undertone of still being a bit lost. The difference is in "Annalie," she's not actually with him on the journey; he's romanticizing the idea of what could be if she came back.

Which leads me to the most ironic plot twist of this song that I did not notice until I sat down to write this post and made myself close-read the lyrics. Here's the TL;DR recap of "Annalie" in a single sentence, the bad book summary, if you will: Guy begs girl to come home, cites extensive examples of running away from home as support to get her there.

He's begging her to come home, but then immediately tells her they can run away, "try on someone else's clothes," and disappear in a new city. What? 

I know, I know, I'm reading too much into it. "Home" is simply by his side, and anywhere can be home as long as they're together. I still find it hilarious. "Annalie, come home. JK, here's a list of places I'll take you in Memphis."

Alternate interpretation? Zac has told us that they chose the name "Annalie" because it translates to "God's grace." Given that detail, you could probably argue that the song is about a guy who has lost touch with God and is wandering around trying to find his way again. I'm more inclined to believe that if the name is significant, then the girl--Annalie--IS the grace that God put in his life, and he messed up and lost her and is trying to win her back.

May 30, 2021

Hanson Day 2021

I don’t know about you guys, but I was really impressed with all of the digital content that Hanson created for Hanson Day 2021. Hanson.net members got exclusive live streams every day for a full week, and much like “real” Hanson Day, there were so many side events going on that I could barely keep up. It was a nice compromise for all of the fans that normally would have traveled to Tulsa for the event and couldn’t come this year, but it also felt pretty groundbreaking for an even larger number of fans who have never been able to visit Oklahoma to finally be able to celebrate from home. I’m anxiously awaiting the day I show up to a packed Cain’s and an overly-full in-person HDay schedule, but I also hope that this year’s forced virtual ingenuity will carry over to a more inclusive Hanson Day for all hnet members in the future. If you haven't seen all of the content, it is still available to view at the link above, and trust me, the TTA Acoustic show alone is worth this year's membership fee if you haven't joined yet.

TTA Acoustic Concert

I want to start by sharing that I completely missed the original TTA era as a fan. I didn't hear this album at all until 2006, and by then, the record scratches and the late 90s/early 2000s sounding bells and whistles sounded dated and borderline cheesy to adult me. Getting to hear TTA acoustically removed all of those things and allowed me to appreciate the foundation of music that has always been under those added layers. I’m grateful that I got to hear the songs in this stripped down format, and I can honestly say that I appreciate TTA more now.

Spoiler: this is my second attempt at writing this review. I name dropped so many songs in a row in my first try that it was starting to get confusing. Every time I tried to label a song as a “highlight for me,” I’d remember another and then another. They piled on top of each other and vied for rankings. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of my favorite TTA moments, with the added disclaimer that seriously every last song was great.

1. Runaway Run. I thought this song peaked for me when I heard it stripped down as a Taylor solo, but then they had to go and play it full band with a slowed down tempo that turned it into a ballad. It was absolutely phenomenal, and dare I say, a total “game changer.” Excuse me while I further spiral into a heap of Masked Singer judge praises like “AMAZING!!” and “End game material!!” while gushing about my goosebumps, but I mean every single one of them.

2. In The City. Even without the electric guitars, I couldn’t not jump to this one. This song was acoustic rock, pure and simple. It was so fun getting to hear it this way, even if I do still love the electric version best.

3. Hand In Hand. They reworked the intro, and it really, really works. I might even like it more than the original, but I'm not making that claim on one listen. I had to laugh watching the stream afterwards because you can totally see me and my friend in the background scrambling to switch our light up masks to green in support of the magic happening on stage.

4. If Only. It’s better in its original state, but it sounded like a completely different song with an acoustic guitar replacing the harmonica parts. Unlike “In The City,” jumping didn’t feel quite right here, but it was really fun getting to hear it in a new way.

5. The encores. The show might have been short at just 15 songs, but it already felt perfect before they added two TTA era B-sides, “Lonely Again,” and “Smile.” It was a great way to end an already killer set.

6. The songs I was looking forward to before the trip: “Sure About It,” “Dying To Be Alive,” “Wish That I Was There.” With live shows, sometimes the songs you walk away loving the most aren’t the ones that you showed up to see; they’re the ones that sneak up on you and demand your attention, the ones that you don’t think twice about until their undeniable greatness is hitting you in the face. I showed up ready to swoon over “Sure About It” and “Wish That I Was There,” but I left completely blown away by “Run Away Run,” “In The City,” and “Hand In Hand.” Thank you, Hanson, for blowing up my expectations in the best way.

7. Can’t Stop. This one is probably the biggest culprit for the cringey bells and whistles I was talking about before. It’s always better live, but they got rid of the “tick tock, tick tock” for the first time. It might have sounded less cheesy that way, but it felt like something was missing.

In conclusion, TTA acoustic was the album I never knew I needed to hear. I did need to hear it. In fact, I kind of need to hear it again, preferably as a live album release from this exact show as soon as possible. Please?

Hanson Day Concert

I have a lot less to say about this one, but I’ve already written enough for a full post on TTA alone, so I’m giving myself a pass. The HDay show was not groundbreaking or full of new arrangements. It didn’t make me gasp or stand in awe or feel the need to give you a song-by-song breakdown like I did above. It did, however, make me cry, dance, sing, and hug my friends. It was the perfect upbeat counterpart to a mellow first show, and unpopular as the opinion may be, I am always happiest to hear jump-worthy singles over rare ballads. I’ll forgive Taylor for making me sob during WYIYD, but only because he immediately went into a super random country version after it ended, and then Zac ran with it in what I can only describe as the worst country rendition of WYIYD I could ever imagine. I can count on these guys to make me cry once in a while, but I can also count on them to put the smile right back on my face again, so thanks for that little bit of nonsense that broke up my pity party. I will say that for all the effort I was putting into ignoring WYIYD while it was happening, I can't deny that it was gorgeous and that I was not the only person affected.

It was fun getting to hear all the new songs from Crossroads, and the live setting helped me to appreciate “Muscle Shoals” more. I still stand by “Come Over” as my favorite of the bunch so far, even if I’m not 100% sure what it means yet (I’m developing a theory, but I’ll save that for a future post). I don't think Hanson prompted us to clap and fans don't always collectively have the best rhythm, but somehow we all got on board with a double clap and it just worked. I'm considering this song move canon from here on out like the Where's The Love arm spin. I don't know who pioneered it; I just know it's right.

They wrapped things up with a short acapella chorus of "Man in the Mirror" and even had five little Russian Doll figurines lined up on the piano as a cute nod to their time on The Masked Singer. I hope this won't be the last we ever hear of those covers, but I get that they would have to learn to play the full songs in addition to the abbreviated vocal parts they learned for the TV show.

Hop Jam Iron Man

We might not have had Hop Jam this time, but the Iron Man triathlon ending right outside of our hotel filled in some of the missing festival and "how are we supposed to drive anywhere with all the streets shut down?" vibes that I'm used to.

I am the least sporty person you can imagine and know nothing whatsoever about triathlons and races, but it was fascinating to be able to see people come from all over to compete. We stood near the finish line and cheered people on, and it was amazing getting to see these people who had trained incredibly hard accomplish something that meant so much to them. I even teared up the first time I saw one man round the corner towards the finish line, and his family spotted him and took off running alongside him just outside of the barricade, all the way to the end. The love and support was so obvious on their faces, and it felt like witnessing an intimate moment even though we were in a crowd. It reminded me that we might not all have the same goals and accomplishments—his finish line with his family is my front row with my friends—but it’s a powerful feeling to be surrounded by people that care about you while doing the thing you love.

On a much lighter note, spending the night next to an Iron Man event also meant that we couldn't leave to get food, and it took three failed orders and a solid two hours to successfully retrieve a Doordash order. I had to meet our dasher two blocks away and fend off a group of teenage boys in the elevator who saw the giant Chipotle bag and thought I was delivering it to them. I guarded our hard-earned burritos and wished them luck in their own food journey. Note to future self or anyone in the same city as Iron Man: stockpile food.

And We Keep Coming Back

It might not have felt like a “real” Hanson Day, but it sure beats last year’s “I didn’t go to Hanson Day 2020” theme. It’s a sign that things are looking up, and while I’m having to adjust my comfort zone and relearn how to be in larger groups of people even with my own big group of friends, I’m excited at the prospect and happy to be in a time and place where that seems possible in the near future. I’ve had a fun run in my light-up mask, but I can’t wait to see the light on everyone’s faces again soon.

May 12, 2021

So You've Just Found Out That The Russian Dolls Were Hanson...Now What?

If you've been watching The Masked Singer season five, then you now know what many of us have known since that very first delicious note in the season preview of "Shallow": The Russian Doll mask has been hiding the members of Hanson. Now that the secret is out, this is a post for those who didn't know all along. This is for anyone whose mind is blown, who had no idea Hanson was still making music, and who may be suddenly having an identity crisis over how they could have left Hanson behind in the 90s when they are clearly still SO GOOD. Maybe you never heard of them before the show and are now searching the internet for answers.You can relax, because I am here for you. 

Here's what you need to know:

1. Hanson has consistently been a band since 1992 and had their first big hit in 1997. They write all of their own music and play their own instruments, and any long-time fan will argue against labeling them as a "boyband." There have been years between albums and tours at times, but they have never broken up or stopped making music.

2. They went independent and formed their own record label in 2003 after their original label, Mercury Records, became Island Def Jam and didn't leave Hanson a lot of control over the type of music they wanted to make. Rather than continue to clash with their label while giving up full creative control, they broke free and created 3CG Records. Their first indie record, "Underneath," went on to debut at number one on Billboard's Independent Albums chart. If their journey from giant commercial success to underdog indie band intrigues you, the whole thing was captured in a documentary called "Strong Enough to Break," which you can watch for free in 13 episodes on Youtube or purchase in full on DVD here.

3. They have released six studio albums, gone on ~16 different tours, and released dozens more EPs, Christmas albums, and compilations. Every year since 2003, their fan club members get an EP with roughly five exclusive tracks. They have a double album called String Theory consisting of songs backed by an orchestra. Taylor even had a side project as lead singer in a band with Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, and the late Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. There is an incredible wealth of music to catch up on if you are just now learning about them and want to dig deeper than singles. (Trust me, you want to dig deeper than singles.)

4. Their fan base is pretty intense and is full of dedicated fans that travel to multiple shows per tour like modern day Deadheads. Many have been fans for over 20 years since MMMBop came out in 1997, but plenty have joined more recently. We're all over the globe and are a fairly diverse group full of unique personalities and interests outside of loving Hanson. Dive in and find your people. We're out there somewhere, both in line and online.

5. They have an active fan club. For roughly $40/year, you get: a member's only EP with exclusive music, access to a streaming platform of the entire Hanson music catalog, exclusive videos and podcasts dating back to 2003, access to forums, occasional livestreams, free entry to members only events, and the opportunity to win M&Gs or gain early entry into shows. The media library is exhaustively full of behind the scenes footage that is a mix of making-of videos, live performance recordings, and even a collection called "Hanson Does Stupid Stuff On Video" just in case you need to watch Hanson learn to ride a Segway or hold a koala in Australia in between those killer harmonies.

I'd personally join every year for the EP alone because the idea of not having access to some of their best work doesn't sit well with me, but there are certainly other reasons to join if the EP isn't enough to sell you. If you want a sneak peak of fan club music without the $40 price tag, check out Perennial, which is a compilation of 21 past fan club songs released publicly in late 2020. 

6. If you loved their covers on TMS, buckle up, because there's more where that came from. Here are a few of their best cover performances that you didn't get to hear on the show, mask-free:

Chain of Fools
Too Much Heaven
Oh! Darling
A Song For You
Change In My Life
Rip It Up
I Believe In A Thing Called Love

And an honorable mention for Taylor's cover of "Love Me" by Elvis, which is absolutely gorgeous and served zero justice by all of the noisy youtube videos I found. (Welcome to the moment of realization that I miss concerts, but not concert talkers!)

They also have a five song EP called Roots & Rock 'N' Roll with studio versions of several great covers.

7. There were some mega-obscure clues on the show, even for dedicated fans. The New Jersey sign from episode one was in reference to Hanson's first public appearance after MMMBop, which took place at Paramus Park Mall in NJ. Nobody anticipated the mass turnout that would happen and Hanson basically had to evacuate due to way too many screaming girls and not nearly enough security or space to hold them all. Lots of people thought the health-scare clues referred to Zac's motorcycle accident in 2019, but his injuries weren't life-threatening and I personally think they were referring to Isaac's pulmonary embolism that happened during a show in 2007.

Nicole Scherzinger was right about the "What goes around comes around" shirt referring to their first pre-fame album called Boomerang, but I call BS on her knowing that all on her own when only a few hundred copies even exist (but hey, maybe she's a closet megafan?) "The seal of approval from the King herself" = Hanson co-wrote a song with the legendary Carole King. Cluedle Doo practically gave it all away when he pointed out the significance in the spelling of "MisfITZ toys." ITZ = Isaac, Taylor, and Zac, and old school fans could identify which brother was in which doll the entire time thanks to plenty of Teen Beat style Q&A articles and those trusty green, red, and blue microphones color coordinated to each brother's favorite color circa 1997 (Green = Isaac, Red = Taylor, Blue = Zac).

But my personal favorite--the most clever, hit you in the face it's so easy I didn't even get it at first--were the three mugs that said "Eat," "Pray," and "?" begging the only logical question: Where's the Love? 

8. And finally, you're just in time to jump on this bandwagon with the release of their brand new single "Annalie," available now.  It's the first of seven singles from their latest collection called Against The World. Keep an eye out for a new single + music video every month through November. You can also attend an accompanying "tour" consisting of eight shows live streamed from Cain's Ballroom in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are limited in-person seats to each show as well as streaming options, and each show is a different theme based on a previous albums plus Against The World. Click here for all the details!

January 14, 2021

And The Winner Is...: Listener's Choice

Confession #1: I don't like setlist voting. This is probably old news if you know me personally or have kept up with this blog, but I feel like it's an admission that needs to happen before I can talk openly about a series of shows with a "Listener's Choice" theme.

Confession #2: The "Listener's Choice" setlists were my favorite of all four themes (if we can look past my wildly festive love for all things Christmas). I know, I know, this feels kind of incongruous with confession #1. In my defense, all of my favorite parts of these shows were the surprise songs HANSON threw in, not necessarily the songs fans voted on, so I still stick by my dislike of voting in general. However, if voting on half of the setlist is how we motivate Hanson into one-upping our votes with killer picks of their own, sign me up. Direct me to voter registration. Send me the campaign materials and the unsolicited texts and consider me a supporter of this party. 

The energy at these shows was high from the beginning I think partly because the setlists were amazing and partly because they were the last shows for the foreseeable future. The first night, people lost it at "Georgia." People lost it again at "Save Me." But the moment we collectively lost it and COULD. NOT. GET. IT. BACK?

"Kind of a Girl."

First off, as someone who hates setlist voting mostly due to ruining the element of surprise, consider me surprised. Delighted. Fired up. Dead, buried, and brought back to life because this random left-field performance was THAT GOOD. Everything about it was tight--the drums, Isaac's guitar solo, and Taylor seemed very much in his element throughout the song.

While I never had the pleasure of seeing it performed by the original band, I'd say Hanson's "cover" did it justice and I was thrilled to see it played at all three shows. I fully regret not taking the one opportunity I had to see Tinted Windows live, and it makes me sad to think that the talented group behind this song has suffered the loss of one of their own. I'm glad Taylor chose to play it, and I think it was a nice way to honor his bandmate and friend.

At the first two shows, "Kind of a Girl" was followed by "Voice in the Chorus." This one seems to be under the radar of most fans and feels all but forgotten by even the band, but I like it. Everything about this song screams SIO tour to me. Maybe my appreciation for it is biased and based more on memories than music, but "Voice in the Chorus" works for me the way a certain scent might bright you back to a specific place or moment. Hearing it live puts me right back into a crammed front row of some hole in the wall venue with Isaac headbanging and that one piece of otherwise perfectly styled hair that would fly free while the whole room is losing it because there is so much energy on stage. It's definitely one of those songs that thrived in a specific moment of time, and I think maybe that time is over unless Hanson chooses to revive it, but even then it wouldn't be the same. It's still nice to hear it once in a while and remember how fun it can be.

I thought that nothing could top "Kind of a Girl," but then the second show made a "Kind of a Girl" sandwich on "Troublemaker" and "Don't Stop Believing" bread with a side of "Stories" and then "Dream Girl" for dessert. You can stop reading right here and just imagine mindblown emojis for the rest of the post, if you want.

So let's talk about "Troublemaker." Back in 2011, Hanson did a proper recorded version of it for Billboard's Mashup Mondays. You can add Weezer to the list of bands I loved before I rediscovered Hanson, so I was excited for this cover and remember watching that video over and over. About a month later I got to see it performed live at the Boston HOB and I remember being ecstatic and thinking "YES! Now it's going to be a tour staple at the rest of the shows and I'll get to hear it more!" Naturally, they never played it again. Fast forward almost 10 years, and they finally broke it out of the vault only for the 2nd show of the Listener's Choice series. It was kind of great getting to hear Taylor sing the line "Having seven kids" now that it's true, and I'm not even sad that he didn't get all the lyrics right because he practically had a novel in 20pt font taped to the floor, and I sure didn't know all the ones I used to know either. It was still an epic surprise and one I really did not mind being front row for. I won't drag you down "Don't Stop Believing" memory lane too, but it's a great crowd song that lets Zac roam the stage, and it made an already great setlist combination even better.

The final show had a similar setlist to the first two with the added bonus of "Sunny Day" at the end, though I was a little too distracted to fully enjoy it watching security try to contain a very happy drunk girl to her increasingly distant table as well as some guy who wandered up to sip his beer and head nod front row Isaac. This definitely fell into the category of "not my table, not my problem," but it was just close enough that I couldn't entirely ignore it, either.  Predictably, my favorite part of the third show was "Thinking Bout Something" because luck dealt my friends and I three side by side tables in the center, and it felt like a giant line dance going on. Over the years it seems like less and less people participate in the dance, but after hearing TBS six times over the course of these streaming shows, it feels like it's making a little comeback. Feel free to join us next time! The best part is laughing when you trip over your own feet, or in some cases, your friend's.

One of my favorite parts of writing these reviews is often retelling the random outtakes that happen along the way, but there's really not much to tell when the only places I went were Cain's and my hotel room. The most exciting thing I did outside of the shows this time was spend more money on Cheesecake Factory delivery than the hotel, and that awkward moment I got literally stuck in an elevator because my backpack strap got caught on the handrail. One moment I was walking out behind my friends, and the next they turned around and I had disappeared to ride back down to the first floor while crying laughing. At least one of the three stayed behind to free me. You're the real MVP. 😂

It's hard to believe this series of livestreamed shows has come to an end, but here we are in January 2021 with one heck of a year behind us and still plenty of obstacles to get through before we can enjoy "real" concerts again. While I know there was a certain amount of risk involved in choosing to go to any of these shows, I am confident in my own safety precautions, and I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be in the room with these songs, these musicians, and a few of my friends. Even in the months between when I was stuck at home, planning table decorations, having mild panic attacks about buying tickets, talking about the best (and occasionally worst) parts of the shows, and just generally having something to be excited about again lifted my spirits in a way I don't think anything else could have.

Thank you to Hanson, to Cain's, and to the fans who made this experience not only possible, but relatively safe and incredibly enjoyable during a time when we all needed some good days (and no thanks to the lady in seat 13D, who provided me neither safety nor enjoyment, just ranty blog post material). I'm going to miss this like crazy and look forward to "seeing" you all on the island, even if that island is digital and it takes us another year to trade the stream for the ocean in real life. It'll be worth the wait.

Credit to Yelena for the photo on the right side of the title graphic. Thanks!