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. 💚💙❤️