January 21, 2022

Back To The Island 2022

I don't think I have ever looked forward to a trip more than this Back to the Island since the very first one in 2013. I spent the weeks leading up to the event balancing extreme excitement while also trying to mentally prepare myself for a possible last minute cancelation. I wasn’t fully convinced that it was happening until I was standing on a beach in Jamaica seeing mildly creepy photographic evidence of Hanson at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. We were short a backup player and a couple of friends, but the show must go on. I had a great time but am so looking forward to a year without any nasty surprises where everyone who planned to go gets to be there and enjoy themselves. If you planned to go and weren't able to be there for whatever reason, I hope you have a truly amazing experience at the next one.

Full Band Shows

I have no idea what Hanson's original plans for these shows were when they thought they had a five-piece band, and I'm glad. I'm always team "surprise me" when it comes to setlists, but I am more grateful than ever that we didn't have setlist voting or a list of themes this year. Maybe Hanson played exactly what they intended to play and Dimitrius' absence was minor, or maybe they had an entirely different plan that had to be scrapped and rebuilt at the last minute to make sure the show went on as seamlessly as possible. They did a good job either way, but having photos with the band canceled was enough. I'm glad it wasn't amplified by disappointment over major setlist changes from some theme we were all looking forward to. 

The three main shows were a good mix of singles, fan club songs, and a couple of fun covers. I'd say the first set was more of a traditional Hanson show, the second set was three-piece acoustic, and the third felt like more of the "Rock All Night" theme with more upbeat songs. After eight trips to Jamaica, we finally got a (very well done!) Bob Marley cover as well as "Islands In The Stream" that they live streamed for us last year during the canceled BTTI. I really enjoyed the acoustic show, though I wish it had been longer than 16 songs. The most surprising thing to me was that there was no mention of Against The World and we didn't even get to hear the title track. I think we got three out of the seven songs, though maybe being short a player had a hand in that decision.

It feels weird not having more to say about the shows, but nothing crazy happened and the setlists were fairly typical of BTTI which isn't bad at all, it just isn't particularly interesting to read. Don't worry, I'll gush about music soon enough.

Solo Shows

Zac went first this year (does he always go first? It feels like it) and the most memorable parts were a brand new song called "Magic Man" and the part where he threw it to the crowd during "I Don't Wanna Go Home" and we were virtually no help. Sorry, sir, I love that song, but if you never sing the lyrics the same way twice and don't ever sing it the way you did in the recording, I can't help you. I know there's a pool hall, a country bar, Caz's corner bar, and Carnegie Hall, but I can never predict which one is coming up next and I'm not sure Zac can either.

He played "Magic Man" on the guitar and opened by saying he likes to play it when he's alone. He didn't say anything that gave me the impression that it's meant to be on any specific upcoming project, so we may or may not ever hear it again. It was pretty mellow and quiet and he said it was inspired by Nick Drake.

The best part of Isaac's solo for me was when my friend shouted at him to play "Soldier" and he actually stopped and tried. At some point during all of the Cain's shows in the past two years, we ended up listening to Soldier in our hotel room. The part that says "Well the boat began to sink, and it sank to the bottom of the river" got completely embedded in our brains and for days and multiple trips we would just burst out into that line. Our lives have since been changed by looking up the lyrics (Thanks, Hansonstage) and learning that the line right before it is actually "as he floated past the river rat" and not "as he floated past the river raft." We've both spent 25 years not knowing there was a rodent in that song. Naturally he made it right up to that part before he stopped and gave up, but I was super impressed he made it that far and knew all of the lyrics up to that point.

He made some comment about how he had played it at another BTTI, and I couldn't help but shout back "No you didn't." He responded with something along the lines of "Okay it must have been a Hanson Day" and I shouted again "You've never played it at either!", not entirely sure how or why I started a yelled argument with Isaac mid-show, but adamantly positive that I've been to all of the shows he's claiming to have played "Soldier" at and I've definitely never heard it. 

We looked it up later and the only place he's played it since 1998 was his own house during the Quaranstreams, so now I understand why he thought he played it recently. Dear Isaac, you should totally play it in full at a future BTTI and/or Hanson Day for real! And if Quaranstream content is up for grabs, I'll take a Lucy solo, too.

Taylor's Solo Show

You know what, this guy gets his own segment. Caution: Extreme fangirling ahead. I know I've said this before, but I don't play favorites with Hanson. I might have a current favorite at any given moment for a variety of reasons, but it always changes. But for approximately 45 minutes on January 9, 2022, I was a full-fledged Taylor girl. It happened. First, he opened his solo set with my favorite Hanson song of all time, "Feeling Alive." "Feeling Alive" led into "Crazy Beautiful," and I've gushed about that song being one of the reasons I got back into Hanson enough times that I'm not going to do it again. Next was "You Never Know," which I know in a previous year I proclaimed was Taylor's best performance of anything ever, and it was no less amazing this day. I freaking love the piano. Then he played "Out of My Head" which I've always overlooked in the past but I couldn't not love it in person and felt lucky to be standing there hearing it live. (click here for video)

I absolutely loved the new song "Child at Heart" which will be the first single from RGB, and it has me incredibly excited to hear this new project. Taylor apologized for his guitar skills but as much as I adore him on the piano, it was a fun way to switch things up with a different sound that I can't wait to hear more of. I'm a little afraid of not loving the studio version as much as I loved this stripped down version because I'm not sure I have the capacity for such a thing.

I was already dying of happiness by this point, but then he ended his set with "Sounds Like Joy" which is such a gorgeous song both melodically and lyrically, and I hope it gets an official release one day so I can overplay it to the point of sickness.

Literally everything about Taylor's show was just pure perfection from the song choice to the delivery and how he sounded, and it had me walking away going "This is my favorite band. This is why I'm here." I may be reaching, but it felt like he knew things have been rough and there was some residual disappointment about the photos, and he really understood the assignment and went a little above and beyond to make it feel more special. 

(Full disclosure, I made involuntary heart eyes at him and said something about it being perfect as he left the stage...then wrote a fangirl post on Instagram...then may or may not have also mentioned it to him on an airplane....and now I'm doing it again here. I think I've reached my limit for exactly how much I can gush about this one show on all the platforms including twice to Taylor's face, so feel free to set up an intervention if I keep going on about it after this moment. It was just so good. 😍)


Family Feud was more enjoyable to me with the dynamic of two brothers hosting it instead of just one, but I think I'm mostly over this game as a side event. I really do not enjoy being put on the spot on stage and chose not to join a team even when my friends got called up and had an extra spot to fill. I prefer the smaller more interactive events of past years like tie dye or bracelet making, or even Cards Against Humanity because handing in a card that Zac has to read while I get to sit there quietly is my ideal level of crowd interaction. If we're going to keep the co-hosted large scale game format, I hope we either try something new next year or go back to a year of CAH.

Then there's the afterparty, which is never really my favorite, but I am all for future dance parties being pool parties going forward. I got to lay on a float in a side pool that nobody else bothered getting in, and it was such a social distance happy place for me. The only thing that would have made it better is if the pool was heated or if there was a hot tub in the vicinity. If circumstances were different I would have loved to be in the main pool mingling with more people, but my comfort zone just isn't there, and that's part of why I hope we get to have this experience again during a time when I would be comfortable being in the bigger crowd. 

At the very end, Taylor jumped right into the big pool with everyone in it, and it was even faster than the time he ran into the ocean. I saw him run, jump up, disappear, and run back out all within like a 20 second span. He wasted no time sticking around but turned the excitement level way up for everyone in that area, which again probably would have been more fun during a time where it would have been safer for him to be in a crowd for longer. (Then again, will there really ever be a safe time for Taylor to spend more time in a pool full of fans?) Nobody had time to do anything crazy, but I was impressed with everyone giving him space anyway.

As for the special guests, I don't have much to say about Raging Fyah, but what I do have to say is 100% praise. I really enjoyed getting to see a Jamaican band while in Jamaica. We've had much smaller scale local entertainment with steel drum bands and dancers performing before dinner or singers with an instrument or two around the bonfire, but nothing to this scale of a Grammy-nominated band. I didn't know most of their music but they played several covers that were impossible not to recognize (including Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" with some truly impressive vocals), and I really liked one of their original songs called "Never Give Up." I'm glad they had the opportunity to join us!

Photos With The Band

If you attended BTTI or followed any updates from fans online, you're probably already aware that we received a notification the day of the first show alerting us that "out of an abundance of caution" photos with the band were being canceled. As you can imagine, this came as a huge shock to all of us attending, and the initial message led me to believe that they were trying to come up with some piece of memorabilia to send us once we got home to make up for it. I was disappointed for myself, but I was more devastated for those attending for the first time. I'm fortunate enough to have photos from past BTTIs and as long as BTTI continues, I know I'll have more in the future. I also know plenty of people save up for years and make plans to attend once in a lifetime knowing that they'll probably never make it back, so the idea of having a major selling point and the only opportunity for them to ever get a solo photo with the band taken away is heartbreaking.

I think the overall consensus was shared outrage, but I saw several unkind messages from fans not at the event insulting others for putting so much worth on a photo and demanding that we be grateful that we got to attend at all. The insinuation was that anyone upset was petty, selfish, and privileged. While I was not outraged on a personal level and trusted that the volume of complaints would lead to some action better than a mailed piece of merch, I fully understand being upset, needing to vent, and asking for a better fix. Yes, we were all "lucky" to have made it, but most of us jumped through a ton of hoops to get there, whether that means working two jobs, saving for years, driving two panicked hours to find a last minute rapid test, or isolating from our friends and families during the holidays to ensure a negative test. We weren't "lucky" to be there in the sense that this trip just easily fell into our laps; we worked hard to get there and are allowed to feel disappointment at not getting part of what we were promised.

I'm all for creating realistic expectations, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with expecting something you were promised in writing and paid money to receive. That's not being ungrateful, that's basic business. Next time you make a large purchase at a store and the favorite expensive purse you found gets left out of the bag, please remember to be grateful for the things that were put in the bag and remember that some stranger somewhere would be thrilled to have even a portion of what's in there. Also don't ask for the purse or a refund on it because that would be ~selfish. I mean, what?

That being said, I'm not blind to the state of the world or Covid and I do get why the decision was made (even if similar precautions weren't being taken during other events). I'm sure it was a tough choice for whoever had to make it and it honestly may have saved us from an outbreak, but thankfully we'll never have to know. In the end, they offered everyone at BTTI a free ticket to a show of our choice on the upcoming tour as well as a M&G photo at the show, and that feels plenty sufficient to me. I hope that everyone who attended BTTI will be able to get to a tour stop and take advantage of it. 

Sappy Endings

You know my usual pattern in the concluding paragraphs here, but I'm going to take a slightly different direction this time. This year's sappy ending is brought to you by arbitrary milestones instead of reruns of "I needed my happy place during this unhappy time and I'm so glad Hanson provided it."

There was a nice symmetry for me with our return to Jewel Paradise Cove this year because the very first show Hanson played there in 2016 was my 100th, and now the last show at the Jewel was my 200th. As far as defining who I am as a person or trying to categorize me in some non-existent hierarchy of fans, telling you this is about as meaningless as telling you I've eaten 3,400 apples in my lifetime and trying to compare it to someone else's apple count. It literally does not matter, and I hate the weird dynamic that happens between some fans when it comes to bringing up how many shows you've been to like it's this taboo subject. Do we all need to keep track and compare? Of course not. Is there something wrong with keeping track if you do? Also no. There's probably an issue if you blast your number at people constantly and state it like it's an A+ on a test, but most of us aren't doing that.

So here's what I'm celebrating and why I keep track, and it's not really about a triple digit number at all. I think the real reason I keep count is a part of me will always remember when my answer was zero, when I was young and my future was this big question mark full of possibilities, and I had a massive desire to dive headfirst into this crazy fanbase that normalized following a band and getting to see the world. I had no idea what I was doing but just enough crazy optimism to believe I could make it happen. That part of me that always wants more is still in there, still traveling to shows, and still celebrating the fact that she has somehow managed to do this crazy thing that she wanted. It's not about celebrating an exact number, it's about still being grateful for every single one that came before it. I hope I'm fortunate enough to celebrate #300 on a beach with you guys one day, too.

P.S. I forgot to explain the nighstand. Cliff's notes edition:
Live grasshopper + night stand drawer + bathroom quarantine = sleep.