November 7, 2023

Island Casino Shows

This past weekend, I traveled to see Hanson play at a casino in a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For scale, I think telling you that the airport has one gate and only two flights per day gives you a good enough idea of the general size and availability of tourist attractions. Before I get into the show details, let me just express to you how many fake flight change notifications Delta sent out for this trip. I think I've now been permanently desensitized to the phrase "There's been a change to your upcoming trip." Of the 15 or so emails I received between May and now, only two contained an actual detectable change. One bumped me from having one layover to two, but that one got me out of a 6am flight, and I'll gladly airport hop all day long if I don't have to be up at 4am after a show. The other change was a complete fail that warranted a call to customer service because they had me flying from my home airport to a connection scheduled to take off two hours before I would arrive. I know time got weird while we were in the U.P., but I don't think even Island Casino Time would have made that connection work.

For those of you that weren't there, the weird time phenomenon I'm referring to is the fact that the Island Casino sits on the border of the Eastern and Central time zones. You can click here to check out their explanation of how time works for a good laugh or head scratch. Basically, smart technology goes haywire switching back and forth between Eastern and Central times while in the casino, so the casino chooses to follow Eastern time, and you have to turn off all the auto time updates on your phone to not be totally lost. Add in the fact that we left on Sunday when Daylight Saving Time ended and my first layover took me back to Central time before sending me home to the east, and I personally experienced three time changes on November 5th. There was also a great moment where I made an Instagram post while sitting next to my friend, and it immediately landed in her feed with a timestamp of being posted an hour ago while my own screen six inches from hers showed that I'd really posted it 10 seconds ago. Time is wild up there.

As for the concerts, I have to say I went on this trip fully expecting your typical "one-off" show setlists that Hanson pulls out for state fairs, festivals, casinos, and any random appearance where the majority of the crowd probably showed up out of curiosity and convenience. As if to prove my point, about five minutes before we left our room for the first show, we heard a girl in the hallway drunkenly butchering "MMMBop" and laughing while saying "I think that's the only one I know!"

The setlist from the first night was pretty much exactly what I would have expected, but I haven't had a Hanson show in six months--which is basically six years in Hanson fan time--so I was just happy to be there in a great seat. Something about "Strong Enough to Break" hit me as particularly good that night, and it was a fun challenge trying to coordinate the TBS dance with friends standing on the opposite side of the stage. A security guard kept moving and blocking my view of the friend I was watching for dance cues, so let's pretend that's why I bombed the first half of it. The other memorable moment was when the fog machine tried to steal the show during "I Was Born," and I legitimately lost Andrew and Zac in the fog for a moment. I know I've commented on overactive fog machines before, but this was the first time I actually lost visibility.

I don't really have any specific reasons to tell you why I had such a good time, but I missed Hanson a lot and was just happy to be back "home." My friends and I finished out the night in our makeshift living room with a coffee table picnic of various pickle flavored chips and Yooper chocolate bars, just happy we'd get to do it all again the next night and with no driving in between. Bonus points for getting a full night to sleep in a real bed, thought it honestly wasn't much more comfortable than a sidewalk.

The extent of our "exploring" between the shows basically spanned one end of the casino to the other, a few dips in the hot tub, and an excursion to the gas station next door that turned out to be a disappointing field trip to walk around in broken glass. The most exciting thing we found was free soda fountains and the fact that my friends tried to wipe out the snack aisle of the gift shop and somehow didn't spend over $6.

We were able to hear a bit of soundcheck on Saturday afternoon, but after hearing just two songs they didn't play the night before that both excited me, I decided to walk away to prevent 1) more spoilers and 2) disappointment if I got my hopes up and they didn't play them later. 

In the end, they far exceeded my expectations. I told myself not to expect a lot of song changes and figured maybe they would swap out four or five. Instead, we only got five repeats. Here's a side by side comparison of the two setlists:

setlists courtesy of

Things took a sort of "oh hey, that's cool" turn with "Runaway Run" and then plowed ahead into "oh I wasn't expecting this one" and "wait, where the heck did that come from?!" territory. I think the biggest surprise of the night was "One More," but "Tonight" and "Rambling Heart" are two of my absolute favorites, and their performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends" stole the show in my opinion. They didn't pair it with "Truth" the way they usually do, but I think that was the right choice this time to keep things more upbeat. I'm not sure if I was wrong to think of these as "one-offs" when technically it was two shows, or if they decided to switch things up when they saw how many fans showed up at the first one and that it wasn't just people wandering in from the casino, but whatever the reason, I'm grateful. The first show was like the comfort of going home after being away for a while, and the second was like going home and finding a surprise party waiting in the living room. 

After the show, we went back to our fake living room lobby where we had even more late night snacks and stayed up until 1am, twice. We didn't spot any Northern Lights this trip, or meals with vegetables, or full length mirrors, and our hallway kind of looked like a kid on a tricycle might turn the corner at any minute, but overall I had an amazing time seeing my favorite band play and reuniting with friends. I cried laughing more than once, my calves STILL hurt, and somewhere in my suitcase is a wad of friendship bracelets gifted by friends and stranger friends. Thanks to everyone that shared in the good time.

I can't wait to go back to the island again in January! Just, you know, not this one. 😛

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