January 10, 2024

Back to the Island 2024

I'm not going to rank all BTTIs against each other, but on a scale of 1-11, this year belongs somewhere in the upper third. I met quite a few first timers, and when I asked how it measured up to what they expected, every last one of them said it was even better than they imagined and that they plan to come back again. If you haven't been and think you can go once and get it out of your system, let this be your warning that that's not a thing. There is no getting Back to the Island out of your system, there is only opening the gateway and sliding down the slippery slope until the number of times you've attended BTTI becomes inversely proportional to the number of dollars in your bank account. Can confirm.

Full Band Shows

True to tradition, the first show kicked off with a cover of "Back to the Island," then put a massive grin on my face when they surprised us with a cover of Weezer's "Island in the Sun" for the first time ever. Though it had absolutely nothing to do with this happening, allow me to remind you that I wrote a whole blog post back in 2015 about island-themed covers they should play, and this song was #1 on my list. Obviously I was thrilled to hear it.

Number three on my list, "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys, also made an appearance for the first time. Both songs sounded amazing, and we all know their voices were built to do justice to Beach Boys covers. They played the "Three Little Birds"/"Stir It Up" medley they've played for the past few years as well as "Islands in the Stream," and I got to hear "Feeling Alright" for the first time since my 20th birthday (we won't do the math on that one). There were more Hanson songs than covers, but the whole setlist had a very Island-themed covers vibe that I really enjoyed.

The second show Taylor mentioned something about deep cuts and then opened with "Dream Girl," so I knew we were about to hit FOMO territory. It had quite a few fan club songs, and my personal favorite moment was "Trembling" which was fun and upbeat and has never been played live before. I didn't think they would ever play "Working" again after the year it was released at  Hanson Day, but they proved me wrong. There were a handful of staples mixed in ("Hey," "Runaway Run," "This Time Around," "Waiting for This"), so overall on the deep cuts scale, I'm gonna say I could've used a bandaid, but there was no need for stitches this time.

The funny thing is after that show, my roomie and I went back to our room and were talking about how sometimes the "rares" we want to hear aren't necessarily the songs that have only been played a handful of times ever, but the songs that USED to be staples but haven't been played in a long time. I said "Like Dancing in the Wind electric with two guitars?" she agreed, and then magically Hanson opened the final show with it.

"Tearing it Down" was another highlight for me from the last show, but I think "Cried" was the real showstopper for most of the crowd. My only criticism for the night would be throwing in something like that so early in the set almost demands you balance it with another "wow" moment at the end or else you risk it feeling a bit anticlimactic. That and the "Song to Sing" closing wasn't my favorite, but they said it was a request, so I assume it was a really special moment to someone and maybe they needed it.

I really don't have a favorite show this year and thought all of them were great.

The Solos

I struggle with reviewing the solos every year because I hate feeling like I'm ranking the brothers and inevitably putting someone at the bottom. To get the negative out of the way, I will say my least favorite thing wasn't anyone's performance or song choice, it was how long Isaac took to get started. He was at least 30 if not 45 minutes late, and we had early dinner reservations that were at risk of not happening with every extra minute he took to show up. I think the general consensus when the schedule was announced was that we would have preferred solos to stay at 5pm rather than 4pm to give us more beach time, so having him show up closer to 5 anyway kind of defeated the point of altering the schedule. Nothing says you got old quite like remembering the preteen days of dreaming of seeing Hanson live just once or having them simply know you exist, and realizing you're now at a point of tapping your watch on a private beach wishing one of them would hurry up so you can make it to an early dinner. Hanger aside, his set included an exciting sneak peak at "Mother of Exiles," a song from his new side project, and ended on a high note with "Smile" and "Lonely Again."

Zac's set opened and closed with songs from the new 2023 fan club EP and included what I thought was a really killer vocal performance of "Use Me Up." I think half of the crowd showed up with kazoos for "The Ballad of Seymour Better Times", which makes me wonder how much disappointment there will be when he eventually leaves it off of the list. I personally love it and don't mind if it stays an island staple.

I swear I am not a "Taylor Girl" (or a Zac Girl or an Isaac Girl), but my blog always tries to prove otherwise when I go to talk about his solo set, and I'll be sticking to that theme again this year. He told a sad story about a friend losing a child right before playing "With You In Your Dreams," and for a moment I felt like I was back at an Isaac solo show circa 2017. He had the whole crowd sobbing, myself included, but managed to pick the pace back up and keep things upbeat for the second half. I was not at all prepared for him to break out "Semi-Hollow" after being told it would probably never be played live, but he nailed it and I think it was my favorite song of the entire trip. (Also, how fun/ironic is it that he sang a love song to a guitar using only a piano?) "We Belong Together" was great but didn't land quite as well as I hoped with the crowd participation, but maybe that's because I was standing in the back and couldn't hear everyone up front. I've always thought it would be a great crowd song and would love to hear it full band one day at a regular show.

The Events

This year's events were Family Feud hosted by Isaac and Taylor, Mario Kart with Zac, and a Poolside Dance Party with Taylor on the final night. They were divided by colored passes and scheduled so that they happened at the exact same time, so one half of the crowd was at Family Feud while the other half was at Mario Kart, and then the next night we all switched. I don't think that's necessarily how it actually played out, but that was the general idea. I had a pink pass and experienced Family Feud first and Games with Zac second.

Family Feud

Taylor randomly showed up once during Family Feud a few years ago, but this was his first time actually being a part of the game from the beginning. The dynamic was basically Isaac hosting/telling questionable jokes, and Taylor trying to pull things back on track and not always succeeding. Isaac was in his element telling us stories and whatever popped into his mind (whether he should or not--haunted houses, anyone?), and the crowd ate it up. I know they ask for our feedback every year, but I'd be very curious to hear Taylor's review of his first Family Feud experience. I did enjoy that he took on an event that put him in a more interactive role after several years of only seeing him from a distance at the dance party.

Mario Kart

I would never call myself a "gamer," but I spent a lot of time with my Super Nintendo as an only child, and over the years I find myself accidentally owning a new gaming system every time a new Zelda game comes out. I spent many nights my freshman year of college battling friends at Game Cube Mario Kart, and there was a time I had all of those courses and their shortcuts memorized. I haven't played it with any regularity since, so I'm more than a little rusty but not unaware of how to play. I had the opportunity to play against Zac a few years ago at the Melia and lost terribly, so any confidence I had about knowing what I was doing was shut down pretty quickly.

So when he called me up to play in the first group this year, I was excited to participate but prepared for a similar outcome. We played a Grand Prix, which is 4 races with 3 laps each and a final winner at the end. Obvious spoiler: Zac was that final winner, but in a totally unexpected twist, I somehow beat him in the first round. It was anticlimactic and short lived, but I guess it can go on a list of things I never thought I'd do. 

(P.S. I doubt there is any footage out there of me beating him, but if anyone has something more than dark photos from behind, feel free to send them my way!)

Pool Party

I'm always team pool dance party over any other type of dance party. This year some fans started their own white/silver theme, and while not everyone participated, you could tell the ones that did had a good time coming up with their outfits and had fun accessories. There were sparkly headbands, light up heels, silver tassels everywhere, and a ton of glowsticks. Seeing how much people got into it makes me hope Hanson will consider giving us an official theme next time.

It felt like there were a lot more people in the pool this year, but in a full spring break party sort of way, not over capacity or worthy of concern. There was one moment where the crowd was cheering loudly so I went closer to see what I was missing, expecting Taylor to be doing something, but it turned out to be a guy thrusting by a flamingo float to "Sexy and I Know it" just below Taylor's perch. You kind of had to be there, but trust that the party was alive and well this year.

I managed to get a video of Taylor jumping in the pool, and the entire time I was recording and people started swarming around him in the water, all I could do was picture those colonies of fire ants that join together to make a giant floating island of bodies to save themselves in a flood.

I'm not saying I would have behaved any differently if I were in the pool; I'm just saying my caption could have easily been "When the colony gets flooded, but you have to save the queen."


For the second year in a row, we had Allen, Mack, Myers, Moore as the special guests, and they played a welcome set on the beach before the bonfire on the first night in addition to a full show on the third night. I love their energy and banter and the friendly dynamic they have going with Hanson; it's obvious they work well together. They showed up to participate both nights of Family Feud (with some PG-13 worthy stage names both times), and they played Mario Kart with Zac during my session which was entertaining if only because every time someone shouted "Go, Zac!" it could've applied to three out of the four players. I would welcome new music to the island if they go a different direction next year, but I do think I will miss the fun that they AMMM brings when that eventually happens. We've had a special guest play twice, but never three years, so I guess we'll see in a few months if they'll be the first.


This is getting long, but I can't end without telling you that if you're ever worried that you did something embarrassing in front of Hanson, you're not alone, and also apparently I have a ten year statute of limitations on accidental hugs that ran out this year. (In case you missed it and enjoy secondhand embarrassment, here's a post about the time I accidentally hugged Taylor at 2014 BTTI.) So this year I walk up to greet them, and Taylor puts out his hand for a handshake. I shake his hand like I'm a person who has shaken hands before, so things are starting off strong. Then I *think* Zac puts out both arms for a hug, so I start to hug him back, but while I'm hugging him it hits me that I have a history of misreading hugs, and also why would he be hugging me after his brother shook my hand, so obviously I've misread the situation and created a repeat of 2014 with a different brother. So while my brain is firing nine levels of overthinking, I blurt out mid-hug "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm hugging you." I do my thing of taking the photo and high tailing it out of there before I can do more damage, and in a true repeat of 2014, totally skip even looking at Isaac because I'm in flight mode.

The best part is a friend was taking photos and video the whole time. I cringed at the laughably bad photo she got of us with identical "I don't want to be here" body language and couldn't bring myself to watch the video until I got home. Plot twist: Video confirms he was going in for a hug, and I'm the one that overthought and shut it down in the middle. I've done everything from dance on stage with these people to taking out trash with them, so there is honestly no comprehendible reason for me to still be this awkward in their presence. I think the moral of this story is I am body language illiterate, at least in the Hanson context, and y'all need to watch me around Isaac in 2034.

The Rest

I think the big question on everyone's minds this year was how things would go with extra rooms sold at the Bahia. I can't speak for the Bahia guests, but overall I didn't feel a huge difference. The beach might have been a bit fuller during shows, but I purposely tried to be closer this year so I wouldn't have to feel that potential effect. We didn't get our usual Beach Banquet on the final show night, but I've never fully enjoyed the long lines and mild chaos that comes with it anyway.

Last year felt so laid back and had a bit more mingling from the band than in previous years, and I think we were all hoping that vibe would stick. I would say overall that it did. They weren't out snorkeling with us or anything like that, but I saw that all three of them were mingling beyond the designated photos at different times throughout the event. It doesn't mean that everyone will have the opportunity to engage with them when they choose to make themselves more accessible, but it feels like progress to see them sharing their time with us and not being cornered into leaving.

So overall in the pro column this year? Amazing weather, getting to hear "Semi-Hollow," "We Belong Together," "Island in the Sun," and "Kokomo," spending time with friends doing nothing, and beating Zac in a Mario Kart race. And the cons list? Coming back home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think we need to see the footage of that hug! 😆