Tuesday, 21 April 2020

A Post I Almost Didn't Post: BTTI 2020




I wonder how much these flip flops have actually cost me, I thought as I looked through my merch pack from the Island Gigs desk on a hot January morning. It was hard to believe that 2020 was my sixth stint on the island and my fifth visit to Jamaica. The last couple of months had been rough to say the least, and I was looking forward to seeing some good friends, splash around in the ocean and drink cocktails by the pool, not to mention the main attraction: four days of Hanson shows. With no setlist voting this year, I was optimistic, trusting that the band would surprise us with something different.



Check out those very expensive flip-flops

THE MAIN SHOWS

Friday - Welcome Show

Setlist

In keeping with the last couple of years, the event kicked off to the calypso rhythm of “Back to the Island” - the song that lends its name to the event. I was happy to hear “Already Home” - it’s one of my favourite Hanson songs and one that sadly seems to have been dropped from heavy rotation in recent years. What followed, however, was a fairly predictable setlist that sounded straight out of 2017’s Middle of Everywhere tour.

There were a few highlights, like “Great Divide” and “Watch Over Me” - incidentally both tracks from what many fans consider to be Hanson’s most inspired album - The Walk.

Hanson were in good form, and played a solid set that sounded as flawless as it gets for island standards. However, it all felt very much like the singles-themed night of past years, another stop of the MOE tour. The crowd seemed to love it, but I left the beach that night with a distinct feeling of déjà vu.


Been there before? Yes.


Saturday - Mellow Songs

Setlist

When the band introduced the second show as a whole set of ballads, my heart sank. I like a slow song - or two - but a whole set? Three songs in, I felt my energy levels dip so low that - in a totally unprecedented move since I’ve been a Hanson fan - I decided to leave my relatively good spot on Isaac’s side of the stage and carry on watching the show from the back. A couple of songs later, I’d claimed a sun lounger, which made it a lot more tolerable to sit through songs like “Save Me”, one of my regular ‘skips’, and the omnipresent “More Than Anything”, which Isaac plays at every single BTTI.

Comfortably horizontal but sonically unchallenged, I struggled to stay interested. Tiredness and possibly some residual jet-lag had got the better of me, compounded by a setlist that was more Kumbaya around the fire than Caribbean beach party. More than once I felt myself going under and wished I’d remembered to pack some caffeine tablets.

Mercifully, Hanson picked up the tempo in the finale and treated us to a rare performance of “Carry You There” - one of my favourite songs and one that I had yet to hear live. Overall though, I found the ballads set excruciatingly dull, and ninety minutes straight of ballads made me want to listen to a Dead Kennedys playlist on repeat.


A view from a lounger

Monday - The Final Show

Setlist

By that point, many of us had assumed that the final show would be a much awaited Members/Rares set. It had to be, right? But no. The last concert on the island was nothing of that sort, with a setlist largely featuring popular album tracks, with a few BTTI staples like “Best of Times” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home” here and there. Undoubtedly, Hanson’s choice of songs had its advantages: a tried and tested setlist made for a tight performance that bore no resemblance to 2019’s shambolic final concert. But the show held no surprises, no 'ahh' moments, and once again I felt that I was watching a regular tour stop rather than something special. Where were the rare songs and the deep cuts, where were all those EP vaulted into oblivion after one single live airing at Hanson Day? Where was “Compromise”, arguably the best song from the 2019 Members EP?
I walked away from the beach after the final bows thinking “well, that’s it” - it's over. Hanson had left me wanting more, but certainly not more of the same.

The Solo Sets

Zac

Setlist

The first of the three solo sets, Zac’s solo show was at least rich in new and seldom played material. The setlist included three new songs, two songs from the last members EP and no album tracks - if we exclude “Lulabelle”, technically a hidden track (remember those?). I was happy to hear “Call Out My Name” -  another favourite from “Sound of Light” and a song that works very well as a solo performance. Overall, I found the energy of the set a bit lacking compared to the previous year, but I know the Zac fans will probably disagree.


Zac

Isaac

Setlist

Possibly having listened to fans feedback, Isaac stepped up his game for his 2020 solo set and came on stage prepared. That meant that we got to hear rarely played songs in their entirety, with no aborted attempts or forgotten lyrics. My friend Kasey finally got her wish granted with “I Don’t Know” and there was even a new song, “Your Eyes”. The latter sounded a lot like all of Isaac’s recent sappy songs, but at least it wasn’t “More Than Anything” (which, alas, I would still have to suffer at least once during the event).

At one point Hanson’s younger brother Mac joined Isaac onstage, accompanying him on the keyboard for “Grace Unknown” - a song that had only been performed live twice thus far. It was certainly a better rendition than what Isaac had attempted at BTTI 2016 - although in my opinion it needs a full band to do it justice. 

My verdict? 2020 was without a doubt Isaac’s best solo set since Cancun 2015.


Isaac

Taylor
I think most people will agree with me that the highlight of Taylor’s 2020 solo set was "Dream Girl" which, according to Hansonstage, had only been played a total of 12 times  thus far. It's that kind of rare performance that entices a lot of fans to shell out for the event. 

Equally special was a performance of “Get Out of My Heart” as a duet with MILCK - who had played a terrific guest set the night before. When I heard the first notes of "These Walls" I decided that Taylor had won the battle of the solo sets 2020.


Taylor

Everything Else

There’s definitely some truth in the Law of Diminishing Returns and as BTTI has become more expensive every year, it has also become a little less special. Although this year’s event ran more smoothly than ever, and the night-time activities made it possible to actually have some beach time during the day, something had changed. Compared to past years, it's plainly obvious that Hanson are more than ever before keeping their distance from fans. It could be because their families are there, or simply because the guys don't want to be at the centre of another selfie-fest. Maybe they're just kind of over it. I don't know. But the spontaneity of past years has gone, and with that, the surprise factor of maybe bumping into Isaac at the bar, or Zac stopping by to chat with fans on the beach after the show.

Something else really bothered me.

During one of the main shows, a guy in the audience shouted something like ‘I love you, man!’. What ensued was something I have now witnessed at Hanson shows several times before: Taylor joking about the fact that, of course, it had to be a bro type of love. I’m paraphrasing here, but the banter went on for a good couple of minutes, all along the lines of the ‘we’re all manly men here, of course’. Taylor joked about grunting. It was all reminiscent of when it was common for a certain type of straight men to say ‘no homo’ after any statement that potentially carried ‘gay’ undertones. 
I get it: Hanson are straight men and in all likelihood, the guy in the audience was an equally straight fan, someone’s husband or boyfriend yelling out his appreciation after one Red Stripe too many. But what if - please suspend your disbelief with me for a moment - what if the fan in question had been a male LGBTQ person? What if he had meant the “I love you” in the same way as those female fans who regularly yell and catcall Hanson at every single show? Hanson’s reaction would have instantly invalidated that fan’s perspective, and to what benefit? Does acknowledging “I love you” from a male fan make you gay?

I’ve seen Hanson react that way a lot - on stage, on social media, in interviews, and it’s been getting worse. It’s as if they are making a conscious effort to assert their masculinity at every opportunity, reassuring the fans from the platform of social media that their favourite band members are wholesome straight men who run in mud, ride motorcycles and throw axes in their spare time. 

Then there was Family Feud. A short while into the game, Mac joined Isaac to co-host. Armed with a microphone, the youngest Hanson sibling put on a very camp voice and switched into the made-up persona of a crazy German scientist.

I’ll give it to him - the youngest Hanson brother is obviously good at impersonations and has an innate sense of comedic timing. For a minute, maybe, it was even funny. But it went on, and on, and on. There were innuendos and double entendres involving “sausage”. All around me, fans howled with laughter. Feeling that I couldn't leave as I had agreed to join a team for the games, I sat there feeling this massive disconnect from both the audience and the man performing: was I really watching a straight man put on a foreign accent and a camp voice to entertain a crowd of largely straight, white women? And what was so funny about his shtick - was it the German accent - aren’t foreigners hilarious! - or the camp voice: aren’t those gays a hoot! 

I most definitely wasn’t laughing - especially knowing that I was ultimately paying for that sorry spectacle. If I'd wanted to suffer through outdated and not-so-subtly homophobic comedy sketches, I would have stayed at home and watched old comedy re-runs on UK Gold

There are worse places to spend five days in January and, like every year, I enjoyed my time in Jamaica. I saw friends from faraway places, swam in the ocean, dressed up like an extra from an '80s movie - something I never got to do back in 1985. I had some great conversations with some wonderful Jamaican people, some of whom I knew from past years. Mercifully, and unlike my poor roommate, I didn’t get salmonella.

As organising guru Marie Kondo says, when something doesn’t spark joy, it’s time to let it go, and if I have to be really honest with myself, BTTI 2020 didn’t really spark joy for me. Instead, it highlighted a sense of dissatisfaction with the band I'd been experiencing for a while. While we have all been waiting for 'that new album', I found joy in other artists and bands. Online, I’ve been avoiding fan groups and forums, frustrated by the prevailing attitude that Hanson can do no wrong. But more than anything else, I can’t keep justifying spending thousands of dollars on a four-day event that no longer offers anything new. I think the time has come for me to hang my flip-flops and take a break. 



Photos, however, have been consistently getting better

Post Scriptum: Notes from the Age of Coronavirus

It’s April 2020 as I am finally getting round to posting this. The world has changed beyond recognition since February and it feels like the days of watching a Hanson show on a Jamaican beach belong to a different lifetime. My country of birth, Italy, has been absolutely ravaged by the virus, with a death toll so far of almost 25,000. People all over the world have lost their jobs, families have been split, borders have been closed, planes have been grounded. 'Social distancing' has become a common phrase. One by one, artists had to cancel shows and entire tours. 

In the earlier stages of the pandemic, before the US media grasped the gravity of the situation, Zac made a very insensitive Instagram post, in which he joked about "people acting all #coronavirus crazy". The post was accompanied by a hand painted sign that read ‘Live your life and don’t lick doorknobs’ - a reference to an idiotic social media challenge. A lot of fans, including myself, commented on the post, pointing out that Zac’s statement was in really poor taste. Zac was unapologetic, reacting with sarcasm and even deleting some of the most critical comments. It was not the first time Zac had handled controversy with the maturity of a thirteen year-old boy, but that was the first time that it was over something so serious. Soon Isaac and Taylor embarked on a damage limitation mission, with heartfelt messages and impromptu Instagram livestreams. They looked sincere, but to date there’s still been no apology from Zac, who instead replied to another fan's comment just recently, pretty much accusing her of having no sense of humour. I can’t help wondering if Zac would have showed a sense of humour to a post poking fun at 9/11.

Since then, it’s only gone downhill. A ‘Quarantstream’ t-shirt appeared on sale on the HNET store, cashing in on Isaac’s solo livestreams. The justification I heard for this spectacular case of poor taste is that fans had been asking for merch. But who is in charge here, the band or the fans? Do Hanson have to agree to every request for new merch, however ridiculous or inappropriate that maybe be? As to whether any of the profits would be devolved to a good cause, well, there’s no mention of that on the shirt's listing.

Then, when you think it couldn’t get much worse, Hanson decided to announce the sale of BTTI 2021. As the whole world spirals down towards the deepest recession since records began, and some of the biggest airlines are on the brink of collapse - as New York City turns into a real-life set of The Walking Dead and people worldwide are wondering where their next pay cheque will come from, Hanson decide to sell a luxury holiday in the Caribbean. I won’t go into the ensuing arguments that, of course, immediately erupted within the fan base: if you’re reading this, you probably already know where to find them, who to ask, who will have screenshots of the juiciest bits. I am not going to try and change anyone’s minds. I am just disappointed in a band who appears to have become permanently tone deaf and out of touch.

Seeing through these dark times is all matters to me right now: following a band around the world can wait. As the Queen said:

“...better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.” 



Sunday, 30 June 2019

Is this In Real Life? A review of Hanson's 2019 Fan Club EP


I was in my hotel room in Tulsa when I first listened to the EP. I’d ferried my trusted seven year old MacBook Air all across the Atlantic, complete with an equally old and battered external CD drive, with the sole purpose of ripping that CD the moment it was in my hands and listening to it in religious contemplation.




Compromise


The first song in the EP, "Compromise" starts with a piano and guitar intro, and instantly puts me in a state of acoustic bliss that reaches its nirvana as Isaac’s voice comes on some twenty seconds later. Before you can scream ‘Isaac lead’, Zac takes over vocals on the second verse, with the final part going to Taylor. After my initial split second of disappointment, it made complete sense: it’s a song about compromise, shared among the three brothers and layered with their trademark harmonies in between each verse. What is that if not a perfect example of musical compromise?

Thematically, my first thought was that the lyrics referred to the struggle of being brothers working together as a band, something that Hanson have hinted at many times. But at a closer look, “Compromise” can also be referring to the times we live in - accepting a compromise in the hope that things will change, but ultimately feeling dissatisfied. Hanson are not known for making a direct political commentary but I can’t help feeling that this song could hint at their true feelings about what happened to the U.S. since the last presidential elections. As ever when Hanson put some serious effort into their lyrics, the result is ambiguous, but that works, because pretty much everybody can relate to the song. 

“Fighting for the last word, all you end up feeling is compromised.”

Doesn’t that sum up social media fights in one simple sentence?

Verdict


Musically, Hanson are at their very best when they keep things simple: that's when their unique alchemy of guitars, piano and harmonies produces gems like this song. Musically along the lines of “On the Road” and “On and On”, “Compromise” is one of the best songs to come out of 3CG in the last 10 years.

[You can watch the full music video of “Compromise” and watch the Real-to-Reel 'making of' video on Hanson’s YouTube channel.]

Worth the Wait


Full disclosure: I really hated this song on my first listen. Musically it’s the exact opposite of what I like - a sonic anti “Compromise”. A closer look at the lyrics, however, made me listen to it in a different way: “Worth the Wait” is clearly a celebration of Hanson’s faith and despite the fact that I’m not religious myself, I find that such a song is long overdue from a band who has never taken advantage of its position to evangelise. The EP is called In Real Life and whether a fan likes it or not, faith is a big part Hanson’s real, personal life. So if for once they want to shout it out and celebrate it with a song, I’m all for it.


Verdict

A ‘play’ or ‘skip’ depending on my current mood, but when I do play it, I see a video of this song with Hanson in shiny purple robes, leading a church choir at Sunday service like James Brown in The Blues Brothers




[For further insight on the song, check out the Real-to-Reel video on Hanson’s YouTube channel.]


A song that had already been showcased at the past two BTTIs, Seymour is a Zac-on-guitar lead, a much needed change after the many sound-a-like piano songs of recent years. It’s a fun little song that tells the story of Seymour, a hapless character who gets into trouble with married women, the law and his creditors, to then undergo some kind of road-to-Damascus conversion. Musically, it’s borderline crazy-Zac-song material, complete with kazoos, a junior Hanson’s vocals, handclaps and some interesting choices of vocabulary, with the insertion of words of U.K. provenance like ‘coppers’ and ‘lass’ - the latter rarely even used south of the Scottish border. It might not be to everyone’s taste but for me “Seymour” manages to stay on the right side of quirky without becoming irritating. 


Verdict 


You got me at ‘no money money money money’. Play!




[Clip of Zac's performance at BTTI 2019]

Reading Your Mind


Another BTTI preview that I remember enjoying back in Jamaica, this song’s quiet intro doesn’t really do justice. What follows is actually a mid-tempo ballad that has been getting stuck in my head since that first spin in Tulsa. The chorus, with its harmonies and Beach Boys-style ooh-oohs is catchy as hell, and makes up for the admittedly predictable Zac style lyrics about obsessive love. So although the slow verse is somewhat unremarkable, every time the chorus comes on I’m sucked back in, and I find myself wanting to hear this song live again. After a couple of years of average Zac leads that all sounded the same, I’m glad to hear something that sounds a little more elaborate, and that employs Zac’s voice at its best, offering opportunities for belting it out as well as moments of subtlety. 


Verdict


Play it again, Zac - and bonus points for Isaac on the cello.




[Clip of Zac's performance at BTTI 2019]

Better Days


“You and me/we’re gonna make it together”

Right from the intro, we’re entering “Fame!” territory - and by the time the chorus kicks in, I’m envisioning Hanson breaking into dance and running into Main Street, swiftly joined by all their staff from 3CGs and people from neighbouring cafes and businesses - all singing ‘Better days! Better days are coming!’ as Taylor bashes on the keyboard of a piano that has magically appeared in the middle of the street. In those days we didn’t call such scenes ‘flash mobs’, but if you are old enough to remember the old “Fame!” television series, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Fame!


I shouldn’t really like this song - it’s a bit too 1980’s and sort of bombastic, but there’s something about it that stops me from hitting the ‘skip’ button. It also sounded pretty damn good live, although I suspect that it will end up buried in the vaults like a lot of EP songs and only come out at fan club events - again, another one that I hope to hear at next year’s BTTI.

Verdict


I wanna live forever! No, wait, wrong song. Never mind - play!

The Final Verdict



Compared to last year’s Animal Instincts, In Real Life feels like a better and bigger effort from the band, with at least three songs - "Compromise", "Seymour" and "Reading Your Mind" - that could easily be album material. Regardless of personal taste, none of the five songs sounds phoned in - there’s no Zac-by-numbers "Goldminer/Ghost Writer/Sophia" and no fun-but-nonsense Isaac-does Chuck-Berry lead. It feels like Hanson have woken up from the torpor of the last couple of years and rediscovered some fire, and although In Real Life is still eclectic in style and ultimately aimed at the hardcore fan base, it’s telling how Hanson are trying to push it to the ‘outside world’ by sharing some of the songs and ‘making of’ videos on YouTube, as if the band are particularly proud of this EP, six years after their last proper studio album, Anthem. It’s almost as if String Theory recharged Hanson’s creative batteries and now the guys are back in the game, ready to fight on, as the title of the next album, Against the World certainly appears to indicate. With two full albums allegedly already in the works, it really does look like better days are coming - better days than before.


Hanson's new members EP "In Real Life" is available as part of the fan club membership. All information on Hanson.net.


Monday, 10 June 2019

Hanson Day 2019: a Recap

Registration

To everyone’s surprise, registration opened before the event had even officially started, on Wednesday afternoon. I don’t know if that was planned, or if it was a last minute decision, but it was a good idea regardless. It’s obvious that more and more people are arriving to Tulsa earlier in the week, so it makes sense to try and register as many attendees as possible, as soon as possible. So by late afternoon on Wednesday I had my bracelet, my tickets and, most importantly, my EP. I’d lugged my trusted old MacBook Air and an external CD drive all the way across the Atlantic with the sole purpose of being able to listen to that EP straightaway so I headed back to my hotel room for a very exclusive Listening Party. (Check out this blog again soon for a full review of the EP.)




Storytellers


This year’s Storytellers was effectively an acoustic show, centred around the Underneath album. It’s a golden combination for me, as I discovered the band through that particular album, and I love it when Hanson go acoustic - so much so that I that I keep voting for ‘acoustic’ as a BTTI theme, albeit with pitiful results. But give me the Hanson brothers with an acoustic guitar in their hands and I’m the happiest fan in the audience. 

My only slight criticism of the show is that there was very little storytelling. I would have liked to hear how those songs had been created, but on the other hand, as my friend Kasey pointed out, Hanson tend to mumble when they tell their stories, and unless you’re right at the front and adept at lip-reading, it’s often hard to make out what they’re actually saying. So maybe it was for the best and anyway, Hanson amply made up for it with a surprise performance of Isaac on the cello, the instrument that he has been learning for a while. That first public performance of “Underneath” on the cello will no doubt go down in fan history. Watch the clip below if you don’t believe me.




The Store

I got there at 9:00 AM, thinking that, as I had already registered and the queues wouldn’t have had a chance to build up, I’d be done in a couple of hours.

Four-and-a-half hours later and questioning all my recent life choices, I was finally setting foot in the store. Despite the fact that a preview of the new merch had been put up on the website, enabling people to choose whilst still in line, it had taken hours to get in, possibly through a combination of not enough staff picking orders at the back and fans not leaving the store quickly enough. Whatever the reasons, I felt that only through highly sophisticated brainwashing, a person of reasonable intelligence would give up almost five hours of vacation time to roast on a pavement in order to give Hanson more of her hard-earned cash. Make no mistake: the store visit is nothing but a Hanson tithe.




Karaoke

The Hanson Day ticket sale chaos back in February meant that I hadn’t managed to get a ticket for karaoke, but thanks to a friend on the lookout, a couple of tickets were found. I took the tickets with immense gratitude because missing karaoke would have meant being excluded from the first night of Hanson Day partying. I didn’t fancy prospect of ending up outside, possibly - shudder - stone sober, my face pressed against the Vanguard doors like a snotty-nosed orphan outside a bakery. 

Compared to 2017, Karaoke offered precious little Isaac hosting time. The best bit was a performance of “A Minute Without You” by a group of Australian fans, who were joined onstage by the Old Man himself (check out the clip below). Overall though, I felt that the night was a little flat and by the halfway point, a lot of people appeared to have left. A suggestion? Get Isaac to actually host the whole thing (hey Isaac: we know you’re backstage imbibing mid-price nightclub-level bourbon, so why not just come out and be drunk on stage?), and find a bigger venue so that everybody can attend.





Group Photos

The Hanson Day group picture always goes quicker than lightning, making the BTTI picture feel like a 15-minute long Meet & Greet in comparison. The line moved quickly - it’s a Hanson Fan Dogma that the only fast-moving line at Hanson Day is the line for Pictures - but as we were finally getting through the door, something went wrong and our group got merged with the one in front of us. Next thing I knew, my friend Kasey, who is not known for being a shrinking violet, was kicking off at Hanson, Hanson’s staff and the whole world, yelling ‘that is not our group!’. Unsure as to what to do, I stood there looking in turn at Kasey, who refused to budge, and Hanson, who were already lined up against the wall like convicts facing a firing squad, their faces barely disguising their increasing exasperation and waning patience.

Well, I thought to myself, amused and horrified in equal measure, we certainly managed to draw attention to ourselves. Eventually the impasse was broken and we joined the group. I didn’t fare too badly, standing next to a friend from my group, Pei-Yi, who was in turn standing next to Isaac. As Hanson's photographer Trevor lifted three fingers up in countdown, I felt a hand on my back, and realised it was Isaac’s, who had his arm over Pei-Yi and me. It’s a small detail, but very telling about these guys: even if group photos must be a pretty tedious affair, they still try to make the person at the far end of the group feel like they’re in a picture with Hanson and not with just a random group of people.

A group photo, minus Hanson
The Gallery


Since my last time in Tulsa, the Gallery is now housed inside an exhibition space at the back of Chimera. Despite having to line up in a dumpster-lined back alley, I liked the new gallery’s smaller, edgier feel - a much more appropriate setting for the works of an emerging artist.

That said, I wasn’t blown away by this year’s material: Zac is beginning to take the pop-art, mass produced thing a bit too far, as his paintings all look like they’ve been traced from photographs and then given the Zac treatment. The resulting pieces are nice to look at but I miss Zac’s original work of past years - like the one with the three knights from 2015, a signed print of which I have in my study. 

"Panic in the Streets" by Zac Hanson (signed print on canvas)


The most interesting insight into the artist’s mind was provided by three individual portraits of the brothers. Isaac appears pensive, as if the weight of the world is resting on his shoulders. Taylor looks older than his age, in an over-exaggerated version of his current bearded look. In his own self-portrait, however, Zac, looks very much like himself: clean shaven, sporting a headband and aviator sunglasses and with a knowing smirk on his lips - the smirk of the artist who has deliberately made himself look prettier than his brothers.

Credit to @iamhansonguy https://www.instagram.com/p/Bx0noEgHxHi/

This year’s photo prints selection was also somewhat disappointing, with most of the photos representing random subjects and landscapes rather than the brothers themselves. I see the reasoning behind it, as the photos were taken by Taylor and therefore he only featured in a couple of mirror shots; but, let’s face it: do you really want to pay $50 for the photo of a dentist’s surgery door, just because Taylor Hanson took it, when there are better much photographers out there? 

I still managed to drop $100 for a photo of Isaac (to complete my mostly-Isaac-centred wall in my study) and a self-portrait of Taylor for a friend, and as I loaded my currency card for the umpteenth time that week, I thought ruefully at how skilled Hanson have become in extracting money out of me.

Isaac Hanson looking a bit like Dean Martin


The VR Experience

The best part of visiting the gallery was the VR ‘experience’. I had to get into another endless line that felt like a million years, but it was worth it. I sat on a revolving stool on an elevated platform while a member of staff handed me a set of VR goggles (which my friend and I disinfected with her surgical grade anti-bacterial wipes: you really don’t want the sweat of dozens of people all over your face). After pressing play on the remote control, you were suddenly transported to the 3CG studio. The band started to play “Compromise”, the first track from the new EP, as, I, the virtual viewer, sat in the middle: Isaac to my left, Taylor right in front of me and Zac to my right. Swivelling to the left or to the right, I could see exactly what Isaac and Zac were doing, and right in front of me there was Taylor, who would often look right into the camera - giving me the illusion that he was singing right at me. But what I found even more bizarre was being in the studio, which, after years of watching Livestreams and ‘making of’ videos, by now feels like a really familiar place. Then, some thirty seconds before the end of the song, the goggles’ battery died on me. Oh well - it was fun while it lasted.



Edible Digital Pants

I was - literally - late to the (listening) party due to how long it had taken to get to the VR experience at the Gallery, so I missed the first two or three songs, but I still got my lunchbox with a CD, some candy and a rubber doughnut. The only really notable moment was the end when a vo-coded Bugs Bunny voice  said something like, ‘the party is over, please leave now’. In a nutshell, Hanson’s feelings by the end of Hanson Day-week.



String Theory


I was looking forward to seeing the show from the Mezzanine, as I’d been in the front and first few rows at the String Theory shows in Europe. Once I got over the terrifyingly steep descent to my seats - the Mezzanine at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center is high, high up - I enjoyed the infinitely superior sound and finally being able to see the whole orchestra even if the tradeoff is the emotional connection that you get from being closer.

If I had to find one point of criticism, it would be the lack of an a capella encore, which I had almost taken for granted as Hanson were playing in their hometown, to their families gathered in the front few rows. At first, the orchestra stayed put and it looked as if something was going to happen, but then the lights went up. My theory is that Taylor’s voice, which sounded a little strained at times during the concert, needed resting, and that perhaps an encore had been planned but had to be aborted last-minute.

String Theory, from the dizzy heights of the mezzanine


Oh, Snap! The Dance Party

Since my last Hanson Day in 2017, the dance party had been moved to Cain’s Ballroom, so a lot more people were able to attend and there was a lot more room to move around. When we arrived, two of Taylor’s kids were handing out Mardi Gras-style strings of beads and cardboard cutouts of Hanson’s heads. Of course, I picked an Isaac. Inside, there were photo booths to have your pictures and videos taken to be then shown on the multiple screens by the side of Taylor’s DJ booth. 

In terms of a Hanson ‘afterparty’, it was pretty standard, but the gimmicks were fun and I enjoyed photobombing people’s selfies with my “Isaac”. The playlist was a combination of Taylor’s usual choices and some fan choices and on that note, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight - watched from the safety of the bleachers - of hundreds of Hanson fans doing the Cupid Shuffle. I’m nowhere near drunk enough for this, I thought as I watched in mesmerised horror.

Mardi Gras Isaac


State of the Band


By now, everybody will know what was announced at State of The Band - you can read the official news in one of the last newsletters. But the bottom line is, Hanson promised not one, but two albums. There must be a good stash of ready to publish songs if Hanson feel confident enough to make such a bold announcement, so I am feeling cautiously optimistic. And the nerd in me is very, very excited about the news that the HNET website will finally be redesigned. They’d better not lose my pins in the process.


The Members Only Concert


I think most people will agree that this MOE show was the most polished in a long time. Maybe the band finally realised that they need to rehearse the new songs and it showed, resulting in an overall glitch-free show during which Hanson remembered most of the lyrics. Hurrah! Now let’s see if they can keep that streak going. 

It was a shame that the show was not livestreamed for the fans at home but the big round camera placed at the front of the stage was a telltale sign that they were filming for the upcoming documentary and I guess something had to give. Let’s hope that some footage will be soon shared on HNET, because all members deserve to be part of the experience, in one way or another.


The Hop Jam


Not technically part of the Hanson Day events, Hanson’s headlining show at the Hop Jam was effectively the fourth show of the week.

I’m not a festival person and I would rather watch a band with my tribe than with a crowd of randoms. Shoot me but I don’t find the atmosphere at the Hop Jam all that inspiring: partly because by the time the headliners come on, revellers are a bit too drunk and a bit too sunbaked, and partly because a car park in the middle of downtown Tulsa isn’t the most picturesque setting for a concert.

But Hanson played a good show, with a predictable but upbeat setlist that pleased everybody. The best moment was the finale when all the other acts got on stage for a rendition of Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite”. In all seriousness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Taylor rocking it out quite like that before: maybe it was because his brother Mackenzie was onstage, or maybe because his buddies Phantom Planets were also there, but whatever the reason, he really, really rocked. 

(Video by Kristin Moore)




Summing Up

My third time at Hanson Day confirmed the feeling, obvious even from afar, that Hanson Day is getting bigger every year, with more events and more people attending. It’s better organised and events run more smoothly than in past years and other than the lines for the store, everything felt better managed. In terms of the actual events, four consecutive shows were an absolute treat and something that might not happen again at Hanson Day soon. What I didn’t like so much - but that’s something totally outside of Hanson’s control - is Mayfest’s move into the Brady District: this year there was a different vibe on the streets from Friday night and although I never really felt unsafe, I missed that ‘Hanson Camp’ feel of past years. I guess I’ve got so used to BTTI that now having ‘outsiders’ encroaching a Hanson event feels like an outright invasion.

Would I go back in 2020? I certainly would, if money was no object. But I’m already booked for BTTI 2020 and increasingly I am finding that BTTI wins over Hanson Day purely through the event’s size: 400 vs 1,000? It’s a no-brainer. And if Hanson meant it when they said there will be a World Tour in 2020, then that money would be better spent seeing a string of shows over here. 

But whether it’s next year or 2021 or whenever, I know that I’ll be back in Tulsa at some point. There’s something really special about that city, something that transcends its status of Hanson Graceland: it’s the warmth of its people, it’s that feel of a small town that has made itself comfortable in the middle of a big city. It’s the only airport in the world where Taylor Hanson's voice welcomes you through the loudspeakers when you arrive, and where the friendliest, most approachable security wave you through as you leave. Can I blame the scores of Hanson fans who have chosen to make a home there? Not one bit. 

So long Tulsa, I’ll be back, Hanson-soon.

Peek-a-Boo! - channelling my inner Isaac

You can already RSVP for Hanson Day 2020 on Hanson.net