Thursday, 18 January 2018

Day 2: When Hanson set the World on Fire in a Jamaican Greenhouse

[Apologies for the tiny font - I've tried everything and it keeps reverting to tiny. Hit CTRL and + or CMD and + on your browser to increase the page size]

We woke up to, guess what, more rain. The outlook was bleak.

Technically, it was Day 2 and BTTI had not even started. Hanson had tweeted a revised schedule which pretty much packed four days’ worth of events in three days, so out went my plans to have more beach time this year. Not that the beach looked like much of an option, anyway.

The first event of the day would be Zac’s solo set (the location still to be confirmed at that point) so Howra and I decided to try the yoga class, which another friend had taken the day before. I figured the class would probably be geared towards beginners - enough for me to keep up. What could possibly go wrong?* (*this became the mantra of BTTI 2018 for me)

We walked up the stair to the gym only to discover, to our dismay, that there was absolutely no designated floor space for a single person stretching, let alone for a yoga class. At least seven or eight people had turned up for the class, and we all looked around the small fitness room in disbelief, wondering how on earth we were going to all fit in there. But before I had a chance to bail, a man in shorts and massive biceps appeared, greeting us ominously: “I’m probably not as flexible as some of you.” Awesome. 


Deeply regretting my latest life choices, I found myself a space between the treadmills and the lat pulldown and unrolled the mat, which had probably last been wiped when Bob Marley was still alive. When Biceps Man began the class getting us to go ‘cold’ into a deep back bend, I knew it was a terrible idea - I felt it was too rude to leave - proving that some Very British Problems are real.

We struggled through the routine, battling on with the lack of actual instruction, the dirty mats and the horrific B.O. that was emanating from someone in the room. Then, to our horror, Biceps Man began to do take a woman through deep, face-down quadriceps stretch (a very, very bad idea on cold muscles). I hesitated: I needed both of my quadriceps intact for tonight’s show, but walking out of a class is pretty poor etiquette. Howra was having none of it. “We don’t owe him anything.” she whispered menacingly. At last, we left, and my lower back hurt for the rest of the day.

I can’t remember much of what we did next, other than once again taking our rage to the buffet and eating a ton of food. At some point though, we ended up joining some friends to a game of beach volleyball; I suck at sports beyond anyone’s imagination, but that afternoon was one of the most fun moments of the whole week and I was almost resentful that we had to get out of the pool to get ready for Zac’s solo set, which was now going to take place in some sort of tented structure at the entrance of the resort - basically, a greenhouse. Once again the question popped into my mind: what could possibly go wrong?

The Greenhouse

The greenhouse was situated on the Melia’s extensive grounds, which offered, among other things, a climbing wall and ziplining - all closed in the inclement weather.
  Reluctantly, I joined the queue that was snaking all around the Melia’s parking lot. The best thing about BTTI  is that you can rock up whenever you want and still get a good view of the stage; but now I felt like was about to attend a regular tour stop, with the added bonus of being at the back of the queue. By the time we got into the greenhouse, the room was packed, and although I knew there was a stage at the other end, it was so low I could barely see Zac’s keyboard.

The show started an hour late - an hour I could have been playing pool volleyball - and when Zac finally took to the stage, I could barely see the top of his head. It was going to suck to see a solo set - one of BTTI’s unique selling points - in such an abysmal venue, but it was better than the alternative (an outside venue) or no show at all. I told myself that at least I could hear.

Or so I thought. Because when Zac opened the set with “On The Rocks”, the sound was absolutely terrible. He carried on with “Call Out My Name” - one of my favourite songs from “Sound of Light” which, however, doesn’t particularly benefit from the solo treatment. Zac’s banter with the front row - hard to decipher even in optimal sound conditions - was virtually unintelligible from where I stood.

Next was “No Sleep for Banditos”; I love that song (in fact, I love the whole EP, which is the first physical Hanson CD I ever owned) but it wasn’t the best rendition I’d heard. As Zac ploughed his way through "Misery", “Letters in the Mailbox” and the omnipresent “Juliet”, I go the sense that the whole set was not going very well at all, with wrong keys, wrong chords and forgotten lyrics. I would have liked to hear a better version of "Chasing Down My Dreams" for the same reasons mentioned for NSFB; on the other hand, I would have been happy to skip  "Do You Believe in Love" - why on earth does Zac insist on playing it as a solo, when it needs a band, and above all, drums? The set ended with a new song, “The Ballad of Seymour Better Times”. I wish I could say that it was awesome but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me - hopefully the finished version, if it ever emerges, will.* 

Zac seemed to be eager to walk off stage as quickly as possible, just as I was equally glad to leave the greenhouse. As we made our way outside, I came to the conclusion that I’d just watched my worst Hanson solo show so far - even worse than Isaac’s shambolic performance of 2016. 

What do you do when things go wrong at BTTI 2018? You head for the buffet, which is what we did, again. We took out our frustration on the dessert counter, and if I gained a few pounds that night, Zac is the one to blame.

Zac Solo Setlist
*A recording of 'Seymour" has emerged, and you know what? I rather like it. It's a kind of Wilco-like ditty that wouldn't sound out of place in a Sundance movie. You know what I mean?

The Main Show - Rock All Night

Fast forward a few hours and we were back in the greenhouse, or rather, in a large kind of ante-chamber that had been set up as bar. One of this year’s guests, Chris Carrabba, was playing his set. I poked my head through the doors:  a cat was being strangled to the tune of a sort of Dropkick Murphys-lite, fanson-friendly ersatz punk. I headed straight back out to the bar. Only minutes earlier, I’d spotted Stephen Kellogg getting out of the shuttle bus, even managing to quickly say hello. Now, that was a concert I was actually looking forward to.

By the time the main Hanson show started, I was once again at the back of the room, and couldn’t see squat. Hanson opened with “Oh La La La”, which I haven’t heard anywhere near enough times live, then carried on with “Fired Up” and in “The City”, followed by ‘And I Waited’. Oddly, I have no recollection of hearing songs two, three and four; I suspect that’s because I was finding it hard to immerse myself in the music when all I could see was the crowd and the top of Isaac’s ‘wave’. Luckily, all of that was mitigated by Stephen Kellogg suddenly appearing in front of me and nonchalantly leaning against a pillar while he watched the show, every inch the off-duty rockstar checking out his mates’ band. I needed to find the person who had got me into his music, and drag her there. 

Stephen Kellogg looking effortlessly cool

I found Kelly about 10 rows from the stage, Taylor side; from there, you could at least see the band’s heads. “Blue Sky” was almost finished by that time, and I was trying to tell Kelly that SK was at the back, when the unfathomable happened. As we heard some familiar opening notes, Kelly started to freak out, while my brain stopped computing, paralysed with denial. This is the dialogue that ensued:

Kelly: “Arhhgghghg OMG arhghghghgh”
Me: “No, it’s not that.”
Kelly: “Yes it is! Arhghghghghg! Arhghghghgh!”
Me, robot-like: “No, it’s not. It’s “Crazy Beautiful”. 
Kelly: “Noooo! Yeeeeeeeeeeeah! It is! It is! Arhghghgh”
Me: “It’s “Crazy Beautiful!”
Kelly: “Arhghghghghghg!”
Me: “It cannot be. It cann-”
Taylor Hanson: “Watch from a distance, beautiful…”

And so it happened. After years of begging, bitching and campaigning, after practically giving up hope, Hanson played our favourite song, “World’s on Fire”. The closest I’d ever got to hearing it live was during a Yahoo! Livestream of the RNR tour in 2015, when they played it and my Twitter exploded (and I thought it was “Crazy Beautiful”). I love that song so much that I even wrote a blog post about it, and as recent as a few weeks before BTTI, I’d managed to sneak a mention of it into a thread about songs we wanted to hear - opening with “It will never happen but…”. 
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it did happen, and I was there.

After this truly epic moment, Kelly and I were on a massive high for the rest of the show: Hanson could have played "The Chicken Dance" and we would have been cool with it. The rest of the setlist was a mix of old and recent songs - some not exactly ‘rock’ but this is Hanson, not Slayer, after all. They threw in a few covers at the end - a medley they also played during the MOE tour that combined “Long Train Running”, “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m A Man”. 

The set wrapped up with another cover, AC/DC’s “(You Shook Me) All Night Long” - a song so full of double-entendres that it should be re-named “You Made Me Cringe (All Night Long)”. I don’t know about you, but I struggle when Hanson sing ‘naughty” lyrics - not because I think that they’re altar boys, but because a large part of the fan base treats them as such. This is the same fan base that had a collective meltdown when Hanson put the word ‘shit’ in a song, after all. In this situation, I go into a sort of out-of-body experience as I watch Hanson fans go wild as Taylor sings "she told me to come but I was already there". Maybe it’s just me.

It was a fantastic show, and the guys were on top form - even Zac, who had visibly recovered from his disappointing solo set. It’s a shame that Hanson had to play what could have arguably been the best concert of the whole event, in such a terrible setting - imagine that same show, with that same setlist and World’s on Fire under the stars? But at least they played, and I’d take a concert in a greenhouse over missing out on my favourite song any time.

["World's on Fire" video by Habitz]

Rock All Night Setlist

Cards Against Humanity

Zac Hanson hosting Cards Against Humanity
Last year’s party games were a lot of fun; they were held on the main stage on the beach, so people could come and go, watch their friends on stage, grab a drink, sit on the sand or on a lounger, while Zac and Isaac ‘hosted’ the games. But because of the ever-inclement weather, this year’s party games had been moved to the buffet. By the time we got there - barely the time to head back to our rooms after the show, freshen up and have a sip of water - the buffet was packed, with chairs crammed in every nook and cranny of the room. 
We eventually found some seats but although we could see, it was hard to hear what was being said on stage. It must have all been hilarious though, judging from the hyena-like hysterical reaction of the people sat behind us. With my eardrums at risk of shattering at regular intervals, and my tinnitus making itself known with a vengeance, I was soon losing the will to live. Despite the fact that ‘adult’ humour is not my kind of thing, last year I’d enjoyed the game; but this year, walled in by howling fans, stone-sober and without an easy way out, I found the whole thing cringeworthy. Put Zac Hanson reading smutty sentences to a room full of inebriated fans: what could possibly go wrong?

This: a fan, who had been called to take part in the game, decided to take off her dress as she walked on stage, treating the whole audience to a view of her underwear, which my friend described as a ‘granny bra”. Zac looked totally unfazed - although I suspect that this fan has blown her chance to get another photo with him ever again.
The fans’ reaction on social media was gold: “at least wear something pretty and lacy” was the overall consensus. Impressing Zac Hanson, arguably the most conservative of the three, by whipping one’s clothes off on stage is probably not the smartest idea anyway, but doing so in unflattering nude underwear is just criminal.

Is a Granny Bra the key to Zac Hanson's heart?

That night I went to bed thinking that this BTTI 2018 was showing signs of being a very different affair from the postcard perfect experience of 2017. What would the next day bring or rather, what else could possibly go wrong? 
Find out in Part 3.

1 comment:

  1. The Cards Against Humanity made me cringe last year because, like, these people will screan-laugh at any crap that comes out of Zac's mouth. I don't think I would have survived knickers onstage.