RGB Tour: Boston, Hampton Beach, and New York City

July 29 – July 31, 2022

If you were a Hanson fan in 1997, you probably know they released a documentary of their promo tour on VHS, called Tulsa, Tokyo, And The Middle of Nowhere. If you were anything like me, you probably watched it 100 times or more and even still, 25 years later, can quote most of it – especially when redwood trees are nearby. The documentary opens and closes with footage from a performance at The Beacon Theater in NYC, and most of their commentary was filmed in the lobby. So when the chance finally came for me to see them at that same venue 25 years later, you better believe I was determined to make it happen! And with the NYC show being on a Sunday, it only made sense to make a whole weekend of it and do Boston and Hampton Beach as well.

Boston

Getting to Boston was not the experience I anticipated it to be. I had booked an afternoon flight and was supposed to land around dinner time. Instead, a 3-hour weather delay left me subject to Southwest employees wandering around BNA in shark costumes while blasting “Baby Shark”. Once we finally took off, everything went smoothly and I made it to the hotel just in time to get a good night’s sleep. This was another balcony show, so we moved our original dinner plans to show day and I’m so glad I didn’t have to miss out. We went to this incredible New Orleans-inspired restaurant called Buttermilk and Bourbon. I tried a raw oyster for the first time (yum!), and we all shared some tapas. It was easily one of the best meals of my life.

Thanks to traveling with Hoogle herself (our affectionate name for Katie, the brains behind Hansonstage, a.k.a Hanson-Google, thus Hoogle), I knew that since my last leg of shows, Hanson had added “Dressed In Brown Eyes” to the set list, featuring John Calvin Abney on harmonica. This started suspiciously after I mentioned on Hanson.net that I was hoping to hear it, but I digress. Knowing these were JCA’s last shows with the band, I had hope that I’d get to hear it at least one of them. I lucked out, and got to hear it at all three. It’s one of my favorite songs of CBIB and was so fun to dance to live. Zac continued his streak of winning solos by playing yet another new-to-me-on-this-tour song, “The Ballad of Seymour Better Times”. Despite my argument with Isaac about “River” in Birmingham, (and the other Holly’s similar argument in Raleigh), he stuck to his guns and played it again that night. Of important note: he did change it up at all but one of the shows in between, including one night where he finally played a song off Green. Taylor stuck with “Save Me”, which didn’t surprise me as that seems to be on brand this tour.

What did surprise me though was when a friend grabbed a picture of the set list. I learned two things that night: First – “River” was on the set list, proving that Isaac’s voting system is a rigged election after all. Second – rather than “Save Me”, Taylor had “Truth” listed as his solo – followed by a full band cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Despite wishing they had made better (imo) set list decisions, I had a great time at this show. The energy was high and Hanson seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd. The balcony offered some fun views of people watching, which I love to do during songs like “Where’s The Love” and “MMMBop”.

Hampton Beach

After sleeping in for awhile in Boston, we made the quick trip up to New Hampshire. One of the few parking spaces available happened to be right in front of the Isaac/Zac bus. We ended up beating our friends by a few minutes, so we sat in the car waiting for them so we could all go grab lunch together. A few minutes before our friends showed up, we saw Taylor drive by in his bus. The natural response to this was to wait around and watch him attempt to park in the very tight, very full parking lot. We waited around mostly for entertainment, but also because there was a legitimate concern that we might need to move our car out of his way. About a half hour later, and with the help of some beach-going passersby, he succeeded with no damage to any vehicles. (Personally, I kept debating whether I should help or stay out of the way, and I opted for the latter.) He made a joke about there being a crowd even for the parking, to which my friend responded “well I wasn’t sure if you were going to be able to do it, but you did!” Taylor quickly quipped back, “well there’s only one way; you either do it or you do it.”

For this show, I was in the ADA section with my friend, which was set past where the stage ended on Isaac’s side. However, because of the angle they had it at, we still had a great view of all three guys, just from the side. I am often asked, “don’t they know you by now?” and honestly, I never quite know how to answer. I never want to assume anything, although Zac has made a few comments here and there that lead me to believe he does recognize me. Taylor I’m a little unsure of, and Isaac has done quite the opposite to the point where I’ve been tempted to tell him it’s my first show just to see if he believes me. But that suddenly changed this weekend and now I’m slightly convinced he’s out to spite me. Because of where we were in the venue, I don’t think any of them saw my friend and I… and this time Isaac played “Hand In Hand” for his solo, sans vote. But then, at the end of the show, he jumped down off the stage to give a kid his guitar pick, then as he attempted to head backstage he accidentally wound up stuck inside the ADA section. He finally figured out how to get out, but just before leaving he stopped, looked directly at my friend and I, said “thank you” and waved.

We waited out by the bus to get their autographs. All three eventually came out, and I managed to get them all to sign a journal I had made documenting all the set lists from my first 76 shows. I didn’t tell them what they were signing though, because there were a lot of people at the bus, so instead I used what little time I had to put in a song request with each of them. My theory about Isaac spiting me continues, because as he was signing my journal, I asked if there was any chance he could play “Greener Pastures” the following night. He responded “oooh!” in an excited tone, but then he looked me in the eye and immediately shifted his tone and said “not likely.” Zac was next, and I asked if he could play “World Goes Round”. Of the three of them, he had the most assuring response. Finally, I asked Taylor if he could play “Truth”. He hesitated and said “maybe”, but then my friend called him out and said we knew it was on the set list for Boston. He confirmed we were right, but I still left with the impression that we probably wouldn’t be hearing it.

New York City

Being a lifelong Hanson fan and seeing them as often as I do is such a weird and unique experience, it makes it so hard to describe. I’m just a few weeks older than Taylor, which means I’ve literally grown up with them over the past 25 years. Back in the height of their fame, they seemed so untouchable, and now they’re so approachable. There are moments where they feel like any other band that I’m going to see live. There are moments they feel like annoying siblings who seem to know exactly which buttons to push. Similarly, I can make fun of them all I want but all defenses are up once someone from the “outside” makes a joke at their expense. Sometimes they’re the weird para-social, almost-acquaintance who asks when they will be seeing you again, and then even still every once in awhile they’re that same untouchable idol you had at 14 years old. The New York show was somehow every single one of these experiences.

Come solo time, I was of course curious to see if any of them would play the songs I had requested the night before. Zac was first, and while he didn’t play “World Goes Round”, he did at least play a song off Blue, choosing “Wake Up” as his solo. And then there was Isaac. Remember how I said I think he’s out to spite me? He came out for his solo, then looked directly at me (I was front row center) and announced “I’m going to call an audible on this.” He then asked his guitar tech to get a capo ready (implying he knew what he was about to play), and did the vote again. But this time he threw “Lonely Again” into the mix right between “Deeper” and “River” – and he barely even gave it a full second before announcing “River” as the supposed winner. Later that night, guess which one we saw on the set list? Sure enough, “Lonely Again.”

As much as it might sound like I gripe about the set lists choices, I’d still rather hear a least-favorite or over-played single than hear nothing at all. But this night, hearing all the old school singles hit different; I was finally hearing them in the same venue I watched on that tiny TV screen so long ago. Even for being my first time stepping foot in the building, there was so much nostalgia, and I noticed Taylor having a few moments where I assume he was feeling the same. Every once in awhile after a song, he’d take a beat, close his eyes, and just stand still soaking it in.

When it was time for Taylor’s solo, he sat at the piano, so I fully expected another night of “Save Me”. After all, “Truth” is a guitar song. However, it turns out he’s converted “Truth” into a piano song and I’m so glad he did. It was absolutely gorgeous and so much better than I had expected, and even better than the album version. At the very end of the song, Isaac and Zac came back out and joined in on their instruments, adding some harmony. Then, they immediately went into the “With A Little Help From My Friends” cover. It was a natural flow and brought me back to my youth group days where we’d throw our arms around each other and sing this song (without the references to getting high). Rest assured, no amount of singing out of tune will make me walk out on Hanson, although they sounded pretty perfect to me. When it ended, I watch him have another one of those soaking it in moments. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held it, and then I saw him whisper to himself, “okay” before letting it out.

I often get asked if I ever get tired of seeing the “same show” over and over. The short answer is no. The longer answer is that it’s not the same show over and over. Every night is different. There are big and small set list changes, the venue changes, the crowd changes. And with that, the energy and atmosphere change, making each one a unique experience. Sometimes you’ll catch Zac laughing at your bad dance moves. Sometimes you’ll roll your eyes as Isaac changes his solo to a song you don’t love. And sometimes you’ll notice Taylor having a moment. Naturally, some nights will be more memorable than others and this will definitely be one of those. After all, it was a New York dream on a New York night.

RGB Tour: Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham

July 13 – 20, 2022

Nashville

I live in Nashville, so it was almost literally home base for this trio of shows. My house is pretty small, I had several friends coming in for the shows, and I have roommates I didn’t want to annoy, so we ended up getting an AirBNB for the week. Friday afternoon, we made our way to downtown Nashville, which is something I never do unless I’m seeing a musical or Hanson is in town. My friend collects stuffed bears from Hard Rock Cafes, so I dropped her off there and circled the block, which we all agreed was more than enough time spent downtown apart from dinner and the Ryman. We had booked tickets to do a self guided tour of the Ryman, because it has such a rich history and most of my friends had never been there before. If you ever get the chance to do the tour, I highly recommend it. 

Just as we were about to leave to go to dinner, guess who walked out on stage? Hanson started filming something, we couldn’t quite hear what they were saying, but it looked like they were meeting with a Ryman representative and talking about the history of the venue. They ended with a little acapella of “This Time Around” which we were lucky enough to hear. Zac chatted with us for a little while, then they left to get ready for sound check just as the tour window time ended.

John Calvin Abney opened the show. I had never heard of him before, and to be quite frank I had reservations about him after learning he’s friends with Isaac. The last time we had a friend of Isaac open, it was way too country for my tastes. But I was pleasantly surprised. He was entertaining, and I was especially impressed when his guitar amp went out but he just rolled with it, holding his guitar up to the mic.

John Calvin Abney

This wasn’t the first time Hanson played the Ryman, but with the exception of a 3-song set during a Blood:Water Mission benefit and a surprise appearance at a St. Jude benefit, they hadn’t played there since before I lived in Nashville. When I found out they were playing the Ryman rather than the usual Wildhorse Saloon, I was beyond excited. The fan club presale was a nightmare, but we eventually pulled front row balcony which is exactly what I was hoping we’d end up with. The set list was similar to the RGB preview show during Hanson Day, but getting to hear the songs in a much better venue than Cain’s was so much fun. Highlights include “Only Love”, “Been There Before” (a song I have always associated with living in Nashville), Paul McDonald joining for “Write You A Song”, and ending the show with an acapella “Change In My Life”.

Atlanta

The day of the Atlanta show felt more like three days. Day one: the drive. Day two: not getting murdered. Day three: the show.

I’ve camped out for Hanson on the sidewalks of downtown Chicago and New Orleans (I do not recommend the latter), I’ve showered in truck stops, and I’ve slept in my car in shady parking garages. I would do any of those again before I would ever be willing to stay at the hotel we booked. If you know anything about the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, those were the vibes. My friend who booked the hotel is very thorough about reading reviews, which we later learned must be edited by the hotel because there is no way she would have booked this one had she known.

We got off the interstate and immediately saw rows and rows of tents and hundreds of unhoused people milling about. Again, I’ve slept in some questionable areas before, and I have empathy for those facing homelessness, but this was a whole different level. I’ve also traveled through areas before that look unsafe but then get better the more you drive; this did not get better. We eventually turned a corner and, where we were told there was an overnight parking garage, there were only closed stores with the gates pulled down and graffiti everywhere. The hotel (The Historic Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Atlanta because I will name names as a warning to my readers) had paper in the windows, which was falling down. If you’re familiar with Atlanta, the Underground was right outside our hotel.

They did offer in-and-out valet parking – at $45 a night. For the record, the people working for the third-party valet company (LAZ) were the only polite people we encountered. When I told them as much, they thanked me and asked me to leave them a review, stating that the hotel typically throws them under the bus. I fully intend to review both the valet and the hotel. The valet then passed me a business card on which he had written the word “courage”, if that tells you anything.

The hotel staff on the other hand were the rudest customer service workers I’ve ever experienced. We showed up to the hotel at 3:30pm, my friend who booked the hotel was still stuck in traffic, but had put my name on the reservation knowing we’d get there first. I walked into the lobby – there was no air conditioning (and the outdoor temp was in the upper 90s). I said I was there to check in and I was curtly told “check in is not until 4:00”. Okay, fair, but I explained that with her platinum elite status, my friend had early check in. Again, I was told “no, we don’t have any rooms, check in is not until 4:00.” I further explained that the day prior my friend had checked in online ahead of time, and was rudely again told “we don’t do mobile check in, check in is at 4:00”. Finally, I asked if they could at least look up her name to see if it showed that she had already checked in, to which they simply replied “nope.” We eventually found a much better hotel in Midtown. It was another Marriott hotel, and after hearing our story, they only charged us to park one of our two cars, and they upgraded us to the largest hotel suite I think I’ve ever seen in person.

Way back in 2017, I attended the two Finally It’s Christmas shows in Chicago. During that weekend, I spent some time in the hotel room going through orientation to start a second Bachelor’s degree (Accounting). So it’s only fitting that fast forward to 2022 and my virtual commencement date was the same day of the Atlanta show. So I cheesed it up and donned my cap and gown for the show. Thanks to all the friends and strangers who wished me congratulations! Attending an online-only, self-paced school (WGU) felt very isolating in that I didn’t have classmates, so being able to celebrate my graduation amongst my people finally made all the effort feel real.

I expected the set list to be similar to the one in Nashville, and it was for the most part. I was hoping to hear “Rambling Heart” and thought it had a good chance since there’s a “hot-lanta” reference, but Taylor stuck with singing “Save Me” again instead. But the surprise of the night was when, after “You Never Know” (which was already unexpected), they started playing a cover of “Low Rider” which they mashed with “Ooh La La La”. It’s technically a public release since it is on Perennial, but I still never expected to hear any of those songs on this tour. (But I wouldn’t mind if “Nothing Like A Love Song” and “Young And Dumb” made a few appearances.)

After the show, we decided to wait out by the bus since we had a hotel and weren’t driving anywhere that night, I wanted pictures with Hanson in my cap and gown, and one of my friends hadn’t seen them since String Theory. Taylor didn’t come out since he had a long drive to St. Pete. (Is that man seriously driving that bus? Because this concerns me.) Isaac came out first, and when I said I graduated, he judgmentally asked, “recently?” I wasn’t sure if he was questioning the fact that most graduations are in May, or if it was a dig at my age, but I explained that yes, I graduated that day, and that it was my second Bachelor’s. He asked what both of my degrees were and then took a picture. When Zac came out, he was wearing one of those Hanson AF shirts so I said, “I’m graduated AF!” He laughed and also asked what my degrees were in, and when I said accounting, he replied, “smart!”

The next day, we visited the World of Coke museum. I have to admit I didn’t hate the Beverly, though I wouldn’t want a full glass of it. If you know, you know. A friend of ours lives in the suburbs, so on our way out of town we met up with her, her husband, and their kids for some ice cream at a food hall. I have to say, food halls are my new favorite trend; they’re perfect for traveling with people who have different tastes and appetites. Our last stop on the way back to Nashville was Buc-ee’s – none of us had ever been before. I somehow spent $60 on beaver nuggets, beef jerky, a brisket sandwich, and handful of other snacks.

Nashville, Again

Monday was a work from AirBNB day back in Nashville. One of my friends used to live in Nashville, and the one thing she wanted to do on her short visit here was go to Tailgate Brewery. I had never been before, but had been wanting to go for awhile, so I’m glad I finally got the chance. They have really good pizza (I’m a fan of the hot honey), and I got a flight of sours and ciders to try. The pineapple cider was my favorite of the bunch. They had trivia going, and we didn’t officially play but we all got most of the questions right, so maybe we should have. We eventually wound up at Target and Walmart for some last minute items for the Birmingham show – because tour isn’t really tour until you’ve been to Walmart late at night for something random.

Birmingham

We made a quick trip over to East Nashville in the morning to get a picture of a red, green, and blue Nashville mural, then headed back south. Two of my friends had never been to Alabama before, so we made sure to stop at the welcome center and take some pictures of the welcome sign and the rocket. Our first stop in Birmingham was for some good southern barbecue at Saw’s and I had my first taste of boiled peanuts – I’m a fan!

We drove around a little bit and saw Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park in the U.S. It was built in 1910 and is still being used, though you can definitely see its age. We also stopped by a couple murals, including another one that was red, green, and blue. The show was on my friend’s birthday, so this was where she chose to have her BTTI make-up meet and greet, which meant we had to get to the venue a little early despite it being a seated show. She bought some party hats at Walmart for her photo, but the guys refused to wear them and instead just held them – first like normal, and then upside down like ice cream cones, per Taylor’s suggestion. Her photos turned out great as they were all feeling silly and had big smiles.

The set list surprises of the night were “And I Waited”, Taylor starting “Save Me” acapella standing front and center of the stage, and “Man From Milwaukee”. Unpopular opinion: while it was actually “Man From Milwaukee” and not “MMMBop” that convinced me to buy Middle of Nowhere in the first place, I think it’s time Hanson stop treating a bonus track like a single and start putting this one back into the vault for awhile. They also did two songs in the encore, ending with “In The City” which I was not at all expecting. It’s a great one to end on, and it made me extra happy to be up front in second row for this show, as opposed to the balconies we had been in for the previous two shows.

I don’t know what it is about Birmingham, but something in the water must bring out the crazy fans. My previous experience on the MOE tour was back before I started this blog, but I’ll let the other Holly’s words fill you in:

-Holly Snider

This year’s Birmingham bus experience wasn’t much different. While thankfully no one accidentally choked me, people were screaming ’97-style every time they saw a Hanson, and some girls were even crawling through shrubbery to get to Isaac. We didn’t stay out all night, but I think Isaac is the only one who came out. He had mentioned Zac probably wasn’t coming out, and we had assumed Taylor wasn’t either as they had a long drive again. A friend did manage to give Isaac a little gift she had bought them, and I briefly talked to him about how his voting system is flawed. He had been telling the crowd that we get to pick his single, and then asks people to cheer for either “Hand In Hand”, “Deeper”, or “River”, and “River has won each night.

Personally, I’d choose none of those songs as I’d much rather hear anything off the new album (particularly “Greener Pastures”, but any would do). We jokingly told him that he needs an electoral college with two representatives from each state. In seriousness, I asked him if he thinks the order of the songs affects the outcome, as people are likely to keep cheering louder with each song that’s mentioned. He firmly told me no, that people like to hear the older songs. I disagree and I think he just wants to be able to play his “I Only Wanna Be With You” cover, but he did end up skipping the vote and playing “Deeper” the next night in Raleigh, which I wasn’t there for.

While I was fortunate enough to attend most of the shows in Tulsa over the past couple years, as well as this year’s Back To The Island, I cannot express to you how good it felt to see shows on a regular tour again. That said, I don’t remember ever feeling this tired during tour in the past (and my Covid test was negative), and two of these shows were seated, I slept on zero sidewalks, and waited in line no longer than 2 hours before doors. Maybe it’s getting back into things in a post-pandemic world, maybe it’s because it was my first time traveling after having Covid in May, maybe it’s because we’re all 3 years older, or maybe I just need time to get my “road legs” back. But one thing still remains true: this easily overstimulated, highly sensitive introvert somehow can’t get enough.

Hanson Day 2022

May 11 – 16, 2022

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d guess that if you are reading this, you remember clearly the day in April 2020 when that year’s Hanson Day celebration was “rescheduled to 2021”. (If not, you probably gave birth to me.) And if you’re reading this and not my mom, you probably also remember that Hanson Day 2021 wasn’t a normal Hanson Day with all the add-on events. So here we are, a full three years after the last real HDay, finally getting back to normal.

I flew in late Wednesday night, but with the extreme heat and loss of will power, my friends and I opted to skip waiting in the typically forever-long registration line this year. We all agreed that the only reason to register ASAP was to get into the store ASAP, and that there wasn’t anything we needed to buy that badly. I don’t regret this decision at all, although it does mean that in the end I missed out on that little green crossbody bag.

Instead, we spent Thursday sleeping in and grabbing brunch from Chimera. We finally made our way over to registration just in time to get signed up before the volunteers shut it down for a lunch break. Since the Hanson store line was still long, we spent the afternoon wandering around some of the local Tulsa shops. I bought a few books from Magic City Books and some stickers and a coffee mug from Ida Red. And then the real fun got started.

HTP Live

They added a new in-person event to this year’s lineup by offering a live version of the Hanson Time Podcast. When they announced this, we weren’t sure how exactly this would play out. But then about a week ahead of Hanson Day, my friend got an email saying she and one of her other friends had been chosen as tag-team reporters, and that their theme would be the new Fan Club EP White Rabbit. I might be biased, but I thought they both did an excellent job coming up with questions, especially considering we had only had the EP for two days by the time HTP Live rolled around.

If you’ve ever listened to Hanson talk then you’ll know they have a knack for getting off topic. One thing that was brought up, but not asked by the reporters, that I found very interesting was because you cannot evenly divide dollars by three people, Isaac earns an extra penny to every dollar the band makes. My accountant brain immediately started trying to add up how much extra he has earned over the past 30 years and while I obviously don’t know Hanson’s finances, I think they might want to consider switching that up soon.

They also opened up by talking a bit about how the past five years have been hard for them as a band. While I don’t think that’s any secret to anyone who has been paying attention, I found it refreshing to hear them acknowledge it. We now know they almost broke up back in 2012, and I think one of the main differences is that now they’ve stopped trying to pretend that everything is okay. At the risk of digging into pure speculations, I’ll probably talk about this a bit more when I write my review of Red Green Blue (because spoiler: have you read the lyrics?).

Karaoke

Night one of Hanson Day (really why aren’t we just calling it Hanson Week at this point?) typically is karaoke, and this year they added a ’90s theme, with some more current Hanson songs mixed in. While I have no interest in singing (and no one else wants that either, I promise), I always look forward to being a spectator, having a drink, and dancing around, especially because you never know when Isaac is going to start singing along with some fans. Highlights of the night included Isaac singing “Sweet Child of Mine” and “River of Dreams”, a fan singing the ’90s staple “My Heart Will Go On”, and a friend ending the night by absolutely killing “I Will Always Love You”.

Hanson Day Gallery

Friday morning was rainy, which meant we spent a good portion of the day lying around our hotel room. I did pop into the store real quick to buy way more shirts than the zero I told myself I would buy. But then once the skies cleared out, my friends and I popped into the gallery. This year, Zac opted for more drawings than paintings. It was fun to see a different take on things this year. There was only one painting: a red tree growing on green grass with a blue starry sky in the background. I absolutely loved it and would have bought a print of it if I actually had somewhere to hang it, but my walls are getting full.

For that same reason, I did not buy any of Taylor’s photos this year. They were all a play on Red Green Blue, with each brother playing around with colored lights in a dark room. They also had a stage set up with some of the props from the “Don’t Let Me Down” music video. It reminded me of the little museum they had in 2017, and I’d still love for them to do a bigger, more full museum with fewer video props and more awards, instruments, and things of that nature.

RGB Listening Party

Just a few weeks before Hanson Day started, they added another new event to the lineup: a listening party for RGB. My friends and I signed up for the last time slot, since one of our friends was flying in that day and wouldn’t be able to make the earlier times. As someone who tries to avoid spoilers, this meant I had to stay off social media for the first part of the day. My intention was to take notes on my phone during the listening party of my first impressions, much like I did for White Rabbit. However, I immediately realized that was going to be too much work to keep up with, so I simplified my notes down to a single hand gesture emoji for each of the non-single songs. I’ll leave you with these notes for now until I get to the review blog for RGB.

Storytellers

Normally we’re given a theme for the Storytellers show, but this year we were just told “we’d find out when we get there.” I prefer being surprised by set lists, so this was good news to me! Looking back though, I’m still not sure what the theme was supposed to be (and we were specifically told there was one that was “too hard to explain”). They pulled out songs from almost every album; Middle of Nowhere and Shout It Out being the only exceptions.

The absolute highlight of the show was when they started telling us the story of how “MMMBop” came to be. It wasn’t any new information as they explained this way back in 1997, but if you happen to be reading this and didn’t already know: a few years before they became famous, they were writing another song (“Boomerang”) and started singing “mmmbop ba duba dop ba du bop ba duba dop ba du bop…” as a background vocal. But they decided they liked the way that sounded too much for it to not be its own song, and thus “MMMBop” was born.

When they started telling this story, they actually sang the chorus of “Boomerang” in the process, which is something they had never done before. Then they stopped and continued on with the story, and I thought for sure that little tease was all we were getting. But, no! They actually sang the entire song! I never thought we would actually ever get to hear it, and I’m so glad I got to be there when we did. They also played “Watershed”, a very short song from the 2007 fan club EP, which had only ever been played at Back To The Island in 2014. The moral of the story is: you never know what you’re going to get at a Hanson show so you might as well do your best to never miss one.

Dance Party: Part One

After Storytellers, we had some time to go get changed for the Dance Party. They’ve added themes to the Dance Party at the last couple BTTIs, but I think this is the first time they had a theme for Hanson Day: dress as your favorite era. I honestly don’t have a favorite and at one point in time was considering just wearing my pajamas and joking that 2020 lockdown was my favorite era, as I’m not big on costumes. But I recently acquired my first jumpsuit, and I was talking to a friend here in Nashville and realized I could easily (and lazily) dress it up to be the ’70s by adding a gold chain belt and a scarf around my head. I think we got about five or so intermittent songs in to the dance party before Taylor announced he wanted to punch his computer in the face as something was clearly not working. He ended up calling it a night and said we could try again the next night. I usually look forward to the dance party and was way too tired to be into it, so I was honestly glad we were getting a do-over.

I Heart To Bowl

Bowling has been a consistent event at Hanson Day, but one that I had never signed up for before. I’ve never been great at bowling; my all time high score is 83, and the last time I went I won a trophy for most gutter balls. But one of my good friends loves to bowl and I figured it’s time I give it a go at HDay since I never had before. My one goal was to not be the worst on my team and sadly, I did not meet that goal; I scored a whopping 40 points. But we all had fun and that’s the most important part. I’d happily sign up again in the future, but if you’re wanting to be on my team, you’ve been warned.

After bowling, I had thought about scootering around Main street to see if Hanson was out and about talking to fans, but it was too hot outside and I was still feeling tired from the late nights (going to bed at 2am vs my usual 9pm), plus I had been doing a lot of extra exercise over the week. My roommates were all working their volunteer shifts, so I decided to take advantage of the quiet room to myself and took a long, much-needed nap to gear up for the concert and dance party do-over.

Hanson Day Concert

Typically, the Hanson Day concert is full of fan favorites, members’ only songs we don’t get to hear anywhere else, and that year’s fan club EP in full. However, a few weeks before Hanson Day, they announced in their newsletter that this year would be a preview of the RGB Tour. I’m sure they had been practicing hard for the tour and didn’t want to be sidetracked by rehearsing a bunch of unique songs for a one-off members’ show. While I’m disappointed that this means we didn’t get to hear White Rabbit (and I’m still waiting to hear 3/7 of CBIB), we still got a really good show and it certainly whet my appetite for my shows this summer. “Against The World” makes for a great show opener (possibly my favorite since “Great Divide”), and when “If Only” popped up only three songs in, I had no idea where the rest of the show was going (which again, I love). The show continued to be full of surprises when they went from solo to full band and back a few times. “Cold As Ice” was a great choice to introduce Dimitrius and Andrew during, and they managed to cover every studio album.

Dance Party: Part Two

After the show, we grabbed dinner then headed back into Cain’s for another attempt at the Dance Party. I was feeling rested and ready to go this time, but opted out of getting back into my costume (if you can even call it that) from the night before. Strange things tend to happen at Hanson events and this time that included a pirate in spandex and someone dressed as Pikachu all dancing to Taylor Hanson’s DJ set. And if you’re wondering, yes, Taylor did play the obligatory “Another One Bites The Dust”. It was a great way to wrap up the week.

The Rest

While I’ve missed a few events here and there, I’ve been going to Tulsa for Hanson events since 2009. In that time, I’ve gotten to experience so many fun local restaurants, breweries, shops, and museums. On this trip, I somehow ended up going to Nothings Left Brewery twice. The did not have a Hanson Brothers Beer this time around (pun absolutely intended), but they did have a collaboration with another brewery to have Red (strawberry), Green (kiwi), and Blue (blackberry) sours to celebrate the week. I typically prefer stouts to sours, but I liked all three of these, especially the blue. They also had their pineapple dole whip beer slush and I’m so mad I can’t get it in Nashville.

A new museum recently opened called Greenwood Rising, and I had time to pop in during my last day in Tulsa. Just blocks from the Art District where all the Hanson activities happen is a corner of tragic history in Tulsa and in our nation. In 1921, the Greenwood neighborhood was a thriving Black community in Tulsa. Racial tensions were high, a white woman falsely accused a black man of assault, and it all led to hundreds of murders, leaving over 10,000 Black residents homeless with 1,256 homes burned. Due to continued systemic issues, the neighborhood has still not been fully restored even 100 years later. If you ever make it to Tulsa, I highly recommend visiting the museum. It was very well done and quite powerful.

Tulsa is a great little city and it feels more and more like a second (or third) home each time I visit. I was lucky enough to attend most of the shows in Tulsa throughout the past couple years, so it’s weird to know that now I’ll be going back to only having annual trips. (As far as I know anyway.) I’m surprised every year by how many fans say it’s their first trip. If you’ve never been, I hope you get the chance!

Back To The Island 2022

January 5 – 10, 2022

A week ago today I was enjoying my last evening in Jamaica, relieved to have received a negative Covid test to be able to fly back to the US in the morning. Today, I’m sitting in my bedroom in a snowy Nashville, still in disbelief that this year’s trip actually happened. If you’re tired of hearing about Covid, feel free to skip down to paragraph three. Right now, the travel requirements for Jamaica are that you have to have a negative Covid test 72-hours before you arrive, regardless of vaccination status. I’m happy to report that I’m triple Pfizered, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on edge for an entire 6 weeks prior to the trip. I wore my mask everywhere, including in my own house, starting around mid-December, and spent New Year’s Eve alone in my bedroom while my roommate had some friends over.

Maybe I was being overly cautious, but between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I dodged two roommates, three family members, and more coworkers than I can keep track of who had all tested positive. I was beyond relieved when both my PCR and Antigen tests came back negative and I was clear to head to Jamaica. Even then, I was still worried about the possibility of any of my friends or Hanson testing positive. But eventually, my friends’ tests started coming in one after the other, all negative, and then all three Hansons were on my flight into Montego Bay, which finally put all my worries aside for a few days.

I always opt to travel to Jamaica a day before the event starts because by the time you get through customs, baggage claim, and a 90 minute shuttle ride, it ends up being evening by the time you get to the resort. We finally checked in, dropped our luggage in our room, and then my friend gave me a quick tour of the Jewel. This was my 4th BTTI, but my other three years were at the Melia. I now understand why everyone liked the Jewel so much better: the staff was friendlier, the layout just makes more sense, the beach was 100 times better, and in my opinion, the food was better. The Level rooms at the Melia were pricier, but they were nicer than the rooms at the Jewel, and the Level Lounge had better quality alcohol, but that’s really all it had going for it. We then changed into swimsuits under dresses, grabbed some teppanyaki, hot tubbed, and called it a day.

I inadvertently found myself falling into a daily routine on the island. I’d wake up, put on a swimsuit and coverup, get a cold brew, and go to breakfast. Then I’d grab a frozen drink, get in the ocean and float around until the fish started nibbling. Then I’d go to one of the pools, get another frozen drink and float around there. I’d get a snack from the pool restaurant and a diet coke and bourbon and continue to sit around in the water. Eventually I’d get out and dry off in time to walk over to the stage for a solo show. After that, I’d freshen up, grab dinner, and watch the main show. Basically, I was living my best life as only a half-mermaid Hanson fan can.

I thought each show was far better than the past few BTTIs, despite missing their backup guitarist/keyboardist Demetrius. (Rumor is he didn’t have Covid, but had marked on his travel form that he had been exposed, and thus wasn’t allowed into Jamaica.) They started the first show off with a cover medley of “Three Little Birds” and “Stir It Up”, and then proceeded to play some of the non-single favorites such as “Dance Like You Don’t Care”, “Sunny Day”, “Dancing In The Wind”, and “Tearing It Down”. One Against The World song made the cut on night one, and it happened to be my favorite of the seven, “Only Love”. I just got my first tattoo ever of this song back in November, so it was really special to hear it for the first time since then.

I don’t know if this was always the plan, or if it was a last-minute switch after losing Demetrius, but night two was all acoustic. I unexpectedly ended up front row for this one, which I think made it that much better. I wonder if I would have found it to be a bit too mellow otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. They pulled “River” out of the vault, complete with a mashup of Hootie and The Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You”, an acoustic “Runaway Run” never disappoints, and we heard a couple of my favorites “No Rest For The Weary” and “Tonight”.

The final full-band show was all rock no stop, and I loved every minute of it. I could go on and on (no pun intended) listing almost every song they chose as a favorite, so instead, I’ll just let you read the whole setlist:

https://www.hansonstage.com/setlist.php?show_id=1425

Zac started his solo show out with “Change”, which had previously only been played on 2021’s BTTI stream from 3CG. He also played us a brand new (well, brand new to us at least) song called “Magic Man”, and I’m curious if it’ll end up on the recently announced upcoming Red Green Blue, but it sounded to me more like something that would be found on a members’ EP. And speaking of members’ EPs, Zac played 10 songs during his solo set and 8 of them were members’ only! This is the kind of content I like to hear during these sets, so Zac got an A+ from me.

I need to be honest with you here about Isaac’s solo set: I wanted to be able to say that I watched at least part of one of the shows from the ocean, so I chose Isaac’s solo set… and I may have had a little too much bourbon in the process. I distinctly remember he played “Soldier”, which hadn’t been played since 1998, and he played “Begin Again” for the first time, which I love. Beyond that, I had to resort to Hansonstage for the rest. There was a gorgeous sunset happening during his set which took me back to The Albertane Tour. I saw them at an amphitheater, and to this day I have a vivd memory of 18-year-old Isaac telling us all to turn around and look at the sunset as he began playing “More Than Anything”.

Taylor’s solo set was, to me, the best of the three this year. He started with one of my favorites, “Feeling Alive”, pulled “Out Of My Head” from the unreleased-never-been-played*-but-everyone-knows vault, gave us a hint about the now-announced Red Green Blue album by playing its yet-to-be-released first single “Child At Heart”, covered “Dancing In The Street”, and ended with last year’s new song, “Sound Like Joy” which I believe was supposed to be released on some sort of Black Wallstreet Music Project. (What ever happened to that?)

Overall, there was a really great mix of old favorites, unreleased, brand new, and new covers, and everything sounded really well rehearsed too. Aside from the couple new songs, if I had to pick a highlight it would be hearing “Begin Again” and “Change”. Without having Hanson Day in 2020, we didn’t get to hear all of CBIB live, and I had resigned myself to it being the forgotten EP, never to be heard of again. I didn’t go to the July shows last summer, so I still need to hear “Dressed In Brown Eyes”, while “Miss You Like Crazy” and “All I Know” still haven’t been played live. Maybe there’s hope for hearing them at Hanson Day 2022.

This year’s special guest was a local Jamaican band named Raging Fyah. From what I saw on Facebook, people had mixed reactions to this news. I for one was really excited. I don’t know if this was just a result of Covid and it being harder to find a US band willing and able to travel in, but I had actually suggested getting a local Jamaican band on my feedback the past few years. We get to hear Hanson’s friends on almost every tour, so why not take this opportunity to hear something different. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint! I had such a great time listening to them, and everyone seemed to have fun dancing around. I hope we get more native bands in the future, wherever Back To The Island takes us.

This year in general felt different than previous years just due to the ever-present concern about Covid, and this was hit heaviest when they announced that they were cancelling our photos with the band. I respect the choice they made, but I do wish they had announced that decision prior to our arrival in Jamaica. They are making up for it by giving each of us a free ticket and a meet and greet to a show of our choice on the upcoming Red Green Blue Tour, and I think that’s a fair trade-off. For this same reason, there wasn’t any interaction with the band outside of two socially distanced rounds of Family Feud with Isaac and Zac, and a DJ Taylor Up On An Elevated Ledge Pool Dance Party.

Family Feud was split into four teams this year: a yellow Team Zac and red Team Isaac night one, and a blue Team Zac and green Team Isaac night two. I was on yellow Team Zac, and my friends and I ended up being the very first team called up… which was unfortunate as I had too much to drink to be climbing onto a stage without stairs and thinking quick on my feet. A friend captured a very embarrassing video in which I was asked: Name a bad job for someone who is forgetful. I immediately hit the buzzer, and then my mind went blank. Isaac proceeded to yell at me to answer, so I blurted out my own profession (accountant), which was not on the list. The top answer ended up being doctor. I’ll spare you the video, but please enjoy this photo of me facepalming while trying to think of an answer while Isaac is yelling at me. Our team was able to redeem ourselves with our second question: What is something a musician buys when they hit it big.

 📸: Laura Thorp

Despite the lack of interaction and photos with the band, this was probably my favorite Back To The Island that I’ve been to, save for maybe 2019 which was my first year that didn’t get ruined by four days of monsoon. I do think this year objectively might have been better than 2019 (other Islanders, I’d love to hear your thoughts!), but 2019 I was just so overly excited about everything because it felt like my first real time going. As a 4th year attendee, I begrudgingly packed a bag with room to bring home an ugly, red visor and was pleasantly surprised to see that this year they switched to a pretty blue full cap that I will actually wear! Here’s hoping for a smooth, rain-free, pandemic-free 2023 Back To The Island where I can finally receive the coveted 5th year gift of a passport cover and luggage tag, and I hope any and all future BTTI DJ Taylor dance parties take place in the pool. In the meantime, you may now return to your regularly scheduled RGB tour planning… will I see you on the road?

*”Out Of My Head” was actually played one other time, over 20 years ago.

New Utulsicona + (ATW + Listeners’ Choice)²

September 22 – October 4, 2021

New Utulsicona = Utah + Arizona + New Mexico + Tulsa. My friend and I started talking over a year ago about going to Utah and New Mexico sometime in 2021, since we both wanted to cross them off our list of states we need to visit. Before Hanson announced the Against The World+ concert series, we had talked about going some time in the fall. So when we saw the October dates pop up for Hanson, we got to planning our epic adventure, and invited a third friend to join us.

The three of us met up in Salt Lake City to begin our adventure. We got in pretty late, so we grabbed a quick dinner by the hotel and called it a night. We spent most of that first full day exploring the city. We went to Temple Square and walked around the LDS conference center, which has an observation deck with cool views of the city. Unfortunately, the actual temple is under construction until 2025, so we were not able to go see it. Then we headed over to a music venue called The Great Saltair. It looks like it belongs on the set of Aladdin, and is right on Salt Lake. We walked along the salt-crusted beach and took a lot of fun photos. We didn’t have time to walk all the way out to the water, because there’s probably at least a mile of beach leading up to it. It was definitely a unique experience (one of many on this trip!) and felt like we were in such a desolate area. A friend of ours lives just outside the city, and we met up with her and her husband for dinner. After dinner, we went to the Usana Amphitheater for a Garbage & Alanis Morisette concert. I never really followed either of them back in the day, but I was surprised by how many songs I recognized. It was a lot of fun, and was my first non-Hanson concert since before covid.

The next day, we slowly made our way down to Zion National Park, stopping for a look at Bridal Veil Falls along the way. After settling into our hotel, we wandered off to Grafton Ghost Town. We got there right at golden hour, and it made for some fun photo shoots amongst all the old buildings. For being a ghost town, some of the buildings had some impressively new construction, but my absolute favorite part was a tombstone for someone named Cedar Pete. I’m filing that name away as a potential future pet name.

Saturday was our big hiking day. My friends were wanting to hike Angel’s Landing, and knowing it was a popular trail, plus knowing the high was going to be 91°, we agreed to get an early start. We ended up getting to the park around 6:30am, and by the time we got on a shuttle and got to the trailhead, it was around 7:30am. If you aren’t familiar with Angel’s Landing, it’s a 5 mile round-trip difficult trail. The last round trip mile is a narrow, rocky trail with chains to help pull yourself up. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a new fear of heights. Some things don’t bother me, but the idea of falling off a canyon cliff certainly does, so I opted out of that portion of the trail. The end of the trail leading to the chain section has a set of 21 switchbacks named Walter’s Wiggles. While I do enjoy hiking, I am not at all in shape, and therefore am quite slow at it and need to stop to catch my breath a lot. I wasn’t confident I would be able to make it up Walter’s Wiggles, but I was determined to try. Knowing that I’m slower, I told my friends to go ahead without me and that I’d either meet them at the top or the bottom, depending on how long it all took.

Having started early in the morning, the sun was technically up, but it had not yet risen over the canyon walls, which meant the hike up was mostly in the shade. It was actually kind of chilly, and therefore I was so glad we started when we did. After maybe an hour, I asked a passerby if she was keeping track of how many switchbacks we had hiked – I wanted to know how close I was to finishing Walter’s Wiggles… only to learn those were not the wiggles. Here I was thinking I was almost done with the trail when in fact I had barely gotten started. However, after those first few long switchbacks, you reach what is called Refrigerator Canyon. It’s a much flatter portion of the trail that stays in the shade all day. It was a nice relief before actually reaching Walter’s Wiggles. I had stopped so many times to catch my breath and take pictures, I was convinced I would run into my friends coming down the trail before I got to the wiggles, but I was wrong. So, I got back to it. I think I ended up stopping after every 2-3 switchbacks to catch my breath, but I eventually made it to the top – to Scout’s Lookout.

I’m about to be more vulnerable than I typically am on this blog, but I found myself getting emotional on the way up Walter’s Wiggles. As someone who is plus size, I was getting frustrated with myself for how often I needed to stop and rest – even before the wiggles. Every so often, I passed someone who was on their way down who would stop to tell me “You’re doing great! You’re almost there!” (That last one was usually a lie.) I couldn’t help but wonder if they were telling that to everyone they passed, or if it was so obvious that I was struggling more than anyone else on the trail. But then about halfway up the wiggles it dawned on me that no one I had seen (so far) on the trail looked like me… and yet, here I was, still doing it. So what if it took me longer, if I had to stop twice as often, if I was obviously struggling? I was doing the same activity at nearly twice the weight as some of these other people, and that’s a different kind of strength. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of (remember, I wasn’t convinced I’d actually make it up all the switchbacks), and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

After wrestling with my emotions, I rested at Scout’s Lookout for about half an hour, and kept an eye out for my friends up ahead. Here there were beautiful views of the canyon, outhouses, a ton of people stopping to eat before hitting the chain section of the trail, and a million aggressive chipmunks literally climbing onto people searching for food. I ended up wielding my hiking poles around like a weapon while eating after a man told me there was one on my back. There were a lot of people milling around, and so I decided I should go ahead and start back down the trail in case I missed my friends, and knowing I’d be slower than them on the descent anyway if I hadn’t. Once again, I was glad we started early in the morning, because most of the way down was in the sun and it had finally reached 90°, and it was way too hot. I ended up getting back to the trailhead about 30 minutes before my friends. We rested for a bit at the picnic tables, then hiked the short 1-mile Riverside Walk trail which leads to the narrows. We did not have the energy (or the time, really) to actually go into the narrows, but it seems like a cool experience. Maybe someday.

The next day we were sore and tired, but thankfully we had a 4pm check out at our hotel. We slowly got around to packing up and eventually headed south to Page, Arizona. It was a short drive, and we did nothing but hang out in the hot tub once we got there, which felt great on our tired muscles. In the morning, we headed out to see Antelope Canyon. I was actually in Page for a couple days last summer, but at the time, Antelope Canyon was still closed due to covid. This time we lucked out, and reservations had opened up just before our trip. They still have limited capacity, so we were in a small group with about 4 other people on our tour. Our guide showed us the best places to stand and what angles to shoot our phones at to get some breathtaking photographs. I’m actually glad they have limited capacity – I imagine that in normal times, there would be too many people in the way. If you have the chance to go before they fully open back up, I highly recommend it!

After visiting Antelope Canyon, we went down to Horseshoe Bend. It’s such a beautiful overlook into the Colorado River. Last summer when I was there, it was about 110°, and even though it was a short walk, I got overheated and started feeling lightheaded. So it was great to have a do-over this year and enjoy it a little more. We finally headed out to a small trail past the Glen Canyon Dam, where we wanted to wait out and watch the stars after it got dark. However, we took one look at the trail and decided we were still too tired and sore from hiking Zion, and realized it was also going to be too overcast to see a lot of stars anyway. We stayed for a little while and enjoyed feeling like we were the only people left on the planet, and then called it an early night.

Finally feeling rested, we were ready for our road trip day: an 8-hour drive from Page to Albuquerque, New Mexico, with some planned stops along the way. The first of which was Four Corners Monument, where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet. It was about 30 minutes out of our way, and I’m glad we made the stop – but if I’m being honest with you, I don’t think it’s worth going more than that out of your way. There’s a plaque built into the sidewalk where the four corners meet, a plaque for each of the four states with their state seals, and a few booths where you can buy Native American crafts and souvenirs. Other than a quick photo op, there isn’t much to see. So we continued on our way to stop number two: Shiprock, New Mexico. Or rather… we tried. We had seen online that Shiprock is a cool looking monadnock, but what we didn’t realize was there is no quick access from the highway. We were literally chasing daylight, so we decided seeing it from a distance in the car was good enough, and did not actually go to the landmark.

The reason we were chasing daylight is because we wanted to have plenty of time to see our final stop, the Bisti Wilderness. Throughout the trip (and the planning of our trip), we jokingly referred to it as Not Earth. I mean, just look at these pictures: if I woke up in these badlands with no memory of how I got there, I just might actually believe I had been abducted by aliens. It was so cool to see all the hoodoos and piles of petrified wood, and if we had more time to spare, we probably would have been easily lost. Now this would have been a great place to stay up and watch the stars, but we had an extra early morning planned for the following day, so we needed to keep heading east and get to Albuquerque.

Why such an early morning in Albuquerque? We had booked a flight on a hot air balloon and needed to be checked in at 6:15am. New Mexico is known for it’s hot air balloon fiesta, but we were actually there a few days before the start. This meant there were “only” about 20 balloons flying (instead of ~600!), and this also meant our flight (and our hotel) was about half the price. I also had the chance to ride in a hot air balloon over Asheville, NC back on the MOE tour, so this wasn’t my first trip, though it was both of my friends first times. Riding in a hot air balloon is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. It’s very calm, quiet (when the flame isn’t going), and gentle. It was a gorgeous morning and we watched the sun rise over the mountains. After landing in the middle of a residential street, we ended with a mimosa toast. After some much needed caffeinating, we headed up to Santa Fe where we spent the rest of the day. It’s a very colorful, quaint town with lots of little shops. I bought myself a little red chile ornament and had fun taking lots of photographs. We found some really great chili rellenos for lunch, spent too much money relaxing in a hokey salt cave, and finished the day with some churros from a food truck behind a muffler shop.

The following day was supposed to be pretty easy: sleep in, pack up (for the 84th time), grab lunch, fly to Tulsa. The first three activities went as planned. We had plenty of good food on our trip, but had not yet had any Native American food. So, for lunch, we went to the Indian Pueblo Kitchen. Never in my life have I had such a hard time deciding what to order. Everything sounded so delicious, relatively healthy, and unlike anything I had had before. We ended up splitting some blue corn onion rings with green chile ranch and some fry bread with honey and red chile raspberry preserves. For my meal, I went with their version of a french dip: fry bread, beef, cheese, hatch green chile, and served with a red chile au jus. It was all so good, but my favorite part was the red chile raspberry preserves. I’m not sure if they sold any in jars or not, but I was already packed with no room to spare, so I’m just going to have to buy some online now that I’m home. We also picked up a few Pueblo pies to take with us to Tulsa.

We got to the airport two hours before our flight, dropped off our rental car, checked our luggage (we had a lot of luggage), and went through security. Sure enough, the massage gun I packed in my backpack was stopped by security. I couldn’t check it since it has a lithium battery, but it was worth hauling it around for the relief it provided after hiking. As soon as we all got through security, I went to double-check the monitor for what gate we were leaving out of… and that’s when I saw it: ABQ to DAL was cancelled. We kept walking to the gate to go ahead and get in line to talk to an agent, and meanwhile we were alerted on our phones that we were automatically rebooked for a flight the next day, going from ABQ to PHX to TUL. We were supposed to be getting to Tulsa Thursday night, and now we were rescheduled to get there Friday afternoon. Thankfully, the new flight was still getting us in before the first Hanson concert, but we were looking forward to spending the day in Tulsa with our friend who did not do the rest of the trip with us.

We looked up all the other possible flight options, including other airlines, and without spending $700, it looked like this was our best option after all. However, we did ask the agent if we could fly to Phoenix that same night rather than the next day, and we lucked out. We decided this would leave one less thing to deal with the next day, plus it meant we didn’t need to stay another night in Albuquerque as the balloon fiesta was starting and hotel prices had risen. So, after getting our checked baggage from baggage claim at ABQ, then re-checking it, and then going through security again, we made it to Phoenix. Last summer I went to Phoenix and found a fun taco restaurant in an old church that serves tequila flights out of communion cups. So we decided to make the best of our unexpected 15-hour Phoenix layover and went out for tacos and drinks. The following morning, we flew to Tulsa and made it there without further incident.

Tulsa is literally home to one of my friends who was on this trip, but for my other friend and I, it certainly has begun to feel like home this past year. After a long trip visiting new places, the idea of home away from home had all new meaning. Right around the time we landed in Tulsa, Hanson was posting on social media about a few new beers they had at Nothings Left Brewery: a Russian Doll Stout and a White Russian Stout. We were already planning on going anyway, so as soon as we got settled in to the hotel, we got our friend and headed out. I thought they were both pretty good, but so far nothing has topped the Second Breakfast Oatmeal Stout they had at Hop Jam one year.

I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of setlist voting. Usually the songs I’d pick aren’t even options, and the ones I vote for tend to lose. But the main reason I don’t like it is because it leaves little room for surprises during the concerts. That said, the Listeners’ Choice shows back in January were some of my favorite over the past year, so I had hope that we’d have a few surprises this time around (punavoidable song reference). We voted on a total of 20 songs for this set of shows, so I was hoping each show would be 6 ATW songs + 10 voted songs one night, the other 10 the next night + 5-6 surprise songs. Instead, each show was exactly the 20 voted for songs + the 6 ATW songs and 0 surprises. They did switch the order around for night two, but they were otherwise identical, with the one surprise exception of an acoustic version of “If Only” on night two (which, considering my body was tired and broken, I was grateful for).

As we figured this was our last time to be in Tulsa before returning to the normal business of Hanson Day weekends, one friend and I decided to stick around on Sunday and head home Monday. This ended up being one of the best decisions we made. At first I was worried that extending our trip from 12 days to 13 days would be the tipping point of exhaustion, but I found the opposite to be true. Having a lowkey day on Sunday meant the chance to sleep in, then nap, and take the chance to repack one final time without feeling rushed. We also had an opportunity to volunteer with Food On The Move, and soaked in one last quiet night on Main Street. While I was certainly tired when I got home Monday, I wasn’t as exhausted as I anticipated, and for that I am grateful.

I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to go on a trip that extensive again, and I’m still recovering from the amount of missed work emails and lack of introvert time. However, I would jump on the chance if it comes up. I have seven states left to visit, and an international bucket list that is over 40 countries long. I don’t know if I’ll get to all of it in this lifetime, but I know one thing for certain: “God only knows all the places I’ll see.”