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.”

ATW² + Shout It Out + Anthem

September 2-5, 2021

The Travel

I don’t have quite the travel adventure story as my last Tulsa trip, as this one was thankfully without incident. I was surprised, however, to run into a friend and her husband at my gate, and because of Southwest’s open seating, I was able to fly with them from Nashville to Dallas. (She’s also a co-worker, so reader beware if you’re one who fakes a sick day for a travel day!) I did end up spilling my soda all over myself on the flight, and I was thankful to be next to a friend instead of a random stranger.

We’ve done the Tulsa thing quite a few times over the past year, and the heat index was over 100°. So, my friends and I did not do much sight seeing this trip. The only place we went outside of the Arts District was to Nothings Left Brewery. I tried two 5oz pours of their beer: a chocolate peanut butter stout and a strawberry blonde ale. I didn’t care for the strawberry blonde, but the stout (Deez Nuts) was great! I also got their frozen flight, which is the main reason we went. It came with a cherry blackberry lime beer slush, a strawberry piña colada beer slush, and a boozy dole whip. The dole whip was definitely the best of the selection, and I’m looking forward to going back for another one some time. They were all small pours, but it added up and I was feeling quite silly the rest of the afternoon!

ATW + Shout It Out

I’ll admit it, Shout It Out is probably my least favorite Hanson album. But it’s still Hanson, and I really do love a lot of the songs on it. I didn’t realize until we were at the show how many of those songs I haven’t heard in awhile. Most notably, I’ve really missed “Give A Little” live, and I think it should come back out of the vault and replace any time Hanson wants to play “Get The Girl Back” instead. It had also been awhile since I had heard “Make It Out Alive”, “These Walls”, “Carry You There”, and “Kiss Me When You Come Home”. The biggest surprise of the night was when the groove for “Kiss Me When You Come Home” kept going, and then suddenly turned into a cover of “Hard to Handle” followed by “Hold On I’m Coming”. I was right in front of Isaac for this show, and he was really getting into, and it was great watching him have so much fun.

As for the new single, “Stronger”, this month I opted to skip listening to it until after the first concert. It had been awhile since I’ve heard a new song live for the first time, and so I wanted to remain spoiler-free this time around (pun intended, of course). I did listen to the preview clip on Hanson.net, and from that I was expecting a Taylor solo… especially after seeing the t-shirt design with just Taylor in the spotlight. And speaking of Taylor in the spotlight, if you’ve watched the music video, they mimicked that same lighting for the performance. I couldn’t easily understand all of the lyrics live that first night, but I got chills regardless. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts on “Stronger” for my Against The World review, but I hope this is one we get to hear repeatedly for a long while.

ATW + Anthem

A lot of the songs off Anthem are still in pretty heavy rotation live. However, despite it being (sort of) the title of this whole blog, I almost didn’t recognize “Scream And Be Free” when it started, because it had been so long since I had heard it live. A quick search on what my friends and I now call Hoogle (Hanson Google), aka Hansonstage, the last time I heard it was at the 2016 Hanson Day – five years ago! The highlight of the show for me was Zac’s solo of “Save Me From Myself.” This song absolutely wrecks me (and apparently Isaac), and I had only heard it one other time.

My friends and I decided to hang around and get some things signed by the guys at the end of the night, and I decided there was no better time to ask Zac to write out the words “Scream And Be Free”. One of my friends had a migraine and went back to her room, but she asked me to have Taylor sign something for her. I only had two pieces of paper on me at the time: my concert ticket (print at home version), which I decided should be the one for my friend, and my boarding pass from my flight to Tulsa – which I don’t even always print. As this blog is part Hanson, part travel, part both, it feels serendipitous that I was able to get him to write it out for me on the boarding pass, especially considering I had never even thought of asking him to until hearing it live that night.

With that, another great weekend in Tulsa came to an end. As much as I miss traveling to new places to see Hanson, and all the other things that come with a regular tour, it’s going to be weird when we eventually go back to only having Tulsa shows once a year. I always joked that it was like a second home (or third, or fourth, since Nashville isn’t my original home), but the past 12 months have definitely taken that to a new level. But whether in Tulsa, Tokyo, or the Middle of Nowhere, I will aways Scream and Be Free(s).

Hanson Day 2021

Tulsa, Oklahoma

May 20 – 24, 2021

If you’ve ever had the chance to attend Hanson Day in the past, you’ll know that the extended weekend is typically a whirlwind packed full of events: between multiple concerts, karaoke, the I ❤ Hanson store, the art gallery, the dance party, painting, bowling, and lines upon lines, there’s hardly time to eat or sleep. You can’t go anywhere in the Arts District or Brookside neighborhoods of Tulsa without running into a handful of fans, and if you stay for Hop Jam, you’ll hardly be able to make your way down Main Street amongst all the beer and music enthusiasts.

This year, however, was not that. I still remember that day last year when news broke that Hanson Day 2020 was going to be postponed until 2021. I think we all new it was coming, but at the time I never would have guessed that Hanson Day 2021 would also be affected. The silver lining though is that there was enough notice this time around (see what I did there?) for Hanson to come up with really great back-up plan.

The Events

Hanson put together a full week of streaming events, virtual meet-and-greets, and a full week of “pin hunting” on the website. Everything started on Monday when this year’s Fan Club EP, Crossroads, went up in the media player (and, depending on when you join/renew, available for download). I’ll get more into details on the EP in my next blog post, but it was fun to hear all these new songs and digest them via group chat with my friends. Later that night, Hanson went live and took questions from fans about the EP (and also some inevitable questions about The Masked Singer).

On Tuesday, Hanson live streamed their Hanson Time Podcast. The podcast was a new addition to Hanson.net last year as part of the virtual Hanson Day events, but this was the first time it was shared live, and it was also the first time it was shared with video. I’ll digress a bit here because I actually never blogged about this, but I had the chance to interview them on the podcast last summer. My theme was “Good Days” (both the song and the general idea), and it was such a fun opportunity. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about it, but mostly the nerves were related to the fact that it would be recorded for all members to hear; I would have been so much more nervous had the video of it been recorded as well. But, this episode’s reporter did such a great job and asked insightful questions. It was easily my favorite episode so far.

Wednesday, Hanson went live again, this time to share more about the art in this year’s gallery. Like Hanson Day galleries in the past, there were original paintings from Zac as well as some photographs from Taylor. This year, Zac also painted on a few sets of Russian Dolls, and I thought they were all really cool looking. Because this year’s gallery was virtual, in lieu of selling the art work on a first come, first serve basis, they set up a raffle system on the website’s store. I thought this was a really great idea, and I hope they keep it up in the future. This will make one less line to wait in for those who make it to Tulsa, and will still allow those who can’t travel to have a chance at purchasing the artwork.

On Thursday evening, Hanson posted a mini “making of” documentary about Crossroads. I had to watch this one twice, but only because I was only half-watching it from a Tulsa Driller’s game the first time. I always love the chance to get to peek behind the curtain when Hanson is writing and recording, and I liked this mini-doc style better than having several 2-3 minute clips like we have had in the past.

Friday was the one-year-later 20th anniversary This Time Around acoustic concert, followed by a virtual DJ Taylor dance party. On Saturday, we had the main Hanson Day concert, a brief promo video for their new project Against The World, and then they wrapped up the week with a “Night Cap” live stream on Sunday where they played a round of Pictionary with some fans, and took questions as well.

The Concerts

Of the two concerts for this year’s Hanson Day, I was much more excited about the Saturday show. When given the choice between album songs that get played at most shows or the more rare members’ tracks, I’ll always choose the latter. That said, I went into the This Time Around Acoustic Show with low expectations…. and I was blown away! Not only was it a solid performance of every song, they also mixed it up and played some of the more common songs (“If Only”, “Hand In Hand”, etc) in slightly different styles (more different than just being acoustic). They also treated us to some rare B-sides: “Lonely Again” and “Smile.” Unfortunately though, I had to deduct quite a few points from this show after my friend told me she saw “Bridges of Stone” listed as a 3rd encore song, which they ended up not playing.

One of my favorite things about the main Hanson Day concert each year is that we get to hear that year’s EP played in full, along with quite a few of the back catalogue members’ songs. I was really bummed last year when we didn’t get to hear the songs off Continental Breakfast In Bed since Hanson Day was cancelled, so I was hoping they’d make it up to us this year. Zac did play “Good Days” (which he had also played at one of the shows this past fall), but that was it. I suppose that if they had done Crossroads and CBIB, it would have been a lot of new material to learn in addition to re-working the TTA songs, plus it would throw off the number of solos during the show. I was especially disappointed when Taylor sat down at his piano for what I thought was going to be “All I Know” and instead it was the-song-that-shall-not-be-named-because-it-makes-all-my-friends-cry-and-not-in-the-good-way. In fact, only 31% of the show was members’ only songs, compared to the 70% from the Hanson Day concerts in years past. (Shout [it] Out to Hansonstage for the stats.) Despite the setlist not meeting my expectations, it was still a really great concert. They played everything so well, it was high energy, and everything about it is why “we keep coming back (yeah we keep coming back).”

The Tulsa Life

Being in Tulsa this time felt so much different than any other Tulsa trip I’ve been on. The trips over this fall and winter were so quiet compared to the typical Hanson Day weeks, but this weekend felt like a weird mix of the two. There was an Ironman Triathlon on Sunday which brought in 2,500 participants plus all their friends and family who came to support them. It made the city feel just as busy as when there’s Mayfest, the Blue Dome fest, Hanson Day, and Hop Jam, but there was still only about 1/10th the typical number of Hanson fans. My friends and I spent most of the day Sunday standing at the corner of the finish line cheering people on. I’m not a sports person, but that day I learned that running is my favorite spectator sport. It was so much fun to watch the runners’ facial expressions change and their energy pick up as they heard people cheering for them and then rounded the corner and the finish line came into sight. A few of them got emotional, and so, in turn, did I.

These past few months of shows have been unique. Even though a lot of my friends have been to the same shows that I have, we were actively not mixing our smaller groups as a Covid precaution. However, I got to see more of them this time now that we’re all vaccinated. (Please, if you haven’t yet, get vaccinated. Science is real, it’s not a new technology, and it does not contain the coronavirus. The long-term effects of getting even a mild case of Covid are unknown, and there’s only one way we’ll ever get back to normal. *Steps off soap box*) It’s been nice to have down time and explore more of the city, but I’m looking forward to hopefully having a normal Hanson Day and Hop Jam in 2022.

Perennial Live: A Socially Distanced Concert Series

Tulsa, Oklahoma

November 4-7, 2020

The day after Hanson’s October streaming concert series, Live and Electric Revisited, they announced the theme for their November series: Perennial Live, named for the double-album public release of some of songs that had previously been available only to fan club members.

While I have mixed feelings about the specific tracks chosen for Perennial, as a general rule some of my favorite Hanson songs are from the members EPs, so I’m always excited for the rare chance to hear them performed live. Typically this only happens at the annual Hanson Day and Back To The Island events, although they occasionally do pull out one or two of the songs at a normal show.

This was my 13th trip to Tulsa, OK. I went twice in college to visit a friend who was attending ORU, I went in 2009 for the recording of the Stand Up, Stand Up EP, and I’ve attended all but one of the official Hanson Day weekends that started in 2011. Each year at Hanson Day, my friends and I have our favorite places we like to visit – after all, we only get to go there once a year. So, being back after just a short 3.5 weeks, I didn’t feel the need to do to the same ole things this trip.

The first place we went on this trip was to the giant oil driller statue, which I hadn’t been to since I think 2012. Then we went and took pictures of the praying hands at ORU, and the last time I was there was in 2004. I guess this was lucky trip number 13 because this was my first visit to Tulsa with absolutely perfect weather. It was sunny with a high of 75 (Relient K, anyone?) and a slight breeze and no humidity. We eventually wandered down to the riverfront where I was finally brave enough to try riding an electric scooter for the first time ever. I was a bit wobbly at first, but now I’m obsessed. (But I don’t see myself riding one around Nashville anytime soon.) My friend and I ended up scooting all over the Arts District between our hotel and Cain’s for the shows.

I have to admit, something felt off during the first show on Thursday night. I know my friends and I were feeling anxious while awaiting results of the presidential election from Tuesday night, and we were refreshing the electoral college map between every song. Maybe the rest of the audience was just as anxious, maybe the band was anxious, or maybe something else was going on, but it didn’t have that energy I get from most Hanson shows. Despite the lack of energy, I absolutely loved the set list. My personal highlights were “Panic In The Streets” (highly underrated), “Down”, “So Lovely”, “Young and Dumb”, “Somebody That Wants To Love You”, and getting to hear the new single “Nothing Like A Love Song” which is physically impossible not to dance to.

Friday’s matinee show was the polar opposite energy wise. My friends and I lucked out and managed to get a front row center table for this show, so I thought maybe we were biased, but other people told me they felt it to, Hanson just absolutely brought it for this show. My highlights for this set list were hearing “Leave The Light On” for only the second time (first time with a full band), “No Rest For The Weary”, and “Coming Back For More”. But the moments that will stick out to me the most were the times I caught Zac laughing at my friends and I repeatedly messing up the “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'” dance, and laughing at my ridiculous “Been There Before” dance moves, as evidenced below. Zac also got bonus points for playing “Good Days”. While it’s not my favorite song, we missed getting to hear Continental Breakfast (In Bed) live when Hanson Day got cancelled, so now this is the only song from the 7-track EP we’ve gotten to hear live (other than “Everyday” which had been performed several times prior to making the EP cut).

The setlist for the 3rd show was, to me, better than the first night but not as good as the matinee. There was one highlight from this set, and it was Isaac’s performance of “Grace Unknown”. I’ve only heard it performed two other times, one as recent as this year’s Back To The Island, and the emotion he brought to the performance was unparalleled. With the year we’ve all had in 2020, these lyrics hit a little different than they did back in early February, and have been a good reminder to me that maybe now, more than ever, we all need to give, and receive, a little more grace.

Reader: If you’re curious about the COVID-19 precautions that were taken for this trip, I covered them extensively in my Live And Electric Revisited blog.

Live and Electric Revisited: A Socially Distanced Concert Series

Tulsa, Oklahoma

October 8 – 11, 2020

Eight months ago, I thought that by now this blog would be full of posts about Hanson’s new album, Against The World, and the subsequent world tour by the same name. Just like everyone else this year, Hanson’s plans were effected by a global pandemic. There were a lot of new directions they could have gone, but the one they settled on was to put the new album on the back-burner, wait until it’s safe to go on a world tour and release the album then.

In the meantime, they’ve kept us all occupied in many ways: in the early spring Isaac hosted solo “Quaranstreams” on Instagram from his home, Taylor hosted a few “Home Jams” with some of his other musician friends, they added two extra tracks to this year’s fan club EP, they did a complete overhaul on their website, and they started a fan club podcast in which members, picked at random, had the chance to interview the band on a given topic. I got the chance to be one of those interviewers, and my topic was “Good Days”, both in reference to the song on the newest EP and the broader, general idea of good days. I never thought interviewing my favorite band via Zoom would be a thing, but it was so much fun, and the guys had a natural way of helping it all seem somewhat normal.

As we all adjusted to a new way of living in 2020, I assumed Hanson would eventually do some sort of official live stream concert with all three members, as opposed to just Taylor or Isaac doing their own things on Instagram. I did not, however, expect a live audience to be involved. So imagine my surprise when they announced they would be doing four live stream concert series from Cain’s Ballroom with a limited, socially distanced, in-person audience!

Deciding to attend any sort of in-person, non-virtual event these days takes a lot of consideration. I had to think through what risks I was willing to take, how those risks would effect other people in my life, what precautions would be set in place at the event, and what extra precautions I would need to take myself in order to feel safe. The event announcement said there would be 45 tables, placed 8 feet apart, with 4 chairs per table. I quickly did the math, which comes to a max total of 180 fans (10% of the 1,800 capacity venue) in the room, plus the band, their crew, the band’s family, and venue staff. The tables were sold whole; I had to buy all 4 seats at the table, and then it was up to me to control who I felt comfortable sharing the other 3 seats with. The announcement also stated that masks would be required while not seated at the tables, bathrooms would be at 50% capacity, hand sanitizing stations would be available around the venue, and social distancing would be enforced at bar and merchandise lines.

After talking amongst my friends, we all agreed we would feel comfortable attending while taking our own extra precautions. We kept our masks on for the entire duration of the shows, we kept our tables to the same people we were sharing a hotel room with (plus one local Tulsa friend), and took our temperatures before each show. I ended up splitting a hotel room with two friends: one slept on the pull-out couch, the other and I shared a king size bed with extra pillows placed between our heads. We also opted to rent a car for the weekend to avoid taking shuttles and Ubers. Two days before our trip I got a precautionary COVID test and got my negative results 24 hours before leaving for Tulsa. We brought Clorox wipes and sanitized everything in our hotel room, plus our table and chairs at the shows, just as I sanitized everything in and around my seat on my flights. After the first show, I realized how much my voice was not used to be used for two hours straight. So, on Saturday, I decided not to sing along at all during the two shows, which I also realized doubled as a safety precaution I was taking for everyone else. You better believe I was still lip-synching behind my mask, though. Five days after returning to Nashville, I got another precautionary COVID test, again with negative results.

Before the first show on Friday night, my friends and I had the chance to visit the Philbrook Museum of Art. They currently have an exhibit featuring Native women artists. There were a lot of really beautiful, moving pieces, and this is coming from someone who really isn’t that into visual art. We also spent some time walking around the botanical gardens even thought it was ridiculously hot outside. Then we drove up the street and visited Ida Red, which has become a tradition for me when in Tulsa. I stocked up on Zotz candy, a few fun sodas, and bought a 1990s collage puzzle which, of course, includes a small image of Hanson.

After recently splitting from their record label and going independent, the old label saw the success of Hanson’s first independent album, Underneath, and decided to release a “best of” album. Hanson heard they were planning to do this, so in turn, they released their own, and released it first. Thus, 2005’s “The Best of Hanson: Live & Electric”, a recording from Hanson’s Underneath Tour show in Melbourne, Australia. When Hanson announced that the theme for the October streaming series would be Live & Electric: Revisited to honor the 15th anniversary of the album, I was underwhelmed. Hanson has released a lot of material over the past 23 years, and with a lot of material comes a lot of anniversaries, so there has been quite the fair share of anniversary shows recently. But, given the lack of any event in the year 2020, I was still excited to be able to see something.

I have to say though, after the first show on Friday night, I was pleasantly surprised, and the two shows on Saturday were even better. Throughout the course of the three concerts, not one song was performed that was released after 2005, and there were a total of 39 unique songs performed, which is far fewer repeated songs than an average group of shows on a normal tour. (Friday Setlist, Saturday Setlist 1, Saturday Setlist 2.) This meant leaving out a lot more recent favorites that have been, in my opinion, over-played as of late, and pulling out some album deep cuts that have become more elusive in Hanson’s recent set lists. We were also surprised with a brand new cover of The Isley Brother’s “It’s Your Thing”, which proved to be a perfect fit for these brothers, too.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d feel at that first show on Friday night after such a long (for me) time since my last show – 249 days. Part of me thought maybe I’d end up with happy tears, and I was kind of surprised when that didn’t happen. It felt so good to be there though. Hanson concerts have always felt like a second home to me, even if I’m in a brand new city. (Not a new city this time, more on that below.) There’s something about these shows where for those 2 hours, I have no worries… and it turns out that’s true even if there’s a pandemic literally all around me. My church started back up in person last month (social distanced and masks required). After that first Sunday back, a friend asked me if it was weird. I told her it was definitely not a normal church experience, but when there’s been a year of nothing being normal, weird doesn’t really hold much meaning or effect anymore, and I’d say that holds true for this set of concerts as well. The least-normal part of the show was, for once, not wanting to get closer to the stage, or not wanting to squeeze in and dance between some of my friends.

Overall, I’m glad I went despite the risks that came with it. I had a great time with my friends visiting a city we all love (which at this point feels like a home away from home), and experiencing the energy of live music after an eight-month drought was good for my soul. Some added benefits of the socially distanced set-up for the shows meant there was actually room to dance (I was able to actually salsa to “Can’t Stop” for the first time ever), I never once felt claustrophobic, and when there are three two-hour long concerts back-to-back in the span of 28 hours, it is essential to have a chair to sit in during the slow songs. TL;DR: “You’re all so civilized… it’s freaking me out.” – Taylor Hanson.