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.

Anderson, IN

November 15-16, 2019

When I heard Hanson was going to be playing a show in Anderson, Indiana, my immediate reaction was “What the heck? That’s where I went to college! It’s a… nothing town!” I’m talking we would drive through the corn fields and get lost on purpose because there was nothing else to do type of town. I still don’t understand why their schedule took them there, but I was excited for the excuse to go back and be nostalgic.

We got into town Friday afternoon and I forced my friends to have lunch at a hole-in-the-wall diner called The Lemon Drop. It has about 4½ booths, a handful of barstools, and a little train that goes around the ceiling. I always loved their toasted cheeseburger, but I have to admit it didn’t taste quite as great this time around (yeah, Hanson pun intended). Maybe that’s the difference of having a bank account with more than one zero to the left of the decimal.

We spent a little time in the casino before the show (because, honestly, what else were we to do?) and I decided to go ahead and gamble a bit. I bet a total of $11 and ended with $0.03… now that’s how I remember life in Anderson. (You know… the whole broke college kid thing… mom, dad, I promise I didn’t gamble in college. They didn’t even have a casino back then.)

The concert was held in a room that is typically used to view horse races, so this was one of the stranger places I’ve seen Hanson perform (and yet somehow also my second time seeing them on a horse track this year). Here’s hoping that in 2020 we go back to some normal concert venues. The concert itself was high-energy, and no matter how many times I do this, I will never get over how nothing else in the world feels quite like being in the crowd with my friends, dancing away to our favorite songs. Zac is still not quite ready to be back on drums following his motorcycle accident, and toward the end of the show he walked right by my row playing his heart out on the cowbell. I’m ready for him to be healed and back on drums, but he makes for a great frontman and I’m curious to see if this has any impact on future Hanson shows and songs… will we end up seeing more Taylor on drums because of this? Who knows.

After the show, we went to grab some late-night dinner and drinks and, well, apparently Isaac and Taylor (and Dash & crew) had the same idea. I suppose when there’s no backstage and only one restaurant that’s open late, it ends up not being much of a coincidence. There were a couple other fans there as well, and we were all playing it cool… until MMMBop started playing over the TouchTunes jukebox. I have to admit, I immediately started judging the other fans. But, I owe them an apology as we later found out it was the restaurant manager that decided to play it. I guess when you’re in a small enough town, even a celebrity you never liked and barely remember is exciting enough to not know how to be chill. We weren’t going to ask them for photos, but as they were leaving, the staff started asking for pictures, and then so did the other fans, so we decided to go ahead as they didn’t seem to mind. So, here’s a special thanks to Isaac Tangent Man and Taylor Don Music for putting up with the ridiculousness that was Friday night.

Saturday morning, I had only one destination in mind: Deluxe Donuts. This was one of my go-to places back in college, and I knew even before leaving Nashville that this was one of the places where I had to go back. We just grabbed a couple donuts to go, and then I gave Katie and Katie (you read that right) a driving tour of campus. Five minutes later when that was done, I took them to the next (bigger) town over, Muncie. I was first introduced to Thai food in Muncie and they still have my favorite cashew nut chicken.

We then went back to campus, because the other Number One Place To Revisit on my list was Mocha Joe’s, the campus coffee shop. But, college students are lazy on the weekends, so it didn’t open until 1pm, so we had to wait until after lunch. I grabbed an (overly sweet, too-many-flavors combined) latte called I’m Dating Jesus (like… seriously) and wandered through the student center. It’s gotten quite the overhaul since I graduated in 2006, so at least now I know what I’ve been paying for all these years.

The absolute most meaningful place to me in all of Anderson, Indiana is a house I lived in for two months in the summer of 2005. In order to keep this blog a little shorter and not rehash it all, I’ll just direct you to my Instagram post here, if you’re curious enough to read about it. Anderson was always a pretty run-down town: a handful of chain restaurants and hotels near the interstate, a couple thousand college students (if that), faculty, and lower class factory workers. Going back for the first time since the Great Recession, it’s sad to see just how much worse it has gotten. I can dish out jokes about there being nothing to do there, but my heart will always go out to the people who live there and how they helped shape my early adulthood.

I’ll end this post with one more Anderson factoid: musician Jon McLaughlin grew up in Anderson, attended AU the same time I did, and now also lives in Nashville. If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall that I saw him play a show during my last night in Hawaii back in September, so now these random Hanson one-off shows have come full circle. It also feels appropriate to end with a college collage.