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).

ATW² + Underneath + The Walk

August 6-8, 2021

The Travel

In my experience, some of the best adventures and subsequent memories start with the phrase, “I wasn’t going to go, but…” and this weekend was no exception. When Hanson first announced this 4-month ATW+ series, I decided no thank you to Oklahoma in August. (Though to be honest, it wasn’t any different than Tennessee in August.) This decision was cemented after I had a work event scheduled for the day of the Friday show.

But then.

But then I got to work on Thursday morning and was told our event needed to be rescheduled. I messaged a couple of my friends and said that now that there was no work event, I wished I was going to Tulsa. As all good Hanson friends do, they reminded me that technically it wasn’t too late, and one of them had space for me in her hotel room. This wasn’t my first last-minute decision to go to a Hanson concert two states away, but it was the first time it involved booking a last-minute flight… I bought my plane ticket 27 hours before departure time… and I only told the one friend who had a hotel room, intending to surprise the rest of my friends.

I still had a work meeting to go to on Friday morning, and there was only one flight option that left late enough for me to not miss the meeting and still arrive early enough for me to get to the show on time (read: landing at 5:48pm for a 8pm show). I arrived at the Nashville airport 90 minutes before my flight, but as soon as I stepped out of the Uber I got an alert that it was delayed 15 minutes. I’ve had worse delays, but this took my layover time down from 50 minutes to 35 minutes. By the time I got to my gate, we were delayed an additional 15 minutes… so now I had a 20 minute layover at DFW, which is not a small airport, and at the time the airline app was telling me I’d need to get from the A terminal to the C terminal.

While waiting for my flight, a woman walked up to the gate agent and started asking her questions. I couldn’t hear their exchange, but from their body language I could tell things were not okay. I assumed she was just stressed or upset about the delay, and the agent eventually asked her to please have a seat. She came and sat next to me, reeking of alcohol, and started ranting to me about the agent being rude to her. A few minutes went by, and she went back up and started asking the agent some more questions, and was again told to please sit down.

After she said back down next to me, a manager came out to talk to her. The woman kept saying she needed to get to Austin, insisting she was “okay to drive”, and that they could take her “blood alcohol” because she doesn’t drink. Thankfully, they told her she would not be allowed to get on the plane and that she could try again later in the day. She stormed off saying she’d just go to another airline, but I’m guessing that didn’t work out too well for her either. All I could think was that if they had let her on the plane and she had started acting up mid-flight, I would have been grounded somewhere and most definitely would not have been at the Friday concert.

Once we got off the ground, most of my flight to DFW went smoothly, other than half the plane being stressed about making our connecting flights. But toward the end of the flight, the woman next to me started having a panic attack and kept saying she was going to throw up. I felt for her, but was scared for myself that she would get sick – thankfully, she did not. Then, as we we’re descending, I heard a thud followed by people yelling. That is a terrible thing to hear when a plane is going down, so I immediately started thinking the worst. As it turns out, someone’s cat managed to get out of its carrier, and the owner was able to get it back in. When we landed, I noticed we were taxiing to gate C, not A like the app had told me, and I could see the plane I needed to be on to get to Tulsa. But then we stopped just shy of the jet bridge – and sat there waiting for a good 10 minutes because there was a baggage cart blocking it.

I only had to get from C15 to C8 to catch my flight, but I still literally sprinted through the airport and got there while they were boarding group 4 – and I was group 6. The flight from DFW to TUL is a short one, and I let my one friend know that I had made my connection and would be there as planned. I’m one who typically gets to shows early – even if they’re seated – so walking off the plane exactly 2 hours before show time was a new one for me. My friend was already at the venue when I landed (which I suspected she would be), so I grabbed an Uber, dropped my luggage off at the hotel, and took a Lime scooter to the venue. All the hassle was worth it when I got to surprise my friends by showing up at the venue just a few minutes before doors.

ATW+ Underneath

I’ll be honest, one thing I don’t like about “themed” concerts is that it usually leaves little room for set list surprises. However, the good part of that theme being one album+ is that there’s a good chance they’ll play some favorite songs that are rarely heard live. One of those songs for me is “Dancing In The Wind”, although I did hear it a couple times last year. It was a great opener for this show, but I do wish Taylor would pull the electric guitar out for it like he used to back in the day. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know the story behind Underneath. (If you don’t, and you’d like to, the documentary Strong Enough To Break is available for free on YouTube, though it’s broken into several parts.)

Despite knowing what they went through during the season of recording this album, and on top of knowing all these songs by heart for 17(!) years, I still never really realized how depressing some of these songs are until I heard them live this weekend, in non-album order. Putting “Underneath” and “Misery” back-to-back later followed by “Believe” and “When You’re Gone” back-to-back was a lot to process. I love all those songs, but I was thankful for the energy to pick back up at the end as they played the four released Against The World tracks. Until this show, I had only previously heard “Annalie” and “Don’t Ever Change”, but I didn’t know “Don’t Ever Change” well enough at the time. “Don’t Ever Change” and “Against The World” both sound like songs that will become future live staples, and I hope “Only Love” sticks around for a long time.

ATW+ The Walk

The Walk has always been my favorite Hanson album, and lot of the songs are ones I haven’t heard live in quite some time. That alone is reason enough that I did almost consider attending these shows from the day they were announced, and this is the one I was most excited about once I did finally decide to go. The Walk Tour in the spring of 2008 wasn’t the first time I saw Hanson live, but it was the first time I really started to “do tour” and go to multiple shows in a row. So maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I don’t think any song can beat “Great Divide” for the best set opener. As soon as the first bar dropped, I started crying happy tears.

Maybe it’s because it was my first front row general admission show since Covid (and first front row GA in Tulsa), but I think it was more than that. Part of what keeps me coming back for more (pun absolutely intended) is that you never know what show is going to do it for you… but every once in awhile that feeling pops up. I don’t mean this to say I don’t have fun at every show (I wouldn’t keep going if I didn’t), it’s just that some of them have some sort of way… the band’s energy and the crowd’s energy match in a unique way and everything is just surreal. After talking to my friends, I definitely wasn’t the only one who felt it this time, and many of us have decided this was one of the best Hanson concerts we’ve ever been to. Since it’s not on Against The World or The Walk, I wasn’t expecting to hear “A Minute Without You”, let alone as Isaac’s solo choice. It’s a song I’ve heard live almost as many times as “MMMBop”, but the crowd sang along so loudly that it caught Isaac off guard and he forgot what he was singing half-way through the song.

I absolutely loved getting to hear some rare songs like “One More” and “Your Illusion”, and The Walk also has some old staples that haven’t been played much lately like “Blue Sky” and “Running Man”. I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a (probably insensitive) joke about Hanson playing “Something Going ‘Round” during a pandemic, but let’s just say I don’t have it (but maybe I don’t know it), and I definitely don’t need it. And we could get this herd immunity thing in motion if you’d stop acting tough and get vaccinated. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Moral Of The Story

If you’re on the fence about doing something, no matter how last minute the planning is… I highly suggest you just do the thing. You never know what concert might be your new favorite, or if whatever your version of a Hanson concert is will be your favorite of whatever it is. Buy the ticket. Book the flight. Run through the airport. Make the memories. Blog about it later so you don’t forget when you’re old and start losing all of your hair.

Only Love Is Gonna Save Us Now

When Hanson announced their new project Against The World would be released one song at a time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do my blog review. Would each song get its own post? Would I wait until November when they’ve all been released? As you may have noticed, I finally settled on one blog post for all the songs combined, but that I would update that post each month as songs are released. After all, I usually only have a little snippet to say about a song anyway.

But then I heard the third track, “Only Love”, and I knew this one was going to use a lot more words than the first two songs. I decided to keep my review brief for the Against The World blog, while also making a separate post to go on a deep dive for this one.

Whenever I first listen to a song, I mostly hear how it makes me feel overall, not paying much attention to the specific lyrics. This song was an exception to that. There were several lyrics that jumped out to me, and then I listened to the song, on repeat, for my entire flight to Chicago. The first line that hit me was “she headed south, without a care, without a clue, didn’t give a damn.” What, you might wonder, could be so significant about that lyric? Well, it’s me. I’m coming up on my 15-year “Nashiversary”. I grew up in small town Michigan and went to college in small town Indiana. Then, that summer after college, I packed up my Camry, had $500 to my name, no job, and no place to live, and moved south to Nashville. I never imagined I’d be here for so long, but here we are a decade and a half later, and I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon. This lyric hits home because not only did I head south, but looking back, at a mere 23 years of age, I certainly had no cares, no clues, and no damns to give.

But as much as that lyric hit home, it wasn’t the one that made me realize this song was going to need a full blog. It was the third verse that stood out to me the most:

I know all too well my demons, and broken dreams, and running head-long into false plans
I get bogged down in self-doubt, dying inside, bleeding out, yeah
So whether hipsters or holy-rollers, we find ourselves holding court on our knees
But broken won’t define you, ’cause love can always find you
Only love is gonna save us now

Hanson – “Only Love”

I was immediately reminded of a book I read several years ago by Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. It’s a short little booklet that only took me about 20 minutes to re-read before writing this blog. The premise of the book is that true humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but rather thinking of ourselves less. But what this song reminded me of was how Keller says we can get to a place of thinking of ourselves less. He references 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, in which Paul says “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.” In Keller’s book, he runs with this analogy. He says that if our self-esteem is too high and we are prideful, we have put ourselves on trial and found ourselves innocent. And on the flip-side, if we find ourselves guilty, our self-esteem will be too low. So, what then? To quote Keller:

Here is Paul’s answer: he is out of the courtroom, he is out of the trial. How? Because Jesus Christ went on trial instead… As our substitute. He took the condemnation we deserve; He faced the trial that should be ours so that we do not have to face any more trials. So I simply need to ask God to accept me because of what the Lord Jesus has done. Then, the only person whose opinion counts looks at me and He finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth.

Tim Keller – The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness

I know not everyone reading this blog has the same belief system, but this is what I believe is true: that “only love is gonna save us now”. And in fact, it already has.

Music Review: Against The World

Annalie

I got to hear “Annalie” live during the Wintry Mix tour in 2019. I’m not sure if it’s the first time this has happened, but it was the first time I ever saw a song performed acoustically but also with the full 5-piece band. It’s a catchy song and I knew right away that I liked it. However, I liked it even better after Back To The Island when Zac explained that the song isn’t about a girl, but rather about the meaning behind the name Annalie. He did not go on to explain further at the time, but I did a Google, and the name means “God’s grace”. Suddenly the song shifts from missing a girl and wanting to travel with her, to a man feeling like he has somehow fallen out of God’s graces. He’s chasing after hope, and longing for his regrets to be washed away. While I don’t believe anyone can actually lose God’s grace (after all, what is grace if not undeserved?), I can relate to the feeling of searching for it. This just makes me wonder how many other Hanson songs have a deeper meaning than we’ve ever realized.

Favorite Lyric: “I don’t really care where we stop, as long as I get to go.”

Don’t Ever Change

I heard “Don’t Ever Change” on the Wintry Mix tour as well. I vividly remember thinking “this song sounds fun, but I have no idea what Taylor is saying.” However, that was literally all I could remember about it. To be honest, my first impression of the recorded version was “wow… that’s.. a lot.” In the song’s defense, I probably should not have listened to it immediately upon waking up at 5am. I’ll have to remember that for the next release. I listened to it a few other times that day, and my next impression was that it sounded too much like a Tinted Windows song, of which I’m not that big a fan. However, it has since grown on me. It’s not a song I’ll want in heavy rotation, but when the right mood strikes, it’s a great summer power pop love anthem. I’m looking forward to hearing it live again now that I know the lyrics. This is true of a lot of Hanson songs, but my favorite part is the way the bridge breaks down. Which leads me to…

Favorite Lyric: “You’re my first day’s thought and my last night’s prayer.”

Only Love

When I heard the preview for this song, I immediately became excited for its release. It’s rare these days to get an Isaac lead that isn’t a ballad, and I got the impression that this would be the first in a long while. On my first listen, in the beginning I thought maybe I was wrong; it starts out sounding like a lot of other Isaac songs. But then… oh, but then! It picks up and turns from ballad to gospel rock with an incredible acapella ending. I was expecting goodness, but we were blessed with greatness! And from there, as I dug deeper into the lyrics, it somehow became even better and dare I say it’s a new all-time favorite? It might be too soon to settle on that for certain, but it’s the most excited I’ve been about a new song in quite some time (and that’s not to say I haven’t been excited about others). There is so much more I want to say about this song, so I made a separate post to do so. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my….

Favorite Lyric: “But broken won’t define you, ’cause love can always find you.”

Against The World

I went to three shows on the Wintry Mix Tour, but they skipped the song “Against The World” at all the shows I went to, so I wasn’t sure what to expect for how the song would sound. One thing I love about Hanson is that they have a way of writing songs in a variety of styles and genres. If someone who only knows “MMMBop” (or doesn’t know Hanson at all) asks me what they sound like, I never know quite how to answer; sometimes they sound like rock ‘n’ roll, sometimes they sound like Queen, sometimes it’s singer-songwriter, sometimes it’s almost country. But it’s always Hanson. With that said, my first impression listen of “Against The World”, the first thought I had was “this! this is what Hanson sounds like!” If any song can summarize the quintessential Hanson sound, it’s this. Lyrically, to me it feels like the culmination of “This Time Around” meets “Strong Enough To Break” (including a direct nod to the latter). The protagonist from “This Time Around” is in the middle of war, “Strong Enough To Break” nearly kills him, but now he’s made it through and he’s ready to move forward “Against The World”. He’s had hard times, but they’re his times now.

Favorite Lyric: “There’s equal scars from victory and failure.”

Stronger

I attended both of the September ATW+ shows in Tulsa, and this time I decided to not listen to that month’s new song, “Stronger”, until after the first show. If you’ve already read my show blog, you’ll know that hearing it live gave me chills, even though I couldn’t quite make out the lyrics. So when I got back to my hotel room that night, I of course had to listen to it on repeat while reading the lyrics on Hanson.net, and it did not disappoint. I think we’ve all been in a place of feeling broken and defeated, knowing we need to leave the past behind, but not quite sure how to move forward. And this song is such a beautiful depiction of that feeling. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but the layered harmonies in the chorus remind me that we are only stronger together – we can’t fight our battles alone.

Favorite Lyric: “Don’t know what’s ahead, only what I’ve left.”

One

I remember hearing “One” on the Wintry Mix tour, and really loving it as a Zac solo. I was surprised to hear how it has evolved since then. To be honest, I think I prefer the solo version. I really love the lyrics of this song, and all I’ll say is… if I didn’t know better, I would think it was written in 2020. However, we all know it wasn’t, and it’s just a reminder to me of the powerful way music can evolve and take on new meanings, and that’s the beauty of all art. I’m a Enneagram nerd, and as a 9, I do a really great job of avoiding conflict. To me, this song is a good reminder of how avoiding conflict doesn’t actually help anything, and honestly, usually just makes things worse.

Favorite Lyric: “Tear down these walls, they’re a danger to our hearts, monuments to isolation that deny us what we’ve lost.”



Against The Word is an ongoing story, and as such this blog post will be updated as more information becomes available. The final single, “Fearless”, comes out on November 5th!