January 5 – 10, 2022
A week ago today I was enjoying my last evening in Jamaica, relieved to have received a negative Covid test to be able to fly back to the US in the morning. Today, I’m sitting in my bedroom in a snowy Nashville, still in disbelief that this year’s trip actually happened. If you’re tired of hearing about Covid, feel free to skip down to paragraph three. Right now, the travel requirements for Jamaica are that you have to have a negative Covid test 72-hours before you arrive, regardless of vaccination status. I’m happy to report that I’m triple Pfizered, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on edge for an entire 6 weeks prior to the trip. I wore my mask everywhere, including in my own house, starting around mid-December, and spent New Year’s Eve alone in my bedroom while my roommate had some friends over.
Maybe I was being overly cautious, but between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I dodged two roommates, three family members, and more coworkers than I can keep track of who had all tested positive. I was beyond relieved when both my PCR and Antigen tests came back negative and I was clear to head to Jamaica. Even then, I was still worried about the possibility of any of my friends or Hanson testing positive. But eventually, my friends’ tests started coming in one after the other, all negative, and then all three Hansons were on my flight into Montego Bay, which finally put all my worries aside for a few days.
I always opt to travel to Jamaica a day before the event starts because by the time you get through customs, baggage claim, and a 90 minute shuttle ride, it ends up being evening by the time you get to the resort. We finally checked in, dropped our luggage in our room, and then my friend gave me a quick tour of the Jewel. This was my 4th BTTI, but my other three years were at the Melia. I now understand why everyone liked the Jewel so much better: the staff was friendlier, the layout just makes more sense, the beach was 100 times better, and in my opinion, the food was better. The Level rooms at the Melia were pricier, but they were nicer than the rooms at the Jewel, and the Level Lounge had better quality alcohol, but that’s really all it had going for it. We then changed into swimsuits under dresses, grabbed some teppanyaki, hot tubbed, and called it a day.
I inadvertently found myself falling into a daily routine on the island. I’d wake up, put on a swimsuit and coverup, get a cold brew, and go to breakfast. Then I’d grab a frozen drink, get in the ocean and float around until the fish started nibbling. Then I’d go to one of the pools, get another frozen drink and float around there. I’d get a snack from the pool restaurant and a diet coke and bourbon and continue to sit around in the water. Eventually I’d get out and dry off in time to walk over to the stage for a solo show. After that, I’d freshen up, grab dinner, and watch the main show. Basically, I was living my best life as only a half-mermaid Hanson fan can.
I thought each show was far better than the past few BTTIs, despite missing their backup guitarist/keyboardist Demetrius. (Rumor is he didn’t have Covid, but had marked on his travel form that he had been exposed, and thus wasn’t allowed into Jamaica.) They started the first show off with a cover medley of “Three Little Birds” and “Stir It Up”, and then proceeded to play some of the non-single favorites such as “Dance Like You Don’t Care”, “Sunny Day”, “Dancing In The Wind”, and “Tearing It Down”. One Against The World song made the cut on night one, and it happened to be my favorite of the seven, “Only Love”. I just got my first tattoo ever of this song back in November, so it was really special to hear it for the first time since then.
I don’t know if this was always the plan, or if it was a last-minute switch after losing Demetrius, but night two was all acoustic. I unexpectedly ended up front row for this one, which I think made it that much better. I wonder if I would have found it to be a bit too mellow otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. They pulled “River” out of the vault, complete with a mashup of Hootie and The Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You”, an acoustic “Runaway Run” never disappoints, and we heard a couple of my favorites “No Rest For The Weary” and “Tonight”.
The final full-band show was all rock no stop, and I loved every minute of it. I could go on and on (no pun intended) listing almost every song they chose as a favorite, so instead, I’ll just let you read the whole setlist:
Zac started his solo show out with “Change”, which had previously only been played on 2021’s BTTI stream from 3CG. He also played us a brand new (well, brand new to us at least) song called “Magic Man”, and I’m curious if it’ll end up on the recently announced upcoming Red Green Blue, but it sounded to me more like something that would be found on a members’ EP. And speaking of members’ EPs, Zac played 10 songs during his solo set and 8 of them were members’ only! This is the kind of content I like to hear during these sets, so Zac got an A+ from me.
I need to be honest with you here about Isaac’s solo set: I wanted to be able to say that I watched at least part of one of the shows from the ocean, so I chose Isaac’s solo set… and I may have had a little too much bourbon in the process. I distinctly remember he played “Soldier”, which hadn’t been played since 1998, and he played “Begin Again” for the first time, which I love. Beyond that, I had to resort to Hansonstage for the rest. There was a gorgeous sunset happening during his set which took me back to The Albertane Tour. I saw them at an amphitheater, and to this day I have a vivd memory of 18-year-old Isaac telling us all to turn around and look at the sunset as he began playing “More Than Anything”.
Taylor’s solo set was, to me, the best of the three this year. He started with one of my favorites, “Feeling Alive”, pulled “Out Of My Head” from the unreleased-never-been-played*-but-everyone-knows vault, gave us a hint about the now-announced Red Green Blue album by playing its yet-to-be-released first single “Child At Heart”, covered “Dancing In The Street”, and ended with last year’s new song, “Sound Like Joy” which I believe was supposed to be released on some sort of Black Wallstreet Music Project. (What ever happened to that?)
Overall, there was a really great mix of old favorites, unreleased, brand new, and new covers, and everything sounded really well rehearsed too. Aside from the couple new songs, if I had to pick a highlight it would be hearing “Begin Again” and “Change”. Without having Hanson Day in 2020, we didn’t get to hear all of CBIB live, and I had resigned myself to it being the forgotten EP, never to be heard of again. I didn’t go to the July shows last summer, so I still need to hear “Dressed In Brown Eyes”, while “Miss You Like Crazy” and “All I Know” still haven’t been played live. Maybe there’s hope for hearing them at Hanson Day 2022.
This year’s special guest was a local Jamaican band named Raging Fyah. From what I saw on Facebook, people had mixed reactions to this news. I for one was really excited. I don’t know if this was just a result of Covid and it being harder to find a US band willing and able to travel in, but I had actually suggested getting a local Jamaican band on my feedback the past few years. We get to hear Hanson’s friends on almost every tour, so why not take this opportunity to hear something different. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint! I had such a great time listening to them, and everyone seemed to have fun dancing around. I hope we get more native bands in the future, wherever Back To The Island takes us.
This year in general felt different than previous years just due to the ever-present concern about Covid, and this was hit heaviest when they announced that they were cancelling our photos with the band. I respect the choice they made, but I do wish they had announced that decision prior to our arrival in Jamaica. They are making up for it by giving each of us a free ticket and a meet and greet to a show of our choice on the upcoming Red Green Blue Tour, and I think that’s a fair trade-off. For this same reason, there wasn’t any interaction with the band outside of two socially distanced rounds of Family Feud with Isaac and Zac, and a DJ Taylor Up On An Elevated Ledge Pool Dance Party.
Family Feud was split into four teams this year: a yellow Team Zac and red Team Isaac night one, and a blue Team Zac and green Team Isaac night two. I was on yellow Team Zac, and my friends and I ended up being the very first team called up… which was unfortunate as I had too much to drink to be climbing onto a stage without stairs and thinking quick on my feet. A friend captured a very embarrassing video in which I was asked: Name a bad job for someone who is forgetful. I immediately hit the buzzer, and then my mind went blank. Isaac proceeded to yell at me to answer, so I blurted out my own profession (accountant), which was not on the list. The top answer ended up being doctor. I’ll spare you the video, but please enjoy this photo of me facepalming while trying to think of an answer while Isaac is yelling at me. Our team was able to redeem ourselves with our second question: What is something a musician buys when they hit it big.
Despite the lack of interaction and photos with the band, this was probably my favorite Back To The Island that I’ve been to, save for maybe 2019 which was my first year that didn’t get ruined by four days of monsoon. I do think this year objectively might have been better than 2019 (other Islanders, I’d love to hear your thoughts!), but 2019 I was just so overly excited about everything because it felt like my first real time going. As a 4th year attendee, I begrudgingly packed a bag with room to bring home an ugly, red visor and was pleasantly surprised to see that this year they switched to a pretty blue full cap that I will actually wear! Here’s hoping for a smooth, rain-free, pandemic-free 2023 Back To The Island where I can finally receive the coveted 5th year gift of a passport cover and luggage tag, and I hope any and all future BTTI DJ Taylor dance parties take place in the pool. In the meantime, you may now return to your regularly scheduled RGB tour planning… will I see you on the road?
*”Out Of My Head” was actually played one other time, over 20 years ago.