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.

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.

Listener’s Choice: A Socially Distanced Concert Series

Tulsa, OK

January 7-10, 2021

Well, it’s January 2021, and even though I had signed up for my 4th annual trip to Jamaica, all I got was my 4th monthly trip to Oklahoma. Between our recent previous visits, the cold weather, and Covid cases on the rise, we didn’t do too much exploring around town on this trip. We bundled up to eat outside at a few places, went into a few shops in the Art District so I could buy a gift for a friend, and rode Lime scooters everywhere we went (including knee-first into the pavement). Call me crazy, and maybe this is my former Michigander talking, but I prefer 40° Tulsa over 80° Tulsa.

I’ll be honest, when Hanson announced that the theme for the January shows was going to be “Listener’s Choice”, with fans voting on the songs they wanted to hear, I was disappointed. When the voting started, I continued to be disappointed. A lot of the songs we were choosing from were songs that are played at almost every show. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how the shows played out, most of my votes won, and the back half of the set lists had some great surprises. I have to say this was my favorite of the three non-Christmas weekends. (Christmas is its own category and cannot be compared.)

While truly rare* songs were in short supply, there were plenty that I haven’t heard in a long time, and even the more common songs just sounded extra great this weekend. Song highlights include: “Blue Sky”, “Save Me”, “Smile”, “Stories”, “The Ugly Truth”, “Tonight”, “Nothing Like A Love Song”, and “Sunny Day”. There’s no denying that that’s a solid list of rares and semi-rares right there. Honorable mention goes out to “Look At You” which gets frequent enough play, but ages like a fine wine. Ironically my least favorite back in 1997, it’s now my favorite live song off Middle of Nowhere.

Here’s a list of the songs I voted for compared to the songs that won:

The real highlight of these show was the energy. My body was a bit sore after the October weekend, considering I’m pushing 40 and 3 shows in 24 hours is no joke, especially after so many months of sitting at home. But after these shows? With no slow acoustic middle to sit and take a break during, there’s no more accurate way to describe what I felt than “my body is tired and broken.” (Though I’m sure that scooter fall didn’t help.) I’ve since fully recovered and I’m sure come the first weekend in February, my body will wonder why it’s not jumping and dancing for 2-hour blocks at a time.

Whenever I end a string of shows (or attend a one-off), I try to take in that show as though it’s my last. If 2020 proved anything to be true, it’s that the unexpected can happen at any point in time, and I never want to take that potential last show for granted. Hanson Day 2021 is technically still on the books, though I’ll be surprised if it can happen without any alterations. There have been hints of more of these types of shows to come, and if we can achieve herd immunity then there’s hope for a real tour somewhere down the line. But, you never know, baby, you never know. In the meantime, reader, please keep wearing your masks (I promise it’s not an infringement on your rights), get tested if you have any suspicions you have or have been exposed to Covid, and when it’s your turn, please get vaccinated.

*One thing I have learned over the years is that the definition of “rare” varies from fan to fan, and I think from band member to band member as well. What’s more rare: a song you’ve only heard once a year every year for the past 5 years? Or a song you’ve heard 20 times, but not in the past 5 years?