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 + 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.

The Christmas Ball: A Socially Distanced Concert Series

Tulsa, OK

December 3-6, 2020

So many song lyrics seem to hit differently in 2020, and now I can add “we’re going in circles, it’s Christmas again” to that list. I had a flight that was supposed to be Nashville – St. Louis – Tulsa. The flight from St. Louis to Tulsa is a short one, just over an hour. About 45 minutes into the flight, I felt the plane turn. I assumed we were about to land early, or that we were maybe in a holding pattern waiting to land; I didn’t think too much of it. But then a few minutes later, the captain made an announcement: there was a software issue with the airplane that made it illegal for us to land in Tulsa due to the weather, and so we were being diverted to the closest airport where we could land. I expected him to say that would be Oklahoma City or maybe Dallas, so imagine my surprise when he announced we were headed to Chicago!

The two friends I was sharing a hotel (and table) with had landed in Tulsa before I even took off from St. Louis, and they were waiting on me to pick up a rental car that was in my name. (We’ve been avoiding the use of ride share apps and hotel shuttles as a covid precaution.) So, after hearing we were headed to Chicago, I had three thoughts all at once: 1) Wait, CHICAGO?!?, 2) My friends need the rental car! Who knows when I’ll get to Tulsa now!, and 3) At least if I get stranded in Chicago, I have family I can stay with for free. I immediately paid the $8 for in-flight wifi to message my friends and let them know what was happening. The odd thing was, they said the weather in Tulsa was fine other than some cloud coverage. Our best guess is the broken software helps the pilots “see” through the clouds, and that Chicago must have been the closest airport without cloud coverage and with an extra airplane available for us.

My friends were able to pick up the rental car without me being there, and Southwest immediately put all of us passengers on a new plane in Chicago. We took off as soon as all the crew and baggage were swapped over, and I ended up getting to Tulsa just three hours later than intended. For something so major to go wrong, it all worked out as smoothly as it could have. Southwest also reimbursed me for the $8 wifi purchase, and my (free) checked bag made it through both the original and unexpected layovers. And yes, this is a shameless plug for my favorite airline. (But no, it’s not a sponsored post.)

Surprise trip to Chicago aside, I still got to Tulsa in time for the three of us to go see the Christmas lights at the Philbrook. They had a light show set to music, a socially distanced Santa, s’mores kits, spiked hot chocolate, and a little take and make craft. It was a fun night, and helped set the Christmas mood for the weekend. We wound through some neighborhoods looking at more Christmas lights on our way back to the hotel, and finally settled in with some take out sushi. With covid cases on the rise, and this being our third Tulsa trip in as many months, we didn’t do anything else outside of the concerts on this trip.

Long before Hanson announced there would be a contest for the “most festive”, I knew this was a great time to be a little extra. I’m obsessed with Christmas as it is, and with having a seasonally appropriate name, I knew I wanted some sort of holly decoration for our table. My friend Katie informed me that there is such a thing as bendable “neon” LED lights, and I bought a red and a green one which I managed to shape into holly. Our friend Yelena is Jewish, so her bringing an LED menorah was a no-brainer (and it got a shout out from both Taylor and Isaac). Katie made little stockings with our names and the names of friends who were watching at home, and we hung them up on the edge of the table. Finally, we found a little light up snowman who changed colors with a bop on the head (or, apparently, with the beat of Zac’s drums).

While we knew the theme was obviously going to mean Christmas songs, I was expecting these shows to be more like the shows on the Wintry Mix tour: both Christmas and regular Hanson songs. So, I was surprised to hear three set lists of just Christmas music. But, considering the amount of times I’ve heard Hanson’s Christmas songs compared to their normal set lists, I didn’t mind. Like I already said, I’m obsessed with Christmas and that includes all the music as well.

Right after announcing the theme as The Christmas Ball, I had sent Zac a PM on Hanson.net requesting three Christmas songs I had not yet ever heard live. He wrote back and said they hadn’t started rehearsal yet, but that they were all good suggestions. Considering they skipped all three for the majority of the Finally It’s Christmas tour and all of the Wintry Mix tour, I didn’t really think there was much chance to hear any of them. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear one of them, “Happy Christmas”, as part of the encore that first night. The encore also included an impromptu Isaac solo of “Jingle Bells” while he stalled for Zac to come back out on stage.

With limited Christmas songs to choose from, the set list Saturday afternoon was very similar to the one from Friday night, although they did change up the order a little bit. And, in addition to “Happy Christmas”, I got to hear a second song I had PM’d Zac about: “My Favorite Christmas Sweater”. This song seems to be a fan favorite, and I am surprised that it hasn’t been played more often, and even more surprised that it took me 9 years to hear it live. (I even drove to Orlando back in 2011 just because there was a December show and I was hoping to hear it. But, they ended up not playing any Christmas songs that day.)

I opted to wear some punny narcissistic Christmas t-shirts to the first two shows (one reads “Hollyer Than Thou”, and the other “Happy Holly Days”), but for the last show my friends and I had decided that we needed to dress up fancy considering the theme was The Christmas Ball. So, I wore a red sequin floor-length formal dress and I don’t think I have ever been so excited to get dressed up, not even back in high school for prom night. Maybe the lack of reasons to dress up in 2020 contributed to it, but I think it helped make that final show feel even more special.

I have had Snowed In on repeat all season long for the past 23 Christmases, which means for 23 years, the song “At Christmas” has been one of my favorite Christmas songs. There’s a uniqueness that comes with following a band for so long where decades of nostalgia come flooding in while mingling with the present memory you’re currently making. Standing 10 feet away from Isaac as he sang “no matter who you are, how far you’ve come, this is where you belong” is something I know I’ll remember for the next 23 years and counting.

My absolute favorite moment of the whole weekend was when they played the 3rd song I had PM’d Zac about: “Silent Night Medley”. This was the last song off Snowed In and Finally It’s Christmas combined that I had still not heard live. After snapping a picture of the set list that was taped to the stage, it turns out it’s one they weren’t actually planning on performing. I’m not sure what inspired them to add it in last-minute, and they only ended up singing a short part of it, but I’m so glad it happened. With church services looking different this year (much like everything else), I realized in that moment that a Hanson concert might be my one opportunity to experience some form of corporate worship this Advent season. So, there I was, in the front row of a Hanson concert, brought to tears by being reminded that my God chose to put on flesh and bone in the form of a helpless infant, all so that He could then give up His life to rescue me. Me, a human who so desperately tries to not need Him, when He is all that I need.

No matter what you celebrate, my hope is that you find joy this holiday season in spite of all the chaos in the world. Happy Holidays, friends!

Perennial Live: A Socially Distanced Concert Series

Tulsa, Oklahoma

November 4-7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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