Twenty years.

“You have so many relationships in this life, only one or two will last, you go through all the pain and strife, then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast. . .” — Hanson, “MMMBop”

So, twenty years. Twenty years since Middle of Nowhere, since the one song that actually did change my life, since I started writing, since I got on the roller coaster. Just like “MMMBop” “got bigger than a song,” according to Zac in a recent interview, this band with a song about loss got bigger than a band. Friends and relatives come into and drift out of your life, school ends, jobs come and go, television stations become nothing more than endless marathons of their pet reality show, hair and clothes and makeup styles change, you move to different apartments or houses or cities or countries, entertainment shifted from television to computer to smartphone, and yet Hanson remains one of the closest things to forever that I know.

I can’t even imagine what kind of life I’d lead right now — who I’d know, where I’d live, what might have its hold on me instead of music — if I hadn’t heard a song, bought an album, and joined a fan club. I’m hardly in touch with any of the friends I knew before, but I’m still close to many friends I’ve made along the way. They’re scattered from the other side of my house to the other side of the world, and I’d have never known any of them if things had been different. On its bad days, the fan group is a high school from which nobody ever graduates, but on its best ones, it’s family.

For the last two years, I’ve intentionally kept Middle of Nowhere on very minimal rotation; I think I’ve listened to it in its entirety as an album about four times total. Some songs and albums, when they stay in rotation, they also stay ageless, but when you don’t listen for awhile, it gains back a bit of its original novelty. Nothing can make it completely new again, but I want to remember when it was and what it meant then. It was my first example of kids my age not just doing something well but running the show. They wrote or cowrote all the songs, they played all the instruments. Around the time I got Middle of Nowhere was the first time I picked up a pen and thought, “Hey, maybe I can do something well someday, too.”

When I can focus well enough to finish things a bit better, I’ll clean up some of that old writing and post it here. For now, happy Hanson Day. Isaac, Taylor, Zac, I can’t thank you enough for everything.

On Happiness

When I realized Isaac Hanson had started an Instagram, I was excited. When he started posting the kinds of quotes that make the basis for his Grace Unknown podcast, I was interested. But one quote in particular was like a needle being dragged off a record: “Happiness is a decision, not a reaction.” I don’t care how good this Kool-aid tastes to the rest of you, I’m going to pass. This is an idea that makes me actively uncomfortable.

What are we even talking about? What is happiness? According to the newest podcast, it’s recognizing and appreciating what we have to feel good about. It’s looking at things positively and writing down things to appreciate, because when one does these things and forces oneself to smile and act happy, the feeling follows. I’ve read this idea before, and since it didn’t seem so far off from what motivated me to start writing in the first place — remembering the happy events of the summer I got Middle of Nowhere — I’ve tried writing down things to be happy about more recently. Overall, I know I have more than most people do via some luck, some hard work, and a few difficult decisions. And the only thing writing down those happy things accomplished was making me feel like an overprivileged first-world asshole.

Here’s the thing: research has found that if a positive frame of mind doesn’t come naturally via your life experiences, trying to force one is actually counterproductive. Acting positively only induces happiness in already-positive people. It makes sense to me. Happiness is partially controlled by the same brain chemicals that are also known to be low in people with depression (and I’d guess vary even in the nondepressed). If one lacks the requisite chemicals to feel happiness, it really doesn’t matter how many good things you write down or how many smiles you force.

These days, my life is a calculated balance of things that I don’t always enjoy, but on the whole, keep me from wanting to punch someone in the face or never leave my house again. Literally every day, I refer to a list of medications and actions that I’ve found genuinely do make a difference: antidepressants, exercise, giving myself enough sleep, vitamin D, et cetera. Despite all those efforts, sometimes I am not happy. Sometimes, those low brain chemicals leave me ruminating on an annoyance or embarrassment or sadness even when I’m trying to think of other things. This is a straightforward biological fact, not some failure on my part because I wasn’t thinking positively enough.

If positive thinking and gratitude journaling genuinely make you happier, by all means, do them. Isaac makes some excellent points, but for me, this wasn’t one of them.

“Get back to what it’s all about . . .” [Play EP review]

Play is the second half of the Loud/Play LP Hanson dreamed up for this year’s releases. We received Loud as the year’s member EP back in May, and that review is coming later. New music always takes me some time to process, and I’m rarely up to making much objective sense on the very first listen, or even actual words in some cases, and certainly not criticizing. I have to listen in a quiet room with the lyrics in front of me, and take the release out for a drive, and play out the earworms, and give it a break and come back to it, and sometimes even make other people listen with me before I really can nail down what I think, and the review I would have written for Play two weeks ago is not the same review I would have written last week or this one. I’m still not off the new music high yet, but I’m getting there.

“Do You Believe In Love”: First Hanson covered The Darkness, now they’re covering Queen. Okay, not quite, and they could have drawn inspiration from far worse places; the current pop charts could practically be subtitled Music Made for Morons by Robots Trained By Monkeys. This song is fun and catchy, but definitely not simple; I still keep getting tripped up singing along even though we’ve had this one for two months, now. The lyrics seem to have evolved a bit since May, and I like the contraction of the chorus even though the crowd part feels a little out of place by comparison.

“Freak Out”: EPs seem to be an outlet for poppier, dancier songs than make it to albums, and perhaps that was what Zac meant in his blog post about going with songs that wouldn’t happen in another setting; this harkens back to “Ooh La La La” and “Dance Like You Don’t Care” for me, but better. Isaac stands out on this year’s releases in ways he hasn’t on others, and I wish I were hearing more of him and less of Zac during the chorus. Like Loud, the Isaac lead gets the title line, or that’s what I’m going with; this instance feels more relevant to the spirit of Play than the ones in “Feeling Alive.” And am I missing something, or are there no horns? I only hear some things that sound like they wanted to be and weren’t. If so, I want to give them props for resisting the urge. Horns aren’t quite down there with kazoos and Mariah Carey, but they aren’t a lot better.

“Man On Top”: Wait, what are we listening to? Anthem? No? Oh, okay. But seriously, the EP takes a turn for the serious here (unless they’re being sarcastic, but that’s likely giving them too much credit) and I can’t give this song its due. I’ll probably come around to it later and spend a whole afternoon with it on repeat when I do, but this didn’t really grab me at Hanson Day and hasn’t since the release, either. Maybe because it’s sandwiched between two other songs I like a lot more, or maybe because the dripping ego and almost direct contradiction to “Feeling Alive” don’t do it for me. I have a feeling this is the one they’re going to play to death live; I can already picture Taylor rockstarring around with the tambourine upstaging Isaac.

“Joyful Noise”: Most likely to provoke random tears in the car. Not that I’d know anything about that. This song sounds deceptively sweet and happy, and the syrup is covering up the bite of the lyrics that hit home the hardest: “Everyone has struggles, but when the music stops they seem to double so turn it up. . .” This quote joined my monitor Post-it collection, and the song joined a (weirdly meta) playlist I’ve got that somehow covers how I feel about music in general and Hanson specifically. One of the things I really actually love about them (and I do not throw that word around lightly where they’re concerned) is that they get it. They get not just the pleasure of driving around with the windows down and the music up, but that music is also a need to be satisfied wherever we can find it.

“Feeling Alive”: I’m not sure why, but this didn’t make much of an impression on me at Hanson Day. I was expecting something after the earworm the September 30th stream spawned (I watched several loops, cursing the future release date the whole time), but I was not expecting Zac’s misguide vocal and what sounded like the drum part of “Every Word I Say” to become this anthem for standing for what you believe in. Taylor songs tend to have these complicated lyrics, sometimes to excess, and this one is no exception — I wouldn’t be surprised to find out a few of those misguide vocal lines ended up in the final recording.

A side note on download quality: initially, I thought Play only sounded a little muddy when I turned it up all the way on my computer or phone and adjusted the volume on speakers or car stereo. (I can normally do this with CDs I’ve imported to iTunes and they sound clear.) Then I put Play side by side in a playlist with Loud, which I imported myself from CD back in May. I’m withholding full judgment until the vinyl record comes since Zac did say Play was meant to be less intense, but based on what I have, the difference is palpable; the bass especially is gone.

Top Twenty-five. . . ish.

Hanson asked recently for “Your Top 25 HANSON Songs,” which twenty-five songs we’d choose to introduce someone to the band. I got as far as copying the list of options into Notepad and started nervous laughing. Even though I have favorites lists going back to ’97, a decade of last.fm playcounts, and some time spent thinking on this exact matter already, Hanson have set a task that is not doable — this is worse than the Triwizard Tournament.
I could give them Hanson 101, easy, the stuff the most casual fans or non-fans might already know: the singles that received radio play and were performed on TV, and the songs that get frequent concert play. “MMMBop.” “Where’s the Love.” “Minute.” “With You In Your Dreams.” “TTA.” “If Only.” “Penny and Me.” “Great Divide.” “Go.” “Watch Over Me.” “TBS.” “GAL.” “Fired Up.” “GTGB.” But I’m not satisfied with scratching the surface when I know what’s there if you dig deep. I’d only recommend starting with Hanson 101 if you meant to start there and continue onward; it’s a 101 that begs a 102 (other album tracks), 201 (bonus tracks, live albums, common covers), 301 (soundtracks, non-fanclub EPs, bonus discs, rare covers), 401 (fanclub EPs and fanclub-exclusive releases), and 501 (Digital Pants and other oddities). If you’re only looking for a one-shot sampler, that’s another matter altogether.
They’re asking two different questions in their post. My personal top songs are not what I would use to try to introduce a new fan for numerous reasons. And furthermore, what format are these choices going to take? A setlist to perform live? A collection to release? Why only studio songs when they’ve given the fanclub so many excellent ones and released live versions of others that blew the studio version out of the water? The best I can do is to answer the question three ways: I’m going to give you my own personal top twenty-five, what I would actually play for someone who is interested in them but hasn’t heard much of their music, and what I chose out of the options available.

My own personal top twenty-five (arranged roughly chronologically because that’s how I think):

“Thinking of You,” Middle of Nowhere
“MMMBop,” Middle of Nowhere
“Man from Milwaukee,” Middle of Nowhere
“Madeline (live),” “I Will Come to You” single
“Runaway Run,” This Time Around
“Lost Without Each Other,” Underneath
“Deeper (live)”, The Best of Hanson Live and Electric (Japan only)
“So Lovely,” Hanson.net Version 2.2
“Follow Your Lead,” Take the Walk EP
“Out of My Head,” Strong Enough to Break Demo CD
“Devil’s Nachos,” Hanson.net 2009
“World’s On Fire,” Stand Up Stand Up EP
“Waiting for This (acoustic),” Stand Up Stand Up EP
“Me Myself and I,” Shout It Out
“Sunny Day,” Facing the Blank Page
“All this Love Crap,” Digital Pants Volume One
“Already Home,” Anthem
“Cut Right Through Me,” Anthem
“For Your Love,” Anthem: Live in New York
“Best of Times,” The Sound of Light
“Get So Low,” Icon: The Paintings of Anthem bonus download
“White Collar Crime,” Music Made for Humans (With Robots Trained by Monkeys)
“Grace Unknown,” Inside the Box
“My Mind is Exploding,” Digital Pants Volume 2: Super Digital Pants
“Stop Me In My Tracks,” Loud EP

And the twenty-five I would play for someone who doesn’t know the band well:

“A Minute Without You,” Middle of Nowhere
“Yearbook,” Middle of Nowhere
“Madeline (live),” “I Will Come to You” single
“River,” MMMBop/3 Car Garage
“This Time Around,” This Time Around
“Runaway Run,” This Time Around
“Wish That I Was There,” This Time Around
“Lonely Again,” This Time Around (Australia and Japan only)
“I Don’t Know,” “If Only” UK single
“Strong Enough to Break,” Underneath Acoustic
“Penny and Me,” Underneath
“I Almost Care,” Underneath (Japan only)
“Crazy Beautiful (Underneath Acoustic Live),” “Lost Without Each Other” CD single.
“Hand in Hand” + “In a Little While,” The Best of Hanson Live and Electric
“Deeper,” The Best of Hanson Live and Electric (Japan only)
“Great Divide,” The Walk
“Watch Over Me,” The Walk
“Got a Hold On Me (Acoustic),” The Walk (U.S. only)
“These Walls,” Shout It Out
“Already Home,” Anthem
“You Can’t Stop Us,” Anthem
“Change In My Life,” Anthem: Live in New York
“Get So Low,” Icon: The Paintings of Anthem bonus download
“Grace Unknown,” Inside the Box

Yes, I left out “MMMBop.” If it didn’t win someone over in the last nineteen years, it’s not going to now. If you just have to have it, throw the Live and Electric version in at number twenty-six. As much as I would have liked to enter that list as my answer verbatim, a lot of those songs weren’t options, so here is what I chose for Hnet.

“River,” MMMBop/3 Car Garage
“Thinking of You,” Middle of Nowhere
“Yearbook,” Middle of Nowhere
“A Minute Without You,” Middle of Nowhere
“You Never Know,” This Time Around
“This Time Around,” This Time Around
“Runaway Run,” This Time Around
“Wish That I Was There,” This Time Around
“Hand In Hand,” This Time Around
“Lonely Again,” This Time Around (Australia and Japan only)
“Strong Enough to Break,” Underneath
“Penny and Me,” Underneath
“Lost Without Each Other,” Underneath
“I Almost Care,” Underneath (Japan only)
“Great Divide,” The Walk
“Watch Over Me,” The Walk
“Got a Hold On Me,” The Walk (U.S. only)
“Waiting for This,” Shout It Out
“Carry You There,” Shout It Out
“These Walls,” Shout It Out
“Musical Ride,” Shout It Out
“You Can’t Stop Us,” Anthem
“Already Home,” Anthem
“For Your Love,” Anthem
“Cut Right Through Me,” Anthem

Did I screw this up? Oh, of course. Did you ever read High Fidelity? Do you remember when Rob got asked by that reporter to make a top five list and he made one, and then had to change it literally five times until she said he couldn’t change it again? This was a lot like that. I made my own favorites list and slept on it. I made my list I’d introduce someone with, and I slept on that, too. And then I tried shoehorning it into their options. Some of them were simple; given the option, I’d pick acoustic versions of “Strong Enough to Break” or “Got a Hold On Me,” but the album versions are fine. Conversely, even though I love the songs live, I decided the studio versions of “Deeper,” “Madeline,” and “Crazy Beautiful” don’t cut it and left them off. Later I’ll probably wish I’d left them in on principle that they can be good — better than some of the songs I went with in the end. But those songs I selected hold up for me whether they’re live or studio, and I’m not sick to death of hearing them the way I am certain other songs. Whether I could have chosen better or not, those will do.

Hanson Day 2016: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF

Last year I broke down the weekend by days, but I didn’t feel like retreading the same ground I already covered on Twitter, so I decided to simplify this a bit.

THE GOOD: There were probably a million good things that happened, but these were the things that stood out for me.

ALL the friends: If Hanson events were only about the band, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to attend when you can simply stream State of the Band and the concert most years from their website. For me, though, one of the biggest draws of fan events is the chance to see so many of my friends all at once. It’s like being a kid at Christmas and getting to see both sets of grandparents and most of my extended family all in the same day. I roomed with two of my best friends, talked to a fellow Isaac girl at karaoke and lectures and State of the Band (it’s always nice to appreciate Isaac with company), and saw several online friends in passing to say hi. I’m never this social at home.

New music both ways: We’ve had releases both ways: we’ve gotten the fan club EP for the year at the event, and we’ve sat in on recording during the show and received the end result later. (Agony is an eight hour drive with the first-ever live performance of “Yearbook” in my head and nothing but the album version to tide me over.) This year, we get the best of both worlds: we received the Loud EP at registration, and we heard songs at the concert from the Play EP being released later.

Isaac hosts karaoke: Isaac Hanson opening with “A Minute Without You” and closing with “Something Loud” made showing up for karaoke worth it. In between, there were people who killed it and others who blew it, and I give most of them credit for being brave enough to get up there. (But for future reference for certain participants, how to learn lyrics: Step one, listen to the song while reading lyrics from liner notes or the band’s website. Step two, when you think you have it down, take the song out for a drive sans lyric booklet. If you screw it up, return to step one. Repeat as necessary.)

Pictures with the band: I hate pestering the guys after events or during Hop Jam for pictures, so it’s pretty sweet having a scheduled photo opportunity.

Zac’s songwriting session: For the last three years, Zac’s recorded a Super Digital Pants song with us during his lecture time. This year his lecture was titled “Choo Choo Trains of Thought,” sparing us the imagery of “Drop your Digital Pants” and “Digital Pants Unzipped,” but for all the innuendo — some intentional, some not — he may as well have gone on with the no-pants theme. Sometimes I find Zac’s humor tedious, others I find it hysterical, and that day, I was crying I was laughing so hard. He probably shouldn’t quit his day job for stand-up comedy, but any time he wants to let us watch him record a song, I’m not going to say no.

No technical difficulties at the dance party: We didn’t hear any songs multiple times or have the party shut down abruptly after forty-five minutes. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we might have even made it through this one without any Mariah Carey.

Gallery prints and books: I did not get to take home a painting this year. I did get to buy a canvas print of one of them and a booklet of the rest, as well as photo prints. I’m planning the expansion of my Hanson wall as we speak.

And, of course, the concert: We heard all the new songs from Loud and four songs from Play. I don’t know if they were actually recording at the concert — they didn’t seem to have mics in the audience like they did at The Sound of Light a few years ago — but it’s fun that the audience was part of the songs. Has anyone else noticed that the more they include us, the more complicated the parts get? For a minute, I felt like I was back in high school choir.

THE BAD: Most of these were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but there are always downsides to anything.

The liberal non-Hanson karaoke list: I stand by my drunken Twitter remark about curating a more discerning list to choose from if karaoke happens again next year. I’d love to see more classic rock and roll, more artists Hanson have toured with, and less pop bullshit.

Fanson fuckery: Somehow at the dance party, we ended up in a super-tight crowd of people on the far right side and it was almost impossible to get out to go to the bar or the bathroom. When someone tells you that their friend is standing there but went to get drinks, step back. Yes, Taylor Hanson is on the stage in front of us. No, you won’t be joining him.

Living on Hanson time, part one: I didn’t expect the State of the Band talk to start right after doors by any means, but I think we waited over an hour and a half for things to get started. In an hour and a half, we could have sat down somewhere and had a real lunch instead of just Sunchips and Dr Pepper. Admittedly, this has gotten better in recent years, but updates and an ETA would have been much appreciated.

Living on Hanson time, part two: The guys let us hear four songs they’re working on for Play. But they aren’t actually releasing those songs to us until October (I assume to compensate for Hanson time and other fuckery). As of right now, the concert is still looping on Hanson.net, but I don’t expect that to stay up for much longer. OCTOBER. What’ll we do until then!?

No Hanson set at the Hop Jam: I already wrote a post about it back when the lineup came out, but it deserves repeating: I was still disappointed they didn’t play.

THE WTF: A few things left me going, “Wait, what?”

The BTTI cutout: For some reason, Isaac thought this life-size cutout of themselves promoting Back to the Island was the coolest thing they’ve ever done. As we picked up our wristbands and membership CDs, we were encouraged to take pictures with it. Why? I don’t know. If we can afford to go to BTTI, we already signed up, and all the envy in the world isn’t going to make the cash magically appear in other people’s bank accounts.

Isaac’s lecture: He went over some things that have been on his mind: courage, and positivity, and kindness. About how you matter, but also about making things not about you. About having the courage to step up and do kind things for others. He mentioned that his faith was part of those beliefs, though he didn’t harp on it, and he might be the first person I’ve heard mention Christianity and also brain chemicals in the same discussion (generally, such subjects seem mutually exclusive). In the Strong Enough to Break documentary, they declared him the band’s pessimist. After that lecture, I have no idea what they were talking about.

“Bridges of Stone”: “Bridges of Stone” was never officially released. Not in Japan, not anywhere. (Japan’s version of This Time Around included “Smile” and “Lonely Again.”) We did hear “Bridges of Stone” at Isaac’s lecture last year, but that was only once, and I can’t believe anyone learned it well enough in one listen to sing it at karaoke even with lyrics in front of them. Knowing songs they shouldn’t was the kind of thing people were banned from the fanclub for in the past. I’m surprised Isaac didn’t catch it, and I’m even more surprised anyone touched it.

Nineteen Years of Crazy

#Priorities

Last night was the last stream of the making of Hanson’s EP Loud; whether by coincidence or design, it just happened to fall on Hanson Day, the nineteenth anniversary of Middle of Nowhere‘s release. I watched the stream with Twitter open because half the fun of the streams is the conversation, some silly, some serious, often fueled by some degree of caffeination or inebriation depending on what time it is where we are and tempered by how distracted we are by what we’re watching. This was the last stream, so presumably the video was taken from near the end of the recording process, once they’ve got the song mostly done and working out the last of the instruments.
Amongst some of my friends, there seems to be a consensus that their studio songs end up overproduced. It’s like a pretty person who prefers to wear heavy makeup; it’s fine if that’s what you actually want, but there’s really no good reason otherwise. (Hanson might be the kings of too much of a good thing.) Tonight, we saw the guys recording kazoos (color-coded by their favorite colors, of course). What on earth made them think a plastic whistle that sounds like a horde of angry bees is a sound they would like to include on an EP, I don’t know. Sometimes, I can follow the mental jump from A to B to Z; tonight, I facepalmed and got up for another cup of coffee. But I didn’t turn off the stream. Eventually, they finished with the kazoos and moved on to less irksome sounds.
After nineteen years, this is old hat. Sometimes they get crazy and I’m right there with them. Other times, I can only laugh (or groan), shake my head, and wait for them to finish. Eventually, they always come back around to something worth the wait.

(But seriously, Hanson, those kazoos are really awful. Please consider ditching them. — Everyone.)

MMMBop turns 20. . . soon.

Sorry to rain on everybody’s parade, but someone somewhere (read: Wikipedia) made a mistake. “MMMBop” has not yet been released for twenty years. According to Hanson’s official calendars, the album’s release date was May 17, 1996. While Hanson have made mistakes with the dates on these calendars, this wasn’t one of them — in Hanson: The Official Book, it’s also mentioned that the MMMBop album was first made available during Mayfest that year.
If you want to get even more pedantic about the whole thing, though, “MMMBop” as we know it (the sped-up version that was all over the radio) wasn’t released as a single until March of 1997, almost a year later, and Middle of Nowhere dropped May 6, 1997. I won’t pretend MMMBop wasn’t an important album, but its anniversary is only really relevant to the band themselves and the fans who lived in or around Tulsa in 1996. I hopped the bandwagon in June of ’97 and felt like I needed to catch up, but I’m not even celebrating this one, only wondering why anyone else is.
Odds are you haven’t been butchering the chorus for twenty years (but it’s likely you have been butchering the chorus, I do have to give them that). The articles making the rounds at the moment are merely poorly-researched excuses to incite yet another panic of “OMGLOL UR SO OLD!!1” Who actually wants to feel this way? Not me! I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: good music doesn’t get old. If it still sounds fresh, turn it up and enjoy.

WORKS CITED:
2014 Hanson Calendar. Tulsa: Hansonopoly Inc, 2013. Print.
Gollihare, Jarrod. Hanson: The Official Book. New York: Billboard Books, 1997. Print.

Hop Jam 2016 Lineup

This morning, Hanson announced the third annual Hop Jam lineup. The first couple of years, Hanson headlined the event, but to my disappointment, this year they aren’t playing a set. At all. 
Instead, we get four artists I haven’t heard yet plus whoever wins the opening band contest. Just between you and me, I was hoping for Hanson, Paul McDonald, and maybe Carrick or Butch Walker.  I expected different for a festival organized by a band who has introduced me to so many great artists either from recommendations or bringing them along on tour — I expected better continuity. The event may not be about them, but I don’t understand why they would organize a festival in which their own music, ostensibly their primary focus, doesn’t have a place at all, and then expect their fans to be excited to not see them play. Were they drunk when they made this decision?
See, here’s the problem: they tacked the Hop Jam on after our annual Hanson Day fanclub event. For those of you who don’t remember, Hanson Day is actually the sixth of May, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, the Hanson Day event slowly crept down to coincide with Mayfest and Blue Dome Fest, and then Hanson made a big deal about us staying for Hop Jam. Since they played the last two years, the implication was that they would be playing again this year.  Hotel rooms aren’t cheap (especially downtown when three events are happening at once), and I had to book and pay for it months ago to make sure I’ll be able to stay where I want.  I’m lucky enough to have Sundays and Mondays off, but plenty of people don’t, and time off at most jobs is hard to get approved. It was a dick move to wait until most fans have bought plane tickets and booked hotels and organized the extra day off and THEN announce the band we’re traveling to Tulsa to see isn’t actually playing the Hop Jam. They cannot possibly be too busy to take an hour out of their day to lug a guitar, tambourine, shakers, and cajon two blocks and play us a few songs. 
I’ll sit down when I have some time and check out the other artists, and if they pique my interest, I might wander over to catch their set — I’ll only be a couple of blocks away anyway.  But if not, Tulsa is a big city, and there’s never enough time to go everywhere. Busy can go both ways.

More to Love: A Knee-jerk Review in the H(eat) of the Moment

Yesterday, Zac Hanson posted a new Super Digital Pants song. As usual, I whipped out my credit card right at my work desk, pounced on the song, and rushed my boss out the door ten minutes after closing time so I could go home and listen in peace. The title “More to Love” didn’t ring any bells, but a few Twitter comments about cake and body positivity piqued my curiosity. Around interruptions, I put on headphones and listened to the song. And while Zac can say what he wants in his blog post about unconditional love, my gut reaction is, There is no way he’s serious about this.
I don’t mean there is no way he’s serious about this as in it’s a Digital Pants song; of course it isn’t serious. I mean either the song is dripping with sarcasm or he is completely clueless. Possibly both.
The song starts out belaboring a point that most of us already know — your weight is your weight and that’s okay — and then builds up to Edward Cullen-level creepiness with the bit about feeding someone in their sleep. Many people are sensitive about their weight, me included these days, and the best way to handle sensitive issues is to mention them as little as possible, not write an entire song negating their concerns. Even intended positivity rings false when taken to this extent, assuming it wasn’t simply intended as sarcasm in the first place, and I’m still not convinced it wasn’t. Sound in front row the first night of BTTI wasn’t the best, but what was that about feeling fat?
Furthermore, does he really think it’s an issue of working out every day to balance out the buffet, or an issue of having another slice of cake? I could never eat cake again and not lose a pound. I’ll spare you the ugly details of my own weight problems, but it’s pretty obvious to me that body composition and food intake don’t necessarily have much to do with one another. Writing a song encouraging someone to eat more only trivializes the matter.
My boyfriend kept asking me why I was in a bad mood last night. When I tried to explain about the song, he hugged me in this extremely sweet way he has and said, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with your weight.” He meant well, but I know there’s not; that wasn’t the point at all. And maybe — hell, probably — Zac genuinely meant this song in the same way. I bought it (literally), but I don’t believe it. I could have believed a single line of a song, or a single panel of a comic. But a whole song just smacks of patronization.

(Back to the Island posts coming later. I haven’t forgotten, I promise.)

Fourth of July at Red Rocks

Back when news first broke about the fourth of July show Hanson were playing with Blues Traveler, I jumped on the tickets. I don’t have a bucket list per se (perhaps I should fix that sometime), but Red Rocks would have been on it if I did; it’s a beautiful, unique venue. That it’s only eight hours away from me was just icing on the cake — I always have to travel to see concerts anyway.
Tickets or no tickets, I wasn’t happy with Hanson before I went to the show. I was unhappy that last weekend’s Livestream got taken down before I had a chance to watch it, and I think the newly-released song with Owl City is so bad that it’s like the emperor isn’t just naked, he did a striptease on his parade float and then joined a nudist colony. And the fact that the guys opened with one of their few songs I actively dislike (“I’ve Got Soul”) didn’t help matters much.
But then they played “Waiting for This” early in the set when I’ve been saying all along that it doesn’t work toward the end they way they were doing it during the Anthem tour. And then they played “Been There Before,” a laid back summer song if there ever was one, and “Penny and Me,” our traveling song, and “A Minute Without You,” which I’ve loved ever since I bought MON eighteen years ago (July 2nd, to the day). By “MMMBop,” I felt like I was back home. John Popper joined them for “In the City,” the last song, and it had never been better.
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Hanson’s set was only the beginning. If I’ve seen Guster before, I don’t remember it, but this was definitely my first time seeing Blues Traveler, and both bands put on great shows. Blues Traveler invited 3OH!3, Rome Ramirez (who also performed Sublime’s “What I Got”), JC Chasez, and of course Hanson up to play the songs they’d collaborated on for Blow Up the Moon.

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What?

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Yes, I’m taking your picture. What of it?

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Hanson and Blues Traveler are both extremely talented bands, and they play well together. During the encore, everyone came back out for a cover of “Joker,” and JC Chasez closed the show with “Bye Bye Bye.” For a band who has always tried not to let themselves be tarred with the same brush as the boybands, Hanson seemed to go with it rather well.

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