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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MOE Part 3 — The Aftermath

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Hanson Day fan club festivities were technically over with the afterparty, but the Hop Jam happened Sunday. Last year all the food trucks ran out of everything, so before we went downtown, we went out to Smashburger — not on the Hanson Tulsa guide, but Tara told me about them years ago and they make my favorite burger of all time. We also drove over to Ida Red in Brookside for Cain’s t-shirts and Oklahoma coffee mugs and presents for friends and other odds and ends.
We left the car at the hotel and walked over to the festival. Hops were to the north; jams to the south. I prefer liquor to beer, so I only sampled the new MMMHops farmhouse ale (yup, it was still beer) before we left the tasting area, got bottled water, and found spots near the stage for the bands.

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As I said, public Hanson concerts tend to be a different show than fan club ones. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them — I loved it from the beginning of “Already Home” to the end of “Livin’ on Tulsa Time.” I loved hearing “Thinking of You” (which we don’t have live on CD and I can rarely be bothered to load a DVD to hear), I loved jumping through “In the City” and clapping with “Get the Girl Back,” I loved that Taylor didn’t blow the lyrics of “Roller Coaster Love” that night and then stood back and let the crowd sing all the verses of “Fired Up.” But I didn’t love only getting a single lead out of Isaac and Zac. You can’t have everything all the time.

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When the show was done, three days of walking around downtown finally caught up with me. It took a good couple of hours sitting on the curb and standing around talking with other friends we ran into and getting swept up in the moths-to-a-flame crowd that gathers every time any member of Hanson happened to walk by before we finally could be assed to leave.

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At the very end of the credits of Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere, Zac says, “Stop watching, it’s over!” It’s such a habit that I’m not sure we can stop. The next morning, after we dropped off Tara, I immediately headed for Quiktrip for a newspaper; as I pulled into the parking lot, I got a text from a friend showing me how Isaac made the front page. At Starbucks, I snapped a picture of the Hop Jam poster still on the bulletin board. (Shortly after, another girl came and took the poster.) During a stop on the drive home, I put together a playlist of songs from the weekend. (It did not include “Another One Bites the Dust.”) I’ve unpacked slowly as the week goes on. I got David to cut off my wristband two days after I got home. The things I bought for my friend are in a stack on my bookshelf, waiting to get boxed up and taken to the post office. I’m still waiting for Zac’s new song to go up on Hanson.net, the USPS to deliver the photos I ordered at the gallery, my feet to heal, and fall tour dates to get announced. The best way to deal with post concert depression? Plan another one.
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MOE Part 2 — Good Songs



Saturday morning, we passed on the bowling tournament; I can’t bowl and I don’t think Bean and Tara cared about entering. We went to Joebot’s for Hanson lattes, bought t-shirts at Dwelling Spaces, and then went to the I ♥ Hanson pop-up store, where I spent too much money — shirts, posters, a pen set. While waiting with Bean for her things, I realized I hadn’t bought Hansonopoly, so I had to go back and get that, too. Everything else I wanted, they’d sold out of or I couldn’t justify it. We made another meal of cheese fries at Caz’s Chowhouse (unless it’s a scheduled fan club dinner, which we also passed on, there’s never enough time to eat between these events), then lugged all the things we’d bought to Cain’s for the State of the Band. The guys talked about what they wanted to do for their website and how they’ve got a few more collaborations in progress, but the big news was the tour they’re planning for this fall: twenty shows in ten major cities, two shows per city with different takes on the setlist. They also mentioned a cover songs project that may or may not be done in time for said tour. All that money I didn’t spend on paintings and sold out t-shirts instantly rolled over into the tour fund.

Some people lined up directly after State of the Band for the concert, but we went to the hotel to unload our things and snack before returning for the main event. I’m spoiled on these fan club concerts, where we get four leads each out of Isaac and Zac instead of only one, and they dig deep and play songs from old member EPs and Digital Pants and foreign bonus tracks. Some of my favorite songs are ones they didn’t widely release, and it’s only at a members-only show that I’ve gotten to hear “Best of Times,” or “White Collar Crime.” It’s a refreshing change from public shows that focus mostly on the current album and hit singles. Sometimes I feel like only fan club members get to see the best of them, their range and creativity. They played all the songs from this year’s member EP, lots of past EP songs, about four album songs (including my favorite Taylor solo of all time, “Lost Without You;” when someone shouted for him to play a good song, he delivered), and even ended with an a capella rendition of the “Sexy Robot” tangent they went off on during a Livestream last February. Even though they played a full set, it felt like no time went by at all.




Outside, it was raining, the beginning of a massive thunderstorm complete with a tornado watch, but nobody wanted to leave knowing the afterparty was going to be happening any minute.

Hey, @taylorhansonmusic ? Don’t run on Hanson time too long. #HansonDay2015

A photo posted by Misty (@_mistydawn) on


We took shelter under a tree until another friend told us to come hang with them under the underpass, where they’d had the better sense to wait it out. We stayed until doors reopened, then ran through the pouring rain to get inside.


Last year, Taylor DJed from the stage; this year he surprised us all by showing up at the sound board in back instead. I can’t dance and only knew about half the songs, but the fun was in hanging out. Even at the sound board, the party seemed plagued with technical difficulties — a pause in the music here, “Another One Bites the Dust” played three times there — and the party seemed to end rather abruptly. At least, that party did.

(Read the final part here!)

MOE Part 1 — Lonely Drives and Hanson Time

I didn’t cut my Hanson Day wristband off until two days after I got home. Buzzed on a steady stream of Dr Pepper, I got almost no good sleep all weekend, and I was crashing hard. As I lay in bed, I finally got David to cut off the little plastic clasp that held on the plastic band that had been my ticket into the concert, the lecture, the State of the Band talk, the afterparty, photos with the band, and the I ♥ Hanson pop-up store. Even then, I wasn’t ready for the party to be over.

Some people flew to Tulsa, but I drove — it’s four long hours through the flat, arid Texas panhandle and then four more through ever-lusher Oklahoma to Tulsa, which is refreshingly green and humid. It was a lonely drive, but I didn’t stay that way — I went straight to the airport to pick up Bean, we checked into our hotel downtown, then picked up Tara. Hanson Day is special not just for the events but also for the chance to see friends I don’t get enough time with, girls I met through the band who became some of my best friends.

Friday morning started too early. Knowing we wouldn’t have time to come back to the hotel, we got dressed for the pictures happening that afternoon before walking to Cain’s for check in. I made a mistake and wore wedge sandals, since for some reason I always end up in the back for group pictures, but I only made it about halfway there and had to take off my shoes. It wasn’t like it was the first time I’ve walked around downtown Tulsa barefoot. We checked in to get our wristbands and pick up movie tickets and copies of this year’s membership CD, and then went straight to the gallery. Last year, we missed it altogether when lectures ran overtime; this year I’d saved up hoping to buy one of Zac’s paintings. In line, we ran into some other friends and spent the wait talking with them. By the time we got into the gallery, of course the paintings were all sold, but the guys did put out a gallery keepsake book with prints of them all, and I ordered three photo prints from the shoot they did for Inside the Box because I couldn’t narrow it down further than that. They don’t always make things fair to everyone, but they seem to try like hell.

We went from the gallery straight back to Cain’s to join the line for photos with the guys. It took another hour to get through, and sure enough, I was in the back, but I wasn’t complaining.

Wear the blue dress, Bean said. You won’t look so pale, she said. #HansonDay2015

A photo posted by Misty (@_mistydawn) on

I don’t think I want to know what the other dress would have looked like. But hey, at least I didn’t feel so short.

Lectures were due to start right then, but we walked over to Mexicali’s because we didn’t want to wait five more hours to eat. We kept an eye on our phones for texts from people who were still at Cain’s, and made it back before we missed anything. Thank god for Hanson time.
Lectures are relatively new; the guys only started them last year. Taylor talked about the meanings songs have to us and called up a few people who had submitted stories he thought were interesting and got them to share with us. Isaac talked about some songs from This Time Around, letting us hear alternate takes and certain parts soloed (including a rare Zac-on-low part of “Lonely Again” that he evidently didn’t want us to hear that way — sorry, Zac!). Zac recorded a song with us that he wrote based on votes to polls he’d put up on the website — even when looking back, he wasn’t totally sure what he’d meant when he asked a question, or he’d been looking a vote for “robot” over “human” and hadn’t gotten it. (Again, sorry!) Between all three, it was a fascinating look into their craft — from an idea to the nuts and bolts of getting a song recorded to what we make of it after its release.

Having cheese fries for dinner at The Brook, I kept thinking I heard Zac at another table. That’s the funny thing about Tulsa — there are countless other guys there who look like the guys, or speak like them, and out of the corner of my eye or overheard in a crowded room, I get that ping of recognition. Massive talent aside, it’s times like that, in context of their hometown, that I can see they really are just normal people.

For Movie Night, we got a triple-feature this year: The Walk Acoustic Live, Tay’s Music Exchange, and Deconstructed Anthem. I’ve got all of them at home, but it’s different seeing them in a real theatre on a big screen with popcorn — somewhere between a concert and Mystery Science Theater 3000, if your friends are funny enough. We sang along, but it didn’t sound like many other people did. C’m’on, people. It’s a concert DVD we’ve all probably seen half a dozen times, not church.

(Read part two here!)

Hanson Day 2015

I went out for a drive today with the windows down, the sunroof open, and a very special album on my stereo. Middle of Nowhere was released eighteen years ago today, and it remains one of my favorite not merely for the songs but for everything that came with it. It was a few weeks after the album’s release before I even heard “MMMBop” while flipping radio stations in my bedroom one long, boring night and hoping for something to catch me. “MMMBop” caught me. I was late to the party, but it was only just getting started. The governor of Oklahoma had declared May 6, 1997 to be Hanson Day, and we’ve celebrated every year since.
There was no “we” that May night; there was only me. A little over a year earlier, I’d moved away from most of my friends to a new town, and I never quite clicked with anyone there. “MMMBop” and later Middle of Nowhere clicked like none other. That music was exactly what I needed at the time — happy, relatable, and fun. Through the band’s chat room, forums, fan club, and concerts, I went on to make some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Next weekend, I’m going to Tulsa to spend the weekend with some of them for the official fan club event.
Does any other band put on a weekend-long event in their hometown for their fan club? If so, I don’t know about it. Hanson go all out — pop-up store, art gallery, bowling tournament (spawned from, no joke, a shirt Zac wore in a photoshoot years ago), lectures, dinner, movie night, concert, even an afterparty. Every year, the event evolves a little, and I leave in awe, cheeks hurting from smiling so much and so long, wondering how they’re going to top it next time. Somehow, they always do. And somehow, every show, every event, something hooks me all over again just like I was hooked eighteen years ago by that song unlike any other on the radio.
Thanks for everything, Hanson — all the music, all the hooks, the friendships, concerts, events, and memories. I can’t wait to see what’s next.