Listen, I’ve been a Hanson fan since 1997 and I’m not even gonna sugar coat that. It’s true. I’m out. Deal with it.
Since 2009, I’ve seen them roughly every two years, except for when they came around while I was living in Chile. Making the biannual trek to Cleveland (House of Blues, specifically) to see them play has been something of a personal pilgrimage. It’s important to check in with the guys every couple of years, too. Like re-visiting old friends.
I remember the first time in 2009 was a big deal because not only was I going to attend a concert by myself, I was also confronting the ghosts of my adolescence on my own, with adult eyes, and with a whole different perspective than when I’d seen them last (which was somewhere around 2003).
I felt kind of awkward that time, rocking out to Hanson and screaming like a freak by myself. The screaming isn’t really negotiable, it just erupts out of me like hot magma from a volcano. When those boys play any track from Middle of Nowhere…shit. I lose it. And somehow, doing those scream-y, fangirl things with a friend by your side makes you feel like it’s more acceptable…less lame, somehow.
But all alone? Nope, gotta own that lameness.
It was easier the second time around, in 2011. I had more fully accepted the fact that yep, I’m just a 20-something Hanson fan coming to shows all alone.
But now, in 2015, I had some companions. I was hesitant to bring them, since the solo journey to behold Hanson has become not only a pilgrimage but also a sacred time-out for me. For whatever reason. Or maybe I just like routine.
Whatever the reason, I knew that these companions were more important than sticking to a tradition I made up out of necessity. Both companions were willing, for the record. There was no coercion. None that I’ll admit to, at least.
Going to Hanson concerts is a strange departure from almost any other type of show I’ve been to. The type of music I see live most often these days is folk and rock, local music, acoustic stuff…or underground house music.Their concerts back in the day were admittedly much larger. I’ve seen them in arenas, in huge amphitheaters, and then…the House of Blues, where several hundred aged-up fans can gather comfortably without too much elbow-brushing or accidental pushing.
I think that’s just the thing–the crowd is so respectable. Looking around, I see mostly white, middle-class women with pressed blouses and carefully straightened hair and I laugh and then I reflect, I am one of them. And being comprised of all women and a small handful of obligated male significant others, I don’t feel comfortable resorting to brash, relentless pushing to get to the front, or get a better spot, etc. Is this what happens when a teeny-bopper gets older, wiser, more thoughtful?
Back in 1999, I would have knifed a bitch to get closer to Zac Hanson. My friend and I even forged permission slips to hand to a guard to sneak back stage (which didn’t work out.)
Now, I worry that my dread pile might block another paying fan’s view.
Hanson is doing a shorter tour this year, but playing for TWO nights in each spot. I wasn’t even going to go the first night because gas money and adult stuff. But then I figured, fuck it, I bought a ticket to see Hanson for two nights and I damn well better gaze upon their faces for as long as humanly possible.
Night #1 was all covers (with a few original tunes sprinkled in), followed by a beer party to showcase their new beer which is called, I shit you not, MMMHops. Then Taylor Hanson DJ’d, which I DID NOT SEE, BECAUSE IT WAS A WORK NIGHT AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO GET TO BED IN SANDUSKY, HANSON. OKAY?!
But seriously, I sort of regret not going. How many of these respectable 9-5’ers were popping drugs as Tay dropped the phat EDM? Yeah, I bet none. Work night, after all.
Wednesday, night #2, was a day that Jorge and I had to be in Cleveland for some unrelated matters in the AM, so we had a Cleveland Fun Day (or, as I like to call it, pre-Hanson activities, since when Hanson is in town, all references to time revolve around them). The Cleveland parking system and their museums siphoned most of my disposable income for the month, which left me feeling slightly more educated and unnecessarily broke.
By the time Hanson Time rolled around, Jorge was briefed on what awaited him. Night #2 was the night of the Original Songs, so this was gonna be the big shebang–the screaming, the crowd swelling, the Mmmbop! We saw a good handful of Obligated Significant Other’s (OSO’s) there–you know, the bored boyfriend, embracing his girlfriend from behind as he chugs back a beer while she writhes desperately to the music in his arms.
I give Jorge a lot of credit, because he at least screamed for Hanson to hurry the eff up while we were waiting for the curtains to lift. Also, I caught a few of his errant bellows into the Hanson ether during the show. So, it was something like enthusiasm, which counts.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was already tired from a whole day of standing, museum-gazing and being slowly sucked dry by the Cleveland Art Scene, but it seemed like the crowd was less energetic than what I remembered from previous years. Maybe that was the effect of seeing Hanson two nights in a row–by the second night, it’s not quite as scream-worthy. Don’t get me wrong, there was tons of screaming. But there’s something precious and sacred in that build-up of waiting to see Hanson. Having seen them the night before, it was like we had already blown our loads.
But the second time around was still reallllllly freaking awesome.
The thing about Hanson is they have some of the most loyal fans in the WORLD. They have been a cohesive, touring unit for 20 years. TWENTY FREAKING YEARS. And they still put out new albums, tour regularly, meet with fans, and continue upping their game (with, as we saw this year, DJ sets and a beer brand).
It’s funny how we’re all getting older alongside them. At the concert the first night, I gestured to the audience and told Heather, “We grew up with all these girls.” Because we did, in a way. We didn’t know them, personally, but we all were coming of age and growing up together with Hanson as the center of our universe. And that’s a really powerful uniting force. So powerful that 15 years later, we’re still coming together to see these guys.
After the show wrapped on the second night, a very drunk fan told me she’d met them in Toronto the weekend before (yep, these fans still tag along for the whole tour!) and waited outside by their bus until they came outside. JUST LIKE I’D ALWAYS PLOTTED AS A TEENAGER. I considered the idea for a bit, knowing deep inside my heart that waiting a couple extra hours to meet the boys just wouldn’t make sense for my O.S.O who had a 7am wake-up call the next day.
I still want to meet Hanson. SO badly. Like, gazing upon Zac Hanson is something that stirs things inside my soul that are inexplicable and so deeply ingrained that I cannot even articulately express what is happening. He was so important in my adolescence, yet has no idea of who I am or what impact he had. Yet he knows–because how many girls have this same story?
I’d love to meet them someday, just shake their hands, stare intensely into their eyes, and really thank them for existing. They inspired so much creativity in my life. They are also one of the biggest inspirations behind my writing.
Jorge and I left Cleveland without lingering near tour buses or stalking back doors for signs of nearing voices. In fact, we were home by 10:30PM, because it was a work night, after all.
I didn’t meet Hanson this time…but someday, I swear to God, I will. We’ve been best friends since 1997, it’s high time they finally find out about it.