Adventures in Hansonland

Mary and I arrived in Tulsa mid-day on Friday.  We made our way to registration, located just outside 3CG Records, a record label and studio owned and operated by Hanson. (Yes, “Mmmbop” Hanson.) We hopped in line and let it dawn on us that these were the first moments of a weekend full of fun, friends and all things Hanson.

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Hanson Day Member’s Only Event weekend. 

 This was our Christmas. Tulsa is our Mecca. 

We could barely contain our excitement, but we played it cool because at any moment a Hanson could pop out from 3CG Records.  At the very least we needed to seem like we wouldn’t dress in black from head to toe so we could go undetected while decorating the gate at the end of their driveway in the middle of the night.  Not that I’ve ever done that or anything…

The crowd was a mix of twenty- and thirty-somethings, ranging from glamour girls to goths to hipsters to moms with kids in tow. (Side note: the girl behind us was wearing a fanny pack.  A fanny pack!  Not like a, “Hey, I’m 50 years old and brought my daughter to this event because she’s such a huge fan” fanny pack.  A “Hey, I’m a hipster and am wearing this ironically because I want people to notice me.  And look, I bedazzled it!” fanny pack.  I should have gotten a picture.)  We were all taking pictures of the various signs on the sidewalks indicating the different event locations and sharing stories about how far we travelled to be there.  It was a bonding moment full of smiles and laughter, all the while knowing that if Taylor Hanson appeared we’d cut any bitch that got in our path to him. (Just kidding…maybe.)

The next morning could be summed up in one word: Rain.  And sucks.  So, two words.  I thought Tulsa was supposed to be warm in May, not 50 degrees and ruining my carefully quaffed hairdo with cloud tears.  1) A girl’s got to look good when there is any potential of running into one of the men with whom she would cheat on her husband, and 2) Our wardrobes consisted of light fabrics and flip-flops, not exactly ideal for the current weather conditions.

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Moving on.

We stood outside the “I Love Hanson” pop-up store huddled under our shared umbrella, freezing our nips off in a line that seemed endless and unmoving.  In reality the line was half a block long, but in the rain and cold, it seemed to go on forever.  Forty-five minutes later we made it inside the tiny shop, Ooo’ing and Ah’ing over the latest merchandise. Purchases = abundant.

Before trekking to the Dust Bowl to spectate at the I ❤ to Bowl Hanson Fan Bowling Championship, we decided to stop by the Hanson Gallery to preview some of the artwork and photos that were up for sale—all carefully crafted by and containing skin oils and maybe hair from at least one Hanson brother. I left the gallery $120 poorer with only slight buyer’s remorse.  But this would actually turn out to be one of the best decisions we made all weekend.

As we left the gallery, a girl looked up from her phone and asked, “Did you see Zac?”

“Huh?  No…”

“He’s across the street.”

.3 seconds later, Mary bolted into the street, traffic be damned, making a B-line for the youngest brother.  As I casually approached, Mary was in full fan-mode with Bubbletape in hand asking Zac to sign the gum package for her nephew.  (There’s back-story here, but I won’t go into it.)  I stood in the small crowd waiting for Mary to finish her story and get the autograph, all the while signaling to her that it was picture time.  Me.  Zac.  Picture.  Happening.  Then out of nowhere this, let’s say, “enthusiastic” girl totally body checks me, knocking me out of the way.  Really, bitch?  Was that necessary?  Fortunately, (and it’s these situations where Mary really shines) Mary grabbed my arm pulling me back and placing me squarely next to Zac so she could snap a quick picture.  (My inner monologue:  He’s touching my shoulder. He must like me. We should make out.) Then, like two little schoolgirls, we were off to the Dust Bowl with perma-smiles plastered on our faces.

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At the Dust Bowl, we met up with some friends (and 2012 bowling champs), Ashley and Celeste, that we had met at the previous year’s Hanson Day celebration.  We did as much catching up as one can do in a loud and crowded venue.  They introduced us to their bowling team and showed off their fresh ink— tattoos of Oklahoma with Tulsa starred like it is the capital city.  Now, for those outside of Hansonland, crazy is the word that comes to mind upon hearing of this permanent display of affection.  But as a resident of Hansonland, crazy awesome is more like it.   I think it’s important to note that, in my estimation, the Hanson fan population is split about 60/40 when it comes to branding themselves with Hanson related emblems.  So, you see, I’m somewhat rare in the way that I don’t have a Hanson tattoo. Like a unicorn, or a cat with laser beams for eyes.

We got the boot from the Dust Bowl during the trophy ceremony since we weren’t participants, so we made our way to the parking lot to hang with the smokers and other non-bowling rejects.  So we had to give up our primo spot right next to the awards stage, only 5 feet from where our boys would be handing out trophies. No biggie, we were just happy that it had stopped raining.  (We only complained for, like, a minute.  Honest.)

It was about this time that we started realizing that 50% of our weekend was going to be spent waiting.  Waiting for events to start or for people to show up.  After 16 years, we had become accustomed to Hanson-time—an often laughed about, but really cruel reality that none of the Hanson’s or anyone who works for them owns a clock or can tell time.  Show up an hour late for anything involving Hanson and you’ll still be early.  Despite this reality check, we were still in good spirits.  And slowly the bowlers exited the venue and crowded the street as we all stood and waited for The Walk[i].

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Fanson’s whipped into a flurry as Hanson emerged from the bowling alley to kick off the walk.  Surrounded by hoards of girls, Taylor made his way to the front of the crowd and led us on our one-mile journey.  Two blocks in, I was limping along in my bare feet as Mary anxiously walked ahead only to keep stopping to wait for me.  Sensing her desire to keep up with the boys, I told her to go ahead without me.  She couldn’t get away from me fast enough.

The walk ended at Guthrie Green Park.  We gathered around to listen to Taylor preach about the importance of the walk and giving back.  I looked around wondering how I was going to find Mary in the crowd, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.  At the top of the steps, four people from Taylor, was Mary armed with her camera.  Like a lioness hunting for dinner, she stalked his ass the entire time like he was her next meal.  And it only makes me love her more.

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We used the time after the walk to have lunch with our friends Ashley and Celeste, who quickly became two of our favorite people.  Their quick-wit and humor combined with their personable and genuinely likable personalities made it easy to get to know them beyond Hanson fandom.  It also helps that they not only appreciate my sailor-mouth, they encourage it.

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Our quartet made our way to the “Anthem” listen party where we listened to the new album before its release (June 18th, everybody!).  One word: amaze-balls.  Honestly, their best record to date.  You know how there is at least one song on an album that you’re just kind of “meh” about, or wonder how it made its way onto the final record, or why it was ever written at all because you’d rather take a power drill to your ears than listen to it? Well, for me, “Anthem” doesn’t have a single song like that!  Forget everything you think you know about Hanson—“Mmmbop,” long hair, Taylor looks like a chick—all of it.  If you didn’t know “Anthem” was a Hanson album, you wouldn’t know.  And all I know is that the ANTHEM World Tour is going to be epic.

Later that night, we took the sketchiest cab ride ever to Circle Cinema for a preview of the documentary, “Re: Made in America, The making of Anthem.” Cab dude showed up in a hoopty minivan, screamed into his phone the whole time and didn’t even turn on his meter while most likely taking the long way to the theater.  And based on his mad (and I do mean mad) driving skills, I am 90% sure he probably didn’t have a driver’s license…and probably wasn’t an official cab driver.

“Re: Made in America” started off with a shock.  In 2012, Hanson considered breaking up the band because, well, they couldn’t stand each other.  Gasps were heard throughout the theater.  Now, of course we knew that they didn’t break up because there wouldn’t be a Hanson Day celebration.  But, just the thought of going through our lives without Hanson was so unfathomable to us that it caused whimpers and whispers to ripple through the crowd.  But, again, that didn’t happen and all is right with the world.  (Oh, and thanks to our new friend, Marisa, we didn’t have to take that shady ass cab back to the hotel.  Thanks for the ride, homey!)

It was day 3— Concert day.  The best of all days.

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The concert is split into two sessions.  Mary and I were scheduled in the first. We hopped in line about 2 hours before doors to ensure a good spot—let the waiting and Hanson time begin.  Not only did the doors open late, the actual session started 40 minutes behind schedule.  And let me just say, from my pretty primo seat, I had a view of the backstage door and I witnessed Hanson walk into the building a half-hour after the scheduled start time.  Pro tip: The band should probably show up to the venue before the audience.  Just sayin.’  BUT, it was worth the wait.

The session consisted of three parts:  Songs from “Anthem,” a Q&A consisting of questions submitted at the door, and new material for the fan club EP.  Every year Hanson records a fan-club-only EP for members.  This year, Hanson wanted us to be a part of it.  Each of the songs was specifically written so they could utilize the crowd as session singers.  And we were more than happy to oblige.  We sung our hearts out.  And of course Mary and I were determined to sing above everyone else… We want to be heard, damn it!  The songs from “Anthem” had everyone on their feet dancing and screaming.  I even made up a dance to the single “Get the Girl Back.” I am a talented choreographer, after all.  The Q&A was brief and generally consisted of obvious questions, but was entertaining nonetheless.  Any opportunity to sit back with your favorite band and hear them talk about their music and passion is a good day.  But I am still a little disappointed that my question didn’t get picked: “Would you rather own a dragon or be a dragon?”  These are the questions that matter, people!

With our voices hoarse and skin tacky from sweat, we exited session one.  The line for session two was already two blocks long.  We found Ashley and Celeste in the line and waited with them until the doors opened.  As they started into the building, Mary and I milled about because experience told us to stick around.  Shortly after the line for session two had disappeared, another line started to form.  This line was for session one attendees hoping to get into session two—this line was for us.  Within 10 minutes, we were back inside and ready to rock all over again!

Session two ended, but the crowd stayed put.  We clogged the street and sidewalk outside of Cain’s Ballroom, knowing that if we waited long enough we would all get what we had been waiting for all weekend—an encounter and a quick picture with at least one of the boys.

We formed our cliques and waited.  In our small group, we talked about the show, goofed around and were generally obnoxious.  The bar next to the venue began playing music on their outdoor speaker and we happily sang and danced along with whatever came out, including some late 90’s tunes, Tina Turner, and, of course, Hanson.  The crowd gently started singing along to “Penny and Me” and, perhaps, created one of my favorite moments of the weekend.  At that moment, we weren’t strangers who happen to like the same thing; we became one voice united by a common bond that only we understand—the love of Hanson and the music they create, the music that we respect and will always promote and defend.

And just like that, the moment was over and a new song began.  This was also when we were introduced to Hatchet Face.  I mean, Adult Braces.  Wait, I mean Mizzzz Houston.  Ms. Houston is the moniker we gave to a girl who craves just a little bit too much attention.  As “I Will Always Love You” floated out of speaker and into the air, and I began to obnoxiously perform the song into my invisible microphone for my friends, Ms. Houston stepped up into a clearing in the crowd and belted like this was an audition for the band.  Crazy-ass, vintage get-up from head to toe? Check. Hands in the air like she’s belting on Broadway?  Check.  Ugly singing face?  Check.  Clearly thinks she’s more talented than she is? Check.  Did we find YouTube videos of her performing to her camera?  Yup.  (Go check out “My Favorite Things: Hanson Edition.”  You won’t regret it.)

She wouldn’t have been so annoying if she hadn’t been so desperate for attention. Now, I know that OAM is all about building each other up, but if you had been there, you would have wanted to punch her, too.  I should probably cut her some slack since she literally just graduated from high school, but that happens to be the perfect time to crush her dreams.

Two hours went by and at long last, Hanson stepped out from the venue.  It was the start of my favorite and least favorite moment of any Hanson concert—the moment when everyone turns from “Kumbaya” to “Hunger Games” in two seconds flat.  Every woman for herself.  A cluster-fuck.

Mary had disappeared again.  (She’s so motivated.)  I waited on the outskirts of the crowd so as to not be crushed or be too aggressive.   My attempts to reach Taylor had become futile, so I repositioned myself to make a pass at Isaac.  Inch by inch, I made it closer, but before long he disappeared into the venue.  Multiple times he warned people to back up and relax and that everyone would get a turn, but it fell on deaf ears so with that he bid adieu and was gone.

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By this time, Mary had reappeared, grinning ear to ear because she made it to Taylor and Zac already.  Her pocket-person stature combined with her ninja-like stealthiness and laser focus make it easy for her to slip into the crowd and to the front.  Mary is the primary reason I get any autographs or pictures.  She’s the tits.

Upon telling her that Isaac had left and I had yet to get within throwing distance of Taylor, she made it her mission to get me to the front of the crowd.  She grabbed my arm and, as if we were being swallowed by quicksand, was suddenly in the middle of the pandemonium, slowly but steadily moving forward.  Within minutes, I was on the frontlines.  Stepping up to take my turn, I put my arm around Taylor’s waist and his arm was around me too.  (We should be a couple.  This jacket is so soft— it’s real leather. Oh my god, he’s touching my back! He’s so pretty. I love you!)  The picture snapped and I was spit out of the crowd, gleeful and giddy from my contact high.

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Just like that, it was over. We found our new friends and said goodbye.  On our stroll back to the hotel, we reflected on the weekend.  From arrival to that exact moment we experienced nothing but joy.  We came up with the same conclusion we had time and time again—that all this craziness is about so much more than Hanson and the music.  We don’t just love Hanson because they’re Hanson or because we think they have great music.  We love Hanson because of the memories we’ve created over the years and the memories we continue to create, because of the new friends we make and the bonds we share (thank you Ashley, Celeste, Tati, and Marisa!). It makes us part of something special and unique and something others may never understand.  And for Mary and me, it’s brought us and continues to bring us closer together, strengthening an irreplaceable friendship.  Every Hanson related moment and memory is a treasure to me because it’s always fun, always crazy, and always make me feel like I did when I first heard “Mmmbop” 16 years ago:

Happy.

– Shaina

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[i] In 2007, with a desire to give back to the world and to coincide with the release of their fifth studio album “The Walk,” Hanson began hosting one-mile barefoot walks before each show.  For each participant, they would give one dollar to one of five predetermined charities.  They also partnered with TOMS shoes to sell the basic and limited edition Hanson shoes at the concerts.  These Hanson led walks not only gave fans a chance to be closer to the band and interact with each member, they also inspired the fan base to host their own walks around the world.  (For more information, go to takethewalk.net)

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2 Comments on “Adventures in Hansonland”

  1. June 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    OMG I had no idea there was a Hanson-palooza weekend! And annually! This is amazing! Mary is a freaking ninja – she got shizz done. Especially when she crammed you in next to one of the Hansons (I don’t bother remembering their names. They all looked the same to me when I was a teenage girl. I know, sacrilege, right?!) after that bloody bitch body checked you out of the way. Nice work, Mary!

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