The time has come, sooner than I expected perhaps, to talk of Hanson.
I have mentioned my love for them, and the fact that there would, one day, be a post dedicated to them.
That day is here.
Today, tickets went on sale for their 25th Anniversary Middle of Everywhere Tour. Yes, they have been a band for 25 YEARS. I have been a fan for 20 of those, since it was 20 years ago that Middle of Nowhere was released and changed my world.
I am ashamed to say I don’t remember the first time I saw the video for MMMBop, though I am fairly certain that seeing the video was what sparked the musical love affair that lasts to this day. While I couldn’t tell you for certain what it was that drew me to Hanson so immediately, my guess is that it had something to do with how different than they felt from everything I was used to listening to at that time. I was really into “punk” and alternative in those days — Green Day, No Doubt, Bush, The Offspring, Smashing Pumpkins, Alanis Morrissette — you get the idea. Hearing Hanson for the first time felt like that first sunny, warm spring day after a long winter when you can roll the windows down, blast the radio, and the world feels perfect for a moment. They were fun, different, and really refreshing — and also age-appropriate, in that they were around my literal age.
My best friend Erin and I both fell in love with them at about the same time — and hard. I’m pretty sure we both bought Middle of Nowhere the same day, and though we typically saw each other nearly every single day back in those days, my only memory of seeing her from that day was her on her front porch, excitedly waving the CD in my direction (this memory may very well be entirely made up, though it’s a fairly clear image in my head — if nothing else, it captures how it felt). I remember sitting on my bed, listening to the CD on repeat while I read/sang along to the lyrics in the booklet that accompanied it. I don’t know if there is any single CD I own that has been played more than that one. Amazingly enough it never stopped playing – I chalk that up to it being one of my most prized possessions and therefore receiving the utmost care.
There are so many things I loved about Hanson. Taylor was my age, which made him a very suitable mate in my opinion (looking back at that dream now, I am pretty sure I dodged a bullet by not marrying him or I’d be trekking around with 6 kids in tow on the daily). They actually wrote their own songs and played their own instruments, which meant my dad couldn’t say much about their lack of musical talent or abilities (though, let’s be honest, it didn’t stop him from trying. It is my father we’re talking about). I liked that their music was fun, and felt relatable to me in a way a lot of the other bands I listened to weren’t. They just made me feel really happy, and were the first REAL obsession I experienced in my life.
By the time they started a nationwide tour for Middle of Nowhere (The Albertane Tour), Erin and I were fully obsessed. Our lives pretty much revolved around those 3 blonde boys, and we were ready to defend them and our love for them to the death. Erin’s mom was brave enough to take me, Erin, another of her friends, and our little sisters to the concert. Not only that, but she spent pretty much the entire day before braiding all of our hair into little braids because Zac had done that to his hair ONE TIME, and we obviously needed to mimic Zac’s coolness.
That first concert was GLORIOUS. Our group’s seats were separated in two separate areas, so I remember we were up front, pretty close to the stage, while Erin’s mom had seats farther back. I don’t remember who was where, other than the fact that Erin and I were definitely closer to the stage, and her mother’s one direction was that we stay in our seats. Which was no problem, until….
Taylor Hanson rushed to the edge of the stage, bottle of water in his hand as all of the fans in the first few rows, including me, rushed toward the stage to try to get just a little closer to him. As he sprayed the water from the bottle towards the crowd, a few drops hit my arm and for a moment I literally could. not. breathe. I turned around to see where Erin was, and her reaction, to find that she had not, in fact, left her seat because we had been told not to. I can’t say she appreciated me hyperventilating over water from TAYLOR HANSON’S WATER BOTTLE being on MY ARM. We were able to enjoy the rest of the concert anyway, and I am pretty sure she forgave me, but I guess you’d have to ask her to find out for sure. Also, I should mention that, at this point in time, I definitely would have been one of those crazy girls that would have not only accepted, but WELCOMED any number of disgusting things providing they had come into contact with really any part of any Hanson brother’s body. I would no longer accept a towel covered in their sweat or their underwear or a used kleenex that had touched one of their precious noses (because I’m an adult thank you very much), but you bet your ass in those days I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I guess that’s what it means about age bringing maturity?
The fun of that first full-length concert didn’t stop that day, we found out a few months later. I’m not sure if any of you reading this (is anyone reading this? Hmmm…) remember the MTV show FANatic, but the basic premise was simple — obsessive fans were given the opportunity to meet their favorite celebrities, and it was documented (and, I would assume, well-supervised): 11 Best FANatic Moments.
Anyway…the Hanson episode of FANatic? Obviously, Erin and I eagerly anticipated it and watched it together. And we soon discovered that it WAS FILMED AT THE NEW WORLD MUSIC THEATER. As in, the place we saw them! WE WALKED WHERE HANSON WALKED. Our bodies had occupied the same space theirs had mere hours after they had been there! The shrieks that erupted from us probably sounded inhuman and damaged our vocal cords, and I quite distinctly remember running literal circles around my house. We did not find Aaron, their “biggest fan” (ha! these people had never met us) overly impressive, but we watched the crap out of that episode many, many times.
That was not the only thing we watched. We eagerly anticipated each new music video release. Dedicated entire, multiple VHS tapes to their varied television appearances, no matter how small. Were OUTRAGED when TGIF boasted Hanson’s hosting one evening, with nary a Hanson to be found. We watched their documentary/concert VHS Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere so many, many times that I am pretty sure I will always have it memorized. Anything we could watch, we did. Which, let’s remember, required much dedication in the late 90s. This was pre-DVR or DVD, and therefore required planning, timing, and a fair amount of effort. It meant watching MTV all day to try and catch the “Weird” video to record it. Recording their location on the TRL charts daily (damn you, rival song “My Heart Will Go On”). Being a Hanson fan was serious business, and a true fan needed to document everything.
One of my favorite Hanson memories has almost nothing to do with the boys themselves. The late 90s not only brought Hanson into our lives, but also the early days of home internet. While Erin was my one true Hanson partner in crime, my friend Jaime was also a big Hanson fan, and she and I would spend afternoons after school scouring the internet for pictures and information about the brothers. One of the pictures we found was of “Taylor” in a speedo. While I am unable to find this picture now to post for your viewing enjoyment, I am positive I have the printout of this somewhere in my home, a treat for me to uncover another day. Anyway, this picture was EVERYTHING to us. This was before we really knew what photoshop was, and while the logical parts of our brains told us that Taylor Hanson’s head and this speedo’d body did not match, we wanted so badly to believe that it was Taylor. So badly.
The internet didn’t only give us mostly naked pictures of our idols, though, it also gave us fan fiction and role playing. The Hanson fan fiction was truly glorious. It was my first exposure to fan fiction of any kind, and since my adoration needed any outlet it could find, fanfic helped. There were really some great writers out there, and I got so absorbed in some of the stories, living vicariously through the main characters as they grew up with Hanson or fell in love with Hanson. There were some really talented writers out there, and I don’t regret one second of the time I spent reading those stories. The other piece of that was the role playing chat rooms. The idea of this feels so outdated now, since chat rooms are not really a thing anymore, are they? They felt so novel and interesting back then, and the role playing rooms were like live-action fan fiction. When you found a group of fellow fans that you role-played well with, it was the best feeling in the world, because you kind of created your own world. It was a safe space to imagine and dream and be creative, bringing people together because of a common love. While I can’t imagine myself getting so lost in things like that anymore, I do sometimes miss those days. They were more innocent and carefree, and it was my first real experience connecting and bonding with strangers over a mutual interest. It felt special, and I think it was special.
Loving Hanson felt like an exclusive club, especially as time wore on. Everyone knew “MMMBop” when it came out. Many people loved it, some people hated it, and some who loved it grew to hate it after its insane overexposure. After the novelty of that wore off, though, the true die-hards began to reveal themselves. By the time This Time Around was released in 2000, the Hanson hype had died some, and the boy themselves had matured. Erin and I also hit a rough patch sometime between the CD release and the concert tour associated with it. While what really actually happened remains fuzzy, the result was that we stopped speaking during this time, a falling out that lasted longer than it ever should have.
The Hanson love didn’t die, though. I may not have gone to see Hanson with Erin in 2000, but that exclusive Hanson club I mentioned? It got me there anyway, my friend Laura inviting me to see them with her. We had great seats, and my love of the boys remained. It was funny the way time seemed to whittle people away from their devotion. Even at this relatively early point in their musical career, I’d mention my love of Hanson and would get the whole “The MMMBop guys?” response (come on…find a new one people). Yes, the “MMMBop” guys. And also the “Where’s the Love” guys, and “Weird” guys, and “I Will Come to You” guys, and the “If Only” guys.
I endured endless mockery from family members in particular. Between the late 90s and the early 2000s there was rarely a family gathering that went by where I didn’t get into an argument with someone in my family over my love of Hanson. My dad and uncles in particular always loved to pick on me, and I was the staunchest defender and advocate of my Hanson brothers. They were not going to mock or belittle either me or the Hanson that I loved so much, and deserved RESPECT damn it!
Ironically enough, while the gap between This Time Around and their 3rd CD, Underneath was fairly large and felt like an eternity while I was finishing up high school and starting college, their return in 2003/2004, I think this gap was the epitome of the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Hanson releasing “Penny and Me” as a single made me feel excited in a way I hadn’t felt since first hearing “MMMBop” over half a decade earlier. It made my love of them resurface and intensify. It also coincided with me moving out of my parents’ house and into a dorm the first time.
I so clearly remember the night before moving into my dorm room. My move-in date coincided with the weekend of the Air and Water Show downtown, and my entire family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins were staying in a hotel downtown for the weekend. I was spending the first day/night with my family, and we’d be moving me into my dorm room the following day. During the day that Saturday, my parents had agreed to a visit to the Virgin Megastore, one of my absolute favorite places in Chicago. That was where I bought the “Penny and Me” single (I don’t think the CD was out yet). It had I think two different versions of the song, along with a couple of previously unreleased songs. Going to bed that night, I was a jumble of nerves thinking about how the following night was the first I’d spend in a new place, away from my family. Laying in the dark hotel room, my dad snoring across the room, I put the single into my CD player, popped my headphones into my ears, and listened to the 4 songs on that single on repeat until I finally drifted off to sleep.
Hanson changed my life. I know it sounds melodramatic and silly, but they really did. When I think back on the ways Hanson has, in one way or another, influenced my life, it is kind of remarkable. And the effect they’ve had revealed itself more in adulthood, I think, than it did in those intense, obsessive MMMBop days.
I ran into Erin at a Hanson concert on July 31, 2004. It was the anniversary of our very first Hanson concert back in 1998. I was there with my boyfriend, she with her mom and sister. We hadn’t spoken in nearly 5 years. It was awkward. I realized how much I missed her. We got back in touch later that year. I don’t know if that would have happened if not for bumping into her at that concert.
Shortly after moving into my dorm that summer, I was in my room, reading and writing posts in the Hanson fan club forums. One of the girls on the forums talked about having just moved to Chicago, and living in one of the dorms downtown. That girl’s name was Jennifer, and we quickly discovered that she lived 2 floors up from me in the very same building. We met that afternoon, and are still friends today. We traveled to Tulsa together a year or two later for Hanson Day, and it was amazing.
Another girl I knew from the Hanson fan club forums was looking for someone to go to an Alanis Morrissette concert with her. It was a tour for the 10th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill. I didn’t know the girl super well, and had never met her in real life, but it sounded like a cool enough concert and was close to where I lived downtown so I said I’d go. The concert was amazing, and the opener was Jason Mraz who BLEW ME AWAY and quickly became one of my absolute favorite musicians.
In 2005, Erin and I were speaking again, and both members of the Hanson fan club. Hanson had released a new set of tour dates for their Live and Electric tour. We were both notified on the same day that we had won Meet and Greets and were going to meet Hanson. I walked circles in my boyfriend’s driveway, talking quickly and excitedly to Erin, in complete disbelief that one of our dreams was about to come true. We met our idols. We talked to them. I got to interview them. Zac touched my leg. I foolishly had them autograph the back of my ipod (it felt symbolic), and no longer have that ipod or those autographs. It was an absolutely amazing day, and one that I got to share with one of my best friends, and the ONLY person I would have wanted to meet those three men with.
It’s late, and I’ve already written so much. There’s so much more I am sure I could write, and memories I haven’t even touched on. But it comes down to this: Hanson is so much more than just a band for me. They’ve been a part of my life for 20 years now, and thanks to them I’ve met new people, made new friends, tried new things, discovered new music, and lost and regained a friendship. Their music has touched me, provided the soundtrack to so many, many moments in my life. Been there for me when I was sad, and happy, and everything in between. Being a Hanson fan has defined me since I was 13 years old, and while there are a fair amount of people who laugh at that, laugh at this silly “obsession” of mine that hasn’t just gone away over all of these years, I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of them — for still making music that I love, and persevering, and existing so I can still be a fan.
Today is Taylor Hanson’s birthday. Today Erin and I bought tickets to see Hanson again in October. Somehow, things always seem to come full circle when it comes to Hanson. And that’s just fine with me.