The eighteenth to the twentieth of May 2017 will forever be in my memory as the dates I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma to be part of my 10-year-old-self’s wildest dreams: Hanson’s 25th anniversary event. I had expectations for the experience which evolved and were exceeded at such a rapid pace, I wasn’t able to digest what happened until it ended. It was a whirlwind of posing with the MMMBop video pansy, dancing the night away at the Taylor-hosted dance party, singing along at the Isaac-hosted karaoke night, seeing them perform – twice, and endless lining up!
At the end of 2015, I decided 2017 was the year I was going to embark on a 10-week journey through the United States. I created an itinerary for my dream holiday that ticked all the boxes of what I wanted to see, do and learn. And then I discovered Hanson was holding the 25th anniversary edition of their annual Hanson Day festivities. I had no choice but to change my itinerary to ensure I was in Tulsa for it. Tulsa wasn’t on the original itinerary, but I knew I had to be there; I knew I’d regret it otherwise.
I have been a Hanson fan for 20 years – including the period that began with a messy and public teenage breakup with them that returned full circle to my early twenties’ reacceptance. Prior to Hanson Day, I was still filled with guilt and shame. My carefully curated bedroom walls of Hanson posters were the first to get the Mortified Teen Treatment. I threw my Middle of Nowhere and Snowed In CDs in the bin, along with my Hanson t-shirt and cap, and I’m certain my Tulsa, Tokyo and the Middle of Nowhere VHS ended up in the same place. (For my 30th birthday this year, I was gifted with Snowed In and the VHS by friends who knew of my love and loss.) It was a swift and aggressive about-face from the undying love I felt for them as a child – especially for Taylor – to pretending they never existed in a teenage world that was quick to judge anything considered uncool.
It wasn’t until Hanson’s 2010 Shout it Out world tour when I truly allowed myself to reconnect with them – outside of secretly having MMMBop and Where’s the Love? on my iPod. The joy and positivity of the album, with tracks like Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ and Give a Little, reopened the joy and positivity I felt listening to Middle of Nowhere as a child. My Fanson journey is filled with full circle moments, and 2010’s Brisbane concert – seeing them for the first time; tears flowing – was one of those moments. With my place in Fanson fandom finally restored, I jumped at the chance to see them again, this time in Melbourne, for their 2013 Anthem world tour – and again, tears flowed freely. It wasn’t just an experience of reacceptance, but of pride. Anthem is my favourite Hanson album and, singing along to the opening tracks, Fired Up and I’ve Got Soul, was yet another full circle moment.
With my concert experiences under my belt, I knew Hanson Day 2017 would give me the chance to reconcile my childhood love, teen abandonment and renewed passion as an adult – but it did so in the most unexpected of ways. I’m confident I have never had a more cathartic experience than Hanson Day 2017, which all came to a head during their acoustic set – specifically their song Madeline. Up until this point, I had kept my emotions in check: holding myself together as I caught a first glimpse of Hanson in the line for the group photo, forcing myself out of shock at meeting Taylor and then not believing my luck at talking with Isaac, and trying to accept my disappointment at the possibility of not getting a Taylor selfie.
In the first notes of Madeline, I broke. It was my favourite song on Middle of Nowhere, and to hear it acoustically 20 years later after an already overwhelming couple of days, was all I needed to know that I had made the right choice in coming to the event. I felt safe, welcomed and honest, surrounded by women who I knew, at one time, would have shed their tears during their favourite childhood song. At the same moment, the guilt and shame of my teen rampage disappeared. I finally felt comfortable to share my story, my own Hanson journey, warts and all, with Fansons who had stories of their own. What I used to hate about my Hanson journey, is now my favourite part: how many people get to reconnect, rediscover and love all over again their favourite childhood band with the same joy and freedom? Just like my fellow Fansons, I’m now shamelessly proud of my Hanson history, and ongoing journey.
Despite my tightly held childhood memories and changing my dream holiday itinerary, I learned about, witnessed and met Fansons who made my love for them look like a vaguely passing interest!
- The fact I only casually wondered about accommodation a month before the event, struck panic in my fellow Fansons – most booked a year in advance.
- I was explained the rules of lining up for registration, events, and merchandise as if my psychical safety depended upon it.
- I was told my just-happy-to-be-there attitude was a rare, but welcome addition to a bubble bursting with frenzied anticipation.
- In hours-long lines, sitting in crowded restaurants and sprinting between events I spoke about literally nothing else but Hanson for three days: their families, past concerts, their annual Back to the Island event in Jamaica, childhood memories, opinions of their brand new members’ EP, In Colour, Zac’s weight loss, Taylor’s resting bitch face (a.k.a. “Tay Face”), Isaac’s approachability and, the possible set list of their upcoming world tour.
- I stood in awe, watching and listening to the crowd perfectly sing along to the most obscure members’ songs, as if they were as well-known as MMMBop.
- I spotted Hanson logo and lyric tattoos, adorned on countless Fansons as permanent badges of honour.
- I got caught up in the small, chaotic merchandise store as Fansons spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on t-shirts, caps, hoodies, guitar picks, jewellery, posters and stickers.
- I was told of Fansons who camped out overnight (during a storm) at the Arts & Humanities Council Gallery to ensure they were first to snare exclusive pieces of Zac’s art.
- I was one of many Fansons who had flown internationally, and others who had driven 24 hours to attend. However, unlike me, many had journeyed to Tulsa specifically for Hanson Day and then were returning home immediately after the event.
I learned fandom takes on many forms, and it was unbelievable to part of such a specific echo chamber, founded on unabashed commitment and intense passion. An extension of that, and what overwhelmed me most, was witnessing and being part of incredible gestures friendship and comradery:
- I saw Fansons from all over the world reconnecting; reflecting on their shared experiences, recalling where they first met. I got to meet an online friend IRL after months of speaking on Facebook chat, and then was introduced to her friends. Without being part of that friendship group, I would not have had the experience I did without them. I am eternally grateful.
- Another new friend clutched my hand in our group photo, as I attempted to remain cool and calm as Taylor stood directly behind me, holding my shoulder. (Photo coming soon!)
- Having already got her Taylor selfie, a new friend (who knew I didn’t have mine), grabbed my arm and dragged me in a hot pursuit to get my selfie with him.
- I was part of a highly coordinated mission of holding places in the concert line – in accordance with the rules, of course – to ensure each person in our group got a turn to get food, have a bathroom break and, visit other events.
- Despite wearing lathers of sunscreen for an hours-long wait in the concert line, a Fanson I didn’t know – who saw me struggling with the Oklahoma sun – leant me her Isaac-signed hoodie for protection.
- After picking up a forgotten purchase for a new friend, I was gifted with a “Tulsa is my Graceland” badge as a thank you (which I love, because Graceland is also my Graceland!)
- As a first time Hanson Day attendee, I was regularly asked how I was feeling, and if I was having a great time – and I was met with endless hugs, back rubs and smiles as I struggled to put what I was feeling into words.
There was something hysterical, sweet and most importantly completely freeing about being surrounded by a group of 30-ish-year-old women – many Hanson Day virgins and others who dedicate their lives to travelling the world for them – who first discovered their life-long love as children. It’s our shared obsession, and the friendships born out of it, that make being a Fanson so special.
There may have been (albeit light) pushing and shoving at the dance party, teenage-esque screams whenever Taylor flicked his hair and, pandemonium at the end of The Walk for selfies – but that’s what happens when 1,200 women gather to show their appreciation for a group of extremely handsome and talented boys, now men, who continue to have a profound influence on our lives, be it musically, sexually, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above.
While we share something special, our stories are unique. In the aftermath of Hanson Day 2017, I asked three Fansons to share what first connected them to Hanson, and why after 20 years their connection is as strong as ever.
Holly, 29, is the Traveling Fan, a blog dedicated to her Hanson travels. She also reviews their songs, EPs and concerts. Holly’s favourite song (right now) is I Don’t Want to Go Home from In Colour and her favourite Hanson is… all of them! Like so many Fansons, her 1997 summer was defined by MMMBop, ‘I took my Walkman everywhere, listening to my Middle of Nowhere cassette on repeat.’ Despite losing touch with them for a few years – something she regrets, Holly has more than made up for lost time having been to every Back to the Island and Hanson Day event, and over 100 concerts since 2007. She says the best part about being a fan as an adult is going to amazing places like Disney World to see them perform, and making new friends online and IRL. Holly is hopeful Hanson will still be part of her life for their 50th anniversary.
Lynsi, 31, co-produced a fan contribution Yearbook as a thank you gift to Hanson (in honour of Yearbook from Middle of Nowhere). Lynsi’s favourite song is Juliet from Anthem, and her favourite Hanson is Zac. A lover of 1960s music, it was Lynsi’s Grade 5 music teacher who introduced her to Hanson, ‘I felt like they should have been on the radio in the 60s when music was worth listening to.’ Lynsi saw Hanson perform for the first time at this year’s Hanson Day – an event she now hopes to attend annually. But she’ll be seeing them next in her home town of Philadelphia as part of the Middle of Everywhere world tour. While Lynsi has always loved Hanson, it took a back seat when she got married and had her kids, but ‘now that my boys are older and in school, I have time for me again!’ It’s this opportunity, and her Hanson-based friendships that make her feel indescribable pride and gratitude for the band of brothers.
Katie, 32, runs Hanson Stage, the most comprehensive database of lyrics, sets lists, ticket stubs, and every song performed live. Fansons are also able to track which concerts and events they’ve attended. Katie’s favourite song is Lost Without Each Other from Underneath, and her favourite Hanson is Zac. She clearly remembers the moment she got hooked on Hanson, ‘I saw the MMMBop video on MTV, and I remember saying “Hanson” over and over to myself in my head so I could remember to ask my friends about it the next day.’ It was the start of her 20 year Hanson journey that has taken her to 141 concerts, including Hanson Day and Back to the Island events. She is also attending several international Middle of Everywhere tour dates. Katie owes her undying love for Hanson – which grows stronger at each concert – to the strong online community, ‘if not for meeting so many friends with similar interests early on, I would have lost track.’ Katie can’t believe that 20 years after asking her parents to set the VCR to record Hanson on the Jenny McCarthy Show so she could keep it forever, that she’d still be just as excited to be on the Hanson musical ride.
At the end of Hanson Day, I didn’t want to go home (or anywhere else!) But as I keep catching myself randomly smiling, thinking about the event, I know that I will carry the experience with me everywhere I go and wherever I am. I can’t wait see where my Fanson journey will take me over the next 25 years.
Thank you to my friends and family for going on this journey with me (for all these years and many more to come!); to my new friends – Helen, Emily, Samantha, Magen, Lynsi, Jen and Christina – who made my Hanson Day experience what it was; to Holly, Lynsi and Katie for generously sharing their stories; and thank you all Fansons for keeping our love for Hanson alive, because our band is better than yours!