I’ve had a recurring dream about Hanson. I feel strange admitting that, but it’s true. A week ago, I had to be reminded that I pledged to write something about their show at Seattle’s Neumos in exchange for free tickets and a photo pass, and the shame from my procrastination has been eating at me, like fine acid, consciously and subconsciously, ever since. So much time has gone by, but I have to stay true to my promise and to the teachings of Evel Knievel. He said, “always keep you word.”
“With so much shit that has and will come through, you’re interested in stepping up for Hanson?” That was the surprised response that I got, nearly a month ago, from Monster Fresh when I said that I wanted to review the show. To be truthful, I was surprised myself. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to conduct interviews and review shows for them over the years, and this is were I landed, a ‘90s boy band? What the hell, man? Once again, my over-sized need to ensconce myself in ridiculousness has created a situation that requires a degree of follow through. Going to the show was the easy part: check in, get the photo pass, have a few drinks, and take some notes. That’s the kind of foolishness that I live for.
Here’s a little history. Hanson is a band of brothers from Tulsa. They had a massive hit with their debut single “MMMBop” from the album Middle of Nowhere, produced by the Dust Brothers, in 1996. It’s still rattling around in your head and it will certainly be there for the rest of your life, because it’s catchy in the way that children’s songs like “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” or the 1,2,3,4,5, song from Sesame Street are. It makes sense too, because they were basically children when they wrote it. Zac (drums) was 11 when “MMMBop” hit. Isaac (guitar and vocals) was 16, and Taylor (keyboards and vocals), who, it turns out, I share a birthday with, was 13.
In May of 1997, their hit spent a week at number one in the U.S. and three weeks in the number one spot in the U.K. where it sold 710,000 copies. Then, they were everywhere. Hanson received three Grammy nominations and an MTV VMA, while winding up on the cover of countless teen magazines, TV Guide, and of course, one of those stupid Got Milk ads that were all the rage.
I had a favorite Hanson spot; it was on The Weird Al Show, where the boys appear as tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of Harvey, the world’s biggest hamster. When they see the cow-sized rodent, they immediately begin snapping photos, which results in the shrinking of the beast. Something about the flash effects from their cameras “displacing the neurons in Harvey’s radioactive aura, damaging his neo-electrical field resulting in a complete and immediate growth reversal.” Weird Al, being the sweet upbeat guy that he is, decides that Harvey will be happier not being a tourist attraction, and instead of beating the brothers to death, he allows them to make it up to him by playing one of their “mega-hit songs.” They agree and perform “Where’s the Love,” also from Middle of Nowhere.
The impression that I got from that performance became the lasting image that I had of them until I saw them in the flesh, and it was not a bad impression. They played their own instruments; they harmonized well, with their gruff, almost adult sounding voices; the songs had hooks; and they were Muppet quality cute. I remember several hetero guys, at the time, lustfully boasting that they would bed Taylor if they only had the chance. Even in my homophobic home state of Colorado, it would have been considered a badge of honor to make it with that honey-haired piece of Turkish delight. There have been few male pop-stars since the days of Bowie that have elicited that kind of response to an ambiguous entertainer.
For me, the fascination with Hanson, and most pop music, is a curiosity about why I’m paying attention to it at all. The purest conclusion that I can come to is that I’m a junky for a good hook. I’ll suffer through banal verse after verse to taste the sweet nectar of a well-crafted chorus. I’d pay even more for a quality bridge. I guess that’s why I was quick to jump at the chance to see Hanson; they’ve delivered in the past and, at the very least, I was guaranteed to hear the couple of songs that I knew would supply a sturdy hook. The best-case scenario, of course, would be to discover that they’ve been churning out more of these little treasures since I left off with them in the late 90s. Maybe I missed out because they failed to make it in the mainstream.
The brothers broke their major label ties in 2003, after their label, Mercury, was absorbed by Island Def Jam. There was little faith by the new boss that the songs that the trio was writing at the time had hit potential. Hanson, not ready to give up the ghost, started an independent label, 3CG, and released the number one independently distributed album of the year. They’ve continued to maintain an admirable fan base and strong record sales ever since. The show that I attended, as far as I can remember, is proof positive of this.
The venue was packed to the rafters with women. I get nervous in hordes of females. I learned what a foolish move it is to allow onesself to be massively overwhelmed by the opposite gender in a college dance class where I was outnumbered fifty-to-one. I could go into detail, but I assure you that there was nothing close to sexy in this scenario.
There was also little in the way of sexy about the way that my photographer and I conducted ourselves at the Hanson performance at Neumos. We had different ways of dealing with the scene that we found ourselves in, of course. His was to reveal to me–between generous swigs, at my expense, of costly, small batch, Black Maple Hill bourbon–that he had forgotten his camera. Please refer to the courtroom rendering of the band (above) that he presented me with in lieu of any actual photographs. I wasn’t any better; I drank myself into oblivion and danced like a foolish dick on fire. I recall waking up so hung over the next afternoon, that I could barely clo-pen one eye, and when I did, the trees outside of my window were revolving in a dance that mocked my misery. I dared those trees to make me have to write anything in my horrid, sickened state. Thanks to Evil Knievel here it is.
From what I remember, and from my unintelligible notes, it was a riveting show. The band really connected with the audience, providing them with over two hours of signature Hanson music from their catalogue, including “MMMBop” and “Where’s The Love.” They played acoustically and they played with electricity. Most importantly, they played, and they continue to play, and fuck anyone who dares to make them stop before they want to. Keep up the good work Hanson. I look forward to leaving the job of reviewing your next show to a dedicated professional.
You can find out more about Hanson and purchase their latest release, ANTHEM through Hanson.net