Twenty years ago I fell in love with a song that some would say is a silly little kids song but, what most people don’t realize is that “MMMBop” by Hanson has a strong message: hold onto the ones who really care because they could be gone in an instant.
When I was a teenager, I was struggling with a feeling of emptiness and nothingness and was battling daily against worthlessness. I needed someone or something to tell me that life was worth living and that everything would be OK. I found that when I first saw the video for “MMMBop”. These teenagers were having so much fun playing and singing that I wanted what they had: happiness. I didn’t realize it then, but I had discovered the true meaning of MMMBop and Hanson’s music became something that I needed to hold onto.
As I started on this new musical journey I began to feel like I was worth something. My feelings of worthlessness and nothingness went away and I began to feel truly happy. I was able to finally be the person I longed to be. I quickly made friends with people in the community with whom I am still friends with today. I met my best friend through pen paling. I don’t remember the details but I must have seen something on Hanson’s website on the forums about people pen paling and decided to write a few of them. I started writing letters to people regularly and became very immersed in pen paling and the Hanson fan culture. I had pen pals from all over the world. We would send not only Hanson merchandise to each other that you couldn’t get from the country you were from but other culture related things such as food, clothes, and books. One day I got a friendship book made up of little pieces of paper that is sent through the mail from person to person. Everyone involved adds their address and a little something about themselves on each page. The friendship book I got was filled with Hanson fans so I knew I would be able to bond with any of them. I read through the pages and one that caught my eye was a girl from Pennsylvania. We seemed to have the most in common so I wrote her a letter and a week later, got a response. We instantly became friends and continued to write letters for several years until I traveled to Pennsylvania and we met in person. We have always dreamed of going to a Hanson concert together but it hasn’t happened yet.
Hanson’s music is almost like my religion. Their music is a part of me. It’s something I need to survive and something that has helped shape my life and the person I am today. Each of their albums represents a different period in time for me. Middle Of Nowhere came out when I was young and didn’t want to be in this world. Many songs from that album have become anthems for my life. “With You In Your Dreams” helped me through my grandfather’s passing and I cry every time I hear that song. “Weird” got me through High School because it showed me that everyone is a little weird and that living in a cookie cutter world would be boring. This Time Around came out when I was about to graduate High School and enter the real world. The songs were fun and provided an escape when I needed a break from reality. Underneath an album about the weight of everything crashing down on you and still having the strength to overcome it all was the perfect outlet I needed to overcome the struggles of college and life at the time. The Walk album gave me a new outlook on life. Many of the songs are about finding hope and wanting to change. I was living with my dad at the time and he told me I had to leave and that I had three days to move out. I was mad and sad at first. I didn’t understand why he was kicking me out. I turned on The Walk and the songs gave me such hope that I knew everything would be OK and not even twenty four hours later I had found a new place to live with wonderful roommates. Shout It Out was there when I was going through a divorce and becoming a new mother. The songs provided the joy I needed to believe that I could be a single mother and that I didn’t need anybody to help me. And finally, Anthem came at a time when I was feeling confident about my life, and the album provided the joyful music I needed.
Going to a Hanson show is like coming home because the fan community is home. All of us fans have grown up with the music and each other. The journey begins long before the lights go down, when tickets go on sale. My friends and I all make plans to buy tickets and discuss which shows we are going to attend. The day starts early as Hanson fans are known for lining up early and camping out on the sidewalk. I know that sounds terrible. WRONG! Camping out on the sidewalk brings us fans together. The camping out on the sidewalk is always a highlight for me; I get to catch up with all my friends I only see when Hanson go on tour. Together, we share stories of past concert experiences and the excitement and anticipation of the show to come. We make new friends and strengthen the bonds with the ones we already have. The fans have come together and started a number system for while we are waiting in line. We put numbers on our hands so that we can come and go from the line and not lose our place. While standing in line I have seen some unusual things. I was once handed doughnuts by a stranger. A homeless girl asked us if were homeless or if we were just mocking the homeless.
One of my favorite stories took place in Seattle in 2008 on “The Walk Around The World Tour” when I had won the role of fan club reporter for the show. The fan club reporter gets to interview the band, take pictures of the show and, when it’s all over, write a review which is then posted on Hanson’s website. I found out months before the show that I had won and was shocked. I never thought in a million years that I would have been given the opportunity to meet Hanson. I even doubled checked the e-mail to make sure that it was supposed to be sent to me. Someone on Hanson’s team chooses ten people to win meet-and-greets from a pool of us who have submit our names. Nine people get regular meet-and-greet passes and one lucky winner gets to be fan club reporter. I was provided with special instructions for the meet-and-greet and interview. I spent several months coming up with questions, which proved to be harder than I thought but, I prepared seven questions and hoped for the best. I was so excited the night before that I only got three hours of sleep and woke up hours before I was supposed to meet my friends at the venue. I showed up to the venue super early in the morning. I was hoping to meet my friends but instead was greeted by a few fans who had showed up just a few minutes before. I knew I had a long day ahead of me and my nerves were already getting the best of me. The nerves only got worse as the day went on. Finally, it was time for the meet-and-greet. I walked in with the other winners and to see Hanson standing only a few feet away from me. I was so nervous but I walked right up to Isaac and shook his hand, then moved on down the line to Taylor, and finally, Zac. The other winners followed suit. We took group pictures and then I was left alone with Hanson. They led me up some stairs to a room with a couch and some tables. I sat down on the couch, followed by Isaac. As soon I sat down I blurted out “Wow the couch is more comfortable than the sidewalk.” I got the most confused look from Isaac as he said “I hope so.” I was so embarrassed, and I’m sure my face turned multiple shades of red. I managed to compose myself and finish the interview. Finally getting the chance to tell Hanson how much their music changed my life and getting to talk to them about their music was a surreal moment in my life that I will cherish forever.
Deep down, I knew that Blake and I wouldn’t get along but ignored the feeling because I wanted to go to Hanson Day and needed a roommate. The rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath started the night before I was set to leave for Tulsa. I had started to pack and I had to stop several times to calm down.
After a six hour plane ride I finally made it to Tulsa, OK for my first Hanson Day. Still having some anxiety I wandered outside to meet Blake. We make our way to the hotel and then decide to go explore Tulsa. I remember thinking that Tulsa felt open like the way Montana feels, with big sky and open spaces, despite being a huge city, I never felt like I was in a huge city. The hot sun felt good on my skin and I wished I could have stayed there. Blake and I didn’t make it very far before we got lost and had to use the GPS on our phones to get back to the hotel.
The next day there were band lectures, group pictures, and fan club dinners. The group pictures were first. We waited in line for several hours and the moment I walked into Cain’s Ballroom I felt like a teenager all over again. I barely kept it together. Isaac reaches his hand for me to shake and the minute we touch a feeling of overwhelming excitement runs through me. I am then greeted by Taylor and then Zac and the excitement only gets worse and I almost start to giggle like a schoolgirl. I manage to compose myself and find a place to stand for the photo right next to Zac. The guy taking the picture says smile and then it’s over. I walk back out only to be blinded by the sunlight and thinking OMG I just met Hanson. I then get in another line for the band lectures. The excitement I was feeling only got worse as the hours went by. The time seem to pass slowly and I thought we would never be let in for lectures.
Walking into the ballroom for the lectures, I took a minute to take it all in. Looking around the room and seeing all these Hanson fans in one place was amazing and took my breath away. Everyone was rushing to find seats. It was complete chaos. Taylor’s lecture was titled “Song Stories.” He invited five fans on stage to share their story about a song before telling us his story about the song. The first girl talked about “With You In Your Dreams” and how that song reminded her of her grandmother who passed away. Looking up at stage and listening to the fans tell their stories filled me with a sense of gratitude for the band. Not only for the music, but also for the community and the unspoken understanding we all shared as a fandom. Isaac’s lecture was titled “Inside This Time Around.” He broke down the songs on the album by playing the tracks of each song separately, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the songs. Zac’s lecture, titled “Drop Your Digital Pants”, consisted of him recording a song called “Signs of Life” live on-stage. The lyrics came via suggestions from fans. Zac was having so much dancing and singing on stage and the fans got to sing on the song. Now when I hear the song I get to say I sang with Zac Hanson.
The next day was the member only concert which was the highlight of the weekend. We were treated to rare songs from EPs and fan favorites from albums both past and present. The energy from the band was great and the crowd was equally happy to be there. After the concert, the band hosted an after party where we danced the night away. The last day was the band’s beer and music festival, called “Hop Jam”. There was great music and tons of beer. Hanson also performed a kick-ass show to thousands of people who filled the streets of Tulsa. The energy from the crowd was something I had never experienced before. Standing on the street in Hanson’s home town with thousands of fans from all over world singing and dancing to the music we grew up with is an indescribable moment.
Sitting in Caz’s restaurant, eating dinner during Hanson Day, we turn around to see Taylor attempt to walk down the stairs. He takes the first step and almost falls over. He stops himself, looks around to make sure no one is watching, notices me and Blake, and smiles. He attempts the next step. Not happening. He misses and ends up two stairs down. He takes another look around while Blake and I are laughing so hard. Taylor smiles and tries to go down the stairs again. Still not having any luck he stops again. Blake and I have started to wonder if he was drunk. He makes it down the stairs, walks over to our table, smiles and says “Hello.” As he starts to walk away, Blake stops him and says she has a question. Blake was concerned that her member EP was broken. She starts shaking the cd near Taylor’s ear and says “can you hear that” Taylor gave her the most confused look. Blake continued to shake her CD in his ear. Finally he says “Open it right here and, if it’s broken, I will make sure you get another one.” Blake opens the cd to find it is not broken. Taylor smiles and walks away.
“It’s OK she’s a Hanson fan, everything will be alright,” I said to my family and friends when I decided to go on a week long road trip following Hanson around on tour in 2013 with Michelle who I had met on Hanson.net. My family and friends thought I was crazy but I wanted to see Hanson and nothing was stopping me. Michelle and I had talked online for several months before we met in person.
I walked right up to her and said “Hey” before getting into her car and driving off to find some lunch. That was the most awkward lunch because we didn’t know each other that well and I think we were both a little unsure of how the trip was going to pan out. However, we knew we had an appreciation for Hanson in common, so we talked about them. I had followed the band consistently while she had fallen away from them, always coming back over and over again. She heard they were going on tour and wanted to check them out again. After lunch we started our three hour drive to Portland,OR. We blasted music and sang our little hearts out and laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. I knew this was going to be start of a wonderful friendship and that this was going to be an epic road trip.
We roll up to her house and crash on the couch, waking up bright and early the next morning. Not wasting any time, we get ready and rush to the venue. It was pouring down rain and , silly us, we forgot the umbrellas. We stand in line for over two hours before it dawns on us go get an umbrella. Right before doors open, a DJ for a radio station rolls up and we start chatting with her. We talk her into giving us meet-and-greet passes that had gone unclaimed by their original winners. The meet-and-greet goes well and the concert was wonderful.
Our trip also took us to Seattle and Vancouver, BC. where the fun didn’t stop. In Seattle, Michelle almost passed out from the heat inside the venue and spent much of the concert outside. Nothing major just a little over-heating. In Vancouver, Michelle lost her car keys and she had to get new keys made. We were stuck in Canada for more time than we wanted but, we made it home in one piece and with newfound friendships.
Today not only marks twenty years of me being a Hanson fan, but twenty years of shouting out loud, building friendships, holding on to the people who really matter, traveling all over the United States, camping out on sidewalks, taking mile-long walks with bare feet, discovering who I truly am, and believing in myself. Hanson’s music not only showed me how to believe in myself but also to passionately love all music, which has helped me discover many wonderful artists. If it wasn’t for Hanson’s music I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough to want to live, and wouldn’t be alive to write this