Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Catching the Hanson Bug on Pictures Day

PICTURES DAY

Traditionally, the fourth and final day of BTTI is Pictures Day, i.e. when you get the unique opportunity to have a professional picture taken with all three brothers, and if you’re lucky and determined enough, have a 30 seconds chat with them. It’s not really a Meet & Greet but with over 400 fans attending, it’s a good as it gets.

Let’s be honest: most of us plan maniacally for Pictures Day. I doubt that the majority of fans are delusional enough to be trying to impress the guys; the reason for all the preparation is that, as we all know, once the photos are up on the HNET gallery, everybody in the fan base will be pouring over them for days and weeks. And you don’t really want to be the Worst Dressed Fan of BTTI 2018, do you? And so, every year, we prepare, carefully choosing The Right Outfit, accessories, shoes, hair and even shapewear (the latter, by the way, is torture in the tropical heat).

A constant on Pictures Day is the weather. According to BTTI law, Pictures Day will inevitably be the hottest, sunniest, most infernally humid day of the four-day vacation. This year was no different, and in marked contrast to the monsoon-like weather that we’d had since landing in Jamaica several days prior, we woke up to a very hot Pictures Day morning, with the sun threatening to poke its face through the rapidly thinning clouds. As I stepped out on the porch, I instantly began to sweat. Yes, it was Pictures Day alright.

I’d had my Picture outfit planned for months. In a stroke of luck, I’d found a flamingos print dress online early in the year, and had the sense to buy it before it sold out (flamingos are the new unicorns). So once all the make-up was applied and a futile attempt to de-frizz my hair was complete, I joined my friends by the side of the pool, close to the gazebo-like island where the photos would be taken and where a long queue of fans had already formed.

Hanson weren’t even there yet, and none of us felt like standing in line for hours, so I sat at the Level bar with Howra, who was wearing a flower print dress. The sun was breaking through the clouds and we wanted to sit in the shade with our bottles of water in an effort to sweat as little as possible through our picture outfits.

Within minutes, however, a very large beetle-like insect began to fly around us. We waved it away, but within seconds, it was back, circling around us even more insistently. 
“It’s as big as a helicopter” I yelled, jumping out of my seat. 
Evicted from our nice, shaded spot, we moved to a pair of loungers by the poolside. But no sooner had we found a new spot, than the fiendish creature was after us again, its drone-like buzz getting closer, louder and more menacing. With the bug now inches away from our faces, Howra and I sprang up from our seats again and sprinted away in opposite directions, screaming like characters in Scooby-Doo, as the fans in line watched us bemused.

An accurate representation of Howra and I running from the bug

This went on for several minutes. during which we’d occasionally pause for breath, hoping that the monstrous thing would desist, only for the chase to start all over again, and once again, our demented dance would resume, amidst our increasingly shrill cries. Then, just as the bug had landed on a sun lounger, a waitress from the bar walked towards us, carrying a large beach towel. Amidst fits of laughter, with one deft strike she whacked the insect, sending it tumbling several feet away on the paved floor.

We looked at her in awe.
“That’s what they do,” the waitress said, still laughing. “They pick on someone and won’t leave them alone. They don’t sting but they can dig their claws on your skin. He must have been attracted by your clothes.” she added, eyeing our dresses. Of course - I thought. Howra’s dress had a flower pattern, and the beetle must have mistaken my pink flamingos for some flowers: it thought we were food. I did feel sorry for the poor creature’s premature end, but on the other hand, I really didn’t fancy the idea of those claws on my skin - not before my $3,000 picture with Hanson.

The Bug

Picture time came and went, in the usual ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ style. When I let Taylor know that he’d played two songs out of three from my wishlist, he asked me what the third one was.
“Carry You There”, I said.
“Oh,” Taylor said, nonchalantly. “That was actually on my solo setlist.”
"Oh." I was not impressed to hear that that pesky Hanson brother had skipped one of my favourite songs. “I should throw you in the pool, then.” I said. But Taylor was already turning toward the camera, perma-grin firmly place, and I don’t think he heard me. 
That was probably for the best.

Is Taylor laughing at my feet?
 ISAAC SOLO SET

A confession: until now, I was under the mistaken impression that Isaac’s set this year was mostly made up of mushy ballads that all merged into one. But looking back at the setlist, it's clear that my memory betrays me: after a rare performance of ‘Every Day”, a very energetic rendition of “River” followed. Next was “Hand in Hand” - a song which I’m always glad to hear, although I think it sounds better with a full band. “Smile” brought back the usual mention of a previous BTTI when Isaac got “Smile” and “Sometimes” mixed up, and “Leave the Light On” is always a crowd pleaser - one of those good, solid Isaac leads that you can sing along to. There was a made-up on-the-spot song about Jamaica, followed by a new song, “Missing, Needing, Wanting You”. The latter falls into the ‘sappy ballad’ category, just like the next track, “A Life Without You”,  a song that Isaac wrote at 14. It was first dusted off for BTTI 2016, and has become a feature of his solo lists ever since - one of the two songs he plays on the piano (the other being “More Than Anything” - which he’d played as a solo at the Members’ show).



The set ended with “Lonely Again” - something I’d been hoping to hear for a long time, and one of those typical Hanson songs with sombre lyrics disguised within an upbeat tempo and an infectious chorus. Isaac himself said something along the lines of “you can never have too many “sha na nas” in a song” - and who can disagree with that? It was an apt closing to a perfectly good if somewhat predictable set; Isaac turned up on time, wasn’t too drunk and didn’t let fans hijack the set with their requests. But it wasn’t the heartfelt performance he gave last year, and it wasn’t the upbeat, crowd winning solo set of 2015 - my favourite Isaac solo set out four BTTIs I’ve been to date. But that’s okay - every year a different brother surprises me through his solo set; 2015 was Isaac, 2016 was Zac and 2017 was a close call between all three. This year, the winner was Taylor (and not because of his impromptu swim).
Isaac Solo Setlist

Like many fans, I hadn’t been overly impressed to hear that “Singles” had been voted as one of the three BTTI themes, although I still favoured that over a Christmas set. Hanson have such an extensive discography that it seems a bit of a shame to use up a whole night of BTTI for singles, especially considering that there haven’t been many of those in the last few years. 

Despite my initial reservations, I enjoyed the Singles show, not least thanks to Hanson’s unusually tight performance - as glitch-free a concert as I’d ever witnessed at BTTI, where unpredictability rules. The choice of setlist helped, as in addition to the inevitable appearance of “Where’s the Love” and “Get the Girl Back”, we got treated to more obscure should-have-been-singles and B-sides releases, such as “Every Word I Say” and “Deeper” (as everybody probably knows by now, the latter was the song through which I discovered Hanson). 

It was fun to hear Hanson’s only recent single, 2017’s “I Was Born” get the BTTI improv treatment and become “The Ballad of the Baby Turtles” when, for the second consecutive night, the little reptiles decided to hatch on the beach; “don’t underestimate the sting of a baby turtle”, sang Taylor, instantly creating a new Fanson Fad for anything turtle-themed.

The Singles Show

One notable change from previous BTTIs was the final performance of ‘Back to The Island”. It had become tradition for the musical guests to join Hanson on stage for a group rendition of the song, but this year, by Day 4 both Stephen Kellogg and Chris Carrabba had left. Did Hanson, who are known to be extremely parsimonious, try to cut costs by only paying for the guests to stay until the night they were due to play? That would never happen, right?

Breaking from the singles theme, the set ended with two covers - The Darkness “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, which is always a hit with the Zac girls, and a repeat of AC/DC’s “(You Shook Me) All Night Long” - which they had already played on the first show. Personally, as I’m not a fan of either song, and considering that one had already been played, I would have chosen something else to choose the final show, but as usual, I’m nit-picking. The final show certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Singles Show Setlist

Afterwards, once Hanson had left the stage and the lights had gone out, I once again had a strange feeling, very different from the usual Post Concert Depression; a feeling that, although BTTI was now over, it hadn’t even happened at all. As Howra kept saying, BTTI 2018 was like a storyline from LOST. We were on the island, but it wasn’t really the island as we knew it: it was all a little bit weird.

It's the island, man!

Anyway, there was still one event to go through…

TAYLOR’S DANCE PARTY

There’s really not much I can say about the ‘dance party’ other than I barely paid attention to it. This year, the party took place on the stage in the middle of the square, where the resort’s entertainment team did their daily performances. In that respect, the location was an upgrade from previous years, when it was held in the buffet: more street party, less budget cruise ship. At one point, some of the male dancers from the entertainment team got on stage, where they provocatively gyrated for a few minutes before Taylor saw sense and sent them packing.

A Jamaican Street Party
But really, it was more of the same - Taylor on stage, fans surrounding the stage gawping at Taylor, fans handing Taylor shots which he always tries to refuse and then inevitably ends up accepting: and who can blame him? Surrounded by fans, he needs all the help he can get.

Unlike last year, Zac and Isaac were nowhere to be seen - I can only guess that they felt they’d already paid their dues by turning up on the first night. And again unlike last year, this time I wasn’t anywhere near inebriated enough to enjoy Taylor’s choice of music.



So I chatted with friends, took photos with people, and just milled around. Towards the end, we went to watch the action from the far side of the barrier. Soon, it was clear that Taylor was about to leave, triggering the Hanson Gravitational Pull Phenomenon: our previously empty spot suddenly filled with fans, many of whom were sipping a drink and acting casual, as if just passing by. If you’re into people-watching, that’s quite an amusing dynamic to observe.

Once Taylor had been ushered away, the assembled crowd of fans slowly dispersed; the bar closed; the resort went back to its weird vibe of a Caribbean Disneyland crossed with one of those American ghost towns you see in old Westerns. Through hidden speakers, crickets chirped and green tree frogs croaked - stubbornly keeping up that tropical rainforest illusion for one more night.

And that was it - BTTI 2018 was over. Nothing had been missed out - we’d had all of our shows, our activities and our pictures. In one way or another, Hanson and Island Gigs had managed to deliver everything they’d promised, and they’d done a great job considering the circumstances.
The weather couldn’t be helped, but there were a few issues that maybe could have been avoided, and which certainly contributed to making this BTTI a little less amazing than its predecessors. And out of the four BTTIs I’ve attended so far, 2018 is going straight to the bottom of the list for me.

Did I still have fun? Of course: when you are with the right people, you can always make the most of any situation. The food was good, the music was great, and we were away from the daily grind of our real lives at home. And now, the memory of wading through the quagmire or drinking shots of Grand Marnier to keep warm at the swim-up bar will keep us going for another 12 months, until we are ready to do it all over again. 

So I guess I’ll see you next year, and let’s hope it’s in Jamaica.

The Quagmire
On the Sky Explorer at Mystic Mountain (L-R: Howra, me, Ingela and Nilene)
Mango Daiquiris with Ingela and Kelly

My Favourite BTTI 2018 Moments:

To hear “World’s on Fire” and “These Walls” with Kelly; pool volleyball; mango daiquiris; our trip to Mystic Mountain; the dessert counter.

My Least Favourite BTTI 2018 Moments:

The Monsoon; the concerts in the greenhouse; the selfie hunters at Tie Dye; some of the resort staff; putting on several pounds with every visit to the aforementioned dessert counter.

Hopes and Dreams for BTTI 2019

Going back to the Jewel; a selfies ban during organised activities; to hear “Carry You There”; Butch Walker on Guests Night.

L-R: Howra, Kasey, me, Ingela and Kelly. Oh, and Hanson in the background.

Back to the Island is an annual event for Hanson.net fanclub members organised by Hanson and Island Gigs. Details of the 2018 event just gone can be found here.

3 comments:

  1. A++ use of the Scooby Doo gif! I'm glad you survived the bug incident. Your ending is also so true-- "when you are with the right people, you can always make the most of any situation."

    Now let's hope for next year to be the right people, the right weather, and the right location!

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  2. I think it's impossible not to have a good time at BTTI, really. But when you've been before and had such a fantastic experience (like, 2017), it's hard not to compare. Fingers crossed for 2019...!

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  3. I love all the details and stories in your recaps (and not just because I’m a “character” this year)! You give a thoughtful, funny, unvarnished account of these events that definitely helps preserve the memories. The weather this year was a BEAR (I’m including my snowstorm travel woes in that assessment) and as you noted in a previous post, some fans’ behavior consistently leaves a lot to be desired. I also feel like having new music/changing up set list themes from year to year would make me more inclined to come back every year. But 2018 ultimately delivered on the great music and great friends (and, of course, mango daiquiris). Thanks for these great posts!

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