Have no fear when the waters rise, we can conquer this great divide

I went to the Hanson concert last night and when I got home I was WIPED. And it wasn’t even an “OMG I’m so old I have to go to bed at nine thirty” kind of wiped, it was an “I have a terrible head cold and/or sinus infection and I want to lop off my skull to relieve some of this pressure” wiped. There were so many moments yesterday evening when I considered just forgetting about the $50 I paid for the ticket and going home, that’s how terrible I felt. If it was any other artist or band, I think I would have just gone home, but this is Hanson. I’ve loved them forever and never seen them live, and even though I’m not super into live music, I still didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity, because who knows when they’ll be back in New York?

The show was at the Nokia Theater in Times Square, and let me tell you, these are plush accommodations. One of the reasons I opted to stay was because there was theater-style seating in the back, but not so far from the stage that the guys were tiny specks. I could read during the sets and I didn’t have to stand around (I inevitably wear the wrong kind of shoes to concerts), and I could rest my head in my hands if I needed to, which is what I did.

There were two opening bands, which annoyed me, but they were both good, so that was nice. The first band, Everybody Else, was this fun pseudo-hipstery pop band from LA (I really liked “Meat Market” and “Makeup”), and the second act was this guy Dave Barnes (check out “Until You,” “Everybody But You,” and my personal favorite, “Nothing Fancy”), who was great as well. He was also HOT and self-deprecatingly funny, which made him all the more enjoyable. Thankfully, neither of those sets were overly long, and Hanson came on around 10:30 PM.

They played a pretty good mix of old and new stuff, although several of my favorite songs from their most recent album, The Walk–“Georgia,” “Fire on the Mountain,” and “Watch Over Me”, for instance–went unplayed. Still, they performed “Great Divide,” which, I decided while they were playing it, is my all-time favorite Hanson song. They also played “Been There Before,” “Blue Sky” and “Go,” and it was sort of hilarious because if you listen to the last two albums, even though Taylor is always positioned as the lead singer, they pretty much divide the lead singing evenly throughout the songs. Still, most of the songs they played at the show were Taylor songs, because I guess that’s what everybody expects. But “Go” is a very, very Zac song, and when they were gearing up to play it you could tell that the audience knew he was going to sing lead and everybody got so excited, it was adorable. I never really appreciated “Go” much before tonight, but it really is a beautiful song, so plaintive and sad, and I think I’ll listen to it more from now on.

Hm, what else did they play? They played a few new songs, including this one called “Lay Me Down” which was inspired, they said, by their trips to Africa to benefit AIDS research, when they would see all these little graves and decided to write a song about a parent losing a child. You could tell how important that song was to them, since they’re all fathers now. It was really heartbreaking and beautiful. This is what I love about Hanson–they’re so incredibly sincere with everything they do, and you can see that. There’s no artifice to them.

I can’t tell you how many people make fun of me for still listening and supporting Hanson, and it’s gotten to the point where I just smile and shrug and say, “Whatever, they’re great.” Because they ARE great. They’ve written and performed their own music since they first started, and all of their songs, including “Mmmbop,” display a level of intelligence and feeling that is so advanced for the ages at which they were writing these songs. I mean, most people don’t even know the real lyrics to “Mmmbop,” or what it’s about, which is not entirely anyone’s fault–Taylor is a really garbled singer. A little snippet: “You have so many relationships in this life / But only one or two will last / You go through all the pain and strife / You turn your back and they’re gone so fast…In an ‘mmmbop’ they’re gone.” I read once that before the music industry got their hands on it, “Mmmbop” was a slower, more contemplative song about trusting people and connecting with them and then losing them, and the uncertainty of relationships you so badly want to count on. It’s still about that, but of course more upbeat and frenetic, which is fun, too. You can get the original on iTunes–it’s on their 3 Car Garage indie album. And they did play it. And it was AWESOME.

On the same vein, can I just take a tangent for a minute and discuss how much I admire them for extracting themselves from a bad situation by breaking with their label and starting their own when Island Def Jam didn’t promote their second major studio album (This Time Around), pulled funding for their tour (which they did anyway, on their own dime), and restricted their creative freedom such that they refused 80 plus songs from them because “they felt new material lacked marketability,” according to my trusty friend Wikipedia. Which, as a writer, really grosses me out. The fact that they, at such young ages, realized that they were being treated by their label as a commodity, not as serious musicians, said, “Okay, well if that’s how it’s going to be then we’re going to go do our own thing,” and did just that is pretty amazing to me. There is a documentary about their break with Island Def Jam Records, Strong Enough to Break, available for free on iTunes. It’s named after a song off the Underneath album (their first independent release) about the process of leaving the label.

Anyway, back to the concert. They also played some really great songs from back in the day, like “Where’s the Love”and “A Minute Without You” (before “Great Divide” my favorite Hanson song) from Middle of Nowhere (the album that “Mmmbop” helped climb the charts), and “This Time Around,” “If Only,” and “Can’t Stop” from This Time Around, and “Strong Enough to Break,” “Penny and Me,” and “Hey” from Underneath. They actually ended the show with “Hey,” which was weird, but I guess it’s a high energy song with possibility for audience participation

As to appearance, Taylor is still the hottest one. Isaac has been wearing his hair in a buzz cut, and he kind of looks like John Corbet, but in a good way! And Zac…well, Zac is good-looking, they all are, but his hair needs a cut (didn’t it always though?) and he’s got some mad ugly fauxial hair going on in the chin region. He’s definitely my favorite, though, and probably always will be. They’re all really thin, though. Eat a sandwich, Hanson boys!

Just for funsies, I thought I’d post my ideal Hanson playlist. You can download all these fantastic tunes on iTunes or, well, basically anywhere else I’d guess.

1. “Great Divide” – The Walk
2. “Save Me” – This Time Around
3. “A Minute Without You” – Middle of Nowhere
4. “Lost Without Each Other” – Underneath
5. “Georgia” – The Walk
6. “Strong Enough to Break” – Underneath
7. “If Only” – This Time Around
8. “With You In Your Dreams” – Middle of Nowhere
9. “Penny and Me” – Underneath
10. “Fire on the Mountain” – The Walk
11. “This Time Around” – This Time Around
12. “Madeline” – Middle of Nowhere
13. “Get Up and Go” – Underneath
14. “Watch Over Me” – The Walk
15. “Mmmbop” – Middle of Nowhere
16. “Been There Before” – The Walk
17. “Where’s the Love” – Middle of Nowhere
18. “Love Song” – This Time Around
19. “Yearbook” – Middle of Nowhere*
20. “Go” – The Walk
21. “Optimistic” – The Best of Hanson, Live and Electric

This is getting long, so I’m not going to gush about all the philanthropy and donating and activism they do, but do check out their website if you want to know about that and how you can help.

*Do me a favor: go to the website and listen to this on the 10th anniversary acoustic re-recording of Middle of Nowhere they did last year and I DARE YOU to tell me it doesn’t give you chills. This song reminds me so much of All Unquiet Things; I listened to it over and over and over again while I was writing the manuscript last year. Just replace “Johnny” with “Carly” and it’s almost a perfect match.

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Ready? Let’s roll.

Like I said last week, since I moved to New York I’ve been inundated with music suggestions from every corner, which is totally awesome. A few days ago my friend Nikki emailed us all, ecstatic about the fact that one of her favorite Austin artists was playing a show in New York and inviting us all to come along. I went into this concert totally blind–er, deaf, I guess–because yesterday I didn’t even have time to listen to the artist’s music on MySpace or anything…I just bought my ticket and then headed out at 6:15 to meet the ladies for drinks and dinner at Nancy’s Whiskey Pub in TriBeCa. If you come to New York, you must visit Nancy’s, if only because the beers are $2.50 and the bartender is KERAZY!

Anyway, eventually we headed down to the Knitting Factory to see Bob Schneider. Let me tell you, I felt instantly at home. Why? Because, as I learned, a Bob Schneider show is basically a frat party. Thinking back to the last few shows I’ve been to, other than City Breathing every one of them (Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara) has been, if not “girly”, then at least attended by a larger proportion of women than men. Tegan & Sara–all chicks, seriously, even though the hardest core Tegan & Sara fan I know is a guy. So it was a little strange to be surrounded by drunk straight guys who kept screaming at Bob to run his fingers through his hair and stuff.

Schneider’s music is sort of an eclectic mix. I’m sure he (and his fans) would be offended by nearly all of these comparisons, but he reminded me at various points of Jason Mraz, John Mayer and Dave Matthews, but with an edge (read: swearing and sexual content) that none of these performers usually display. Actually, the artist he most reminded me of was the Getaway People, the now-defunct Norwegian band I was obsessed with for quite a while in late high school/early college. The sad thing about the show was that all my favorite songs–the GP, rap-sounding ones–are unavailable on his albums, to my knowledge. Schneider had a couple of crowd-pleasing numbers, including the “sing-a-long” song “Tarantula” and “Sons of Ralph”, which he played last and is totally the FRAT BOY THEME SONG with its references to puking and drinking and having sex. I really enjoyed the classic “The King of the World” and two unreleased tracks (which you can buy off MySpace), “Ready Let’s Roll” and “The Assknocker.” If anybody was at the show and bought the live CD (my feet were so cramped up and we were so tired that we just booked it home after the show; the Knitting Factory is mercifully close to my train), please post the song list (or the songs, if you’re feeling frisky) on the internets so I can know what they all were…my very sketchy method of just going through his MySpace and iTunes, trying to remember which songs I liked, isn’t working very well.

(Oh, and another way the show was like a frat party? Everyone was really really disrespectful of the space, and lots of times of other people. Like, halfway through the show Cambria realized that someone had put empty beer bottles in her tote bag. I actually thought that was pretty funny, but she was grumpy so I tried not to die laughing.)

A coworker / Her friend / Then me

This has nothing to do with writing or publishing or what have you, but I’m going to see Rilo Kiley on June 2. I’ve never seen them before, and they’re playing at Terminal 5, where I’ve never been before, so this should be exciting. Don’t love it that it’s on a Monday, but that’s probably better, and anyway I saw Tegan & Sara on a Monday and got home before midnight so it shouldn’t be a bother.