10 July 2008

In defence of my adolescence : Hanson, Northampton, MA, 25/4/08

On stage with SK6ERS. The Calvin, Northampton, MA. Yeah, it's a little craptastic.

I was twelve once. We all were. We all went through that phase. Twelve-year-olds aren’t exactly known for their taste and sophistication. Case in point: my life at age twelve largely revolved around the Spice Girls, much like every other girl my age. I haven’t made this a secret at all; in fact, I finally got to see the Spice Girls in concert in February (knocking off one of those “life goals” in the process). My mom went to the show with me and likes to joke that it was like watching a MasterCard commercial: “Three tickets: $400. Two hot dogs and a soda: $15. Watching your 22-year-old daughter become a 12-year-old again: Priceless.”

Not exactly the shining example of “good taste in music.” Then again, you can’t just deny the fact that the Spice Girls are the number one girl pop group in pretty much history, broke a bunch of records previously set by the likes of the Beatles when they were all about my age, or ignore the societal impact that they had, especially in the UK. (It was a bit of a shock to go over there and discover that they are all very much still in the public eye, versus here where everyone just sort of forgot they existed until Mel B was on Dancing with the Stars.)

Anyway, this article isn’t really about the Spice Girls. When I wasn’t tacking up posters of those saucy ladies or striking peace sign poses in the mirror, I was tacking up posters and dreaming of those Hanson brothers. Oh, yes, Hanson. Those homegrown Hanson kids who started playing their own stuff at like, eight years old, were the antithesis of the concocted and calculated Spice Girls. I had a crush on Taylor. My best friend had a crush on Zac. Believe it or not, I lost my Concert Virginity at a Hanson concert at the Meadowlands in 1997 and that night, had a dream that I’d made out with Taylor backstage.

So when Hanson came around supporting their new record, The Walk, this spring, just a few months after I’d seen the Spice Girls, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go, especially since they were playing about 15 minutes from where I was living. Oh, what’s that you say? You didn’t know Hanson had released a new record? Well, nobody else did, either! That’s because everybody still thinks they’re eleven years old and have long hair and squeaky voices. In fact, The Walk is their third release post-“Mmmbop” days, following 2000’s This Time Around and 2004’s Underneath. Bet you didn’t know that, either.

Which isn’t to say that I'm still in “crazy fangirl” mode. I moved on from that phase a long time ago. Nevertheless, crazy Hanson fangirls still exist to this day! I experienced this firsthand when I stayed with a friend last spring and had her three roommates drooling over Hanson videos and singing Hanson songs and debating about whether or not they’d sleep with Taylor Hanson if he was their father (I kid you not) for about five days on end. I knew what I was up against. I am no longer on the top of the fangirl pile.

It was still a bit of a shock to walk into the Calvin Theatre in the middle of opener and hometown-favourites Steven Kellog and the Sixer’s set (excellent band, by the way, highly recommended) and find the entire auditorium filled with screaming girls. All of whom were my age. And still acting like they were 12. I’m really not kidding about this. (I’d like to attribute large portion of that craziness to alcohol, because we’re all of age now, though I can’t be sure.) It was also a bit of a shock to be seeing Hanson again in such a small venue – remember, last time I’d seen them, it was at the Meadowlands. (In an ironic twist of fate, I’d been to the Meadowlands just two months prior to see the Spice Girls, although I had infinitely better seats for the Spice Girls show.) Oh, how times have changed.

It was also a humbling experience – out of the entire set, I knew about three songs by heart: “A Minute Without You” from 1997’s Middle of Nowhere, an acoustic version of “Mmmbop” (of course), and maybe one or two other songs that I vaguely recognised. Remember how I said they’ve released three records since their domination in the late ‘90s? Yeah, I only have one of them. To be sitting at a Hanson concert where I didn’t know every single word to every song was a very bizarre experience. Twelve-year-old me would have been ashamed. (Sorry, Me.)

But it was also a very enjoyable. First off, those kids played for two hours straight with an enviable amount of energy, bouncing between acoustic and electric and having a good ol’ time onstage. I’ve been to rock shows with some of these indie darlings where the headliner has given up in well under that amount of time. To boot, the past ten years have done nothing but improve their skills. Shit, man, those boys can play! Don’t ever say that they can’t. Remember “A Minute Without You”? I’d forgotten all about that song until they played it that night, and was blown away by how fucking good it sounded – better, in fact, than I remember it having sounded ten years ago. They’ve had time to tinker and learn and grown with their instruments out of the mass media’s glaring eye and it’s done them nothing but good.

Which made me realise that it’s such a shame that everybody remembers them for “Mmmbop” having annoyed everybody and the long hair and so forth. Maybe the problem is that Hanson’s success just came too soon. Maybe if they’d had the time to grow and mature and had come out not on a major label but as a little indie act, they wouldn’t get the sneering reactions they get now from those who aren’t fans. Maybe – and I’ll venture out on a limb here – they’d actually be sort of, you know, respected by people. Are they the best and most profound songwriters around? Certainly not. But I don’t think you have to be to be a good, solid pop band, and that’s exactly what they are.

So consider this my defence of those Hanson boys. Laugh all you want, I still think it’s a real shame that their big moment came and went ten years ago and isn’t happening right now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go search for a Union Jack mini-dress for Hallowe’en this year. Spice up your life, yeah!

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