I got home from Mexico last Sunday, January 11th and I have been thinking about how to put this trip into words the entire week. First of all, I have to thank my friends who essentially talked me into going. I know, I know, crazy I had to be talked into going to the beach with my favorite band… but I wasn’t sure the cost could be justified.
Holy crap was I wrong.
Not only was this trip worth the money, it was one of the funnest, most memorable trips I’ve ever been on. Being a Hanson fan more than half of my life, since I was 11 when they came out, this was like Hanson Summer Camp… or, maybe even Hanson Spring Break.
Backing up for a second — we spent the first 3 days in Riviera Maya at the Catalonia resort in Puerto Aventuras. We went on an excursion which took us snorkeling, cliff jumping, ziplining and swimming in two different cenotes, we drank fruity drinks on the beach and at swim-up bars, we laid in bean bag chairs by the water, hung out in Playa Del Carmen, and just overall had an awesome time. I never thought I’d ever jump off a cliff into an open cenote or swim in a cave, but this trip brought on those new adventures and the adrenaline rush was awesome.
Onto the Hanson portion of the trip… BTTI DAY ONE:
The first day we got to Golden Parnassus in Cancun I was taken aback by how turquoise the water was there–and by the size of the waves. Our resort wasn’t exactly how I imagined based on the photos I saw from the last two “Back to the Island” events in Jamaica. The resort they stayed on last time was more laid out and just overall bigger–this resort in Cancun was much more confined and I’m still not sure if that was better or worse. Either way, our room was on the first floor which was super convenient, and we had ocean view which was amazing.
There was a big banner hanging in the lobby that said “HANSON Back to the Island” which everyone immediately snapped pictures of. This entire resort was booked out by Hanson’s event. AKA: NO HATERS ALLOWED.
We spent the first day playing beer pong in the pool and at one point the DJ played “MMMBop”. I mean, come on you guys. This was why I kept calling it Hanson Spring Break. So much fun. We ran into so many people and pretty much attacked Nat and Jess when they arrived and walked down the stairs from the lobby to the pool.
For the first time in my Hanson fandom life I was able to watch them do a soundcheck (since the stage was just out in the open obviously). It was semi-entertaining but mostly just a bucket list thing to do. After about 20 minutes of watching soundcheck we ran back to our room to get ready and go to dinner. Jess, Nat and I went to the “Old Barn” restaurant and got steaks (fancy). After dinner, we made our way down to the stage and got some drinks on the way.
The first show of the trip was the “Welcome to the Island” set which Hanson picked their own setlist for. It was basically a compilation of all of their “hits” along with some random ones we don’t hear quite as much. This set was really high energy and everyone was having an awesome time. The wind was blowing off of the water like crazy and at one point I realized it almost felt like you were flying. To stand there in the sand right by the water watching a show was like something out of a dream. Hanson of course noticed the crazy wind too and came up with a “song” about sand being in every crevice of your body, entitled “Sand in My Crevice”. Of course we sang it the rest of the trip.
BTTI DAY TWO:
Thursday was a jam-packed day since we had activities with Zac and Isaac, then solo sets from Zac and Isaac, followed by the “Christmas on the Island” concert. We started out the day by snapping photos on our balcony and then heading down to the resort’s indoor theater for Mexican pottery painting hosted by Zac. When we walked in, we could pick a nick-nack (that’s still a word right?) from a huge assortment. Emily picked a seahorse, Margo picked a little box with a fish on the lid, and I went with a little whale. We found seats and Zac came out to tell us he’d be painting too and would walk around to see how ours was going.
When Zac finally made his rounds to our table, he walked over with the weirdest looking dog sculpture ever and this look of pride on his face. We looked back at it in confusion and said “that’s…nice”, to which he replied “you guys don’t have to lie to me”. Ha! We chit chatted a little with him before he ran over to the next table. He spent a little too long at some of the tables in the front and I think was trying to make up time before the event was over and at least say hi to each table left. Here’s my whale and Zac’s mutant dog which he named “Zac’s Mistake”:
After the pottery painting we pretty much went immediately into Isaac’s Mixology event. You could tell he put a TON of thought and research into the whole thing. I was expecting him to have someone from the resort, perhaps a skilled bartender, doing the majority of the drink making and him just sort of following along, but that was not the case. He told us all kinds of factoids about the origination of certain drinks and how the names of certain cocktails came about. He made a few drinks, broke a few glasses, and talked a LOT. He brought a few fans up to help him and had this one girl read the recipe for a cocktail from his phone. Turns out, the recipe was missing one of the major ingredients. As he was about to throw it out, some of the fans in the front asked him if they could have it anyway, and proceeded to pass it around. When it came to us we continued passing it along. No thanks.
We left Isaac’s Mixology event a little early to head outside for Zac’s solo show. I will say, this schedule was a little too close for comfort at some points. I found Nat outside and had a few margaritas. Gotta love the all-inclusive factor. It was SO nice outside at that point, too. Seriously a beautiful day. Zac’s set was short but sweet. He played about 8 songs, I think. I was excited to hear “Bittersweet” and have a newfound love for “Wait Here For You” which has never been played live. I can’t believe I never realized what a great song that is. Now that I’m home, I can’t stop listening to it.
After Zac’s set we had a little break before Isaac’s. I have to admit, I was so pleasantly surprised at the hilarity and entertainment of Isaac Hanson solo. The setlist was on point and he had NO problem making fun of himself. These girls in the back were yelling for him to play a really old song called “Sometimes”. Finally he attempted to play it and got himself all worked up and ready, only to start playing “Smile” instead. We were seriously confused, and it took Isaac until the end of the second verse to realize it was the wrong song. THAT was hilarious. Even more hilarious that “Smile” is a Taylor lead. He also played “Two Tears” which is super old and everyone sang out the Taylor parts of the song in what I like to call “baby Taylor voice”, which really made Isaac laugh. “FROM MINE! TWO TEARS FALL!”
Overall, it was cool to see them each do some songs solo. You got a better sense of their personalities, especially Isaac. We all went to dinner together before the next full band “Christmas on the Island” concert. Hanson released a Christmas album back in 1997 (or 98) and has never really played much of it live. Fans were asking them for years and they finally decided to do a Christmas show for this event. People went all out with props and Santa hats and some fans even draped themselves in Christmas lights like the cover of Snowed In.
The Christmas set began with about 8 of the songs from Snowed In, followed by an a cappella version of one of my favorite covers, “Too Much Heaven” by the Bee Gees. They then told us that they were going to play a bunch of their favorite songs that they didn’t write, which launched the majority of the rest of the show into a covers set. I. Was. Dying. They played “Gimme Some Lovin'” which basically made us all feel 12 again, “In a Little While” which was one of my favorite covers from the 2005 Live & Electric Tour, “Oh Darlin” which is… well, I don’t even have words for how good of a cover that is. Hanson is just a such an awesome cover band and I’ve always wanted them to do a covers set. This wasn’t a full concert of covers, but close enough that my heart was super happy.
It was during this show that they announced that the schedule would be changing around a little and told us what the big “secret” was. We knew we were set to “depart resort” for the final show but weren’t exactly sure where we’d be going. Turns out, we were going to Isla Mujeres, an island off of the coast of Mexico that you get to via ferry. And we weren’t going on Saturday anymore, we were going tomorrow (due to potentially bad weather). These guys, I don’t know how they come up with this stuff but I was definitely excited.
BTTI DAY THREE:
Friday we woke up and spent a lot of time laying out at the pool since we didn’t have anything going on until it was time to load up to leave for the island. It was nice to have a little break and just get some sun. We saw Isaac hanging around the resort and Nat took a pretty awesome photo with him. I think he loved the chips and guac in the “Breeze” walk-up restaurant more than we did. Eventually we went to get ready and got some dinner before our lobby meeting time.
They brought us all on charter busses to the ferry port. The busses were SUPER nice, too. It was fun driving up the strip in Cancun and seeing all of the bars and shops and restaurants. When we got to the ferry port we all got into a huge line and soon enough they were letting us onto two different booze cruise style boats. As soon as you walked on, there was Pitbull-type music playing and people were passing out drinks left and right from huge trays. This was no ordinary ferry ride, that’s for sure. It started out really fun but the wind was crazy, so the boat was rockin’ and rollin’ a LOT. Quite a few people got sick, but miraculously there were some girls who danced and drank the whole 45 minute ride there and had no issues. Jealous!
We docked at Isla Mujeres and couldn’t believe how decked out this place was. As soon as you were stepping onto the island there was someone handing you a pina colada, and there was a huge “WELCOME” with a Hanson symbol written in the sand. I almost cried due to a cuteness overload. I couldn’t believe how much detail they put into everything. We made our way to the stage and somehow scored spots right in front of Isaac in the front row. No complaints there. Then began one of the best Hanson shows I’ve ever been to. The setlist was voted on by the fan club members and I got to hear so many songs that I’d otherwise NEVER get to hear live. This is one of the many reasons BTTI is so special. Huge standout songs for me were On the Rocks (full band style), Roller Coaster Love, Leave the Light On, and On The Road. The sound on the island was amazing, there were servers passing out drinks and appetizers and the lighting was perfect.
I don’t know what other band takes the time to do something this amazing for their fans. The whole logic behind the idea was that the event is called “Back to the Island”, yet Cancun is not an island, so they decided they’d cart us all over to one. Before getting on the ferry to head back, the guys from Island Gigs (the company who partners with the band to make these events happen) was handing out dramamine to anyone who needed one. THANK YOU FOR THAT! The funniest part though was that the dramamine proceeded to make a ton of people pass out on the ride back to the resort. Quite a different vibe from the ride over, yet the Pitbull dance music played on.
THE FINAL DAY:
The last day of the event would be spent with a M&G for over 400 fans, a Taylor solo set, sets from special guests Nick Santino and David Ryan Harris (DRH!!!! <3), and Taylor’s “activity”, an after party where he would be the DJ. We got ready for the M&G and got in line before it got too long. It was taking place in a part of the lobby right outside our room, so that was convenient. Everyone was so respectful during the M&G. Even though you could watch and hang out from all angles of the atrium-style hotel lobby, no one bothered the guys at all. We all mutually agreed to snap photos of each other during our M&G moments which were really nice to have, especially since they usually take quite some time to get you the high-resolution photo.
We were just a teensy bit nervous (it’s all three of them staring at you at once, okay?!) so we had a few cocktails in line to calm the nerves. Finally my turn came up and I made sure to let them know how much fun I was having and thanked them so much for having this event. I told them that I didn’t go the past two years and sat at home on Instagram watching the photos roll in with sadness. Isaac asked me where in Ohio I’m from so I told him “THE CLE” and that was about the extent of our conversation. You don’t have a whole ton of time but I made the most of it. They were offering free hugs so I of course didn’t turn those down. They just really make you feel like you’re special. I don’t know how else to say it. Even though they’re meeting 400+ people all in one sitting, they look each person in the eye and make you feel like you’re the only one there. They are just such sweet guys.
The M&G went by pretty quickly and Taylor’s solo show was almost immediately after. They moved his show, the special guests and the after party all to the same indoor theater where Zac’s activity was. I’m still not entirely sure that was necessary, and I kind of would’ve liked to spend that last night with my feet in the sand, but hey–can’t complain from Cloud 9 though.
We went outside to take some group photos since it was our last day at the beach. We got a bunch of the Christmas props out and gathered for a picture when Isaac suddenly appears out of the Breeze restaurant (probably eating chips and guac again) and yells “I WANT IN!”. Definitely a fun moment and a nice surprise since I know some of the girls were trying to get a group photo with Hanson with the props but it didn’t happen. Isaac was pleasantly normal during this trip and super social with everyone at the resort. I hope he realizes he’s pretty much everyone’s favorite now.
Taylor’s solo set was pretty awesome. He brought Isaac up as a “special guest” and they played “Sometimes”, which they are now calling “Smiletimes” due to Isaac’s hilarious fluke at his own solo set a couple days prior. “Sometimes” is another one of those super old Hanson songs where everyone decided to sing along in “baby Taylor voice”, which was again hilarious. Isaac stayed on stage with him for “Sunny Day” too, which I was really excited to hear. That song is all about leaving your worries behind, heading somewhere warm, and just enjoying life. Perfect for this.
Taylor also played “All I Ever Needed”, a song that was recorded during the Anthem sessions but didn’t make the album BUT is one of my absolute favorites. That was definitely exciting to hear and he did an awesome job with it. He forgot the second verse to “I’ve Been Down” and asked the crowd for help. Wow, to see Taylor so humble was pretty funny. His set was full of gems like “Runaway Run” (props to Nicole for requesting that at the M&G) and “Make It Out Alive”, which Taylor referred to as the “ballad of the ferry riders”. HA! If only they knew how crazy that boat ride was. Everyone singing along to that song was pretty amazing.
We went for one last dinner at one of the restaurants. I have to mention, the restaurants were incredibly underwhelming. If it weren’t for the fact that I was at this resort primarily to see Hanson, I would’ve been really disappointed in that. But because I was on Cloud 9 as mentioned earlier, I didn’t let it bother me. But for anyone looking to stay at Golden Parnassus for a regular vacation, you’ve been warned. Lack luster.
After dinner we went back to the theater for Nick Santino and David Ryan Harris’ sets which were really good. I’m a huge fan of DRH and was super excited to see him play in such a unique atmosphere. Again, I wish we would’ve been outside for this part, especially since so many fans start piling into the theater in preparation for the after party and were really disruptive during DRH’s set. It was just a bad coincidence because the room was really small with low ceilings, so every voice echoed and carried through the room really loudly. I hope DRH realized that there WERE a lot of us who were into his set, though.
The after party began around 11:30-12ish and Taylor jumps onstage with a huge sombrero on. He actually played a lot of awesome songs, unlike the first time he DJ’d at the VH1 Mixtape Festival After Party two summers ago which we will not talk about. As soon as he played “Uptown Funk”, which I had a feeling he would, I was proud. DJTay has come a long way, you guys. We basically spent our time toward the middle of the room dancing and hanging out. Isaac was in the back of the room and all of Hanson’s band and special guests were hanging around too. I made sure to tell Isaac at one point how excited I was that they brought DRH along for the event. He was pretty appreciative of that. I knew he was a big fan of his and we talked about how we both discovered his music on The Rock Boat, me in 2007 and him in 2009 when Hanson was on the line-up.
The after party eventually got pretty rowdy when Isaac jumped onstage, along with DRH and the rest of the band and crew. They were all wearing crazy costumes that I don’t even know how to explain and were doing tequila shots. Highlight of the after party was Bex (Hanson’s business partner/tour manager/probably life coach) doing a shot of tequila on stage. Get it, girl! We never get to see a playful side to her so that was pretty entertaining.
The next day we said our goodbyes to friends both new and old and made our way home. I will try not to get overly sentimental here, but I can’t put into words how grateful I am for being fortunate and lucky enough to go on this trip and for this band bringing so much happiness into my life. The people I’ve met over the past almost 19 years, the experiences I’ve had, places I’ve traveled to, and the overall feeling of escape that I get from being at their shows is like no other. I truly can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t bought that little orange CD back in 1997. At one point I got emotional and drunkenly said something like “I’m just so glad they exist”, but stone cold sober I’d say it again because it’s true. I’m so glad they exist. I’m so glad to have something so positive in my life that I know is always there to look forward to, to look back on, and to offer a feeling of familiarity and consistency that nothing else can. And aside from the 5% or so in the fandom who are kinda awful, Hanson has created a group of people that have so much more in common than just music. We all grew up almost always having to defend what we loved–this band–and I think it’s given us all a sense of strength and pride that’s made us pretty awesome people.
Hanson shows are always an amazing time, but BTTI was the ultimate Hanson happy place for me, and I’m so glad I was there.
See you all at BTTI 2016!