SXSW: Hanson Report (No, Not Beck Hansen, Those Oklahoma Kids)

AUSTIN - On a day when I stood 10 feet away from a stage that hosted Mika Miko, Jay Reatard and Times New Viking, the loudest moment was when the following was shouted directly into my ear:

"OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO WHOLESOME AND POLITE!!!!"

Rest assured, the young woman who shouted that was not referring to any of the bands mentioned above. She was talking about Hanson.

Yes, I went to see Hanson. And I'm glad I did. It was quite a learning experience. And it wasn't a bad show, either. And after the triple-decker sandwich of awesomeness that was the three other bands mentioned above, I didn't feel much pressure to see something amazing. It was a bit weird to see such young guys -- oldest brother Isaac is just 27 -- who are such seasoned professionals. They exude confidence and comfort on stage, clearly the result of spending more than half their lives performing. Sure, their songwriting isn't exactly adventurous, and the lack of "Mmmbop" in the set was certainly disappointing. But for 40 minutes they provided enough hooky, easygoing, soul-pop tunes to keep the casual observer plenty interested.

Not that the show was filled with just casual observers. The Hanson die-hards were definitely in the house. As might be expected, many of them were females who seemed to be in their early to mid-20s, which is about right when you remember that the band became huge in 1997 or so. Many fans sang along with every word, danced with each other and screamed when urged to scream. "I got so many great pictures!" one of them shrieked while filing out of the performance space in the Convention Center.

They weren't all blindly faithful, though. During one song a girl leaned over to tell me that the lyrics to that particularly song weren't so great and they could do much better. "Don't judge!" she pleaded. Uh, sure. When Taylor took time between songs to talk up some of the bands charitable efforts, including providing shoes for people in Africa, she was peeved. "Enough with the shoes, I'm sick of hearing about it at every show," she said.

One male fan in his late 20s proudly displayed his Hanson tattoo on his left bicep. "It's a way of life," he told me. He also told me that he was putting up some Hanson fans that he met on the Internet who came in from out of town specifically for the show. One of them also had a Hanson tattoo. I can only imagine the look on the tattoo artist's face when they went in to get inked. If there was a slight air of... I don't want to say indifference, but general mellowness at most of the shows I attended, that certainly wasn't the case for this one.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, middle brother could still be a fashion magazine model, either male or female. The kid's just purty, what can I say?

By David Malitz |  March 14, 2008; 10:37 AM ET SXSW
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Comments

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HA! I am famous. Good call on the age, btw, I'm 28. And it's on my SHOULDER, not bicep.

But it is true. I am a Fanson.

Posted by: Alex | March 14, 2008 3:35 PM

I...I don't understand. Crazed fandom for *Hanson*? Alex, if you're still around, care to explain?

Posted by: h3 | March 14, 2008 4:08 PM

h3 - I don't know if this necessarily answers your question, but here's my view as a Hanson fan.
Hanson's one of the few bands I see currently that are involved in the creative process from start to finish. From writing all their own lyrics/music to producing their albums on their own label, Hanson does it all. They have an amazing passion for the music they create and if you ever see them live it's very apparent. I know for a lot of people who haven't listened to them since 97, it's hard to get past the image conjured by the name Hanson. You automatically think of 3 blonde kids singing Mmmbop. Well these three guys have certainly matured beyond that both physically and with their sound. They work hard not only to create their music but to keep in touch with their fanbase through podcasts, personal videos, etc to truly make the fans feel like they are part of the process. When you meet them at the shows they come off as normal people with families doing something they love who are grateful for their fans.

Posted by: electriceyes | March 14, 2008 4:48 PM

h3, if you're into music, you don't need anyone to explain...just listen for yourself to the last two albums...The Walk and Underneath. They're not what the general public perception of them in 1997 is making you think they are.

Posted by: lnm | March 14, 2008 4:50 PM

I have a very healthy respect for Hanson, and I've bought their last couple of albums just to lend them what support I can. They're not the greatest songwriters in the world; most of their songs sound pretty much the same, but it's clear that that's how they LIKE to sound, they're making music they really like and really feel, and they're doing it on their own terms, which is a pretty impressive feat at any age.

And man, can they harmonize.

Posted by: maxineofarc | March 21, 2008 12:05 AM

I'm a big Hanson fan. Hell, I even have a tattoo on my shoulder and tell people proudly. But enough with the damn shoes and saving children in Africa. They need to get off their soap box. HA.

Posted by: xtine | March 25, 2008 3:51 PM

To H3:

I'm a bit of a music snob. Ok, I'm a HUGE music snob. I find Hanson's harmonies, elegantly simple songwriting, and simple, accessible lyrics appealing. They make vivid use of imagery, write about things that I don't have to dissect to understand, and most importantly, make me feel.

Everyone has that band or three that really just makes everything better. The one that seeing the show every few months is necessary to maintain your sanity. Hanson is one of those bands with me. It strokes a chemical chord in my biological soul that sets everything right. Forgive the metaphor and pun, but it just gives me good vibrations.

Posted by: Alex | April 11, 2008 6:06 PM

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