A work in progress:
The Fanson Memoirs
By Nikki Kay
It dawned on me that I have so many personal stories than can be shared. I don’t understand why I’ve had such a writer’s block. My entire life has been built around fascinating adventures.
I am a Hanson fan. Many of my friends would consider that an understatement by how frequently I’ve talked about them. It’s not my fault that they consumed much of my adolescent life, enough to be stated that I was molded into the person I am today because of them. I am aware that this sounds absurd. They’re a band. How could a band make someone who they are today?
Hanson hit the music scene in early 1997. At the time, I was a 10 year old trying to find my place in the world. I had a group of friends, played video games, and followed the rhythm of a nonexistent beat. It is fair to say, that to this day, I cannot dance let alone keep a steady beat while clapping.
A very strange memory that I still have, before even knowing who Hanson was, my mother told me to watch a news program about a band that caused chaos at the Paramus Mall in New Jersey. Thousands of preteen and teenage girls were screaming and rushing a tiny stage of this three person boy band. At the time, I could not care less about what was on the TV that day.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I would learn, by the official Hanson VHS tape ‘Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere’, that that band was Hanson. By this point I decorated my walls with the wallpaper of Teen Beat magazine centerfolds. T-shirts, CDs, cassettes, books, and terrible fan fiction would then rule my life.
Due to the consequences of being a preteen with no other interests in the world: I literally ate, drank, and slept to Hanson. It was a miracle my friends stood by me the way they did because none of them could be bothered by this band. Many years later, I thank them for standing by me during the most irritating obsession they would ever know.
Despite having these friends, I was ultimately alone ‘obsessing’ with this band. I knew my friends didn’t want to hear about what I read online or how my Zac Hanson AOL newsletter was doing. Or the funny plot line we came up with on the AOL Hanson role play chat rooms. (Yes, that was a thing and I won for best ‘Zac’ in one of the newsletters.) At the end of the day, I didn’t have another person to be excited with me about whatever nonsense was happening in the Hanson world.
Part of being a preteen, with all of this, was that children are not kind at this age. I was continuously ridiculed for my love of this band. I was told that I was a lesbian, because obviously Hanson were girls due to their long hair. Preteens figured this was an insult. It was clear that I was not the most popular girl in middle school. In 6th grade, I accepted this after the entire class broke into song after Hanson did not win the 1998 Grammy’s.
Hanson was nominated for Record of the Year, Best Pop Performance, and Best New Artist. I understood this was an honor to them to be nominated despite not winning. My classmates felt the need to add insult to injury, when I returned to class the next day. I still remember it vividly, though I took it in stride.
“LOOK! THERE SHE IS!”, a girl named Jacqueline Ruggiero shouted as I approached my home room.
I kind of knew I was in for it with my gloating over their nomination. Within moments the entire class started a rendition of “HANSON DIDN’T WIN! HANSON DIDN’T WIN!” over and over.
I walked in with smile on my face accepting this punishment. That was the moment that I knew I was never going to be one of the popular kids and that was okay.
“Reaching for a hand that can understand, someone who feels the same.
When you live in a cookie cutter world if you’re different you can’t win.”
My best friend at the time, Melissa Charlesworth, told me something that, to this day, I hold dear. Probably around this time frame that this happened, my mom was dropping her off at her house after Girl Scouts.
She stopped before getting out of my mom’s van and said to me, “You know, I admire you. You like, what you like, and you don’t care what anyone thinks of you.”
This was true, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I was happy liking what I did even if I was alone in it. I dressed up as Ash Ketchum for the school dance that I didn’t realize was not a costume dance for Halloween. I was the only one dressed up. I didn’t care. Just this year, I was the only person dressed up in my office for Halloween. That’s literally, just how I roll.
But she was talking about my love of Hanson. I didn’t hide it even though people were making fun of me. I loved what I loved. I like to believe that it was because of Hanson that I adapted this bit of my personality which I still find to be a defining bit of who I am.
It wasn’t a surprise, when I arrived in High School, that I friended the other outcasts. The nerds, the drama kids, the kids who played Magic the Gathering, etc. The “obsession” years died down to just being a general fan. Being a teenager left more options to get out of the house and not sit in front of the computer for hours. I had the typical teenage social life.
Well, thinking about that, that was a partial lie. While I still got out more, I still spent hours on the computer. In sophomore year, I joined the Hanson.net fanclub and spent a lot of time on the forums. I guess, I finally had an outlet to my random ramblings about Hanson.
I also gained one friend, in my High School, who was also a Hanson fan, though not nearly as eccentric as I was about them. I met her on my first week of freshman year. I had a Hanson pin on my schoolbag, half hoping it would attract another Hanson fan to me. As I was going down the stairs, I heard a girl behind me say “You like Hanson?”
After years of ridicule, I was expecting an insult to my reply.
“I love them too! I just saw them at the Tower Theater last week!”
I remember feeling so relieved to finally have someone to talk about Hanson with though Hanson was quiet for a few years after this. They hadn’t released an album or toured from late 2000 to early 2003. I took to writing a lot of terrible fan fiction. If the band doesn’t have content, you better create your own.
Most people do not know what happened to Hanson during those years though, the fans know. The record company they were with didn’t see Hanson as marketable anymore with the market turning to rap and alternative music in the early 2000’s. Hanson consistently wrote new music with famous musicians and others only to be rejected over and over by the record company. Eventually Hanson had enough and decided to open their own record company, 3CG Records. Once they were established, they began releasing music again. Surprisingly, despite the absence, their fanbase was still strong.
Due to finally making new friends on the Hanson.net forums, I finally found a group of friends who understood the dumb jokes that only Hanson fans would understand. We would organize the Philadelphia Street Team and distribute music and information about the band. For a short time, we called ourselves Moo Cheese. I don’t remember why we picked this name but when we attended concerts, we made ourselves known.
In 2003, the seven of us, and my friend Chrissy’s mom, made our way to New York for Hanson’s dream of performing at the great Carnegie Hall. Due to this, we all decided against t-shirts and decided to go a little bit dressy. Some fans, hilariously, arrived in prom dresses. To many of us, this was a momentous occasion for the band, and an exciting evening for us, to experience our favorite band performing in one of the most prestigious concert halls in America.
A fun story that I remember from that day was meeting a fan by the name of Colleen. Like most fans, Hanson meant a lot to her. Probably more than most. Colleen suffers from severe OCD as well as other ailments. One of these ailments caused Colleen to pull her hair out. When Colleen was younger and pulled her hair out, her mother convinced her to grow her hair back because Taylor Hanson was growing his hair out long again. Somehow, this worked.
Colleen would often post on the forums with long drawn out, almost poetic, sentences describing Taylor Hanson. Regardless of the topic of the post, she would go into one of these tangents and while most just learned to ignore, some would dote on her. And heaven forbid, you say something negative, her mother would sign on and blast you.
So on the day of the Carnegie Hall show, we met Colleen and her family. Her mother, who often reminded me of Carrie’s (movie) mother, was walking around with a list, that was created by fans on the forums, of who was attending the concert. My one friend, who has a habit of being sarcastic, was able to glance at this list and notice her screen name marked off with the word “bitch.” So Colleen’s mother, was marking off how people treated her daughter online/in person. Which, to be honest, I don’t think anyone treated either of them in a negative manner in person.
Colleen’s mother brought her daughter to numerous Hanson shows and would always pull the “handicap card” as an excuse to give her disabled daughter front row. Anyone who has been to any general admission concert would know front row is not the place for a disabled person. In one of these instances, which I was unfortunately witness to, a friend was with her and would continually scream when they were being pushed. Eventually, to the point that Colleen actually had to be lifted out because she passed out.
I spoke with a close friend of Colleen who noted that her mother’s baiting of her and the band, Hanson, really was not helping the poor girl’s condition. She would be able to have lucid conversations with her about dance and other topics. Her mother would interrupt and mention something about Hanson and Colleen would instantly lose focus and begin screeching and such. It feels rude to call it screeching, though after camping out several times, I can verify that it sounds like screeching.
In early 2004, I was 17 years old and on my way out of high school. At this point, I had been following this band for 6 years. I had finally reached the age where I was allowed to miss school and camp out overnight for concerts with my friends. In March of 2004, the Moo Cheese gang camped out in 20 degree weather in Sayreville, NJ to see Hanson. This was a first for me.
We actually were not allowed to camp out until 7 A.M. This did not stop the mass of fans waiting eagerly across the street for the gates to open. I wish smart phones existed at this time to have filmed the insanity that took place that morning. As the gates opened, a swarm of fans, as if prepared at the starting line, took off! I already knew that I was no athlete so I allowed my friends to secure our place in line. As I jogged, laughing at the display of absurdity, a car flew in front of me, as if to block me, so the girls in the backseat flew out to bypass the girls running. The determination, for front row, was strong with these girls.
Prior to this concert, my friends and I decided that we would be the entertainment for the day. So, leading up to this concert, I went to the dollar store and acquired about 8 cups that I decorated in various Hanson related lyrics and pictures. Throughout the day, of the concert, my friends and I put on goofy skits of “Shakespearian Hanson,” along with trivia shows where we awarded the fans with the cups and other goodies. I will say, that the fans in the front of the line did not care for our antics but, the back was requesting encores.
A ridiculous example of Shakespearian Hanson:
“Oh my Madeline, here we goeth, around-ith again. You knowith, I knowith. We cannot predtendith! We knowith can be so much better than it’s been-ith!”
Basically we just added ‘ith’ to the end of some of the lyrics to Hanson songs.
After seeing the band as many times as I have, the concert itself is nothing more than a blur. For me, the best memories I have are with my friends and Hanson was merely the reason we were brought together.
In July of 2004, my preteen dream finally came true in which I finally was able to meet Hanson. I’ll never forget calling my friend Shannon, in Maryland, to check my Hanson.net email to see if I won a Meet and Greet to their concert the following week. I was on vacation with my family, with no hope of getting to computer.
“Nikki, you’re going to be the reporter.”
“What? Shut up. No I’m not.”
“I’m serious. You got reporter.”
This was followed by a series of my own screeches by having a meltdown, of sorts, in the parking lot of the hotel we were staying at.
One of the benefits of being in the Hanson.net fanclub is that at each concert, they pick 10 fans to be part of a Meet and Greet and one fan to interview the band. And I was that lucky fan.
Shannon posted on Hanson.net on my behalf that I was going to be the reporter for the Philadelphia show. When I finally was able to get to a computer, I was hurt to find out that there was a minor uproar on receiving the role of reporter. There were a lot of misconceptions on what type of person deserved this honor. For some reason, it was believed that the person should have owned a digital camera. I should note, that the reporter was also responsible for taking the group photo for the Meet and Greet as well as pictures during the concert. You would also be allowed to be in front row or the space between the stage and front row.
In an era before smartphones, it wasn’t overly common for a teenager to own an expensive digital camera. Some fans took to bragging, repeatedly, on the forums that they owned such a device. I did not own such a camera and brought a disposable, which was more common for a teenager to acquire. My friend leant me her digital camera to take pictures during the show, though the venue refused to let me close to the stage. So, it didn’t matter.
I don’t think Hanson thought it through on letting fans interview them. They anticipated intelligent questions about their music which was difficult since the fans knew most of their history and background. I spent the week before preparing questions. Terribly, I cannot remember the questions that I asked besides my one goofy question that I dared to ask.
I knew Zac Hanson was a fan of the books and films of the franchise Lord of the Rings so I decided to ask, “If you were a character in Lord of the Rings, what character would you want to be?”
Zac Hanson went on explaining, in much more than I could write, about his fascination with the brothers Boromir and Faramir, settling on the character of Faramir. Isaac went with Gimili and Taylor Hanson, while leaving his brother Zac and I bewildered, chose the unicorn. Zac was first to point out that there are no unicorns in Lord of the Rings and the only unicorn seen in Harry Potter was dead. Taylor then went with Shadowfax, Gandalf’s horse, because “there was just something about stallions I really loved.” Sure, Taylor.
A week later, I ended up in Connecticut to see them once again. While camped out in line, I met a group of girls carrying around a stuffed unicorn that they named after Taylor due to my interview. They were so excited to meet me when they found out I was the reporter that was able to get Taylor to admit to wanting to be a unicorn. I was a momentary celebrity despite not having a digital camera.
I almost forgot to mention that this was the same day that I very randomly met the actor Frankie Muniz. Apparently, Zac Hanson was teaching Frankie Muniz how to play the drums so he joined them on tour. The fans found this to be hilarious.
At some point two fans started a joint fanfiction adventure, with each girl taking turns writing each chapter. The story, which can no longer be found online, was titled ‘Zac & Frankie BFF’. It chronicled the satire bromance of the two boys while on tour. Fans could not wait for each new chapter to be written. I really wish this story was still available.
Also, around this time, Hanson.net started having a slight issue with some fans posting erotic fan fiction on a PG rated website. In a sad, and somewhat humorous event, they banned fan fiction from being posted on the message boards. This lead to a mini online riot which lead to one fan attempting to compare Hanson.net to American slavery.
Hanson.net definitely had it’s fair share of characters, cliques, and stalkers. One of the more notorious cliques during that time frame were labeled, the Bandaids. I don’t even like talking about them but they need to be mentioned. Personally, I never cared for them as my encounters with them were rarely pleasant though, still civil.
If I remember correctly, they got their name from the groupies in the movie Almost Famous. Apparently they managed to find a way, or was invited, into Hanson’s tour bus and I think Taylor gave them the name.
The Bandaids made themselves known during the 2003 tour, which I missed due to family vacation. They went to probably every show throughout several tours and made themselves known for always being in the front row. I’m already aware of their dedication but they were never humble about it. On a few occasions, one of them would drink too much; once assaulting another girl to get to the front row at a Gavin DeGraw concert, which I witnessed.
It had gotten to the point, where they would cut in line or had people save their spots at numerous shows. My personal favorite story of this happening, a group of my friends camped out at, in New York, for a show. The morning of, the Bandaids arrived and decided to set up camp with someone who saved their spots. Brienne, a friend of mine, who happened to be a short blonde girl with a thick New York accent, grabbed one of the Bandaids by their sleeping bag and pulled her out into the street. She began to scream at them, as she knew they did not camp out with the rest of the people in line.
The Bandaids pulled this stunt regularly enough that it was often reported on the message boards. Hanson fans knew how to keep the people at home filled in with all of the drama that happened at every concert.
Another story, worth noting, is that at one of the Chicago shows, one of the girls became so intoxicated that Zac Hanson’s wife took notice and helped her as she stumbled from the venue. This same girl, would later file for bankruptcy due to her excessive spending in traveling to all of Hanson’s shows in a tour.
On this topic, there was another girl in the group, Melody, who I had initially met and was on friendly terms with, at first. She lived in my area and went to high school near me. When they were first making themselves known, I tried to refrain from saying anything negative about them because of my acquaintance with her. Though, being a typical teenager, this doesn’t always work out.
At the time of the Carnegie Hall concert, a lot of posts were made in reference to it. Melody, took it upon herself to gloat in nearly every single post that she couldn’t believe they scored front row seats. To be fair, yes, this is exciting. And yes, they camped out at the venue for tickets, flirted with the box office, and really worked for their front row seats compared to the rest of us who purchased them online. I made a statement in a post, in regards to the Bandaids, where I pointed out that Melody’s excessive gloating was irritating especially since they’ve had front row at numerous other shows.
What I did not expect was the backlash I received in a completely other message board. Melody took it upon herself to make an entire anti-Nikki post on the HansonHouse.com forums. The post basically tried to call me out for having no friends because all I did was the Pikachu impression in my high school, all of the time. This was due to my good friend, Dan Smith, who I went to high school with. Dan shared an acting class, outside of school, with Melody and I must have come up at sometime. He was a bit eccentric and parodied every person so I can imagine his parody of me, being me, doing my ‘Pikachu’ impression. I made sure to sit him down and show him the nonsense damage that he created.
Surprisingly, I am a person who prefers to stay out of the drama so I insured that all other meetings were civil. I prefer to hear about drama; not to be part of it. Even to the point of helping to take care of her at a Ben Jelen concert when she drank more than she should’ve before the opening acts even started. She was about 18 years old and taken out by ambulance. Don’t worry, she was fine.
The Hanson fan community was never short on drama and interesting characters. From fans who continually pretended to be friends with the band, pregnant with their children, and other delusional characters.
Cara was probably my favorite. I won’t forget the time she attempted to argue with Hanson’s close friend Ashley Greyson, on the message boards, because she insisted she heard Hanson’s rendition of “I Want you to Want Me,” which was only performed in concert and never formerly recorded, on the radio. My friends and I were kind of bad and trolled her a few times on AIM as either the ‘Hanson Police’ or as Taylor’s girlfriend. I only had the pleasure of seeing her once, from a distance. She was as weird as one could imagine. She was a heavy set girl, wearing a sweatshirt with a tie-dye Mickey Mouse halter top over top of that. Let’s just say, she stood out. When it came for Hanson came outside, touting their charity work that they do at every concert, she continued to scream Taylor’s name as if the world was ending. You could even see Taylor side eyeing her in irritation though remaining polite.
Hanson.net, the fanclub, during the years of 2003-2007 brought me so much joy at one time. It took me a long time to stop typing it in the search bar after I left. A lot of the fans were growing up and overtime, many different cliques formed. Eventually, it just wasn’t the same place anymore and thankfully for social media today, I am still able to keep in contact with the friends who mattered most.