Many of Knoxville’s Hanson fans got the opportunity to walk a mile down Gay Street with the band in the fall of 2007. Those that missed that opportunity will have a second chance to walk with the band when it returns to Knoxville on Oct. 1.
Anyone who wants to walk a mile with Hanson will have the opportunity to take a pre-concert walk for charity with Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson. The walk will begin a few hours before the start of their concert at the Bijou theater.
Zac Hanson said, “For us it’s bigger than walking with Hanson. It’s about the potential we all have. We’re encouraging people to give back.”
Hanson has hosted fan walks before every concert for its past two tours. These fan walks are an effort to raise awareness for the struggle that takes place in poverty stricken areas of Africa. The brothers will donate one dollar to charity for every fan that takes the walk with them.
The band is also encouraging other people and organizations to host their own walks. They have pledged to donate money for any person or group that organizes a walk of their own. “We’ll donate on behalf of the people that walk with you, too,” Zac said, “not just the people who walk with us.”
To accentuate the band’s passion for the cause, members invite those who come to the pre-concert walks to make the trek in bare feet. All three of the brothers remove their shoes for every walk.
When the guys aren’t walking through towns in their bare feet, they are helping to promote a new brand of shoes, TOMS Shoes, which donates shoes to children in poverty around the world. TOMS has made a pledge to donate a pair of shoes for every pair that a customer purchases.
On its last tour, Hanson helped TOMS meet its goal of selling 50,000 pairs of shoes. The band followed the company to Africa in November to help them hand out the shoes. Zac encouraged fans to wear their TOMS shoes to the walk as well.
“People will see the shoes and ask about them,” he said. “Then you can explain where you got them and what TOMS is all about. It’s just another way to spread the word.”
The trio has been doing quite a lot of charitable work over the past few years. They started out by donating all of the money that came from downloading their single “The Great Divide” to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit. Then came the one-mile pre-concert walks. Now the band is looking to release a book that chronicles its fight against poverty and AIDS in Africa called “Take The Walk.”
Zac elaborated by saying, “(The book) isn’t a memoir or anything. It’s not that we feel like we have a story that needs to be told. It’s a very humble story about how three guys from Oklahoma have stumbled across a way to make a difference. The book is more of a call for action than anything.”
If you preorder the book, you get access to instant digital downloads of new music. There will be an EP of new music that is included in the purchase of every book.
Part of the book includes photographs and stories submitted by fans who have taken the pre-concert charity walks with the band in the past. The brothers encourage everyone who walks to bring cameras and submit their footage to the band’s podcast, Taking The Walk.
Zac responded enthusiastically when the podcasts were mentioned. “The podcast started out about the making of this album,” he explained, “and it ended up being more about the fans taking this journey with us. If you’re on the walk, and you’re taking pictures or taking videos send them to us. It’s a cool way for people who are interested to see what’s going on.”
While taking a walk with the band will be an event to remember, the concert will be something to look forward to as well. The brothers have been making music together for nearly 15 years and have quite a long repertoire of songs. The concert will include songs from the group’s first album, its latest record, all of the albums in between and even a few that have never been heard before.
“Every show is different,” Zac said. “There’s definitely enough (material) to change up the shows every night. It can be a task, but we have fans that travel to multiple shows. We do our best to try and work up new songs. It’s part of what makes it enjoyable for us. When you’re playing 48 shows a set, you lose interest if you don’t challenge yourself.”
The concert is Oct. 1 at the Bijou theater at 8 p.m. The walk with the band will take place a few hours before the show. Tickets are $33.50.