In 1997, an infectious pop song hit the airwaves and instantly brought three boys from Tulsa into the spotlight — and into thousands of screaming, adolescent girls’ hearts.
The song was the melodious mega-hit “MMMBop,” and the band was Hanson.
However, Hanson is no longer the teeny-bopper band that would answer questions about their favorite colors and movies. These days, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are tackling tougher issues — like poverty in Africa.
That’s the purpose of the band’s latest tour, the “Walk Around the World” Tour, which hits State College on Sunday with a sold-out performance at the State Theatre. Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes and alternative indie band Everybody Else will open for the show.
“We aren’t just pulling causes out of a hat because we’re celebrities,” Taylor Hanson, lead vocalist and keyboardist, said. “We saw that there was this real challenge for us to look at AIDS and poverty in Africa and realize that this is targeting our generation and it’s wiping out this whole group of people.”
AIDS wasn’t initially a problem Taylor, 25, Isaac, 27, and Zac, 22, thought much about, Taylor said.
“We’re from Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re Midwestern guys, but we’ve traveled the world. But we didn’t realize that Tulsa has a lot of problems with AIDS, one of the higher rates in the U.S. It’s a very conservative town based on oil drilling and philanthropy, very faith based and no one brings light to that issue.”
The goal of this tour is to encourage fans to “walk around the world” — essentially by clocking in 24,902 miles, enough miles to literally walk the circumference of the earth. Through Takethewalk.net, fans and other interested individuals can sign up to participate in a mile-long, barefoot walk that will take place before the show.
Hanson will donate a dollar for every registered mile, which will help causes such as building schools, improving AIDS research, providing access to health care and drilling a well for clean water in South Africa.
Hanson fans will be excited to learn the band will join them on the mile-long walks in each city. As of press time, the State College walk was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, starting at the State Theatre.
“It was something that was so authentic. We just thought, let’s take our shoes off and walk for a mile,” Taylor said. “And for the fans, we get to thank them, because we’re gonna stand next to you and we’re gonna take the walk.”
However, direct exposure to the heartthrobs can sometimes be a bit too much for some fans to handle, Taylor said. In some cities, he said, a pressing crowd makes the walk difficult.
“A lot of our fans have stood by us for over a decade, and we have certain people that are a little unbalanced sometimes,” he said. “They can’t control themselves. But I’ve been totally impressed by them and their ability to look at it as something that we’re doing together and to not over obsess about.”
Holding this philanthropic event in a college town has many benefits, Taylor said.
“For one, people in the university today are training to go into the world and have careers and reach people,” he said. “That’s the power of Penn State. A great group of people are gonna come out of there and they’re gonna fight oppression.”
As far as the musical aspect of Hanson’s stint in State College, Taylor said the crowd can expect a little bit of everything.
“At a live show, we want fans to let their hair down and rock out or hear something mellow and have a pensive moment,” he said. “Our shows are hopefully an eclectic mix of cover songs and songs we’ve played since the very beginning.”
Many undergraduates probably remember and associate the band with 1997’s “MMMBop” and the ensuing explosion of popularity for the band. Kristy Cyone, marketing director for the State Theatre, said 30 percent of the tickets were sold to students.
“We’re happy to have a sell-out show and happy to bring in a suggestion from the community,” she said, referencing the multiple requests the venue received for a performance by Hanson.
Alyson Rhodes (senior-English) said she’s attending the show because of “a little bit of the nostalgia factor.” Rhodes said she saw the band twice in fourth grade but hasn’t seen them since.
“I’ve sort of been wanting to keep up with them more than I have been,” she said. “I always thought they were good musicians. They played their own instruments and weren’t as fake and poppy as the others out there.”
Despite the crowd of nostalgia-seeking listeners, Taylor said the audience at a Hanson show is always a mix.
“You know, it’s amazing how many fans who have stuck with us for years and years,” he said. “You think a particular person comes to see a Hanson show, but it’s the goth next to preppy one and just everyone. I think that’s an awesome thing.”