Zac (left), Isaac and Taylor Hanson of pop-rock act Hanson perform last week at a Hanson Day members-only concert at Cain’s Ballroom. About 1,500 fans from around the U.S. and 17 countries came to Tulsa to celebrate the band. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
It wasn’t something Hanson initially cared to embrace, Taylor Hanson said.
When brothers Zac, Isaac and Taylor debuted the band’s album, “Middle of Nowhere,” on May 6, 1997, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating declared it Hanson Day in the Sooner State.
It was meant as a one-time, one-day thing to celebrate Hanson’s debut album, “Middle of Nowhere.”
“I was very reluctant to embrace the Hanson Day banner,” Taylor admitted. “I mean, how narcissistic does that sound?”
But a decade later, the fan club parties just keep getting bigger.
“Yeah, the Hanson bubble almost popped last weekend,” he said, then laughed. “Tulsa was full.”
Welcome to the middle of nowhere.
Hanson Day has expanded to weekends filled with a festival-like atmosphere, from music-making to an unabashed celebration of the band of brothers’ home base: Tulsa.
And, Taylor said, they’ve already started planning next year’s blowout.
“This year, we really challenged ourselves and our fans. We wanted to put a stake in the ground and get ideas and start thinking about the next five years of celebrations.”
As of a Wednesday phone interview, many of the estimated 1,500 attendees were still in Green Country, Taylor said.
Fans from across the U.S. and from 17 countries made the trip to Tulsa last weekend to celebrate Hanson Day, er, week.
“Many of these people are friends. They’ve gotten to know each other from our concerts and our music, so they’re here to see each other, too,” he said. “This isn’t just a celebration of, ‘Hey! It’s Hanson!’ It’s about community. This is a big deal to them and to us, and they love our city, too.”
The annual Hanson events also are about showing off the brothers’ hometown. The fan weekend included a bowling tournament at locally owned Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge and an en-masse beer tasting at McNellie’s. There were jaunts to Caz’s Pub and to the Blue Rose on Riverside Drive; there was a street party on Main Street and film screenings at Circle Cinema, too.
There were also two acoustic concerts at Cain’s Ballroom – one streamed online to a global audience across more than 30 countries, he said.
Another stop was the band’s family-owned and operated 3CG Records studio, located in downtown’s Brady District.
“This is our turf,” Taylor Hanson said. “We love it here, and Tulsa represents what we are and who we are and what we represent. Knowing this city explains our perspective and why we do what we do.”
He first realized the “power” of the band’s fan club – and Hanson Day – when the band recorded an acoustic version of its studio album, “Underneath,” with select fans at the iconic Church Studio in Tulsa’s Pearl District. It also was an opportunity to teach Tulsa’s rich musical history. Tulsa Sound founder Leon Russell bought the venue and later sold it but not before working with everyone from George Harrison to Eric Clapton to Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.
The get-togethers keep the Hanson clan inspired, too. Besides, the fans are the ones who have bought more than 16 million of their albums since Hanson’s “Middle of Nowhere” debut.
The band also recently announced a five-day “Back to the Island” retreat in Jamaica.
“So much of our fame is fueled and maintained by ‘street team’ volunteers who promote shows and help get the word out about what we do,” Taylor said. “They’ve created and maintained a global network. A lot of this is for them.”
What the band wants is “consistent and constant contact” with a global, grass-roots fan base, he said.
“We want them to know everything we’re doing. The age of ‘Let’s release an album every couple of years and then we’ll talk to you and tour to support that album’ are long gone. We’re dynamic – our fans are dynamic.”
Those fans, too, will also be the first to hear new music from an upcoming studio album. In September or October, “we’ll probably have another gathering for that – but smaller,” Taylor said, then laughed.