Hanson draws fan(atic)s

On Friday at 3 a.m., Kylie Keene poked her head out of her temporary bedroom — a rain-soaked tent on the York Street sidewalk in front of Toad’s Place — and began to profess her love for the band, the brothers, the reason she was there.

“It sounds outrageous, but Hanson has shaped who I am,” said Keene, 17, who traveled to New Haven from Maine to see Hanson’s Friday night concert at Toad’s. “This is my lifestyle. This isn’t going to go away.”

Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson speak in the Branford College common room at a Master’s Tea on Friday. The band performed “MMMBop” and other classics at Toad’s Place to a crowd of Yalies and other fans.
Adam Trettel
Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson speak in the Branford College common room at a Master’s Tea on Friday. The band performed “MMMBop” and other classics at Toad’s Place to a crowd of Yalies and other fans.

As WYBC radio host Alice Wang ’08 put it, Friday was “Hanson Day” in New Haven.

For some, “Hanson Day” lasted more than 48 hours. A few diehard fans arrived in New Haven at 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday and slept underneath a thin blue tarp for two wet nights in anticipation of the sold-out show. The band itself arrived Friday at mid-afternoon — fans cheering as they left their tour bus — and completed brief interviews with WYBC and the News before heading to speak at a Branford College Master’s Tea.

The tea drew hundreds of people, prompting Branford College Master Steven Smith to say he had “never seen the room so filled before,” adding, “it was like a subway at rush hour.” For an hour, Hanson discussed issues ranging from the decline of the music industry and their evolving relationship as brothers and husbands to why most musicians who both perform and write need to be “bipolar” and why one student’s shirt read, “Put Your Hanson Me.”

When Branford College Dean Thomas McDow ’93 introduced the band as his three friends who all “happen to have the last name Hanson,” the audience exploded. Cries of “Hanson is the one for me,” “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” “They look so different, oh God!” and “This is so bizarre” filled the packed room.

“They are hottest men, I think, that have ever graced the earth,” said David Griswold ’07, seconds before screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God!” as the Hanson brothers walked, smiling casually, into the room.

Taylor Hanson, who spoke more than the other brothers at the tea, tried to gear the discussion toward the music business from the start. Following a creative dispute with their record label that led them to produce their 2004 album independently, the brothers began working on their own, he said.

“It’s been 10 years, and we’re feeling really proud, especially when we know that the music business is in the shit can,” he said, causing Isaac Hanson to interject sarcastically, “So eloquent, Taylor,” before Taylor added, “[The independent label] empowers us to have more of a role than we ever had before.”

Isaac Hanson explained how hearing rock and roll music at a young age “really influenced me to want to start playing music.” And Zac Hanson said he and his brothers first realized they were famous when 20,000 people came to a New Jersey mall to hear them perform.

Ten years later in the Branford Common Room on Friday, the energy seemed just as strong.

“It’s about nostalgia — the same childhood experience that we all had,” Julia Meisel ’10 said. “So even if everyone here wasn’t the biggest Hanson fan, it’s the fact that we all remember growing up with them and remember people being obsessed with them. And we want to all relive that a little now.”

Although the Hanson brothers are much changed from their “Mmmbop” heyday a decade ago — Isaac’s hair is more or less shaved, Zac’s hair stops at his forehead instead of his mid-back and Taylor, 23, is married with three children — their interactions indicate a relationship akin to the tight one of yesteryear. In interviews and at the Master’s Tea, they often completed one another’s sentences and rarely failed to make eye contact with the brother who was speaking at any given moment.

Hanson, whose tour is centered on showcasing the band’s new album, “The Walk,” was invited to Branford by Emily Schofield ’09, whom Smith named “Branfordian of the Week” in an e-mail to the college on Sunday.

In an interview with the News, the brothers spoke about their newfound love for Yale — Friday was Hanson’s first visit to the University — insisting that they would love to come back to perform at a larger event such as Spring Fling.

“Seeing all the old architecture is inspiring,” Isaac Hanson said. “You walk around and you see something inspiring. It makes you want to create something great.”

Although all three brothers are now married, Taylor Hanson joked in the interview that his close relationship with his brothers sometimes makes him feel like he is in a second marriage, and his wife must accept that she has two extra husbands on the side. But his brother Isaac insisted Taylor was joking, as the brothers are each close to their respective wives and children, who usually come along on tours.

When Jenny McClain ’09 asked Zac Hanson privately what it was like to have so many girls sexually attracted to him when he was in sixth grade — about the time the band reached the peak of its popularity — he shot back, “What was it like to be sexually attracted to me in sixth grade?” McClain later called the conversation “awkward.”

Those who met the brothers said they thought they were surprisingly down-to-earth. The Hansons asked several questions about Yale traditions such as the Master’s Tea, leading Isaac Hanson to exclaim, “cookies and tea, gosh golly!”

But some audience members said the brothers struck them as arrogant at times. During the tea, Zac Hanson noted that while Yalies were in libraries studying public policy, he had already performed for the President of the United States.

Hanson also projected a clip from their new documentary, “Strong Enough to Break,” which depicts them frustrated and cursing at record executives. Mike Linares ’09 said though he was happy the audience was respectful, he was confused about the video clip.

“I didn’t know if it was a joke, or if it was a dramatic re-enactment, or if it was real,” he said. “Either way, you were like, ‘Uhh.’ ”

But for Keene, the longtime fan who came from Maine and is now experiencing a “cycle” of disbelief followed by a “natural high that lasts forever,” Hanson Day put her “on another planet” in which she lost track of time, fell in love with the “damp Connecticut air” and, with three Hanson-obsessed friends, met her “heroes.”

“I wish I could capture these emotions in a bottle for safekeeping, and share them with those in need of a little passion, a little desire and a little faith,” Keene said. “Hanson has given me amazing friends, values, passion, music and dreams for the future. I’ll never think twice about sleeping on a sidewalk for Hanson. It’s part of being a Hanson fan. It’s part of my life. It’s just what I do.”

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