Fans walk a mile for Hanson

Posted On September 18, 2008

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On Sunday, Sept. 7, 250 people gathered outside the Aladdin Theater singing, chanting and holding signs as they walked one mile. But this wasn’t a picket line, it was a celebration — the band Hanson was in town.

“Everyone say, ‘I took the walk,’” lead singer Taylor Hanson yelled into a megaphone while walking down Southeast Milwaukie Avenue.

Portland marked the trio’s 69th mile walked alongside fans to raise money for clean water, education, shoes, AIDS treatment and healthcare in South Africa. The band, currently touring in support of their newest album, “The Walk,” has embraced the concept of using their fans and influence to stage one-mile walks before each show. The brothers — singer/keyboardist Taylor, 25; guitarist Isaac Hanson, 27 and drummer Zac Hanson, 22 — donate one dollar on behalf of each fan that walks this mile with them. And Hanson walks without shoes.

“You build up a tolerance,” Taylor said. “It’s not too bad. The reason we walk barefoot is to feel the needs of someone else.”

Hanson has teamed up with TOMS Shoes — a company that donates one pair of shoes for every pair that is purchased. With Hanson’s help they have already donated 50,000 pairs of shoes in South Africa.

“You see that one dollar is making a difference, or one pair of shoes. We want to encourage you guys,” Taylor said into his megaphone on the Portland walk. “We’re going to walk around the world.”

The band hopes to have fans walk a total of 24,902 miles — the distance around the world — for which they will donate money.

Growing up Hanson

Hanson’s 1997 song “MMMBop” from their debut album “Middle of Nowhere” was one of the biggest debut singles of all time — reaching No. 1 in 27 countries and being nominated for two Grammy Awards. Since then, the band from Oklahoma has gone on to sell more than 15 million records.

Their music now reflects their life as twenty somethings, each married with children. Taylor Mumm, 22, of Lake Oswego who walked with Hanson in Portland, encourages people to listen to Hanson with fresh ears, overlooking their sugar pop sound from more than a decade ago.

“People need to look beyond the stigma and see that Hanson’s music has evolved, their talent is phenomenal and they’re using their influence to make the world a better place,” Mumm said. “They are a truly talented rock band and they should be applauded.”

The 620 fans at Portland’s sold out show at the Aladdin clapped through the bands entire set. Portland director Gus Van Sant, who shot the band’s music video for “Weird,” was in attendance.

The band displayed both confidence and humility on stage. Before one song Isaac forgot the chords and turned to Zac for help.

“When you have 10 years of songs,” Isaac said, “you forget stuff.”

“There’s only four chords,” Zac said.

“I know, the trick is to know what the four chords are,” Isaac said.

And the crowd cooed.

Without overhead screens, pyrotechnics, or lights the show showcased the band as musicianship, harmonies and upbeat tunes.

“Going to a Hanson concert is like going home again,” said Jesica Clifton, 23, of Damascus. “It’s such a fun opportunity to see old friends, have a great time and listen to fantastic music.”

Hanson’s upbeat rock anthem “Great Divide,” partially recorded in Africa, revved the crowd as everyone sang the lyrics, “Have no fear when the waters rise / we can conquer this great divide.”

Keep walking

Taylor said he encourages Hanson’s Portland fans to host their own walk.

“We’re encouraging people to visit TakeTheWalk.net and organize walks in their own town,” he said. “Every person that walks is registered and we’re donating one dollar for each person that walks,” Taylor said. “We all need to realize that it’s not just us, all alone.” Isaac said their fans are “people of action.”

In the fall, the band will release their book “Take the Walk” with an EP, outlining their story with pictures and music inspired by their experience visiting Africa.

Meagan Williams, 22, of Portland said that after more than five albums she still listens to Hanson because they have stayed “true to their music” despite what mainstream radio spins.

“It seems they’d rather keep their intimate group of fans and do what they love,” Williams said. “They don’t just care about making money. They care about making their fans happy and using their fame to do something good. I wish more celebrities were like that.”

So, what makes Hanson fans unique?

“I just think we love each other,” Taylor said. “We think they’re great and they care about the music. We’ve always been doing what we believed in from the beginning.”

For more information about Hanson visit http://www.hanson.net. For more information about TOM’S Shoes, visit http://www.tomsshoes.com

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