Back to the Island 2019 was off to a stressful start. We were supposed to get some rain turning to snow Tuesday into Wednesday, and my flight was at 5:45am Wednesday morning. Southwest issued a waiver so I could change it for free but the forecast couldn’t be pinned down and the airport was supposed to be getting anywhere from a coating to 6 inches. I became obsessed with using FlightAware to track what planes were going to become my flights and ultimately decided to get a cheap hotel room up the street from the airport the night before. (Which ended up being the same one we stayed at when we stayed up at the casino way too late to try andmeet Joey Fatone… the hotel of bad decisions.) Turns out it was a good decision because despite having to clear off my car while in snow up to my ankles, the highway I need to take to get to the airport was a mess and was shut down due to an accident and I probably would have gotten stuck. My flight from Hartford to Baltimore went off without a hitch and Baltimore seemed to have no snow at all, or it had stopped early enough that they were able to clear it all out before I arrived. On our shuttle bus to Jamaica, the sky seemed to be getting darker and as we approached our resort it was raining. We made it to the resort, checked into our room, and got a golf cart ride to the door. As we were settling in, it just started to downpour so we decided rather than try to go get food somewhere we would order room service. We were quoted 45 minutes until it came. 2 hours later… our feast arrived.
At 10pm it was time for the first show of the trip – themed “Rock All Night”. The setlist was basically the same as 2017s Middle of Everywhere tour with a few Members Only songs thrown in and a few made up on the spot songs for good measure – neither of which I recorded or really remember anymore but with all the phones that were in the air at the time I am sure there are videos somewhere. Looking at the setlists there aren’t any real standouts but I did like that they played You Never Know. We also got 2 songs we knew would be repeats – This Time Around and Where’s the Love since the next night’s theme was “Surprise Me” which ended up as String Theory aka the setlist that has NO surprises because it is the same every show. *shrug*
Day 2 we got up and went to the beach for a bit, grabbed some lunch at the super slow Level only grill, then got ready for the String Theory Q&A. The guys admitted that when they were planning the event we didn’t know much about String Theory and they thought that the Q&A would be a good idea but that now that they toured the US with it we knew what it was. A mic was set up in the middle aisle and allowed for fans to stand up and ask their questions and I was actually really impressed with the questions asked – relevant to the topic of String Theory and some pretty decent stumpers for the guys. Not the usual ones that I can answer or don’t care to even know an answer to.
That evening the shows kicked off with Zac’s solo set. It was a great set and may be tied with Taylor’s for my favorite – he did The Ballad of Seymour Better Times which he had debuted last year at the event and mentioned that it would be on the Members Only EP. He also finished his set with a new song called Reading Your Mind that he said was beach boys inspired that would also be on the new EP. (So I guess we know we are getting at least 2 Zac leads in May!)
The concert that night as I had already mentioned was String Theory – except rather than playing with an orchestra they played with the instrumental CD as a backing track. It was kind of cool to hear some of those arrangements without the orchestra really being there – but this set choice kind of left me confused. Also the behavior of some fans in the ADA section that didn’t belong there before the show left me kind of bitter before the show even started and I had even considered leaving the area half way through the set but decided that I shouldn’t have my show ruined because of them.
After the show Zac set up in the main street to play some Super Smash Bros with fans who lined up to play. We watched for a little bit and then headed back to the room to sleep.
The next day started off with group photos – a little switch to the schedule we are used to due to the excursion the next day. We lined up pretty early because I wanted to try and stay out of the sun after getting burned the first day. I also was worried about the waterfall excursion and was having FOMO if I didn’t go, but was worried I may injure myself if I did. When I approached them for the photo I was like “Soooo… this waterfall… are you guys going to be there?” and Taylor said there was something but he didn’t want it to get out. [The event has passed now so I think I can tell the rest] I said “I promise I won’t tell anyone but I just want to make an informed decision.” We were told to pose for the photo and then Taylor said, “It is up to you, but I’ll be waiting for you at the end. But I will be here like 3 hours later!” and Isaac chimed in and said “it is a lot of walking” Well, yeah, but that’s not so much the problem as CLIMBING A WATERFALL is lol When Maribeth got up to Zac and I hadn’t quite left yet, Zac turned to her and said something about how we were “telling secrets” Taylor told me to “pinky promise” and I left even more conflicted than when I had walked up to him. (But my main concern was them ALL being there and me missing a song)
Then it was time for Isaac’s solo show – I feel like Isaac finds something that worked in the past – and just sticks with it. Usually his solo sets are my favorite but this year he didn’t hit the spot for me. He didn’t do any new songs – he did A Life Without You AGAIN… (it was fun the first time…) and he continues to throw Smile into his set but we only liked that the first time because he thought he was singing something completely different… and allowed for some requests as well but shot down anything that was too old/rare because he didn’t know the lyrics. He also started with his David Garza cover again because he said it didn’t work that well last year so he was going to keep doing it until it worked out. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the set, but I guess I am just looking for more variety in setlists from him over the years. (Or I’m spoiled.)
That evening were the guest show. We went to dinner at the steak restaurant and I was wanting to check out the guests performances. Jacob Tovar was on first and a bit too country for my liking. I did get a kick about him singing about Tulsa and me knowing what streets and stuff he was singing about. Lewis Watson was up next and I watched a couple of his songs as well but spent most of the night listening from bed to rest up to watch Zac prepare to take on fans in Mario Kart for a bit that night.
The final day everyone in my group went to climb a waterfall while I opted to stay back and sleep in. I read a bit on the back porch and wandered to one of the restaurants for lunch as people started getting back from the trip and letting me know that Taylor was there! (See, I was a good secret keeper!) Then we went swimming for a bit and got ready for Taylor’s solo show.
Due to the setup of the ADA section and my assumption that Taylor would be at the piano for most of his set, I opted to watch the show from my porch. (I did pay extra for a stage view, after all!) I was happy with his setlist and he was tied with Zac for favorite but after sleeping on it for a bit I think he is going to come out with the win for the solo sets this year, even though he did a lot of songs I am kind of over hearing. Never Let Go used to be rare, not so much anymore. (*dodges tomatoes*) I did like the new sound to Runaway Run, which is one of my favorites and upon first listen (I’ll listen 100 more times over the weekend to figure out lyrics) I really enjoyed This Is Criminal and it would be criminal if it is indeed the “first and last” time he ever plays it. Feeling Alive as a solo was a really nice way to close out his set as well.
After Taylor’s set was the banquet on the beach. Aside from the steakhouse, I really felt like the food at this resort left something to desire. I admit I am a bit of a picky eater, but even the things I did like to eat didn’t really taste all that great.
Then it was time for the last show of the trip – the member’s only show – which historically has been one of my favorites. This set actually wasn’t terrible at all – but if you’re going to call it member’s only – stick to the theme. I know I have complained a bit about the setlists and really they weren’t bad – if we went into this with no theme voting at all – I’d have been pleasantly surprised and happy with them. The fact that we had themes that weren’t stuck to is what my problem is. And voting on the same themes year after year has gotten old too. Let’s mix things up. I want to hear some things that have never been played live. Some new things. Some rare things. (I know, I know you’re all complaining that I’m complaining because I’ve been able to go all 7 years.) Somehow On and On was a stand out to me this year and it is a song I usually a not much of a fan of. Not sure why the switch there. White Collar Crime was also a highlight and ending it (sort of) with Don’t Stop Believing made the entire trip worth it. (Ok maybe I’m exaggerating juuuust a bit there.)
On the way home, I wasn’t sure if my 1.5 hour layover at BWI was going to be enough to clear customs/immigration and security again. Once the government shut down had ended I thought I’d be in better shape but it turned out that 1.5 hours was PLENTY of time. I was through Customs/Immigration in about 5 minutes (the guy pushing my wheelchair said that I was the fastest person to fill out the customs form he had ever seen – we weren’t given any on the plane because most people use the kiosks but wheelchairs go to an agent) and then security with pre-check took about 20 minutes because there was not a dedicated precheck line, we just got to cut in. The TSA officers at BWI were also *amazing* and so, so helpful. Usually that is not the case but they didn’t have a cane for me to use and I was offered everyone’s arm or hand to hold as I needed to get through. I got to my gate just as the Super Bowl halftime show was starting.
Another highlight / fun story – The first night we decided to nap before the 10pm concert due to being up so early to travel. We didn’t lock the door so housekeeping came in to offer turn down service but once they saw us sleeping, left. (I was only trying to sleep and failing miserably. Did not get much sleep the whole trip!) I was a bit freaked out – so when the door was being knocked on AGAIN and the person on the other side said “housekeeping”, I ended up jumping up and locking all the extra locks on the door instead of opening it to see what they wanted. It turned out that it was just my friends coming to surprise me as one friend I did not know was going to be attending and she surprised all of us at the last second! Once I explained why I didn’t answer the door and that I was freaked out that someone had come in the room we all had a good laugh at their choice to say “housekeeping” when they knocked!
Overall I added 3 new songs to my count – 2 that had never been played before and 1 cover. Only spotted one crab and it was dead and had been stepped on :*( I bought a really nice wood sun with the Hanson symbol carved in the middle. Totally overdid it swimming to the point that my legs still are not happy with me 4 days later (honestly probably a good problem to have and maybe I should swim some more this summer at home.)
I’m ready took book for year 8 but hoping we will either have new setlist themes or us voting will be thrown out the window. I just hope a trip with NO setlist voting doesn’t backfire even more…