Last week was my 11th Back to the Island and my 10th trip to Jamaica. (One of the airport employees told me I am now officially Jamerican.) I started by taking notes on my flights down and then promptly stopped doing that once I actually arrived and the activities started. I don’t know why I always seem to think I am going to become a different person on these trips, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ll see how good my memory is…
The Hartford airport was absolute CHAOS when I arrived, lines for Jet Blue and Delta were ridiculously long but I was able to sneak up to the kiosk for Southwest, scan my passport, and get my boarding passes really quickly. Pre-Check was longer than usual and at 4am everyone was a little bit out of it and the women behind me were laughing at a woman who said she did have a shirt on under her sweatshirt only to take it off and reveal only a bralette, asking if security has gotten stricter since she last traveled. The TSA Agent just shook his head and said, “I don’t know what’s going on, its 4am. I asked her if she had a t-shirt on.” The captain and flight attendants came by just as we were preparing to board and the captain was complaining that they went through luggage ‘with a fine tooth comb’ (isn’t that their job?) as a result, he said he was going to take as long as it needed for the security check which ended up with him yelling at a gate agent because the gate agent was concerned about how long it was delaying our boarding. He scolded him saying that safety checks were important and however long it took, it took. Which is fair. But also, security lines are insane so maybe show up to work a little bit earlier? Once we got ready to take off he said he was going to “fly it like he stole it from Delta” and we made up most of the delay time in the air. My second flight was delayed 10-15 minutes because I guess Montego Bay was getting backed up and asked us to wait and then there was an issue with baggage, but we still got there about 30 minutes after we were supposed to. I ended up finding a friend who arrived shortly after me and then we hung around watching the chaos that was baggage claim waiting for a 3rd friend to arrive before we boarded our shuttle to the resort – which took way longer than it was supposed to because a husband going to Ocho Rios went missing before we departed.
I ended up at some point before we left thinking it might be fun to try every drink they have at the resort on the menu. Last year we drank the same thing almost the whole time, so I figured it was worth seeing if there was something else I might like more. I ended up getting a friend to join me. More on that in a separate blog post, but we did manage to finish all of them around 1am during Taylor’s dance party. This was our 5th time at this resort and not much had changed – except there now was a mongoose? I heard that some others had seen one, but of course one of the times I was going back to my room alone the darn thing hid under a structure and then darted out in front of me. All I got as a photo was a brown blur running across but trust me. There also were the usual lizards, hermit crabs, regular crabs, bats, and an assortment of bugs. (And loud frogs?) I was pretty happy for the return of hermit crabs because one year there was a whole ton of them, but then I hadn’t really seen them since.
The first night was a Hanson show, followed by and AMMM Bonfire Set. I started by teasing that the setlist was predictable – because for the past few years they have opened and closed with Back to the Island – but they shut me right up by then going into a cover of Weezer’s Island in the Sun followed by a cover of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and Stir It Up. I was beginning to think that maybe this year was going to be different and maybe they’d actually put some effort into these setlists. This show was relatively cover heavy – they also did Islands In The Stream, Kokomo by the Beach Boys for the first time ever and finished their set out with a cover of Feelin’ Alright, which while they have done it before, it hasn’t been done since 2009 so it might as well have been something new. The Hanson originals were a bit more single heavy – but let’s just get all those out of the way early, right?
After Hanson’s set, AMMM did a bonfire set on the beach in which they wrote a three song set list and just took requests from the crowd for the rest for the most part. Taylor ended up joining them on a cover of Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and watched most of their set from the sound booth tent. At one point he came out to the bar to get drinks for the band and I heard him tell someone that the last night setlist was going to be “Rockin'” – a bit of a theme, but also super vague.
Zac was up first for the solo sets. Bonus points to him for doing 2 songs off of the latest Members Only EP – The Weight of Emotion and Where You Come From. The rest was decent, but nothing new or any real surprises and I’ll be pretty happy when Seymour Better Times is off the list as he’s done it every year since he debuted it in 2018. I think he gets a kick out of the kazoos though, so we might be stuck with it. This year we had birthday noisemakers we used as makeshift kazoos. Also during his set the speakers we were sitting under decided to be problematic so there were a few songs where the crew was climbing the stage and trying to fix it as it was popping in and out. If they were such a problem that they needed to be corrected during the show, they probably should have temporarily suspended the show as to not be such a distraction but, I’m not in charge.
We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when it was time for Night 2 – but they pulled out major rare deep cut “Dream Girl” to start the show, and it became a Members song heavy set. Trembling from White Rabbit was done for the first time ever, Working was done for just the second time (aside from Isaac doing it at his side project), So Lovely was full band for the first time since 2005, Grace Unknown full band for the 2nd time ever. This was 63% Members Only which I didn’t do major research into but I think may be one of the biggest members setlists since the 2014 Members Only set. (81%) They also had AMMM’s Zack Mack join them on harmonica for Dressed in Brown Eyes. [Note: I have since done research: 2017 BTTI Members Only was 65% and 2017 MOE in Tulsa was 68%, BTTI Members Only was 84% beating out even the 2014 set and 2018 MOE in Tulsa was 71%, MOE Tulsa 2019 was 79%, yet somehow that 2014 set is more memorable. ]
Isaac loses so points for doing “River” but gains them for the 2nd time ever for Ordinary Words and live debuts (excluding his side project) of Mother of Exiles and The Gift Of Tears. He also loses for not doing my request of Greener Pastures and also for doing Hand in Hand which ended up being repeated in the Night 3 set as well. Overall, he did a lot better with his set than he has in the past, even if he did bumble his way through a couple songs.
Night 3 was AMMM’s set – which had Isaac joining them for a cover of One More Last Chance – which Isaac had been doing with Mother Road Sons and Taylor and Zac joined them for a cover of Forever and Ever Amen. This set needed more Ingram Hill and less she who shall not be named.
Taylor loses alllll the points for playing With You In You Dreams (even though we kind of expected it) and THEN doing 2 never before heard live songs that I couldn’t enjoy to its fullest because I was still recovering from crying. He had been saying that Semi Hollow would never be played live – yet somehow managed to pull it off followed by the debut of We Belong Together. Next time, Taylor, end on the sad one. (Even though I’d still be mad about it) We now have all of Red having been played live – it’ll be interesting to see if We Belong Together makes it into the rotation more now or not. I feel like Semi Hollow may end up back in the vault though.
I am kind of over the events. I did like that we got to sign up on paper to play video games with Zac and didn’t have to stand in line (which I always skip doing) but we sat there watching him play with groups of 3 through 4 Mario Kart races and never got called up to play. Watching it is boring if you’re not playing and he probably should have done 2 races instead to get in more people. Family Feud is old, yet Isaac still doesn’t understand the rules, and throwing Taylor in as a co-host wasn’t anywhere near as amusing as I had hoped. Plus having the events at the same time meant we couldn’t linger in the back to watch the other Family feud session to see if it was any more amusing or not because we were waiting to play games with Zac. If they’re going to stick to Family Feud they need to theme it more Hanson and maybe a bit more “raunchy” as half the answers seemed to be going that way anyway, but it’s a premade family version of the game. I also don’t like staying up so late after the shows – but FOMO keeps me from going to sleep before things are over. I’m also not big into the Pool Party – especially with it back to being on the last night because it went until 1:30 and I needed to be up at 6:45 to finish packing and catch my shuttle. (Which I knew when I booked the flight, but I wanted the buffer of there being a second flight out of Jamaica to Baltimore after being screwed last year by taking the last flight out)
While we knew Night 3 was going to be “Rockin'”, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Would they continue the awesome momentum of the first 2 sets? Or would they fall back on the usuals for this last one since so much rehearsal seemingly went into the other two? They started with Dancing in the Wind – which really could go either way – but once they busted out Speechless – that had never been played at BTTI before – I had a feeling they did their research. (Is that why hansonstage is broken?) They also followed it with Cried – although I feel like they made this setlist a little top heavy and went back into the regulars at the end – where I’d rather they start with that and then build up for the end. They ended up throwing in A Song To Sing as the first encore – saying that it was probably the complete opposite of Rocking but we’d grin and bear it as it was a request. (Though I do wonder WHO requested it) and then finished out with Zach Myers on I Believe in a Thing Called Love and all of AMMM for “AMMMBop” and the finale of Back to the Island.
Year 11 was one of the best – but I am hoping for some tweaks for next year and looking forward to getting my post-event survey. The gift for year 11s was a blanket – which took up nearly half of my suitcase. As someone who tries to do carry on only, they really need to give us a heads up about the size of these items they are giving us so I can figure out how to pack!
I ended up asking to be put on a shuttle 1 hour earlier than when we were departing because it can take quite some time to find someone to push the wheelchair at the airport. My name wasn’t on the list, but the driver took me anyway (he was the same driver I had on the way in) but then we stopped at 3 or 4 other resorts on the way there – stopping at one for 15-20 minutes for no apparent reason as no one boarded. While waiting in the wheelchair for a pusher, I saw the people on the bus an hour behind us show up – 15 minutes later than we did! The kiosk also said my flight was delayed, but it apparently was not delayed enough to show up as delayed on the screens. I made it to Baltimore without incident and used Global Entry for the first time – there was pretty much no one in front of me, it took a photo of me and didn’t even ask for my passport – then I went to the booth and he told me I was all good and could enter. I was so fast that they hadn’t even opened baggage claim for those who had to transfer their checked luggage. Fortunately carry on only I just kept on my way to the security check point which was forever away. They had no cane to help me out so I managed to get them to let me use my own but how ridiculous. 1.5 miles later, I made it to the gate, and the flight kept fluctuating between on time, 15 minutes late and 30 minutes late. In the end, the crew was late and we did end up taking off and getting in late, but I can take a 30 minute delay over being stuck in Jamaica overnight alone. If you’re on the fence about Global Entry, I can’t recommend it enough, I heard of a lot of people missing their connecting flights from customs being so long this year. It took me like 5 minutes, if that. Here’s my blog post on how I got Global Entry last year after returning from Jamaica: https://blog.concertkatie.com/2023/02/global-entry-in-10-days.html