|Fans take a photo with Taylor Hanson after he ate lunch at Panera Bread in downtown Silver Spring.
Before the Fillmore opened in downtown Silver Spring, neighbors predicted it would bring everything from mobs of rowdy teenagers to increased crime. But you wouldn't know that watching Hanson eat lunch at Panera Bread last weekend.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend's friend Katy told me she was going to camp outside the Fillmore the night before Hanson played there Saturday. You might have last heard of Hanson back in 1997, when their single "MMMBop" was practically everywhere. Not only are the brothers from Tulsa still making music, but they have a devoted fanbase who'll travel cross-country to see them and camp outside the venues where they play.
Katy's lost count of how many times she's seen Hanson, but thinks it's somewhere between 25 and 30. "I look up to them," says Katy, who lives in Annandale. "They're really strong and went through a lot," she adds, referring to their struggles with Island/Def Jam Records, their former record label. Seeing a potential story, I asked if Katy I could meet up with her before the show.
|Hanson fans wait outside the Fillmore. Several of them slept outside the venue Friday night.
By 4pm Saturday, there are about 40 people waiting outside the Fillmore. At the head was Erin from Ellicott City, who set out a camping chair and a cooler filled with water bottles at 10:30pm Friday night. She spent the night making goodie bags with snacks for the other fans. "It helps kill time in line," she says.
Each person has a number on their hand, which marks when they arrived. Sara (#4) got in from the Eastern Shore at 12:15am. This is her 44th Hanson concert. "This is a lifestyle," she says. "We've flown, driven . . . you do what you gotta do."
|Each person in line gets a number, allowing them to step out and explore Silver Spring.
Sheila (#10) drove up Saturday morning from Stafford. She stumbled on Hanson just 5 years ago while watching videos on YouTube. "The song in the background was Hanson," she said. "So I clicked on another Hanson song, then another. Now here I am waiting at 7am for a show at 7pm."
"In New York, people camped out for 5 days," pipes up a girl with black-rimmed glasses sitting behind her. This is Kelly (#21), who came down from Long Island. Across from her is a girl from New Jersey. Behind her are 2 girls from Brazil.
The numbers also let each fan save their place in line, meaning they can go exploring. "Have you gone out in Silver Spring today?" I ask everyone.
They've been to breakfast at Panera, lunch at Potbelly, and are already planning an after-show cool down at the Tastee Diner. They take bathroom breaks at the McDonald's at Colesville Road and Second Avenue. ("Can you write how disgusting that McDonald's bathroom is?" Erin asks.) Some rent hotel rooms, but only to freshen up before the show and sleep afterwards.
And fans aren't the only ones who patronize area businesses. Earlier that afternoon, Katy texted me: "I'm eating at Panera and Zac and Taylor Hanson are eating at a table near me. Come here!"
I ran over to find a group of scruffy 20-somethings munching on sandwiches. They could be anyone that hangs out in downtown Silver Spring, except 10 feet away, Katy (#6) and 3 fellow fans are at a booth, practically hyperventilating at the sight of their heroes.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are they? "Infinity times infinity," gushes Kelly (#7), who first bonded with Katy over Hanson in middle school.
"Shh! I can hear them," says Rachel (#9), who came with her friend Angela (#8) from Baltimore. Even though all four ladies have met Hanson before, they're unsure about getting up to talk to the brothers.
|Katy, who's lost count of how many times she's seen Hanson.
When Zac and Taylor get up to leave, Kelly runs over and gets it over with, holding up her phone to snap a selfie with Taylor. While another girl gets her brush with fame, she floats back to the booth, grabs a paper bag and starts breathing into it.
"Moments like that are why you camp out," Rachel says.
Spend an afternoon with Hanson fans like I did, and you won't ever be afraid of the Fillmore or its patrons. Sure, not all of their shows attract the same crowd, but they all make the same mark on downtown Silver Spring: they spend money here. For instance, tonight the punk band Rancid's playing there. See any Mohawks and studded leather jackets strolling out of Kao Thai tonight? That's the Fillmore at work, supporting the local economy.
Of course, fans and artists alike would make an even bigger mark on downtown Silver Spring if they supported local businesses. I can't blame folks who come from far away for not knowing what's here, but it would be nice if the Fillmore handed out a list of places to eat before the show.
Apparently Taylor Hanson loves Italian food. Hopefully, the next time he and his brothers play the Fillmore, we'll see them at Da Marco.