Around campus, the Hansens have somehow come to be known as one of the “musical” families.
I guess that’s true being that my mom played first-chair flute at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, my sisters intermittently sing in the school choir, my brother has made a couple CDs of himself playing guitar while singing, and my dad every so often weasels his way into bands to play baritone saxophone.
Oh, and my music career is just about to take off too. Keep an eye out for my first album, “Transcendental Vibes on the Glockenspiel,” on iTunes.
So since we’re practically experts on music, let me inform you of the greatest band of all time. It’s not the Beatles or Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd or Queen or System of A Down, as my mom might have you believe.
It’s Hip Service.
Let me guess – you’ve never heard of it. That’s understandable.
It’s a cover band that plays at events, fairs and private parties, mostly around California. If one were to look it up on Google Images and check out some of the promotional posters, the costumes and trippy backgrounds would probably make one feel transported back to the early 2000s.
So why is this band so great? Allow me to make my case. For starters, I just so happen to be one of their groupies.
My dad joined the band a few years before I was born. (The exact date isn’t important since it was the pre-Sonja era.) It wasn’t long before I started attending concerts with my younger sister, who was nearly born at the end of one of their shows. How’s that for a grand finale?
But, honestly, Hip Service shows were definitely not the best place to give birth if memory serves.
I remember the fried-food smell, red Solo Cups littering the ground, endless port-a-potty lines and sensation of being super hot and sticky, as little kids often are.
Despite the conditions, going to one of my dad’s shows was indisputably exciting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with rock stars?
At each event we’d pull up in style, giving off an aura of hardcore punk rock (in our silver, scratched-up mini van that smelled like old Goldfish and grease). After taking in the festival or wedding or benefit, my sister and I would run up to the members who were already getting ready for sound check.
Many of them were, and still are, a second family to us. They’d take the time to get down on their knees and talk to us about this and that, or they’d lift us onto the stage while they assembled their speakers, soundboards mics, cords and music stands. (My dad outfitted his with a cupholder for the free beer he scored at the venues.)
When the dancers arrived in their sparkly outfits, we would rush over and talk to them as they put on their face glitter in the nearest public bathroom. We always offered to help them, but I guess they feared that instead of looking like glamorous models, they would resemble one of our scribbled-in coloring books.
Every time a show started, I would be terrified. (Keep in mind that at the time I had a crippling fear of the River Cats’ mascot, Dinger, so I obviously wasn’t the bravest child. More on that later.)
The families of the band members were often seated in the front row, next to the amplifiers. But even though I had been awarded this VIP status since day one, I was overcome by the sound and felt it reverberating everywhere.
But my anxiety was soon forgotten, and the other children of the band members and I were the first to dance in front of the stage.
Hip Service plays only the finest of party funk music. I still remember my favorites off of the old set list: “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry, “Brick House” by The Commodores, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “I Want You Back” by The Jackson Five, “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang, and then, the grand finale, “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
When my sister and I were little and didn’t understand that Hip Service was a cover band, we believed that these were their original songs. So anytime these came on the radio, we would scream. More evidence that I was, and still am, clueless.
We’d dance for the entire concert but would also remain on alert for the usual middle-aged woman who would become enthralled by our dad and start to take one picture too many. In such cases, we would dance up to the unsuspecting woman and say, “That’s our dad! We have 19 brothers and sisters, and he’s just wearing a toupee!” We could almost see her fantasies of eloping with the bari sax player vanish as she turned to sit back down.
Besides that, we would dance up a storm late into the night unless we were beckoned to the stage to sing, dance or model the Hip Service T-shirts and CDs that were for sale.
The routine felt like it would last forever, but it didn’t. My dad fell away from the band when driving all over Northern California every weekend became too much.
However, he still drops in on a couple of shows every once in a while.
Just last year my dad joined the band for a concert in Old Sac, and my family attended. A few of the original members are still playing, but there were a lot of new faces.
They’ve also updated their set list by mixing in some music from Bruno Mars, the Black Eyed Peas, Maroon Five and other modern bands.
Regardless of how much Hip Service changes in the future, I’ll always be grateful for how it inspired in me a passion for music at such a young age.
That band can really “Bring The Funk.”
—By Sonja Hansen