Brandon Ghorley, 2012

Brandon Ghorley (World Cafe Live, Philadelphia), 2012


30 Before 30: Face-to-Face Conversation with a Celebrity

#20 from my 30 Before 30 list: Have a face-to-face conversation with a celebrity, preferably over a meal

Clara C, David Choi, me, and opening act Jason Min

David Choi and Clara C are two recording artists who rose to international fame on YouTube. Together they have over 1 million subscribers and over 130 million video views. On Friday, their joint fall tour stopped in Philadelphia at World Cafe Live. One of the ticket options was the “fan experience,” which included admission to the concert, meet and greet, backstage access, and dinner with the band. Even though I would be attending the concert by myself, I decided to splurge on this option.

Thanks to traffic, I was 30 minutes late, but I was also the first ticket holder to arrive (since nearly everyone attending is running on Asian time). The first person I saw when I arrived was Clara, who was starting to set up the merch table. After getting checked in and set up, I went into the concert hall, where David was starting to sound check. John, the tour manager, gave me the OK to take photos and also took dinner orders.

There were four other fan experience ticket holders – two couples – and while David sound checked, we met Clara C. (She likes my scarf.) She brought us onto the stage and introduced us to David. David shook our hands but greeted me with a “Heyyy!” and a hug, since he remembered me from his show in April and from Twitter. Clara led us backstage to get something to drink, and we all snacked on chips and salsa and fresh fruit. The chips and salsa were a big hit all around. We talked about places to eat in Philly, Facebook (and Facebook stalking), tour schedules, how sound check works, and whether or not people actually enjoy living in Philadelphia.

Clara began her sound check, and David sat down with us to eat dinner. He sat across the table from me and shared fries with the rest of us. (I don’t think the fries were actually his…) We talked about school, California, being away from home, ostomy pouches (AKA poop bags), and the distinction between Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I also took on the complicated task of explaining my job and why I travel for work when I’m a graphic designer. David’s dog, Pepper, goes to a groomer in California – maybe she (or he?) attends Groom & Kennel Expo!

Doors opened shortly after dinner, and the concert began an hour later. The fan experience group sat upstairs in the mezzanine, which was conducive to people watching. The groups of teenagers and college students made us feel old. The non-Asians were easy to spot, especially the leather-clad couple that looked like they belonged in a biker gang. The concert was obviously incredible. (I bet if you search on YouTube, you’ll find some videos of it.) I am a new fan of opening act Jason Min, a Philly local. It was a fun show filled with laughs, audience participation, new music, and aww-inducing stories about the songs’ inspirations.

After the show, I had one more opportunity to talk with David, Clara, and Jason at the meet and greet table. There were several hugs, some handshaking, a few CDs signed, and declarations of “It was so nice to meet you!” David also talked about meeting at his first World Cafe Live show and replying to my tweets. And that’s what’s awesome about attending YouTuber’s concerts. The Internet makes these artists more accessible than more mainstream performers. This accessibility coupled with their welcoming personalities makes the “fan experience” more like a “friend experience.” I hope to see these friends again soon!

More photos here!

Wishlist Update: #28 and 29 – A Night with David Choi

From the wishlist:
28. “By My Side” by David Choi
29. David Choi by my side at Chick-Fil-A

I can’t exactly remember when or how I came across David Choi’s music, but I’m certain it was on YouTube. I remember seeing AJ Rafael’s cover of “That Girl” and wondering if David Choi was some big-shot international superstar I hadn’t heard of – yet. I remember watching Wong Fu Productions’ “When Five Fell” and hearing David’s voice narrating for the pair of eyeglasses. I remember David’s love song to Chick-Fil-A.

David’s style is somewhat hard to describe because it is rather eclectic. His songs range between blues, pop ballads, and acoustic pop-soul (is that even a genre?) among other styles while others are heavily produced and layered. Whatever the style, Choi demonstrates his mastery of music, production, and instrumentation with his arrangements and vocal artistry.

The “Forever and Ever” USA/Canada tour brought David to Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on March 24th. I put out the call on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to go, because I’m a bit hesitant to attend concerts in Philly by myself. It’s partly for social reasons and partly “I don’t want to be in Philly alone late at night.”

WHAT?! David Choi himself liked my Facebook status? Now I have to go!

When my sister and I got to the concert venue, my sister chuckled at how many Asians were there. It’s not surprising, I tried to explain to her. Musicians with large followings on YouTube, especially musicians of Asian descent, usually have lots of Asian fans. “No, really,” she said. “Everyone here is Asian, or they’re here with someone Asian!” (My parents thought the same thing at Kina Grannis’ concert last year.)

Edamame Hummus

The concert was standing room only, and all of the dining tables were reserved. We decided to grab a seat at the bar, which were the unreserved seats closest to the stage. To avoid potential awkwardness, we ordered food and drinks to give us reason to sit there all evening. I had coffee and the edamame hummus platter (“served with fresh cut cucumber and jicama, baby carrots, olives & grilled pita”), and my sister had their featured grilled cheese (with wild mushrooms) and a Pinot Grigio. The food was absolutely delicious! Thanks to the friendly bartenders for their excellent recommendations!

As people entered the room, they took spots on the floor between us and the stage. To our left were two guys donning Wong Fu’s “Nice Guy” T-shirts. Next to them was a young couple who spent the evening in each other’s arms, her head on his shoulder. To our right was a guy who introduced himself as Ben; eavesdropping told me he is the brother of Judah Kim, the opening act. Ahead of us was a gaggle of teenage girls who were so giddy to see David in concert. We still had a fairly decent view of the performers, though it was sometimes much easier to watch the concert on the screens of cell phones whipped out to record each song.

Opening for David was Judah Kim of Philadelphia’s Stonethrown. He played mostly original music, though the crowd definitely enjoyed the acoustic covers of Neon Trees’ “Animal” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Judah had a clear voice and a strong rhythm that lent itself to countertop drumming. Each song was a great musical performance, and his style reminded me of a long train ride from the big city to the Midwest.

After a brief intermission, David came out with his band (Josh Doyle on drums and Kurtis Keber on bass) to perform a mix of new songs from “Forever and Ever” and well-loved favorites – all original songs, though. Some favorites included “Won’t Even Start,” “That Girl,” and “By My Side,” which closed out the show. Instant favorites for me included “Underneath Your Love” and “Rollercoaster,” which was appropriately interrupted by the passing train. During the show, David also gave out two pairs of Skunkjuice ear buds, which are featured in the music video for “Better You.”

David had a meet-and-greet after the show. Though my sister probably would have preferred to head out (it was getting late in the evening), she agreed to stay when I agreed to drive home. Many people were very excited to meet David. One girl was so excited after meeting him that she left without her stuff and then almost ran into the glass door when she came back to get it. When I got to the merchandise table, I purchased both “By My Side” and “Forever and Ever” (concert sale price: $10 each). The hired muscle that David brought along made sure that the line kept moving. He directed me around the table for a picture after I gave David my CDs to sign.

David: Have I met you at a previous show?
Me: No… But I figure when the artist likes your Facebook status, you go to the show.
Ahhh… Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe I recognize you from Facebook.
[Picture-taking time!]
Thanks for coming!
It was an awesome show!
Nice earrings.
(Well, I think that’s what he said. I can’t be sure about the earrings part, but everything else is pretty accurate.)

Since the show, I’ve been listening to both CDs in my car and love every track. My sister said that David’s music reminds her of the TV show How I Met Your Mother. David’s songs, like HIMYM protagonist Ted Mosby, can be characterized by optimistic melancholy – a hopeful, sometimes even upbeat, loneliness. (She also said the bass player kinda looked like Ted, and according to the show, the mother of Ted’s kids plays the bass.) I’m slowly learning the lyrics to all the songs and hope to include both albums in my lyric type design series.

Two wishes granted! I now own “By My Side” and briefly had David Choi by my side (though not at Chick-Fil-A). Perhaps on my next trip to Pasadena, we can make that happen. (On my last trip, David was a few blocks away at the WFP office, and I was very tempted to stop by…) Then I can cross #20 off my “30 Before 30” bucket list: have a face-to-face conversation with a celebrity, preferably over a meal. Hope to see you again soon, D. Choi!

Support David Choi:
Twitter: @davidchoimusic

Wishlist Update: #37 – A Night with Kina Grannis

I think I first discovered Kina Grannis about a year ago when I stumbled upon her cover of Regina Spektor’s “The Call.” While she posts a number of covers on her YouTube channel, often with a kind of quirky creativity or surprisingly beautiful acoustic arrangement, I like her original songs best. Her lyrics carry a sense of honesty that connects with the life experiences of her listeners, especially those who find themselves in or out of love. Recently she released a deluxe version of her album “Stairwells,” which includes 18 original songs and 3 covers on 2 discs. She also embarked on her “World in Front of Me” tour throughout North America, stopping at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on April 16th.

I originally planned to attend the Philly concert by myself or with any friends who were interested in coming along. While my friends weren’t available to join me, my parents decided to come and bought tickets for the show. The morning of the show, I saw a post from Kina on Facebook and Twitter announcing she would be doing a pre-show appearance at FYE on South Broad Street in Philly. I took the train into the city, and my parents decided to drive down and meet me at the concert venue that evening. When I arrived (after a brief walk through the rain), “Stairwells” was being played throughout the store as a few Kina fans gathered near the small stage setup. Unfortunately, Kina was stuck in traffic (she was driving down from Boston, where she had a concert the night before) and would be unable to perform. Though she would be 30 minutes late, she would still do an autograph signing.

Anyone who has watched some of Kina’s videos would agree that she is possibly the most adorable human being on the planet. I mean, she rivals even the cutest kittens on YouTube. She is even more adorable in person, despite delayed travel and rain. When she entered the store, she greeted the fans with a shuffle and a wave before being taken to the back by store managers. What was once the stage area was now the signing table where those who purchased “Stairwells” at the store could get it autographed. Kina appeared to have some friends in line, whom she greeted with excited hugs and conversation about pictures on Facebook.

Wish granted! Kina and I are pretty much twins :)

When everyone in line had met Kina, those who pre-ordered the album and didn’t purchase a copy at the store were allowed to meet and greet her, too. I was able to fulfill one of the wishes on my list: a picture with Kina Grannis, wearing matching side braids. After a quick hug, I spent the rest of my brief time with Kina thanking her for her participation in Project 4 Awesome, a day when the YouTube community promotes various charities. Kina chose to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, because her mother was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare blood disorder, about 10 years ago. My mother was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008; on April 21, five days after Kina’s concert, she celebrates the 3-year anniversary of her remission. I tweeted my thanks to Kina after she posted her P4A video, but being able to thank her in person was something special. To look her in the eyes, which were welling up with tears, and tell her how much I appreciated it. To hear her say, “That makes me so happy” and “Congratulations” for my mom. After that, I could have missed the concert and still thought it was a great day. I stuck around with some of Kina’s street team while Kina waited for her car to come around the block. I was able to get a second picture with her (the first was a bit out of focus) and told her it was a “YouTube weekend” for me. “I was just with Wes, Ted, and Phil last night!” I said. “Oh, they’re such great guys.” Yes, indeed they are.

My parents eating dinner at separate tables. Awkward!

A subway ride and a longer-than-it-should-have-been, rain-soaked walk later, I had arrived at World Cafe Live. My parents were waiting downstairs by the entrance, and I went upstairs to get my ticket from will call and take a place in line to get into the room. I passed the street teamers I met at FYE, who were dry thanks to their car ride to the venue. Because my parents bought their tickets later than I did, we were seated at 3 separate tables. My mom was joined by a group of friends who happened to know the group of friends at my dad’s table. My mom was surprised by the number of Asians at the concert (including the girls at my parents’ tables), and my dad told me after the show, “I heard the one girl saying, ‘Everyone is going to think we’re at the concert with our dad!'” Of course, I was actually the one at the concert with my dad… Continue reading “Wishlist Update: #37 – A Night with Kina Grannis”