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:
Facebook: facebook.com/davidchoi
Twitter: @davidchoimusic
YouTube: youtube.com/davidchoimusic
Website: davidchoimusic.com


Viral Videos – The Early Years

As I was falling asleep last night, I had a random flashback to my first year of college. My floormates and I would spend WAY too much time watching ridiculous and hilarious videos on the Internet. This was before YouTube became popular, though. Instead of a playlist of favorites, I had a folder of bookmarked pages from across the Internet. A LOT of bookmarked pages. Here are a few that kept us entertained when we should have been doing homework:

Tony Singing – “Me in my songing practice…”

Baby Got Book – I know the link is from YouTube, but I couldn’t find the original site we used to watch this video!

Milk and Cereal – Two of our favorite versions

Numa Numa
– The DJ Rotterdam version, which is the only version of Numa Numa I think of. You must watch the WHOLE thing and ask yourself, “How much drugs and alcohol are in his system right now?”

Grape Stomping Goes Wrong – I feel bad laughing, but I can’t help it.

Dance White Boy Dance – Everybody dance now!

What were some of the earliest viral videos you remember watching?

Wishlist Update: #36 – “Stairwells” Bundle

In early March, I decided to pre-order the deluxe edition of Kina Grannis‘ album “Stairwells,” which was released in early April. In addition to the original CD (remixed and remastered), the deluxe edition also included a second disc with 5 additional originals, studio versions of 3 cover songs, and music videos for 4 original songs (including the official “Valentine” music video directed by Ross Ching – see the video below). Kina’s online store offered several bundles or packages for ordering an autographed copy of “Stairwells.” The deluxe bundle included the autographed deluxe CD and new goldfish t-shirt, but I had my eye on the limited edition deluxe bundle. In addition to the deluxe CD and shirt, the bundle included the “kg” canvas tote bag, “All the Pieces” photobook with 27 of Kina’s twitpic photos, and a signed one-of-a-kind frame from the “Valentine” video.

I tried to place my order, but every time I clicked “submit” I was faced with an error message. I tried a different bundle, a different credit card, and a different address, but I still got an error. Kina told me on Twitter that other people were having similar issues and soon put me in touch with Marcus, the co-founder and CTO at Moontoast, the company powering her store. After a few days of email correspondence, I was on the phone with Ben (VP of Engineering) and other Moontoast staff trying to figure out the technical issues. I walked them through my ordering process, and they tracked the error messages on their servers as I tried to place an order during our conversation. After several attempts at ordering and figuring out the errors, we ended our call with no specific solution set up. A few days later I followed up with Ben to see if all the bugs and kinks had been worked out. He let me know that they were able to figure out the problem, thanks to the time we spent on the phone. “The time you spent with us was very helpful,” Ben said. “And for that, your Kina Grannis order is on us.” Continue reading “Wishlist Update: #36 – “Stairwells” Bundle”

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”

Wishlist Update: #22 – A Night with Wong Fu Productions

Friday, April 15, 2011
12:30 PM  After a half day of work, I left the Harrisburg, PA area to make the 3-hour drive to Princeton, NJ. As part of the Asian Heritage Month celebration, the Asian Heritage Council of Princeton University was hosting an event that evening featuring Wong Fu Productions. The Facebook event page kept reiterating the event was “first come, first serve.” If you wanted to guarantee a seat, you had to arrive early. Since they were already expecting between 300 and 400 people – students, visiting “pre-frosh,” and general fans like me – for a room that only seats 360, I decided I should try to be among the “first come.” For several days, I put in extra hours so I could leave work as early as possible. At 12:30 I was out the door.

3:30 PM  In spite of New Jersey’s “All Turns From Right Lane” jughandles, I made it to Princeton’s campus without incident or wrong turns. The greatest navigational difficulty was finding McCosh 10, the lecture hall where Wong Fu would be speaking. I didn’t want to ask anyone for directions. I hate looking like a tourist, even when I am one (“I’m taking pictures because I’m a photographer”). Sudden stops and a few wrong turns later, I finally found McCosh 10 – 3.5 hours before the event was scheduled to begin.


4:30 PM  I was definitely the first person to show up for the event, but soon, other groups came looking for McCosh 10. I had to keep telling people, “I’m actually not a student here, so I really have no idea what’s going on.” I decided to move from the hallway into the auditorium and grab a seat at the back of the room. A line was supposed to form there before the doors opened at 7, so I figured I would easily be at the front of the line. I took out my computer and caught up on reading design blogs, Twitter, and Facebook status updates.

4:45 PM  I remembered I still hadn’t watched the newest episode of The Office – Will Ferrell’s first appearance as Deangelo Vickers. Within moments of heading over to Hulu, I heard voices and laughter in the stairwell heading up to the auditorium. The one I recognized as Phil Wang’s was talking about how heat rises. Hmm, the room was rather warm. I turned around, and there they were. Princeton students. AND Wong Fu Productions. Continue reading “Wishlist Update: #22 – A Night with Wong Fu Productions”