Mayday dedication to couples everywhere

No, I don’t have my months mixed up, I’m referring to the Taiwanese indie rock group  Mayday! A few of their albums that I picked up are getting regular workouts on my iPod.

This song, “Tender” is track number 7 on their album, “Content” is one of my favorites. Every time I listen to one of their albums I’m reminded of the energy and exuberance of Taipei and the open and friendly people I met there. What’s cool is that a number of their albums are now available on iTunes as well, so a long trip to Taiwan isn’t required to enjoy their work — unless, of course, you want to go (and I encourage you to do so!)
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I’d like to dedicate it to all the lovebirds out there, especially those proud enough to wear couple shirts, like these two. I spotted them at Yeliu, north of Taipei, and asked if they’d pose for me. The funny thing was that they agreed — and then promptly switched places! I laughingly explained that I wanted to capture them with the couple shirts matching up so they obligingly returned to their original positions and gamely smiled for me.

At Yeliu, near Taipei
At Yeliu, near Taipei
So sweet!

Sensory travels: Hearing

Someone asked me what my favorite souvenir of my trip was and it took me only a second to think about the physical items I’d brought home with me to come up with my answer. It didn’t hurt that I truthfully spent very little time shopping and when I did, I was generally looking for the same things: music and information about my favorite artists. So, the fast answer was, “Music!” I was on the hunt for new albums from artists I knew and for old ones that would be harder to track down (legally) back in the States.

My searching in Taipei included the identification of an unnamed song used as the background to a fanmade music video for scenes from the Taiwanese drama “It Started with a Kiss.” The melody line and voice of the singer captivated me and I wanted to listen to it over and over – but not from the poor sound quality MV. No, I wanted – make that needed to know who sang that song, what the name of the song was, what album it was on, was there more I could fall in love with on that album, and where could I get a copy. I played the song on my iPhone for the clerk and some customers in the first music store I could find (just down the corner from the hotel) and although they could identify the artist and song, it wasn’t something they carried. You see, they only featured world music. (But it was amusing that I could enter a store in Taipei and understand the lyrics to a song being played – a bossa nova from Brazil!) My quest continued.

Strangely, the next store was no more successful – they only carried classical music! But the owner helpfully passed on the name of a record store likely to carry the album and wrote down the complete information on the album, the artist, and the song title. I was undaunted but the search would have to be postponed for another day. It was our old addiction – checking out drama locations – that led to success. We headed to the Miramar Entertainment Complex after a day of sightseeing in order to take in the famous ferris wheel and stayed for some shopping after a book store caught our eye. While their music selections did not go so far to include the sought after album, they did have some other temptations (magazines and photobooks) and the helpful news that there was a music store in the mall! I made a beeline to the shop and showed my wish list to the first clerk I saw.

Success! The tune I’d been looking for was “如果這都不算愛” (“If this isn’t love”) by Jacky Cheung and while the original album was no longer available, they did have a special live concert album of his that included the song. Yes! It was a 3-disc set too! Mission accomplished and I love the album. And, as an added bonus to the adventure of music safari, tracking down the album, the clerk in the store was a drama fan too and we spent an enjoyable time in the shop talking about favorite dramas, which ones to see (which ones to avoid), favorite songs and artists, and of course, favorite actors!

Now I relive the sounds and memories of the trip every time I play one of the songs from artists like Jacky Cheung, Clazziquai Project, TOKIO, or Bobby Kim (to name a few) that came home with me and I’m back in Seoul, Taipei, or Tokyo.


Late report from the Asia Song Festival 2009

Some family and friends might find it just a little crazy that I would spend the better part of one of my few days in Seoul to attend a concert, but for me the Asia Song Festival was worth it for a number of reasons: great fan camaraderie, a chance to witness disciplined yet rabid fandom (oh those E.L.F.s!), and a chance to see some of my favorite acts in action, plus discover some new ones.

My Golden Ticket to the Asia Song Festival
My Golden Ticket


We got to Seoul World Cup stadium early, hoping to just pick up our tickets and check out some nearby attractions, but it was clear that this was a doomed plan once we learned how the seating arrangements worked. While we were in a close-in spot (group 9, thanks to being foreign fans from abroad), seats were not numbered and group sections were already lining up and being moved into staging positions around the stadium.


Asia Song Festival at World Cup Stadium
Excitedly finding the right line


Tossing lunch and sightseeing plans to the winds we joined in the queue for group 9 and found ourselves matched up with some lovely fangirls from Singapore who shared our enthusiasm for the various acts we’d be seeing as well as other areas of the Korean pop culture. So, even though we ended up having our locations moved around the stadium 3 times (once just so that they could film us in another area!), waited without the benefits of seating or refreshments (may I say, marketing and merchandising opportunities missed here), eventually finding ourself underneath the stadium in one of the drive-up areas to the stadium, we entertained ourselves with conversation and watching video clips on my iPhone of favorite dramas and music videos.


Section banners at Asia Song Festival
Stadium filling in


The concert did not play to a full house which was indeed a shame because it did feature a number of first-class acts and a number of top-rated ones (not always the same thing). The evening kicked off with a few videos urging the audience and viewers at home to pitch in and contribute to a charitable fund, then promos for tourism to Korea. As we were already there, does this mean it worked or was wasted on us?


Warmup act at Asia Song Festival
Warmup act


One thing I liked about the Korean concert-going public was their dislike of standing when perfectly good chairs are provided and their disapproval of anyone foolish enough to block their view. After our long hours of waiting, chair dancing was very much in our plans and this jived perfectly. What wasn’t so great was the way people kept sneaking chairs into the section in front of us, blocking the pathways and generally being a nuisance. However, we were close enough to not split hairs on this one.


Another point of entertainment for me were the hours of people watching the long hours afforded me. It never gets old for me!


Stylish little fan
The music and performances though were why we were there and they generally exceeded our expectations. (The less said about Roslana, the better.) We were delighted that Show Luo from Taiwan kicked off the main event and laughed to learn later on that he’d in fact been so nervous that he’d forgotten the lyrics to his latest hit song! Seeing “Little Pig” and his crew dance and sing some favorite songs got the evening started on a high note.


View of the stage at Asia Song Festival
It paid to be a foreigner… closer seating!


Other terrific performances were provided by Japanese groups Mihimaru GT and the special guest of the evening, V6. The legendary Gackt also thrilled us with two numbers, showcasing his unique style. The home team was well represented too by 2NE1, Girls Generation, Super Junior, and Big Bang, each group singing two of their most current hit numbers. Super Junior brought fans excitedly to their feet when they came back for an end of the concert encore to do their big hit, “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry.” I was happy for the (albeit brief) appearance of the delightfully intriguing Kim Heechul doing his few seconds of fun in the number!


Super Junior at Asia Song Festival
Super Junior exiting the stage


More pictures will eventually be available on my Flickr site. Check back for uploads as I go through my hundreds of files!

Whoo hoo! Asia Song Festival!

Okay, to see Show Luo in concert would be great, but to also get to see Gackt, V6, Mihimaru (from Japan), and Big Bang, Girls Generation, 2NE1, and Super Junior (plus about 6 other acts) was just too much fun! And did I mention it was free AND we were in the “VIP” area?
Great music and people-watching… Who could ask for more?


Sent from my iPhone

Albums that never wear out their welcome

Over the years I’ve fallen in love with an album (or twenty) and it played it with great regularity. But, as with many infatuations, the glow dims after awhile: new infatuations take over. Taste can be fickle. Sometimes it’s just a question of too many choices and you just have to listen to the one that is playing loudest in your head and imagination. “This is who is speaking to me here, right now,” you say to yourself.

Then there are the others – your classics – your perennial playlist “go to” must haves. Albums constructed so well that each tune flows into the next without being repetitive or trite. Voices (there are always singers) that reach deep inside you and hold tightly. These are some of mine (not in any particular order):

What would yours be?