Shangri-La

Horripilation coursed through my veins like the slow burn after a long pull on a bottle of whiskey.  At first you are afraid you will die, and then you are afraid you won’t.  It occurred to me that in just twenty four hours I would be travelling five hours to Toronto and back with my two teen girls.  Don’t get me wrong, I agape my girls but, recently the car has become a bone of contention. Our new car has an aux cord so the minute they get in the car and I am driving, without asking, one of them comandeers the sound system and I am subjected to Korean pop music or coffee shop, alternative, quasi folk songs.

I love roadtrips and if I am driving, I am singing.  I don’t give a damn, who is listening or watching, I belt it out.  When I have to be alert and on the ball my taste in music tends to be on the heavier side so my playlist in the car includes bands like Nickelback, Pearl Jam, Ozzy and ACDC.  Don Felder said it best when he wrote ” Won’t you take a ride, ride, ride, ride, on heavy metal.  It’s the only way that you can travel down that road.”   While I respect the music my gals listen to, five hours on the road two days in a row listening to their tunes would have me curled up in the fetal position, thumb in mouth whispering “The horror, the horror.”  My husband listened sympathetically and simply said “Take the van, they don’t have any cd’s, problem solved.”

In the end it worked out fine.  I listened to the radio while they plugged in to their devices.  The reason for the girly roadtrip was so the girls could attend their first concert being held at the John Bassett Theatre by a South Korean boy band named Vixx.  I went with an open mind and no expectations.

Vixx in lights

We checked into our hotel which was a short walk from the venue around 14:00.  After registering for the Shangri La we set about to find a place to eat.  Not wanting to stray too far from the venue as we had to be back for 16:00 and the rehearsal, we decided that we would have a combined late lunch and early dinner at an intriguing pub called the Loose Moose.

We could not have asked for a better start to our concert day.  The beverages and food were stellar but it was our waiter who took the experience and knocked it outta the park.  The dark wood panneled pub filled with high bar stools and long chestnut burnished, lacquered with time picnic tables was something I would expect to see in a sugar shack somewhere deep in Quebec.  Racks of antlers and toboggans decked the halls and the space was virtually empty.   Our waiter was a twenty something lightbrown haired lad from who hailed from Victoria B.C.  

My K-Pop Princess

He asked us what we were doing in Toronto and I lightly explained that it was a girls weekend away from Ottawa so that my gals could experience their first concert.  Beverages and food ordered we relaxed and settled in to enjoy being in Toronto.

My anime princess explaining to me about Vixx

During our meal our waiter Nic passed by to check on how we were doing.  As we were laughing and kidding around he sat next to me and began to ask about our home city Ottawa.  Surprised we advised him Ottawa is nice place to visit especially in the winter when the canal has frozen, but if he wanted a good time to pass on through to Montreal to which he replied “I have a story.”

Obsessed with Fish Tacos

Being Irish we are never ones to shrink away from a story, so we sat in rapt attention to his tale.  It began with I love Montreal.  Il était une fois…I was in Montreal after a concert and meal with some buddies.  Somehow we ended up in a Mc Donald’s near Park Square Victoria.  It was in the winter but the sky was clear and the stars were shining.  I prefer to be outdoors so I left my buddies and went into the park.  There I saw the most beautiful girl I have ever seen dancing alone in the park.  I was speechless and before putting my brain in gear I asked her “Why are you dancing?”  to which she replied “Why aren’t you dancing with me?”
He looked at me and then back to Sarah and Emily who were both star struck at that moment, eyes wide and glassy.  It was exactly like that moment in Disney’s The Little Mermaid where Sebastians jaw drops looking at Ariel and Eric on the beach.  I felt a little like Scuttle pulling my two girls back to reality after hearing the young man’s very romantic tale.  So I ventured a guess and queried “You fell in love did you?”  Lost in the past he pulled himself back to the present and answered very quickly “Yes, and I never saw her again.”  There was a collective sigh from across the table and hearts broke.  He returned to his duties while we resumed our conversation.  A short while later he emerged from the kitchen with the chef sporting a large warm brownie with fudge sauce vanilla ice cream and three spoons.  They declared it was on the house as what girls weekend away could possibly begin without a brownie and ice cream for three.  We tucked in and Emily said “Did you see how long his lashes were?”  Sarah replied “His eyes were the colour of salted caramel.”  Insert more sighs.

Brownie on the house.

Waiting to get in to the concert reminded me a lot of being at an anime convention.  As the concert was at a theatre I dressed as if I would go to our National Arts Center in Ottawa.  Everyone else was dressed in anime cos-play.  After snaking our way through security and getting swag from enthusiastic K-Pop fans and enduring countless “Who’s your bias?”  I finally asked my girls “What is a bias?”  To which they replied “Mom, it’s your favourite band member.”  So the next poor soul who asked me who my bias was I responded with “Jimmy Buffett” to which the poor Korean soul blanched.  I chuckled channeling my dad while my girls pretended they didn’t know who I was.

Waiting for the concert. Sarah’s bias is the rapper Ravi and Emily’s is the vocalist Leo.

I mentioned earlier that I went with no knowledge or expectations of the band or genre of music.  I did this purposefully so my reflections could be honest and true.  It has taken me a couple of days to put my thoughts together.  I understand why my girls and the rest of the female population in attendance like this group.  Vixx is a six boy band all under the age of 30 from South Korea.  Mid-way through the concert I realized that it was not really a concert but more of a show because there were no instruments, just vocals and choreographed dance moves with a background screen that effectively told a story.  I would be a liar if I said I was not drawn into the story.  

Vixx stage and screen

Women with some exceptions are dreamers.  The stories in my head are always exceptional and detailed.  This band, known as the concept kings of K-Pop, understands this about women.  As I looked around the theatre at the women in attendance I could see rapture on their faces as the hip thrusting, strong sexy dances carried them away to the private corners of their minds.  These six men were beautiful and beautiful to watch.  I don’t understand Korean but I understood the inunendo and the story.  This concert was unlike any concert I have ever been to.  The group would dance three numbers then stop pull out bar stools and sit on the stage and answer questions from the audience.  The band called their fans “Starlights” and “Lovers”. The fans would rally back swaying and screaming with these $40.00 a shot plastic torches filled with starlight.  Yes, I am rolling my eyes, a marketers dream come true.

Starlights of Vixx

After a few more dances the band would stop and complete hand written missions that their starlights had written to them on a board filled with sticky notes prior to the show.   I found it akin to the childhood game of “truth or dare”.  It was tasteful, never raunchy and translated but unlike anything I have ever experienced.  

Vixx performing Desperate
Sexy shot of N Performing Desperate

At the end of the show, we had paid for an opportunity for the girls to have a picture taken with the band.  They did and will have access to the photo in a couple of weeks.  The girls had a fabulous time and I did too.  Please do not misunderstand me, I will never be a “starlight”.  Not my type of guy nor my type of music.

Walking back to our hotel around 23:30 it felt like the carnival had opened its’ doors on Front Street and the carnies had taken over.  I channeled my husband and told the girls to tighten up and took each of their arms as we made our way through the night life.

I have been to a lot of big cities in my lifetime and I am no prude but nothing prepared me for downtown Toronto nightlife.  A Circus Bus pulled up beside the theatre and a host of partiers dressed in drag piled out of the bus.  My heart and pace quickened as a 6’4″ man in stilettos, g-string, garters and corset skipped jauntily down Front Street in the direction we were headed.  My gut clenched and a sheen of fear covered my face when he turned to look at my girls and I.  He was Frank N’ Furter, and with eyes full of Hallowe’en madness and a wicked grin he blew us an exaggerated kiss while he and his compadres TimeWarped into a bar full of Jack Sparrow’s.  Frank N’ Furter just creeps me out and this guy did Frank better than Tim Curry.

Sarah, eyes as round as dinner plates looked at me and trustingly said “Thank F***, we don’t live in this city.  If I had to, I wouldn’t be right for a long time.”

After a shot of whiskey and après concert snacks at the Tilted Kilt, we enjoyed a live band still high from seeing Vixx and then headed across the street to our hotel for a good nights sleep and home the following day.

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