Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wu Bai & China Blue in Chiayi April 16, 2005

10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, April 17. Still feeling quite happy and high from the little mini-concert yesterday at Chiayi, where Wu Bai & China Blue performed 11 songs at the 94 Nian Quanguo Zhongdeng Xuexiao Yundong Hui Xuanshou Zhi Ye - Year 94 National Secondary School (which is equivalent to junior high school, I think) Sports Event Competition. (Taiwan uses a different calendar, and it's currently Year 94.) The event was free, so we decided to make the trek there, even though we knew Wu Bai & China Blue would probably only perform for about a half hour.

It was a very long day, but quite worth it. Charlene and I left Taipei at 10:00 a.m. on a bus bound for Chiayi County, which is where Wu Bai grew up. Traffic was heavy, so it took us a little over four hours to get there. Most of the trip was spent snoozing while listening to Wu Bai & China Blue on my MP3 player. I needed the sleep, since I'd been up since 7:00 a.m. and knew I'd be getting home late.

Arrived in Chiayi with the intent to find something to eat and then maybe take a little visit to the sugar factory where Wu Bai's father worked in years past, but a phone call from Shun changed that. He informed Charlene that Wu Bai and crew had arrived and were getting ready for rehearsal, so we hot-footed it over to the stadium to watch. The stage was set up quite far from the bleachers, so we didn't have a very clear view of the band, but the sound was good. We sat with a few other fans who had arrived early, and also Wu Bai's parents, who were of course there to support their son. Exchanged a few nods and smiles with Auntie and Uncle and proceeded to enjoy the rehearsal, continually kicking myself mentally for leaving my camera at home. Yes, stupid, I know, no need to remind me.

Bless Shun, who went on a food/drink run for us and returned with some really good xiao long tang bao and some fresh dong gua cha. That's little meat dumplings and winter melon tea ;) Was able to exchange a few bantering words with Dino when he walked underneath us, giving him the thumbs up for growing his hair back. Since I was the only wai guo ren (foreigner) in sight, I got a lot of stares from the kids. The various bands and cheerleading groups were constantly going back and forth in front of us, carrying water and other supplies, and some of the security folks seemed to be amazed that I was singing along with the songs during rehearsal. OK, so I don't speak Taiwanese, but I can fake it pretty good when it comes to singing! I've listened to these songs for years now, so some of it has sunk in, although I'm never quite sure I'm saying it correctly, since determining the proper pronunciation from a song is a bit difficult. Still, I have to sing along, can't help it.

Lonely Bird and his girlfriend, Jane, showed up to join us, and poor Sharrie arrived just after rehearsal was over, so she missed it all. We wandered around for a bit, checking out the venue and watching the police scrambling around getting ready for the arrival of the Taiwan president, Chen Shui Bian. Eventually located a suitable spot to eat and hung out there for awhile. Two other foreigners appeared (even though one was Chinese, he was from Canada and was therefore wai guo ren), and they sat with us for awhile. They were Mormon missionaries, and I felt compelled to try to convert them to the worship of Wu Bai & China Blue ;) Nice kids, enjoyed chatting with them, felt sorry for them when they said that as missionaries they are not allowed to listen to music. Told them that if they just happened to be strolling by the stadium later in the event, they couldn't help but hear the music......hope they did.

Since the bleachers were crammed full and so far away from the stage, we decided to wait until the music portion of the evening began to see if we'd be allowed to go onto the field, right in front of the stage. Sure enough, our wait paid off, and we all made the mad dash for the front as soon as security gave us the go ahead. We got to watch a few of the La La Dui (cheerleading squads) perform, and these kids were amazing! The groups consist of guys and girls, and the girls are routinely tossed up into the air and perform marvelous balancing feats propped up on their teammates hands. It was pretty darned cool to see, very talented group of young people here.
The opening music act was F.I.R., a very popular Taiwan group (two guys, one girl), and the press of people trying to get to the front was unbelievable. There were so many teenaged boys and girls in that crowd, all of them intent on getting as close to this group as they could, that I finally have a very clear understanding of the idiom "packed tighter than sardines in a can." Even though the evening weather was quite cool, with a great breeze, it was so hot in the crowd that I felt as if I'd been dunked in water. My glasses kept fogging up from the humidity, and none of us smelled very good at that point. My hair was dripping, and I got even wetter when one of the Wu Bai fans had had enough of the pushing and shoving and emptied her water bottle on the folks around us in an attempt to get them to be reasonable. Some of those little Taiwanese girls are so tiny that I was worried they'd be suffocated by the press of bodies around them. You could almost smell the testosterone in the air when the boys were trying to get the attention of the cute little female singer, and the young girls were swooning over the pretty boys on stage. Thankfully, some people departed after seeing their schools' La La Dui teams perform, so Charlene and I kept edging our way closer and closer to the front, hanging onto each other for dear life, trying to find the rest of our group. I thought perhaps all the squashing might end up making me a size smaller, but it didn't. Damn it.

At long last, Wu Bai & China Blue made their appearance, and the crowd's energy skyrocketed. All the songs were in Taiwanese, except for Beidong (Passive) at the very end, because this was a celebration of being TAIWANESE. The band did quite a few numbers from the new CD (and the music is even better live, as I had expected it would be) as well as a good selection of classic tunes from the past. By the end of the show, Charlene and I had managed to get to second row from the front, and I'll bet a lot of people in Taiwan saw me on TV, because it was being broadcast live :) The sound was magnificent, so much better than what they had at the show in San Francisco. The performance was perfect, and I'm just sorry I didn't get to see much of Da Mao. We were right in front of Xiao Zhu, and I could usually see Dino and Wu Bai pretty good, but poor Da Mao was hidden on the other side, mostly by the camera crew who kept getting in the way. All the guys looked as if they were enjoying themselves immensely, big smiles all around. Wu Bai was pretty funny, at the end of their set telling everyone goodbye, as if they wouldn't return for encores. Yeah, right. Are we going to let them get away with that? No way! We only got one encore, though, two songs, and then we had to leave.

Sharrie drove us to Chiayi city, where we boarded the Aloha Bus back to Taipei at 11:30 p.m. Now, this bus was impressive! It was like being on an airline, for crying out loud. There was even "flight attendant" who served drinks and snacks and blankets. The interior of the bus was emerald green, with huge seats (OK, so not like an airplane) that had motorized foot rests and back adjustments, as well as vibrating back massage (ooooh, nice). Sure, it was a little more expensive than the other bus, but what the hell, comfort is worth paying for. It only cost $25 US for the trip there and back, and then I had to take a cab from Taipei to Zhuwei (about $10.50) because the MRT stops at midnight, and we arrived back at 2:30 a.m. (much faster when there is no traffic on the road!) - try getting those prices in the US! I was home by 3:00 a.m., where I kicked back with a beer and a book for awhile, since I'd slept on the bus.

So now it's just waiting for May 5 in Hong Kong, where I'll see the boys again at Wild Day Out, and then June 11 for the Li Hai concert here in Taiwan. Why did I move here? You figure it out..... ;) Wu Bai & China Blue three months in a row, yeah!

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