OK. Back to the travelogue. After the thoroughly enjoyable Paper Raincoats (with Alex Wong and Ward the cellist, both of whom play with Vienna as well), on came Vienna. The first thing that struck me (besides how utterly gorgeous she is, but what ugly boots) was how down-to-earth she was. The theatre was intimate (maybe 200 seats), and she chatted with us as if we were guests in her home.
In an entirely cool moment, she talked about the people who couldn’t make it to the North Carolina show and asked if they were in the audience. That’s us! Kel and Rose** shouted that we were there. Vienna asked where we came from. Kel said near Raleigh (Or Durham. I don’t remember which). Vienna was impressed and thankful that we had traveled so far to see her. Later, Alex told us it was the better concert because he had all his instruments back (recovered by the airline at 4:30 in the morning).
I will admit to another twinge of envy because besides being incredibly hot and gorgeous, Vienna is extremely talented as well. I played the cello for ten years and would like to pick it up again, and I’ve written a couple of songs (Flaccid Cock, anyone? More on that in a bit), and I taught myself the guitar so I could write the music as well as the lyrics for my songs, but damn, girl can flat out sing and play the piano.
I liked the way she prefaced many of the songs with stories or just chatter. She was completely at ease and in command of the stage. She was low-key, but she had a presence.
Kel had told me earlier that she loved watching Alex play because he was so inventive in his instruments. He would drum on anything he had at hand (including his body), and he’s a very talented musician. Plus, he has a good energy/aura, so it’s very soothing to listen to/watch him.
Before she played Homecoming, she told a story of how she was invited to play it for the North Carolina governor’s inaugural ball because it has the line, “I was born in North Carolina”. Her manager implied that perhaps Vienna did not have to say where she was from (CA). Vienna said at the ball, all these dignitaries were saying, “Oh, which city? Maybe I knew you!” Alex interjected, “I was told nothing about this ahead of time.” Vienna added, “Too bad Ward (the hot hot cellist, says me, not Vienna) wasn’t with us at the time because he’s actually from North Carolina.”
The whole night was like that. Easy, low-key, thoroughly enjoyable. Irish Dancer was sitting to my left and fiddling with her cell phone. I thought she was texting a friend, but it turned out that she was writing down the set list like the good OCD child she is .
I haven’t been to many concerts in my life, and this one was so damn awesome. I am not a noise/crowd kinda gal (BIG understatement), so I was glad for a more intimate venue. Plus, the crowd was decidedly older. I would say late forties to early sixties. I had a revelation as I was listening to Vienna and looking around the theatre. Vienna used to be a Silicon Valley software engineer. She quit that to take up the music gig. Now, she’s retiring from music to go back to school to major in green business.
I hadn’t heard of her before Kel brought her to my attention. However, it’s quite clear that she has a devoted following. She made a name for herself in the business, touring all over the world. The people in that theatre adored Vienna, and she adored them right back. No, she’s not a household word or famous like Taylor Swift, but she made a good career of it. She did it her way, and that helped me realize that once again, there is no proscribed way to do life. I admire her for following her dream and for realizing (as Kel pointed out) that fulfilling one dream did not mean that she was at the end of the road.
I will also frankly admit that I got a thrill from watching an Asian American woman with roots in Taiwan being rapaciously listened to by a group of mostly white people. At the same time, it saddened me because it made me realize how many of the obstacles I faced in my own performance history were placed there by me. I used to think I couldn’t try out for productions because I was Asian or fat or whatever. I thought it would be hard to meet like-minded people in Minnesota because of the color of my skin or the content of my soul. After watching this show, I was forced to acknowledge that a lot of my doubt was based on my own baggage. This was Norfolk, Virginia, for crying out loud, and Vienna Teng was playing to a mostly-full house.
I’ve had people wonder why I wasn’t having all the sex I wanted, and the brutal truth is that I don’t make myself available. It’s the same with my creative life. Yes, I have this blog, and I am in the planning stage of a few others, but as long as I hide at home, how can I possibly let people see my creativity? Locally, I mean? Thanks to this blog, I have gained confidence in the power of my words. People actually enjoy what I have to say.
So, again, it’s more about my lack of self-confidence and my fear of being laughed at/rejected than any actual empirical data on said subject. When I used to perform, I was always warmly received. I always had people telling me how much my performance/reading meant to them. Granted, I had the oddballs wanting to worship me or tell me their life woes, but I’m ok with that.
More on that some other time. Back to Vienna.
The last song she did was Irish Dancer’s favorite song. It’s called Grandmother Song, and she performs it as a call and response. It’s about the advice her grandmother has given her from the viewpoint of the grandmother. Vienna encouraged us to respond with boos to the parts of the advice we didn’t like and to cheer for the parts we did. She had us practice, and then she kicked into the song. When she reached the part about being nothing without a man, Kel booed lustily. Since I didn’t know the lyrics, I was a bit behind, but I was just as enthusiastic. The couple in front of us (including the woman with the overpowering perfume) looked at us strangely, but who the fuck cares? Vienna wanted a response, so I was gonna give one. I love that shit. It was a great way to end the concert.
After the show, we went out in the lobby to wait for our chance to talk to her and Alex. It seems like everyone else was waiting, too. Punk Girl was waiting where she thought Vienna would emerge, joking, “I’m going to jump at her.” I quipped, “Just don’t jump into her arms and say, “Catch me, bitch!” I mean, she’s retiring, but still.” Quick background. Punk Girl has a cousin, son of Rose, whom I shall call Tank because he’s built like one. Punk Girl will launch herself at Tank, yell, “Catch me, bitch!” and he will without even moving. Punk Girl is several inches taller than Vienna, so the end result would not be so sanguine.
Alex and Amber were swarmed with people, so we waited. I checked out the CDS on the table, but most were sold out. After a bit, Vienna came out and was engulfed by the locusts–er, fans. We finally went to talk to Alex, and he was so cool. Very sincere and down-to-earth. He resembles an ex of mine pretty strongly (who also happened to be a percussionist) so that was strange, but I was able to shrug it off. Alex was touched that we drove such a long distance to see them. I joked with him about wanting to take a pic with the Oriental sign. He smiled and said, “I did it!” He added, “I asked at the concert if they had a more politically-correct name for the town!” He told us the concert we went to was a more complete one because he got his instruments back. He was just way cool.
When we finally got to talk to Vienna, we were pretty much the last people in the theatre. She was gracious as well, especially as I babbled at her about being Taiwanese, too.
Emerging from the theatre, I was boiling. I almost took off my top, but I stopped myself. We hit the road to find the hotel through the road construction with the help of Joe, the trusty Aussie GPS voice. By the time we hit the hotel, it was pretty late. We heated up our food in the microwave on the ground floor (deep-fried gizzards, yo!) and then ate a late supper. We were all in one room. Kel had asked me earlier if I was fine with sharing a room with them or if I wanted my own room (because I like my space, to say the least). I thought it over and decided I could handle being in the room with them for one night. Kel and Rose took one bed; Irish Dancer and Punk Girl took the other; I had the sofa bed. I felt odd about sleeping the way I normally do (nekkid), but I stripped after the lights were turned off and I was already under the covers.
To my surprise, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all with being in the same room as the others. I can’t help but think back to the time I was in the same room as my mother and my grandmother for a family reunion. That was, to put it politely, sheer hell. It didn’t help that my mother guilt-tripped me into attending. I arrived at 1 a.m. and then was informed that the tea ceremony was going to be at 6:30 a.m. Hell no, said I. My grandmother insisted, but I continued protesting. She grudgingly pushed it back to 7:30 a.m. Then, the hotel had no tea, not even Lipton, so we had to use Mountain Dew, but that’s another story.
Bunking with Kel’s family was like having a slumber party. We giggled and we gabbed–not for very long, though, because Rose had to be back fairly early the next day. She’s a home nurse, and she had a couple patients added to her docket. It was at this time that she gave us each a yellow rose for friendship. It was a really thoughtful gesture.
I know I keep comparing how my family works and how Kel’s family functions, but it’s only because I’m blown away by how relaxed and comfortable they are around each other. In my family, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the damn time, worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing. In Kel’s family, I can pretty much be me. What’s more amazing is that they actually fight. That was verboten in my family. Which meant grudges were built up and stored up. I much prefer duking it out metaphorically, clearing the air, and being ok afterwards. I think it’s ultimately healthier.
OK. Getting long once again (and this was just Saturday night!). Will continue with Sunday in the next entry. In it, I visit McDonald’s for the first time in months, compose the instant classic (ha! oxymoron, that), Flaccid Cock, and tackle Soccer Boy’s puzzle one more time. Stay tune for the next exciting installment of Minna takes over Kel’s household, and everyone lives to talk about it!
P.S. All the songs in these vid clips were also performed Saturday night.
*It was a homecoming of sorts for me to meet Kel’s family and to see Vienna perform, thus the title.
**If you need a primer on who is whom, refer back to this entry.