By now you know that we only went to Toronto because of the Winner concert, maybe because you know me IRL and have heard me freaking out about it for a month, or maybe because I referenced it in nearly every blog post since buying tickets, so it is now that time in my nauseating travel recaps where I discuss said concert.
IT WAS AWESOME.
Winner is a group on YG Entertainment, which is also BIGBANG’s agency. When I first saw a Winner video a few years ago, I couldn’t help but have a knee-jerk “OK there little BIGBANG” reaction. And maybe that’s originally what YG wanted, but let me tell you, these groups are nothing alike.
They’re made up of four talented visual princes: Yoon, Hoony, Jinu (my bias!), and Mino (arguably the best Korean rapper). Most of their songs have a very distinct Winner-sound to them – tropical, upbeat, catchier than a stomach bug in a small office.
It was their track “Really, Really” that initially hooked me, though “Sentimental” was the first Winner song I ever heard and I admittedly did not care for it (so of course that’s Henry’s favorite!).
From there, I just kept liking them more and more with every comeback, and their last one in December (for “Millions”) was enough for me to make a very impulsive splurge on tickets to their Toronto concert on a night when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself because I was going through a TOOTH TRAGEDY.
Henry was not exactly thrilled with this turn of events because all the details always fall on his shoulders (things like booking hotels, figuring out transportation, wondering CAN WE AFFORD IT), but he didn’t say NO, either.
My favorite part was when I thought I used Paypal credit to buy the tickets but then the next morning, Henry texted me and was like “HI YOUR PRECIOUS TICKETS CAME OUT OF THE CHECKING ACCOUNT HOPE YOU LIKE DISCOUNT BAKED BEANS BECAUSE THATS WHAT WE’RE LIVING OFF OF UNTIL NEXT PAYDAY.”
Being Kpop trash is expensive, you guys.
Finally, the night of the concert was here and it felt like an Olympic ping pong match was being held within my stomach walls. I get so nervous before concerts! Especially when I haven’t been to the venue before, and it was my first time at the Sony Performing Arts Center.
Papa H dropped us off across the street from it, moments after the doors opened, so we slid easily right into the steady-moving line. Winner street team members gave us banners to hold up during the encore, and blue finger lights which was really nice because we didn’t have the official Winner light stick.
(KPOP LESSON TIME: most Kpop groups have their own official light stick that fans hold up at their concerts, and those motherfuckers are 비싼 / expensive. I only have ones for BIGBANG and BTS and those each set me back around $50. I better get a chance to use that BIGBANG one someday. Sigh.)
Henry Warbucks gave me a whopping $80 CAD stipend (originally it was only $60 but I kept my hand out) but it turned out that was $80 too much because the dumb girls in front of me (who would end up sitting behind us and were so fucking annoying but luckily I blocked them out once the show started) ended up buying the last t-shirt.
And I don’t wear hats so merch Option B was not for me.
Oh well, saving money is never a bad thing, I guess. Le sigh.
(But seriously, this shit only happens to me at Kpop concerts.)
My Korean is very shaky, but I think this says “everyday together with Winner”? Something loosely along those lines, anyway. There was no translation on the back, but the Winner fan group did include instructions in English, thankfully! But I’m sure we could have figured out when to hold it up based on simple context clues.
The venue was a theater, which meant that we had seats so we didn’t have to line up hours early in the single-digit temps to claim a good spot. I splurged (since I thought I was using Paypal credit, lol) and got us seats on the floor instead of the balcony which is usually where us kpop pigeons end up sitting because we don’t have rich parents buying our tickets, sigh. I was happy with the set-up because the floor was sloped, so we didn’t have to worry about having our view obstructed! Especially because everyone stood once the show started, so that made it even better to see, and since we all had seats, it didn’t feel like we were jammed up against everyone else.
It was one of the most comfortable shows I’ve ever been to, DARE I SAY.
They came out strong with “Really Really” and my throat was immediately like, “OK, I see how tonight is going to be, so please promise you’ll give me some hot tea and lozenges tomorrow.”
My throat was RIPPED OPEN before the show ended, I could not STAND how majestic these four guys were on that stage.
IT WAS LIKE A PARTY.
They played all my favorites (“Hello,” “Love Me Love Me,” “Really, Really,” “Everyday,” “Movie Star,” “MILLIONS”) except for one (“Fool”). And their solos were fantastic – Yoon came out for his solo in this sparkling silver blazer and the bombastic voice of an old soul (he also sang part of a One Direction song but Chooch and I don’t know any One Direction songs so were just screaming along through sheer crowd contagion); Mino a/k/a the Bias Wrecker gave me absolute chills with his performance of “Trigger” and then he proceeded to just smash “Fiance” to pieces, it was so great! Jinu, precious angle Jinu, covered G-Dragon’s “Untitled” and I was fucking sweating my face off, it wasn’t tears at all, it was all sweat because I’m a chronic sweater, I don’t cry at concerts. And then Hoony covered Taeyang’s classic “Ringa Linga” like a goddamn beast and whatever was left of my throat was being fed through the cheese grater-entrance to the Scream Factory.
What I really liked about this concert was that there wasn’t a ton of filler. There was a short introduction, a VCR which was hilarious and showed them as kids talking about what they would do if they found treasure and then flash-forwarding to them as adults with whatever they bought with their treasure (Jinu bought a closet full of identical gray hoodies and this was clearly my favorite part of the skit), they each did their solos, and then there was a brief segment where Yoon had Hoony and Mino pick someone from the crowd to be interviewed. My favorite was when Mino picked a guy named Kyle who is from China but studying in Canada. This guy was a huge Mino fanboy and it was adorable. When Yoon asked him what his favorite Mino tracks are, he started rambling off song titles and then said his favorite was actually the Money Flow stage Mino did on Show Me the Money (a rapper survival-style show in Korea; Mino won the season he was on). Yoon and Kyle tried to get Mino to sing it, but Mino just looked kind of shell-shocked and whispered, “….I forget.”
It was so cute!
And I have to say, Mino has big stage presence. It was hard to stay true to my main Winner bias, or even Taemin and G-Dragon at that point, if we’re speaking casually here. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky to be in the same room as him, haha.
He has that Johnny-Depp-in-a-Tim-Burton-movie feel. You know what I’m saying, don’t pretend you don’t like Chooch just did.
After the fake-last song, everyone started chanted “encore” but it kind of sounded like “acorn” so I’m not sure if this was a Korean or Canadian accent phenomenon or what, but we loved it. Then of course Winner came back out while “Movie Star” played with outtakes of their VCR showing on the screen above the stage, and we all held up our banners and screamed like crazy people. It was so beautiful, and every time the cameras got close to their faces, you could see the tears in their eyes. This was their first North American tour, without ever having performed at any of the KCONs, and they just kept saying how shocked and honored they were that so many people came out to see them. Ugh, it was so beautiful to be a part of that.
Chooch and I unanimously agreed that, even though this was missing all the pomp and circumstance, we liked this show a lot better than BTS. It just felt more real and less staged, and since it was smaller-scaled, Winner seemed to have more of a connection to the crowd. It was heart-warming and I hope I get a chance to see them again!
Also, it was refreshing to see that the crowd was a healthy mix of genders! Lots of Inner Circle bros up in there.
Chooch and I were riding on a music-induced high afterward and were so giddy by the time our Henry-driven pumpkin returned us to the hotel. Big Spender Hank gave Chooch money for the vending machine but Chooch made me go with him because it was in a corner next to cleaning supplies under the steps and was just a super-rapey area even though the hotel wasn’t terrible and the area we were in seemed nice, that vending nook was like a sex offender’s clubhouse. THEN WE SAW CONDOMS IN ONE OF THE VENDING MACHINE AND RAN SCREAMING BACK TO THE ROOM.
Henry was not pleased.
Wow, it was a really good night, diary. I don’t regret at all that I basically overdrew our checking account by purchasing Winner tickets on a whim. I WOULD DO IT AGAIN IF I HAD TO.