Vancouver musician Shon Wong has fond memories of past Lunar New Year celebrations. Over Zoom, the Son of James frontman and Chinatown enthusiast declares that it was a huge event when he was growing up.
“My grandfather would lay the incense,” Wong says. “We’d get the chicken, the duck—all the sacrificial meat—and do the prayers.”
This Lunar New Year is also special for Wong. On Saturday (January 27), his band is scheduled to perform a 5:30 p.m. Lunar New Year concert outside Rogers Arena before the Vancouver Canucks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s Wong’s third time participating in the team’s Lunar New Year festivities.
“We’ll be outside to do a free show,” Wong tells Pancouver over Zoom. “We’ve done inside twice.”
Then on Tuesday (January 30), Wong’s maternal grandmother, Gin Chi Sun, will celebrate her 100th birthday. Wong, who’s also a personal trainer, marvels that his grandma has lived a century without ever going to the gym and doing a push-up.
“As long as I’ve ever known her, she’s always been this cheery, cheery, cheery person,” he says.
Not only that, but his grandma still has all of her mental faculties intact.
In addition, there’s a third big event on the musician’s calendar. On February 16. Son of James will perform along with burlesque dancers and Elvis Presley tribute artist Aaron Wong at Tabu at the Waldorf (1489 East Hastings Street). To bring in Lunar New Year, Wong has called the show Chinatown Nights: Enter the Dragon.
“It’s a throwback—an homage—to the golden era of Chinatown,” Wong says.
Chinatown Nights includes door prizes
He explains that back in the 1950s and ’60s, clubs like the Marco Polo, Shanghai Junk, and Smilin; Buddha were roaring Vancouver hotspots. The neon burned bright and entertainers performed well into the night.
“Chinatown was a cabaret scene,” the Son of James frontman adds.
Musicians like Ukrainian-Chinese guitarist Henry Young played alongside burlesque dancers. And because of segregation in the U.S., many African American singers and musicians came to Vancouver and performed in Chinatown.
According to Wong, the list includes Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, and Louis Armstrong. Wong lets out a laugh when asked if Son of James would cover any of these stars’ songs at the Waldorf.
“We’re going to play our music,” he says. “I wouldn’t do that music justice.”
Singer and burlesque performer Delta Daggers will host Chinatown Nights: Enter the Dragon and introduce Son of James. The band will perform its original “Chynatruckerfunk” blend of music. It brings together the Asian sounds of Anna Fang’s erhu and Michelle Kwan’s guzheng with rock, blues, and R&B.
Son of James will be followed by burlesque performers Grace Galore, Iggy Tart, Ruby Revel, Monday Blues, and Scarlet Delirium, as well as turntablist DJ Holla Holly.
“The first 100 people through the door get a lucky red envelope,” Wong promises. “In that lucky red envelope, you have an opportunity to win some amazing door prizes donated by a lot of businesses in Chinatown.”
Chinatown Nights: Enter the Dragon is at Tabu at the Waldorf (1489 East Hastings Street) on February 16. Tickets are $45 plus fees. Use the promo code LNY5OFF to receive a discount.