Photo by Ken Sears
I'm fairly new to the world of CHAI fandom, but I had been hearing great things about their live shows. Mainly that they're a blast, and this has been a year of going to see bands just for the fun factor, so I knew I had to check out CHAI when they swung through Boston on their current tour. Their music is much more pop oriented than I normally go to see, so I was unsure what to expect. What I got was an evening of unexpected pure joy.
CHAI are a nearly impossible band to describe. They're a band of four Japanese women who wear matching outfits and do low key costume changes throughout the show (mostly something like removing a jacket or mask at the same time.) For some pop songs all four members were singing and dancing a choreographed routine, for others they were thrashing out on instruments in a punk frenzy. I've seen CHAI labelled indie rock, I've seen them labelled pop, but live they are this joyous amalgam of genres that should never be played together, but they somehow pull this off.
Photo by Ken Sears
Part of the fun of a CHAI show are the fans. CHAI does not have casual fans. Crystal Ballroom wasn't sold out Sunday night, but when the crowd erupted into cheers in between songs, you'd think you were at a completely packed Roadrunner or MGM Fenway. Not being sold out might have worked in the crowd's favor, as it gave fans tons of room to dance as much as they wanted towards the back. I expected a little more of a hipster crowd that would slightly bob their heads to the music, but CHAI's fans showed up and were there to have fun. The closer to their main set, 2021's "Donuts Mind if I Do," was one of the more mellow songs of the night, but received an ovation like when Paul McCartney busts out "Hey Jude."
Closing with a more mellow song might have been the perfect way to close out the night. CHAI's set just built and built from more chilled out R&B and pop to a more frenzied rock based sound as the show went on. It's always better to unleash a crowd back to reality in a more relaxed way.
I didn't know much about Font besides their name, and maybe one song I was able to find online. The Austin, TX band might be the perfect opener for a band like CHAI as they also don't quite fit any one genre of music. I guess they'd be indie rock, but an indie rock subgenre that is dance music. Some songs had the noise and aggression of Sonic Youth but partied down like LCD Soundsystem. Their set was pure indie and punk chaos, but one that inspired a dance party. Hopefully we'll be hearing more from them very soon.