Merely a single day after the conclusion of SXSW Music, Japanese dance-punk band CHAI once again hopped on a plane to officially kick off their US tour at Union Stage in DC. And hot off the release of their sophomore album Punk and to rave SXSW reviews, they’ve started to win us over. They blend elements of J-pop, synth-pop, and even dance-punk (surprise!) with positive lyricism. Without looking it up, English speakers might not realize that the frantic “N.E.O.” hides empowering messages, like “Small eyes, flat nose, no shape, fat legs / Still a nice body!”, as do many of their songs. With in-your-face songs like “Great Job” and “N.E.O.” alongside charming, but brief covers of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and The Ting Tings’ “Great DJ,” they’re the perfect example of not succumbing to pressure and placing themselves within a box. When they scream out “We are CHAI!”, their excitement makes it easy to tell that they’re exactly who they want to be.
Punk is available now through Burger Records.
Opening for CHAI were Australian trio Haiku Hands. Also fresh off a busy SXSW schedule, they made their first appearance in DC and made it count with a combination of Spice Girls and Beastie Boys energy, rapping and singing over dance tracks and bringing a lot of fun choreography along with it. Their latest release is the self-released single “Dare You Not to Dance.”
DC-based group Den-Mate started the night off with loud, imposing songs with a just-as-imposing presence from singer Jules Hale, who has truly come into her own as a compelling performer. Their latest album Loceke is out now through Babe City Records.