LIVE REPORTRED MARQUEE7/28 SUN
As Chon takes the stage at Red Marquee, the loudest applause I have ever witnessed at Fuji Rock 2019 so far erupts. It’s as if we were at a European soccer match. With their band name in bold white lower-case letters on a black background behind them, and under a stream of pale green and pale pink floodlights from overhead, these math rock geniuses kick out the jams to thousands of fans whom seemingly shouldn’t be able to fit in such a midsized venue. As their first song draws a close, thunderous applause is once again heartily heard and felt.
The second track is shorter and more thunderous, and reaps equally rallied cheers. One of Chon’s members says, “Sugoi (Great) we’re Chon from San Diego, and we’re going to play some more”. As the overhead flood lights shift to hard pinks and blues, the ridiculously complicated riffing bears similarities to The Fall of Troy here, and to guitar heroes like Steve Vai in other places. Once again a song ends, and more applause breaks out like wildfire.
In a splash of cymbals, Chon are off performing their third track, as the back of the stage is suddenly lit up with two burst of blue. For the next song, the band riffs out under a white haze, accented by white overhead floodlights. There is next to no pause in between songs, and no speaking. Almost before your humble author knows one song is ending, Chon is already launching into its next track. This is truly a band that is all about the music – more than almost any other band I have ever seen. And, perhaps it’s because they know their fans feel the same.
Ten minutes and a handful of songs into their set, Chon pauses for a full ten seconds and lets the applause ring out, before diving into their next song; this one being very much like The Fall of Troy – with virtuoso guitars and furious time signatures – but with next to no aggression. Another point of dissimilarity is that there are no vocals; Chon is almost completely an instrumental band. Towards the front of stage right, a handful of dedicated fans wave both hands in the air towards Chon, punctuating each point of musical punctuation, in veneration.
Once this latest song comes to a close, one of Chon’s members quickly and humbly states, “We’re Chon. Thank you very much.” During their next number, six flood lights burn orange at the back of the stage – like burning suns – and light up the tops of the heads in the crowd; as if the audience members are having the time of their lives. The ensuing applause proves that they are.
One loses track of how many songs Chon performs. Perhaps only a dedicated fan would know for sure. However, any die-hard music fan would know that the number of songs doesn’t matter. What matters is musicianship, writing skills, and the ability to give an audience what it wants. All of the above, Chon have in spades. At this point the six flood lights at the back of the stage burn pink and sway violently from side to side, as if searching for a criminal. Once again, another song draws to a close and another one starts; like the endless symphony of life. The screen that covers the entirety of the back of the stage is now pure black behind the white Chon logo, and two large overhead flood lights burn in an orange hue, while a number of smaller ones in between act like white rays of divine light from Heaven. Chon continues to jam out, as if telling the story of a valiant hero defying all odds. Looking back over my shoulder, the crowd flows back past the limits of the tent, enough to easily fill another respectable venue.
Twenty-three minutes into their set, Chon starts a number that is more laid back and contemplative than most of the music they have played so far. Many audience members sway from side to side in a manner that suggests that they might have done this at home as well, and are grateful for a chance to do it while the band performs live in front of them. One young woman in pigtails and a white t-shirt dances with her eyes closed and her fists clenched over her head. As the latest song comes to an end, she smiles from ear to ear, as if recalling a cherished memory. This band holds a massive power over the grateful thousands in attendance here tonight. The aforementioned pigtailed girl grooves even harder and more slowly as Chon dishes out a slow ponderous number reminiscent of early Death Cab for Cutie. As they finish that particular track, in a flash they are flying headlong into another song, as a smoky pink background is punctuated by fiercely searching blue beams from above.
Forty-one minutes into their set, as their latest track pulls to a halt, one of Chon’s members states, “This has been so sick! We hope you have enjoyed it. We sure have. We have a few more songs. This next one is called ‘Pitch Dark,’ and it’s kind of scary.” And, off they go. A woman towards the back of the hall climbs on someone’s shoulders to get a better view, but her enabler cannot support her, so she goes back down. A young man in a black t-shirt in front of the sound desk jumps up and down with both fists in the air, as if witnessing a personal friend’s great triumph. A young woman to the left of the sound booth – also in a black t-shirt – holds her boyfriend’s arms around her body, and shakes them with glee.
In a rare second of silence, one of Chon’s members announces, “The before-last song is a singing one,” and he invites the crowd to sing along; if they know it. Before their very last song, in a two-second pause, one of the musicians quickly interjects, “Arigatou, Fuji Rock,” and Chon is off again in a flurry of guitars, bass and drums. The last song has different points in the instrumental chorus where the audience is seemingly supposed to yell “Hey!”. About half of the attendees oblige, many of them jumping into the air with both fists as they do. As the last song comes to a thumping halt, the audience cheers as loudly as if they had witnessed the Beatles or The Rolling Stones in their heyday; such is the loyalty that Chon inspires. The crowd seems to want to ask for an encore, but they know they will not get one. Instead, they are treated to a thirty-second promo video of the band’s current tour. As this also comes to a sudden close, it garners as much cheering as if it were one of Chon’s most beloved songs. Contentedly, their fans then file dutifully out of the hall.