LIVE REPORTRED MARQUEE8/22 SUN
CHAI defies a new era of Japanese girl bands
CHAI was one of the most highly anticipated acts of the weekend, and one of the most internationally known among the 2021 artists at Fuji Rock. Since the pop-punk group’s inception in 2012, the four-person girl band has been redefining Japan’s beloved concept of “kawaii”.
As a steady heartbeat sounded through the Red Marquee, and a voice recording spelled out “C-H-A-I” before repeating “We’re from Japan” in a female computer voice.
One by one CHAI’s members entered the stage wearing metallic ponchos that made me wish I had a copy for the rainy evening! Bright pink fluffy outfits peeked out from underneath as three of the members bopped their heads from left to right, while the entire crowd mimicked their movements.
At first, only Yuna played her instrument – the drums. But gradually, each of the members were handed over or set up by their instruments. Yuuki on bass, Kana on guitar, and Mana on keyboards.
If anyone came to the show expecting a whole hour of idol dancing, they would be blown away (though there were some idol dance moves involved, too). It’s rare to come across a girls’ pop-punk band in Japan that also dress and sound like a J-Pop group at the same time.
This is the New Age of Kawaii. One where the talented girls in Japan can do more than just sing and dance.
The third song, “Nobody Knows We Are Fun,” made me think of a perfect blend of Disclosure’s electronic sounds with Yaeji’s seductive yet innocent voice. The members also harmonized beautifully together as it quickly became one of my favorite songs from their set.
It’s fantastic to see how multi-talented the members really are. At the end of “Choco Chip Kamone” which features Ric Wilson on the track (sadly, not in person), Yuna and Yuuki were behind the pink DJ deck. They tapped away at the beatpad and controller, occasionally throwing their hands in the air like it was Ultra in Miami.
As the electronic beats keep playing, Mana and Kana re-enter the stage and one by one, the girls introduced themselves in their own unique ways – some rapping and singing – and the tune soon turned into something so familiar. It was “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical, with lyrics pertaining to CHAI’s members. I wouldn’t call this my favorite moment of the show, considering how much more interesting and talented CHAI’s original music is, but I can empathize with the nostalgia from that era of Disney, as a child of the same generation.
Soon, the girls made a comeback that made me regain faith with their punk song, “N.E.O.” – a true banger that showcased each member’s awesome instrumental talents.
But just as I was in awe of their skills with their respective instruments, the girls switched it up for “United Girls Rock and Roll Club” with Mana taking over bass and Kana on drums while Yuuki and Yuna danced and sang.
The show started to wind down as Mana spoke on behalf of the band. When drummer Yuna started to chime in to give thanks, she shed a few tears (actually, quite a lot) as it was evident that all the members were emotional, being able to finally play a live show again. We feel you, CHAI, we’re grateful too. It was an echo of what many other musicians mentioned throughout the weekend – how great it is to be back at a live festival, how we can all be here together, how we want things to go back to normal soon – but to see how it emotionally affected a musician put into perspective how amazing and important the weekend had been.
CHAI went onto play “Wish Upon A Star,” a song they wrote over the last year’s lockdown. Not the most memorable song, but one that relays a beautiful message of hope for all. This song was followed by “Donuts Mind If I Do”. A sophisticated sounding song with a cute name, it feels like a nod to the Showa era pop queens of Japan that reminds you of how far female artists have come in Japanese history.
Finally, CHAI ended their hour-long Sunday evening set with “Future” before leaving the stage full of smiles and clearly evident gratitude.
An incredible Japanese pop-punk girl band that is already signed to prominent record labels in Japan, U.S. and the U.K., the future continues to look as bright as their neon pink outfits from this set.
[Photo: 10 All photo]