Stepping into Union South on Friday night was a one-way ticket into an intergalactic universe where an assortment of astronauts, ravens and an extravagantly pink quartet pranced around. On Oct. 7, CHAI and JENNY123 enchanted the Sett stage, delivering one of the most unforgettable shows I’ve had the privilege of seeing to a small, blessed audience.
As soon as the six member band stepped out onto the stage, I knew that JENNY123 was going to take us to space – both literally and figuratively. An outstanding show begins with intriguing costumes, and JENNY123 gave a whole new meaning to the word intriguing. Six individuals graced the stage: two dressed as astronauts, one as a raven and three draped in normal bandwear.
The two astronauts, dubbed on Bandcamp as Mick Mansions and PT Cruiser, conceived funk pop duo JENNY123, who are based in Madison. JENNY123 is a relatively new band that just released their first album “LOST IN SPACE” last year in March 2021. The cosmonauts, accompanied by the raven and the rest of the band, performed songs from “LOST IN SPACE” over the course of the night. The band claims the album was based on “extensive intergalactic groove research,” and I believe it wholeheartedly.
JENNY123 began the show by requesting an obliging audience to fill the dance floor in front of the stage. This gave an eager crowd a chance at closer interaction with band members and allowed for ample space to dance and sway throughout the night. JENNY123 began the night playing songs like “YEAR OF THE SNAKE” and “nobody f*cking loves me,” which I find myself still listening to a week after the show.
Frontmen Mick and PT rotated singing and drumming, and were both astonishingly talented singers. This rotation emphasized their contrasting voices, personalities and songs which only strengthened an already exquisite setlist. They almost felt like two distinct bands opening, and I enjoyed both an equal amount.
Devon Pierret, saxophonist and “The Raven,” rocked my favorite outfit of the night. Donning a full bird suit while masterfully minding his saxophone, Pierret’s experience performing as “The Raven” was evident. If I could play the saxophone magnificently, I too would rock a raven suit on stage just for kicks.
An appreciative audience fervently danced with JENNY123 all night long, and looking through all the photos I took confirmed every musician on stage was incredibly passionate and committed to their instruments. It’s awesome to see such a love for music, both on stage and in the audience. Spotify says Jenny123 has 83 monthly listeners, and I can ensure that their 84th is right here!
Finishing their set with a dance off between band members, JENNY123 flung and thrusted around the Sett’s stage – with lead singer Mick even getting down on his knees to do pushups and mountain climbers in front of a laughing audience. All night long, JENNY123’s energy was electric and extremely contagious. The audience managed to have an incredible Friday night despite not knowing the words to any of JENNY123’s songs.
JENNY123 didn’t go too far, for twenty minutes into the next set I looked to my left and saw the band dancing and whooping directly next to me. They were among the most excited members of the audience – even after their draining performance, and it was adorable to witness. JENNY123 left me wondering what band could possibly top the cosmonauts, but I quickly learned that the band most individuals had come to see that night would blow me away too.
CHAI, a Japanese pop band from Nagoya, were a sight to behold. Four matching pink and white ruffled chaps, four intricate quilted fabric tops and four women in full face masks with cat ears swished and swayed in sync in front of a (entranced) mesmerized audience.
After JENNY123’s remarkable performance I, along with much of the audience, didn’t think the night could get any better. We were quickly and delightedly proven incredibly wrong.
A rule of thumb I like to follow: always go to a Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) production. You truly never know when the next Megan Thee Stallion or Chance the Rapper will be performing at the Sett in front of only you and a tiny crowd — yes, WUD booked both Megan and Chance!
CHAI kept an anticipative audience anxious by teasing audio recordings and sound clips before finally storming the stage betrothed in layers upon layers of pink clothing. CHAI’s song “IN PINK” captures the band’s relationship with the color perfectly, with lyrics “Cause I fell in love with pink / wear pink to fly, to cry, and unite.” A band that only wears pink is a band that I understand, and I knew once I saw their outfits CHAI was going to deliver something entertaining and enjoyable.
CHAI graced the Sett in the midst of their current tour in which they are opening for rock band Hippocampus. Currently, CHAI is making stops at small places like the Sett, but opening for Hippocampus presents the pop band with an unprecedented opportunity to flourish. The four member group is composed of Mana (vocals and keyboard), Kana (guitar), Yuna (drums) and Yuuki (bass), who through CHAI are redefining notions of femininity and cuteness with their alternative to traditional Kawaii, “neo-Kawaii.”
Kawaii, the trend of cuteness in Japan, is often associated with a strict, hard to maintain image that CHAI attempts to combat. Neo-Kawaii is about accepting yourself for who you are and undeniably loving yourself. CHAI’s songs and music videos center around this open-minded philosophy.
With affirmation-filled lyrics that promote female empowerment, CHAI’s songs infused Union South as an eager audience took in the incredible and completely free performance in front of them. CHAI’s four magenta members danced in sync as one unit for most of the night, which made for an incredible amalgamation of flailing limbs and pretty pink clothing.
If you ever find yourself with a spare minute or two, I would highly recommend spending some time with one of CHAI’s exceptionally visually pleasing and entertaining music videos. While I would now consider myself a CHAI fan, this doesn’t mean that I would put on one of CHAI’s songs while I’m strolling around campus. CHAI’s music is a bit too pop for my tastes – but every other aspect of the band is so overwhelmingly wonderful that I don’t even care that Mana’s voice isn’t my favorite sound in the world. The band promotes joy and positivity, and this world needs a little more pink in it.
If you enjoy live performances with breathtaking matching garments, enthusiastic choreography and upbeat songs, or you just need a new self-love jam, CHAI is the band for you. If you enjoy great music, an interactive show and unbridled passion, JENNY123 is the band for you. Brighten your day and join the 250,534 monthly Spotify Chai listeners on their Neo-Kawaii journey to self-love and acceptance. You can find CHAI on instagram at @chaiofficialjpn and JENNY123 at @jenny123.mp3.