Much like the Lodge Room, the Moroccan Lounge emerged over the past two years as another small-scale LA venue. Its 250-person capacity means any act that plays the space also plays for their most enthusiastic fans. So a show headlined by garage punk “neo-kawaii” outfit Chai with support from Haiku Hands and LA Qoolside sounds destined for greatness. And my God was it spectacular.

The night started with LA Qoolside, a three-piece band out of, you guessed it, Los Angeles. Very loud and even more so tongue-in-cheek, they set the scene for the evening, one where bombastic vocals, extra loud instruments and cheeky behavior reigned supreme.

After Qoolside set the stage, Australia trio Haiku Hands arrived to tear it apart. Dressed in jumpsuits and donning various masks, the three performers launched into a rambunctious set. Here, self-love and care slammed you over the head with the force of a kick drum. “Your issues are enormous/ In my eyes you’re flawless,” they shouted as a type of tough love pep talk. Their blend of electro and hip-hop recalled the irreverent fun of acts such as Fannypack or the Beastie Boys, and it suited a space of just a couple hundred people. “Dare you not to dance!” they exclaimed all while climbing atop their DJ table or reveling among the crowd. With tracks as catchy and beat-driven as “Not About You” or the excellently titled “Squat,” their dare proved impossible to achieve.

But all the wild fun brought about by Qoolside and Haiku Hands only served to prepare the crowd for sheer euphoria of Chai. Rather than a grand entrance, the band actually first appeared on stage to tune their equipment. For some performers, such preparations may spoil the awe of their act, yet for Chai it added to their affable, down-to-earth mentality. To see them prepping, in their matching pink outfits no less, played into the candor of their music, which unabashedly celebrates the self and all its flaws.

When tackling issues such as body dysmorphia and misogyny, Chai preferred to do so with a smile. They opened with “Choose Go!”, resisting the “habit” of sadness by using an “invincible smile.” Cuts like this and “N.E.O.” moved at such a brisk pace they never allow you to wallow. Meanwhile, the Blood Orange beauty of “Horechatta” showcased the band’s ability to translate that cute energy into something more melodic and contained.

Musically, all the members of Chai sounded spectacular and took it upon themselves to surprise the audience. At one point, lead singer Mana and guitarist Kana, twins, switched out their mic and strings for pictures of their latest album Punk. Waving their album like cheerleaders, they delivered a Chai-ified rendition of the Ting Tings’ “Great DJ.” Looking to join the fun, bassist Yuki and drummer Yuna abandoned their own posts to join the sisters for “Dancing Queen,” which sounded as lovely as it was surprising.

Of all the songs to end with, “I’m Me” felt like an appropriate choice. The song showed off Chai’s musicianship as much as it revealed trends of the market today. Using a streaming service or iTunes library, I can listen to the Ting Tings and ABBA one after the other followed by Salt-N-Pepa and 2NE1. People consume more genres than ever and, ironically enough, they care less about adhering to them. This same mentality led to a four-piece punk band from Japan selling out an American venue. Witnessing a crowd enjoy and even sing along to Japanese lyrics thrilled me as a long-time J-Pop listener.

Brimming with hope, “I’m Me” exemplified Chai’s appeal as much as it did their message of self-love. “I don’t know about the world/ But I know me,” sang Mana, but it seemed like the world is finally starting to catch up.

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