CHAI Cactus Club Milwaukee WI - photo by Dave Robbins
Only the second stop on their North American WINK TOGETHER tour, CHAI’s Milwaukee debut couldn’t have been more dazzling. Dressed in silver Lycra ponchos and fluffy pink taffeta, the four-piece pep rally filled the cramped Cactus Club stage busting moves, posing and voguing while strapping on guitars and shuffling between drums and synths. Between crowd-rousing party-funk and swooning bedroom-pop ballads, the band’s non-stop bop never let up for over a dozen songs in the packed hour set.
CHAI’s effervescent presence, fizzy rhythms and beaming smiles felt like the Tom Tom Club joined The Power Puffs Girls in a blazing cascade of joyful noise and cheerleader theater. Adorable euphoria infused with heartfelt enthusiasm, the crowd devoured the ladies’ shout outs to Milwaukee and cheese curds as the well-timed tunes bounced around phat basslines, propulsive grooves and enchanting chants. Infectious directness paired with uninhibited innocence made the freezing Saturday night heat up to the point where Chicago singer Ric Wilson’s surprise appearance seemed par for the course, another hurrah in a sea of rainbow word-salads, paisley daydreams and gatekeeper beats.
Viral sensation Su Lee opened the night with polished pre-programmed pop that came to life under Lee’s sweet demeanor and substantial skills.