Austin – The band CHAPPO is undoubtedly one of the most unjustly overlooked bands of the past two years. After seeing the band’s live performance at the indoor stage of Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, I found myself wondering why there wasn’t more buzz surrounding these guys. The band’s 2012 album Moonwater is full of delightfully hairband-esque vocals and rugged guitar riffs. Their sophomore LP, Future Former Self, is expected to be released early this year. Though already on their way to success, the group’s psychedelic live show marks them as one of the most promising bands of 2014.
Considering the quaintness of the venue, the band managed to create an imaginative stage setup, equipped with a fog machine and a large foil-like circle about the size of hula-hoop posted above and behind where the singer was stationed. Though unsophisticated, the combination of lights reflecting against this large disc and the appropriately used fog machine made for a very dazzling and inventive visual experience.
Like most shows, the singer was the most eye-catching presence on stage. Operating within a kind of artistic haze, the band’s titular frontman Alex Chappo was a lively personality. One minute he would be mysteriously hiding in the fog, and then suddenly appear and begin singing another song as if he had been visibly standing there the whole time. The beat-driven “Hell No” found Chappo walking into the crowd, and staying there to initiate a dance party.
However, the band itself had a very relaxed attitude. Though the singer was an eccentric and unpredictable character, there was such a fascinating balance to the group, a reminder that a singer can lead a band without weighing them down. For instance, songs like “Shots Fired” find the singer as the spot-lit centerpiece. But there is enough of an instrumental presence holding the song together that the singer’s visual dominance doesn’t distract from the delivery of the band as a collaborative unit.
But in spite of the band’s laid-back disposition, they were still able to forge a bond with the audience members. Looking around, there wasn’t one person who appeared to be anything but hypnotized by the act on stage. Bands like CHAPPO assure me that it is possible to engage an audience without rallying them before and after every song. Just think of how many performers have to resort to this tactic. The instinct to energize a crowd by constantly shouting the name of the city they are and gesturing the clapping of hands is so ubiquitous now that it goes unnoticed. CHAPPO reveals a new way of evaluating a live performance, and understanding why some shows are just unsatisfying. Building a genuine connection with an audience through your music and not your cheerleading skills is definitely not an easy thing to do. Only a truly talented and thoughtful group can master this skill, and CHAPPO should be congratulated for being one of the few bands that has.
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