For anyone who does not already know, I am a huge fan of the progressive rock group CHON. So much so that I’ve seen them five times in the span of three years. A few months ago, I found out that they would be playing their 2nd album Homey in full with a string quartet. This was a good enough excuse for me to see them a 6th time on December 8th in a bowling alley located in Asbury Park, NJ.
The venue they performed at was called Asbury Lanes, a bowling alley that doubles as a concert venue. It is one of many famous venues located in Asbury Park. I went with a few friends, and we all wondered if they closed the lanes during concerts. Our question was answered during a break in CHON’s set. One of their guitarists, Erick Hansel, asked the crowd how they were doing, and he was promptly greeted with the sound of someone bowling a strike. I thought the background noise detracted from the music, but I can see how someone would find this to be a unique concert experience.
There was only one opening band: a Japanese math rock group called LITE. I had heard of them from a Youtube math rock playlist I listened to many years ago, so I was looking forward to hearing them live. Their set was an mix of energetic math rock tunes with some electronic elements. One thing that stuck out to me was the bass player. His playing was at the front of the mix, and it served as a powerful driving force for the other band members to rally around. By the end of their set, everyone in the crowd was hyped up and ready for CHON to do their thing.
CHON was up next, and this time around, there was no flashy opening to their set. They slowly walked onto the stage wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, and the drummer counted them in for their first song “Sleepy Tea.” Because their set was just songs from their second album, it allowed them to play songs that usually aren’t played live like “Here and There” and “Nayhoo.” The mood of the set was very relaxed as they played through the rest of their album. Previous CHON concerts were super energetic, so this was a change of pace. There was one aspect I was disappointed in, and it was the string quartet. I’m pretty sure they were not mixed well because they would often get drowned out by the other members. It was unfortunate, though, because they seemed to be really talented players. I gave them the benefit of the doubt because it was one of the first shows of the tour. Hopefully, they had time to figure out the acoustics in future gigs.
Despite this technical hiccup, I enjoyed their main set. I was happy to hear one of my favorite albums played in full. They ended with the upbeat track “Wave Bounce” before thanking the crowd and retreating backstage. As usual, the crowd chanted for an encore, and they got what they wanted. Their encore was what I normally expect from a CHON concert. It was highly energetic and full of moshing. The crowd was very still during their main set, but fan favorites like “Story” and “Bubble Dream” got them moving. Like previous concerts, CHON ended with their popular banger “Perfect Pillow,” but this time they were accompanied by their string quartet. It was a fitting end to their unique show.
While it was not my favorite CHON concert, I still greatly enjoyed seeing them live again. I was disappointed by the poor acoustics of the string quartet, but I understood that bands don’t always have amazing nights. I still think the Homeys at CHON are some of the best live musicians I have seen. I look forward to hearing their new material and seeing them again. In the meantime, I hope someone figures out how to make an orchestral arrangement of “Perfect Pillow.”