Despite only playing their first European performance in 2015 at the final rendition of Hevy Festival, the sheer speed of how quickly Chon have amassed such a large following on our shores has been outstanding. This is even more incredible when taking in fact that the instrumental math rock quintet have never undertook a full UK headline tour up until now. In support of their new and critically acclaimed release - Homey, Chon have endeavoured on their first full headline tour on our shores, stopping off at the legendary Fleece in the process.
Whilst the inclusion of an acoustic singer songwriter on the bill may be bizarre choice for those uninitiated, Yvette Young (7.5) is a fantastic and original choice for an opener. It’s understandable for the name not to ring any bells for the majority of the punters gathered tonight, but Young is clearly someone with roots embedded within the progressive alternative scene, with her other band Covet being major players within the San Francisco prog scene. Never the less, Young creates a set full of complex, impressive and spellbinding acoustic fretwork that perfectly panders towards the tech oriented demographic gathered tonight.
Photo Credit: Julian Bailey Photography
Her flawless and freshly original approach to acoustic math-rock is only amplified by the inclusion of tender and soulful vocals, an element that only compliments her warming, tender yet complex fretwork. Despite this, some of the more recent tracks performed take a more conventional approach to song writing. Whilst this isn’t a criticism, the contrast between these tracks is notable, but in a refreshing manner that only amplifies the furious yet fragile fretwork when featured. Overall, it’s a pleasant, amiable and a refreshingly unprecedented contrast to the stereotypical support normally selected for technical and progressive shows.
With the live music scene currently in uncertain and trying times, the fact that an instrumental progressive rock has sold out such a revered independent venue seems to have ignited a rather celebratory atmosphere. This atmospheric aurora fully becomes unmistakable when Chon (9) receive a heroes welcome touching stage to an 8-bit rendition of ‘Sleepy Tea’, the opening track on Homey, before launching into the full version. Immediately, the sheer and impeccable skill of the group becomes apparent; beautiful and flawless sweep picking combined with complex yet soothing chord progression with ever expanding and shifting time signatures. It’s massive, bolstering yet natural soundscape which resonates with the group’s more unconventional and open inspirations of video game and movie soundtracks and electronica. All these aforementioned elements become transparent due in the perfect crisp clarity of the sound quality and mixing.
One of the more unappreciated elements of Chon’s music, particularly live is the drumming talents of Nathan Camarena. The immaculate drumlines supply the spine and foundation for such complex fretwork. In regards of the setlist featured, there’s certainly a level of fluidity heavily present, with material from all of their releases being featured. With this in consideration, it’s highly satisfying to see the subtle evolution and shift of the band’s signature sound over the past several years.
Photo Credit: Zeb
Tracks from their debut full length Grow, such as ‘Story’ and ‘Book’ feature a somewhat sublime djent orientated math sound whilst the material from Homey, like ‘No Signal’ and ‘Checkpoint’ take a more ambient and soothing approach. Truly, the contrast between their slightly heavier (so to speak) roots and more ambient structures present in their recent work is extremely appeasing, and the incorporation of such subtly contrasting tracks performed is spellbinding and delightful.
It all makes for an incredible masterclass of youthful and energetic progressive instrumental music that invokes positive auroras and feelings. On top of this, whilst rather uncommon at instrumental gigs, the crowd are physically going nuts, with a large pit taking centre stage throughout the show. Capping off the evening of an encore of long standing fan favourite ‘Perfect Pillow’ sending the crowd into a final mess of dancing in the process, it just shows how much of an effect this genre can invoke when played at it’s best. Sure, whilst the terms ‘party’ and ‘instrumental prog rock’ may be a contradiction at the very best of times, it’s completely undeniable that Chon bought one hell of a good time to Bristol tonight.