On Wednesday, retrofuturist-disco and R&B outfit Chanti Darling had an album release show that gave me the workout I've been needing. After an enchanting performance from Gold Casio, the Doug Fir’s air-conditioned underground venue had soon turned into a sweaty basement party. And that’s even before the island-themed stage décor was cleared to make room for Chanti Darling and his pair of back-up dancers, the Two-Steps.
Backed by producer Damon Boucher and a couple background singers, frontman Chanticleer Trü took the stage in an all-black getup and neon green shutter shades. After playing a couple songs I’m less familiar with, Chanti moved through energizing renditions of tracks from his new album RNB Vol. 1, like “Wake Up the Night,” “Boogie.503,” “Grab Onto Me,” and “Who’s Cruising Who.”
Even during those rare moments in the setlist when it was time to take it easy, the audience was still locked in. I liked when he sang sensual slow jams like “Pillow Talk,” and “Casual,” which features a verse from the Last Artful, Dodgr. While I had high hopes that Dodgr would grace us with her presence, at the release show Chanti expertly performed Dodgr’s part in her absence. I was in for a different surprise, however.
For the track “Running,” which normally features Portland singer/producer Natasha Kmeto, former Chanti Darling dancer-turned rapper Maarquii took the stage as a special guest. The crowd went wild when Maarquii served up a rap verse along with some sickening voguing. Their onstage musical interaction is something I had been waiting to see ever since Maarquii stopped being one of Chanti Darling’s dancers; I can't wait for their next proper collab.
As is always the case with Chanti Darling's shows, the crowd was into it. I can’t remember the last time I heard so many concertgoers shouting “yas!” “aye!” “okay!” and “get it!”
I was also happy to discover that I’ve become increasingly familiar with the group’s contagious groove- and hook-based choreography—enough so that I’ve been practicing some version of it at home, now that I can’t get the bass line to “Grab Onto Me” out of my head.
Chanti Darling has created a live music experience that’s become one of Portland’s biggest local outlets for joyful movement and pure, unadulterated fun. And as of August 3, fans are finally able to relive the memories from last night with the easefulness of a Spotify stream.