The Washington Post

Hot Chelle Rae proves popular for teens and their parents at 9:30 Club

Bassist and singer Ian Sebastian Keaggy of the Nashville band Hot Chelle Rae performs at the 9:30 Club. (Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)

It’s no surprise to see hordes of screaming teens and tweens at a Hot Chelle Rae concert dancing. Witnessing their parents joining in, however, is a bit more jarring.

But that’s what puts the Nashville pop-rock quartet, which made a stop at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, a cut above the average boy band, capitalizing on swoon-worthy lyrics for the younger set and uber-catchy dance anthems for people of any age without shame.

The boy-band concept has been making a resurgence lately, thanks to groups with the same ingredients: clean-cut looks, irresistible hooks, tunes about crushes and the pain of being in the friend zone. Hot Chelle Rae, with deep roots in the Music City songwriting scene and a respectable musical lineage (Ian Keaggy, Nash Overstreet, and brothers Ryan and Jamie Follese are all sons of musicians), manages to capture more depth.

To their credit, the band members — all early to mid-20s — embrace the cheesy elements that inspire tweens to come out in droves. Stopping occasionally for some seemingly scripted banter about all the cute girls in the audience and whether they were ready to dance, lead singer Ryan Follese guided the band through the 70-minute show filled with high-energy numbers. From “Beautiful Freaks” and “I Like It Like That” to “Whatever” and a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” they slowed down only occasionally, including to belt “Why Don’t You Love Me,” usually a duet with Disney star Demi Lovato.

Much of the set list was mindlessly happy-go-lucky. Still, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned revenge song. “How many of you have had someone you’re not too fond of?” asked Ryan, introducing the delightfully bitter “Honestly.” Explaining that the tune came out of a songwriting session about Nash’s ex-girlfriend, he added, “Thank God for her, because we got our new single.”

Sure enough, the song references making out with an ex’s friends, and then tagging her in the photos just for fun. Just one of the many digital-age references sprinkled throughout the band’s songs — including Skype, free WiFi and lost iPhones.

And while some bands shy away from the song that made them famous — or at least look extremely unenthused — Hot Chelle Rae played its hit song twice.

The guys jammed to “Tonight Tonight” — their breakout No. 1 single — at the beginning of the show, and they then broke into the song again at the end.

And as the tweens belted along to every melodic “la la la” and “oh oh oh,” their dads sheepishly tapped their feet, as well.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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