I was told at a young age “Never miss a Sunday show.” And to tell you the truth, I never really understood what that meant until recently. I never enjoyed waking up more tired than i usually was on a Monday morning, nor did I appreciate my ears ringing right when i woke up. But during the pandemic, I did miss a Sunday show. And I was glad to have it back.
Atmospherically, First avenue was packed. If this show wasn’t sold out, it sure felt like it, both in excitement from the crowd, and the sheer number of people who packed the club to see Japanese Breakfast perform. It might as well had felt like a Friday night. There was no inclination at all that anyone here was worried about work in the morning. (At the same time, the show did end at 10:30. Not bad for a school night.)
Opener Luna Li was all smiles as she took to the stage, and throughout her set. Made famous over social media with overdubs and creative loops, The crowd roared after every song she performed. Most openers have to go through trial and error with the crowd that was already there, but Luna Li seemed to have every member of the crowd engaged right from the start. On top of that, the room was packed already. Typically there’s a steady stream of people that come in as the opener was playing, but the Mainroom was so filled with people, it was almost like they were there just to see Luna Li. Perhaps thats why she was all smiles as she performed her set.
On top of her guitar-slinging, Luna Li also performed using a synth and a violin, her musical knowledge coming from growing up in a music school put to good use. Her debut album is set to release in early 2022, and I’ll be excited to pick that one up for sure. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she moved immediately to “Mainroom status” like Japanese Breakfast had tonight.
I had first heard Japanese Breakfast over the AM Radiowaves of Radio K a couple years back. Radio K also has FM stations and online streaming of course, but sometimes I like A.M radio for the v i b e s. Previously, they had mainly been an 7th street entry band, But have taken a big leap forward in their show. A larger stage, more instruments, and an entire lighting and set design that has no reason fitting in a venue like the entry anymore. And with as many people as there was in the crowd, no reason to perform in venues that small going forward. Its clear their popularity has moved them to larger venues, something frontwoman Michelle Zauner also couldnt believe. “We had played the entry right next door” she said partway into her set “It’s surreal to be in here now.”
They’re touring over their latest record, Jubilee, which released in June earlier this summer. However, Michelle has certainly been keeping busy outside of Japanese Breakfast as well. In the last few years alone, shes written a New York Times bestselling book and a handful or articles for Glamour and The New Yorker, Directed a few music videos, and even did a soundtrack for a video game, Sable, Set to release later this month. Tonight, they debuted a song called ”Glide” off the video game, a very rare treat for the First Ave crowd. Afterwards, they took time to wish their lighting designer Kat Borderud a happy birthday, even surprising her with a cake in the booth.
The Setlist contained mostly songs off of Jubilee, While still doing a handful from their previous records, Psychopomp and Soft Sounds From Another Planet. While each song was met with great applause, I found that any song that featured a saxophone solo from Adam Schatz (Which there was quite a bit of) received it’s own applause before the song was over. Hearing a saxophone in a indie-pop band is refreshing in comparison to so many other bands of today.
That is what makes Japanese Breakfast a great band who really seems to push their boundaries musically. “Be Sweet” feels like a disco song with a thumping bassline. Their opening song “Paprika” starts slow, but eventually features loud, regal horns while Michelle jumped and swung a mallet to a gong set onstage. “Road Head” sounds very similar to the dreampop of memoryhouse, but with a prominent groove. “Posing for Cars” became the big song of the night, starting slow with just Michelle on stage with her guitar, but the band returning to the stage halfway through to end the song in big, crashing crescendo, Peter Bradley shredding on guitar ala Nels Cline in Impossible Germany. featuring the whole band, they ended their encore set with the droning, almost 90’s shoegaze Diving Woman off of Soft Sounds From Another Planet. It was a great way to end the night, and left everyone with a cure for the sunday night scaries.