Seeing a band perform live is for me the most rewarding aspect of being an audiophile. It’s not the latest and greatest and most expensive hi-fi home system that matters. On the contrary, it’s the raw live show that defines the value of a band for me personally. Don’t get me wrong, a masterfully recorded and executed album is a work of art but it’s the live show that stands the true test of authenticity for me. One of the best experiences for me is when listening to an album in the comfort of your own home is subsequently transformed by experiencing the band in concert for the first time; it’s what makes live music so palpably profound. We all have our touchstones, but added to mine, somewhat unexpectedly I might add, is as of this past weekend, Japanese Breakfast. I was often somewhat confounded by the sound of the four-piece from Philly, led by Michelle Zauner, also of Little Big League. At times, a bit Blonde Redhead (“Soft Sounds From Another Planet”), other times a contemporary product of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound (“Boyish”), and still other times a potential headliner at David Lynch’s fictitious Bang Bang Bar (“Machinist” and/or “Jimmy Fallon Big”), Japanese Breakfast span a breadth of genres and sounds, particularly with the 2017 release of Soft Sounds from Another Planet.
Tonight they played the overlooked and unassuming destination of Greenfield, Massachusetts, a sleepy town situated within the five college consortium, which includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. There was a feeling among the crowd that was reciprocated almost immediately by Zauner, who commented on the “positive vibe”, unlike the previous night, in New Jersey, which she intonated was “very different than tonight!” Zauner also mentioned tonight was her “coming out” as she had been suffering from “chronic bronchitis” for the past week or so and as such was in seclusion. Were we none the wiser, we would have assumed she’d been in mid-tour form as she and her band cut through the set with passion and precision, despite some minor technical difficulties with equipment and front of house. Zauner donned an all white muslin two-piece get up complete with white hi-tops, whose soles were lit by blue LEDs! She was punchy, engaging, earnest, and charming. She played to the crowd, the majority of whom were 20 something females, and even jumped in to pogo with them during their final song “Machinist”. After the show Zauner and bassist Deven Craige graciously wo/manned the merch table conversing with fans and signing albums with zero pretension. It was truly refreshing in an era often dominated by celebrity.
Zauner and company shook off some rust and showed they were ready for the road as they set out for a significant tour that will take them across much of the Continental United States and to Europe and back in 2018. Check your local listings and be sure to catch the crew when they stop in your neck of the woods.