It was last summer when we caught Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Michelle Zauner, opening for (Sandy) Alex G at Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro NC. Since then, Japanese Breakfast has released Soft Sounds from Another Planet, her critically acclaimed sophomore album, and toured behind it relentlessly. We were thrilled to learn that the tour would be extended into 2018 with more US dates, including a stop at a sold-out Motorco Music Hall in Durham NC.
The Tuesday night crowd, spanning a wide variety of ages and demographics, was buzzing with anticipation as the lights faded down and Michelle Zauner took to the stage with her Japanese Breakfast bandmates. They reached back to 2016’s Psychopomp, and started off the evening with the colorful ambiance of that album’s opening track, “In Heaven.” Despite the song’s emotional theme of Michelle dealing with her Mother’s death, it was anything but dreary and served as a celebration of life, setting the mood perfectly for the rest of the evening. Having gotten the crowd up and moving, the party continued with “The Woman That Loves You,” before dipping into the new album for the spacey disco of “Machinist” and a playful romp through the sultry “Roadhead.” Zauner and her band were completely dialed-in as they played through the varied sonic palette of songs from her catalog, often peeling back some of the studio lushness to deliver a raw live sound without losing the heartfelt soul. Some of the highlights included, “Heft,” “Boyish,” “The Body Is A Blade,” and a new song, “2042.”
Throughout the evening Michelle was a charming and charismatic bundle of energy, whether dancing around the stage in her white sneakers with colored lights in the soles, losing herself in some deftly played guitar riffs, or standing on the edge of the stage flawlessly delivering emotional lyrics. She did pause briefly toward the end of the set and downshifted the pacing a bit as two-thirds of her band mates left the stage, leaving her to deliver a few reflective and heartfelt songs backed only by her guitar and some atmospheric synth. The band returned for an extended wandering dreamlike jam through “Diving Woman,” followed by a shimmering and euphoric set ending “Everybody Wants To Love You.” Japanese Breakfast delivered a top-notch performance that left the audience cheering wildly and chanting for more…. And more is exactly what Motorco got! Zauner and her bandmates trotted back on stage, and Michelle told the expectant crowd that while they don’t normally do encores this would be a first for Durham. She went on to explain that they were about to do a cover that they hoped some might recognize, and the band launched into a raucous cover of the Cranberries “Dreams” that truly blew the roof off the place. Japanese Breakfast hooked the audience from start to finish delivering a buoyant performance, that while dipping into melancholy at times, was ultimately an optimistic and uplifting experience.
The show was opened by Atlanta-based basement pop band Art School Jocks, who released their self-titled debut EP last June on Father/Daughter Records. Their set, which mixed casual indie-pop meets garage-rock sound with often brooding lyrics, was well received by the building crowd.
Japanese Breakfast + Art School Jocks @ Motorco Music Hall – April 3rd 2018