- by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date: Label:
Buffeted out of the state last year by Hurricane Irma, Japanese Breakfast brought their own quiet storm down to Florida for back to back nights in Orlando and Tampa. Both club shows sold out quickly and the Tampa show at Crowbar was packed in before opener Snail Mail took the stage.
With her first full length album a few months off, the Lindsey Jordan led Snail Mail (pictured below) played songs from the upcoming release as well as 2016’s excellent EP Habit (the vinyl release of which was my first review for Soundblab, so full circle on that). Aside from getting to spend the day at the Harry Potter section of Universal Studios, it sounded like Jordan had endured a rough few days. Highlighting the less glamorous side of the rock and roll touring life, their van blew its transmission in Orlando, they were too young to check into their hotel until assisted by Japanese Breakfast’s tour manager a few hours later, and with no way to get their gear over they played with the headliner’s equipment. As if to push her further, the power to the club blew mid-set and knocked out the band’s mics and she had to deal with an “I love you Lindsey” drunken heckler at the side of the stage. She handled it all with aplomb and with smiles flashing between songs. With a good chunk of her set consisting of not yet released material, it was hard to pick out specific tracks but all were wrapped with a worthy lo-fi buzz. The crowd was singing at equal volume with her on the “sick of being sick” anthem ‘Thinning’. After contending with the power glitch, a few more songs were played including the relationship tangle of her latest single ‘Pristine’. The June release of Lush looks to be very promising.
After a brief set changeover, given most of the equipment was already on stage, Michelle Zauner’s Japanese Breakfast confidently strode on stage. Her Soft Sounds from Another Planet was on numerous best of lists last year and garnered a perfect 10 rating here on our site. Coming into the show it was hard to understand how the introspective and carefully orchestrated songs would translate to a live setting. Any concern was quickly swept away, as even songs that contend with her mother’s death were shot through with such life and energy. Zauner mixed the set evenly with songs from last year’s LP along with prior album Psychopomp. She was backed by a very tight and in sync band including tour manager Deven Craige on bass, Craig Hendrix on drums, and husband Peter Bradley playing guitar/keys.
From the opening strains of ‘In Heaven’ you could tell that Zauner and her band were locked in. Putting her guitar aside and taking the mic off its stand she was a ball of energy on ‘The Woman That Loves You’. Dressed in an all white space princess jumpsuit and light up shoes, Zauner was a force for the rest of the evening. Moving all over the stage and singing into the crowd standing on speakers Zauner showed she was as talented as entertainer as she is at constructing complex songs that deal with complicated things. Other set highlights included the rave-up of ’12 Steps’ where Zauner got in some tight solos with Hendrix pounding away on the drums. It was also encouraging to see a young crowd fully engaged with the lush Orbison-like construct of ‘Boyish’, which seems an unlikely live set peak but given its sweep and one of Zauner’s purest vocals it was a total charmer. Things quieted down even further with the rapt crowd in tow for ‘This House’ and ‘Triple 7’ with only Zauner and Hendrix on stage. With the full band returning for the brilliantly loopy ‘Diving Woman’, last year’s album opener, the song unsurprisingly made for a great opportunity for the group to stretch things out.
Closing on the short but peppy ‘Everybody Wants to Love You’ with Hendrix joining in on vocals it was clear the love between artist and crowd was mutual and in full bloom. Zauner was gracious throughout the set talking about spending the afternoon at a nearby dog beach and confessing her fear of the dreaded Ybor City chickens that roam the area. Given the sold out crowd it’s inspiring to know there is an appetite for intelligent and unique voices in rock music. The fact that the show was also over the top entertaining was only icing on the cake.
Great stuff, Mark! I caught the earlier leg of the tour in Richmond last September, and it was really good. "Boyish" is easily my favorite from the album, and as you stated, the studio-heavy textures of the album were reproduced well on stage. I...
Great stuff, Mark! I caught the earlier leg of the tour in Richmond last September, and it was really good. "Boyish" is easily my favorite from the album, and as you stated, the studio-heavy textures of the album were reproduced well on stage. I really think Zauner is destined for big things.