Japanese Breakfast came to New York to play a sold out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg to the delight of their ever-growing legions of fans. Being an avid concert-goer often leads to the cathartic experience of being wowed by a band you’ve never seen before, which is a truly wondrous and awe-inspiring. But sometimes you get to see those first-time band experiences all the way up to the top, which can be both a nostalgic and evolving experience in itself. Seeing a band you have been following for years as they paid their dues on smaller stages finally get their big break can be even more elating. This Philly-by-way-of-Oregon band is the perfect example of that dynamic, as they have moved up the ladder in almost rocket-like fashion just as of the recent year or two. In NYC alone, they have gone from the tiny DIY stage of Shea Stadium just about a year back to breaking the glass ceiling for me personally by opening for Slowdive just a couple months ago at the massive BK Steel with a spell-binding set. Now, as they just played a sold-out show headlining the grand Music Hall stage is a sure sign this band is on the rise with a bullet, and we’re all strapped in for the wild ride.
One example of a band that I had never seen, but that all my respectable indie-rock friends seemed to love, was the Philly outfit The Spirit Of The Beehive, and I’m pleased to report after their opening set, that they did not disappoint my ravenous musical needs. This band named after an epic Spanish art film from the 70’s, is delightful artiness turned on its head and served raw and loud. They blare out a splendid straight-forward grunginess, that often reminded me of classic Pavement, but just when you would get in a comfy mindset, they would jet out in a wacko binge somewhere in the stratosphere of Ween or Sonic Youth. They manage to buck genre-defining analyses at every turn, and this team of lo-fi artists always seems to find their own narcotic-inducing binge to indulge upon with every track they play. It was a thrill to see them leave you second-guessing what they may be slapping you upside the face with next as only a band you had never seen before can do, but this is clearly a band that would be hard to predict no matter how many times you’ve seen them. Their newest album called Pleasure Suck may very well have become one of my favorite albums of the year, and it may become one of yours, too.
Another Philadelphia agent of chaos called Mannequin Pussy is a great example of a band I have seen many times before, followed as they crawled up slowly through the indie scene, opening shows in small stages like Lit and Pallisades years ago, but now that those small-stage venues are long gone, I have suddenly been seeing them towering above the rest in much larger gigs all over the place. This is also a band that will keep you guessing, as frontwoman Marisa Dabice lulls you into a shoe-gazey trance until she crashes down upon you with volcanic intensity with banshee-like wailing and howls of pure death metal passion. Their polar dynamic of the marshmallow softness and high-octane thrash punk volatility is a flood gate of pure passionate insistency no matter where the crushing waters may take you. Their last album, Romantic, was one of my faves of last year and they continue to be a band not let your guard down for, not even for a single moment.
After a delightfully curated set of music between bands that consisted of the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Carly Rae Jepsen, and the even the Teen Titans Go! theme song, Japanese Breakfast came on stage and delighted us with a wildly spirited show. Frontwoman Michelle Zauner started the project as a simple solo project to keep her occupied between bands, cities, and family tragedies, but it quickly exploded out to a zestfully massive artistic and commercial success. Her first album from just last year called Psychopomp was a rather dark affair, dealing with her mother’s death, the loss of a band, and even some heavy sexual themes, all bathing in a deeply rich and unpredictable and hallucinogenic approach. Her newly released next LP Soft Sounds From Another Planet feels like her second coming for her, with spacey themes and trippy perspectives done with a somewhat more upbeat tone, but it never loses its depth, richness, and complexity. This album takes full advantage of being a group project with big guitars, grand melancholic arrangements, and grandiose concepts. Seeing Zauner switch from deeply intense guitar-playing frontwoman to jumping about the stage like a joyous Tigger from Winnie the Pooh is a wondrous and sometimes bewildering benefit of seeing her live. She even busted out the song “Boyish” from her pervious Philly band Little Big League, and had a duet with Gabrielle Smith of the Brooklyn outfit Eskimeaux. It was a bewitching night of newfound loves and ever-growing devotion to amazingly radiant artistic talents.
Article: Dean Keim