The glittering marquee of the Palace Theatre in St. Paul was glowing on Tuesday for Slowdive and Japanese Breakfast. It was only fitting that a band coming out of a 22-year hiatus was set to a play a venue that was dormant for over 30 years. On the verge of being condemned, a new life for the Palace Theatre has been born from the crumbling walls. Slowdive is no different. One of the most anticipated albums of the shoegaze genre is set to be released on Friday May 5th from Dead Oceans and St. Paul, along with every other city before it on this tour, got to sneak a taste.
Opening for Slowdive was Japanese Breakfast; an indie-pop group from Philadelphia led by Michelle Zauner of the late Little Big League. Although considered a solo project, the stage presented Zauner on vocals, guitar, and synthesizer, another female guitarist, a drummer, and a bassist. The group’s kinetic and vibrant sound echoed boldly in the 101-year-old venue. The colorful lighting and carefree movements of Zauner and the other musicians created a fun and playful atmosphere paralleled by the quirky lyrics. The crowd was buzzing with bobbing heads and frothy beers as Japanese Breakfast moved from one song into the next. Close to the end of their set, Zauner spoke as she was tuning her guitar about her old band, Post Post (now Strange Relations hailing from Minneapolis), and how much the other two bandmates have influenced her as a musician. She said, “I said it at 7th Street and I’ll say it at the Palace Theatre: thank you for everything. This next song is dedicated to them.” The opening sounds of “Everybody Wants to Love You” shook the stage and everybody was dancing. Each line of the fun and bubbly lyrics ended with an exclamation point.
Her debut full-length album, “Psychopomp”, is a collection of reworked rock numbers turned dream-pop whirlwinds. Her first tape under the new band name was released in 2014, just before news of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. The reworkings are reflective of starting over in a chaotic world and understanding death. Before her last song she stopped again to gush over the honor and pleasure of opening for such an important and magical band that is Slowdive. In typical expressive and creative Japanese Breakfast fashion, Zauner concluded her speech with, “And this song is about a woman in love with a robot. Our new album will be out this summer.”
Then the lights turned down and Slowdive took the stage. A pause, or a moment of revere, came from the five piece as the crowd erupted in applause and shouts of “I love you’s.” Rachel Goswell, vocalist, guitarist, and pianist beamed as she looked around the packed Palace Theatre. They opened with a song called, “Slomo,” from their new self-titled album. One of the many magical and impactful experiences from their set I loved was their use of lighting and imagery. Every song had different lighting and different moving images projected on the giant screen behind them. For “Slomo,” the lights were purple and blue and the moving background was all black except for what looked like rolling brush strokes in orange and yellow. The dreamy shoegaze instrumentals and longing vocals were mirrored by the calming projection. At the end of the song, Goswell said, “That was the first time we played that [song] live anywhere,” as the crowd filled the venue with cheers. “Little nerve-wracking,” she continued and laughed. “Catch the Breeze,” was their second song. The atmosphere changed in an instant: the lights were bright white and the background was a swirling black and white pattern. It was angular and geometric, kind of like the music video they did for “Sugar for the Pill.” The sound was sharp and metallic in bright contrast with the previous song. Their third song was “Crazy for You” and the lights and imagery changed again, like everyone in that room was being transported from one world to the next, each had its own universe. This world was filled with bright orange and red lights layering over a hypnotic orange and yellow swirl. “Crazy for You” was heavy for dream-pop. As the song progressed, the lights played with the drums and the bass, casting highlights on their faces. An explosion of lights and sound boomed as the song came to a close; black silhouettes broke up the eruption and created a work of art.
As I left the Palace Theatre I felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. Thankful for how much Japanese Breakfast shared with us; it felt intimate for being such a large space. Thankful for how open the crowd was to Slowdive and their new yet familiar sound. And especially thankful for Slowdive coming out on Friday May 5th (their self-titled album and first in 22 years, preorder the album HERE) and Japanese Breakfast’s new album being released this summer.