I don’t want to start this off on a dramatic note, but it can’t be helped. I haven’t stopped thinking about last September’s Japanese Breakfast show since I left the front row. Something about it was so magical to me. I loved the instrumentation, the joy, and the lighting design. Everything. It was incredible. The announcement of another performance for this July had me hooked in before tickets even went on sale.
As I walked into a sold out First Avenue Mainroom on Monday night, I noticed something special. Parents bringing their kids to the Mainroom for the first time. Lots of them had starry eyes and some even had cute little cat ear headbands. Trust me, they looked COOL.
It didn’t click with me right away, but when openers The Linda Lindas took the stage it was completely obvious. They were there for them.
The Linda Lindas have absolutely exploded over the last year after they went viral on YouTube with their song “Racist, Sexist Boy.” Their top-notch riot girl punk aesthetic has led them to work with Bikini Kill, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even Amy Poehler among others. They are talented beyond their age – ranging from 11 to 17 years old. I was truly amazed at their balance between absolute professional poise on stage, and looking like they were having fun jamming in their living room together as friends. They jumped and whipped their hair around while they took turns leading the band.
Not only were they more exciting to watch than many bands I’ve seen in the past, but they have their stage banter nailed down, too. They shared with the crowd stories about their newly acquired first tour bus, Shirley. They also noted how exciting it was to play First Avenue, following it up with mention of their visit to Prince’s other house – Paisley Park.
It was such a sweet set of music to experience. I felt fired up and wildly impressed with them (even beyond the thoughts of “what was I doing at that age” and cringing). I can only imagine that some of those little cat-eared fans went home inspired. I can imagine that some are even starting to learn instruments as I’m writing now.
If these are the kids, then the kids are alright.
Finally, the lights dimmed, the screen rolled up, and Japanese Breakfast filed onstage from the side staircase. Glowing orbs filled the space behind them as the first notes of “Paprika” fell over a cheering crowd. I had goosebumps in that moment. As the lights came up, the stage filled with colorful lights that seemed to weave around each instrument. Each musician was highlighted beautifully as they moved around stage.
The crowd stayed on their toes as the setlist revlealed favorite after favorite. About half of the set was from Grammy nominated album Jubilee. The other half was a mix of older work, and they even included “Glider” from the Sable video game soundtrack that they released in 2021.
Zauner shared a moment of vulnerability with the audience as she recalled their last stop here. She was devistated about how the show went and felt it wasn’t the introduction the First Avenue that she wanted to make. I wished so badly that I could let her know how much I loved it. I consider it one of the best shows I’ve seen. The crowd shared my sentiment and she smiled appreciatively as they told her so. Loudly. The band clearly fed off the energy and joy of the crowd. They seemed more free and energetic. It was fun to see them incorporate violin, saxophone, synth, and keys with the standard guitars, drums, and bass. Not to mention, Zauner’s signature floral gong. There was always something happening on stage to appreciate.
After a great set they returned with the slow and epic build of “Posing for Cars” to begin their encore. I could write an entire article about this song. Instead I’ll just recommend you close your eyes and listen to it’s soaring solos and heartbreaking lyrics for yourself. The night ended on “Diving Woman” from Soft Sounds from Another Planet and the band took their last waves to the crowd.
Japanese Breakfast always leaves me feeling happy and hopeful. I can’t wait to hear what they come out with next and see them again, and again, and again.