Japanese Breakfast, melancholic reflections (The Sinclair 10/11)

Japanese Breakfast sold out at The Sinclair on Wednesday, and now we can see why.

This line up of Philly-based bands gave you a little taste of everything: from the spirit of the beehive’s gliding shoegaze whorls, Mannequin Pussy’s head basher rage, and Japanese Breakfast’s soul biting vocals made this October night more of a mirror reflecting the day of prevailing shoegaze and pop-punk that called for you to hear more than just the music being played.

The lights on stage faded to shades of purples and blues that accented Marisa Dabice’s of Mannequin Pussy’s eloquent silk dress and black electric guitar that radiated in the light, Rivka Ravede’s from the spirit of the beehive’s gnarly scorpion guitar strap and circle-rimmed glasses, and the glow that highlighted Michele Zauner of Japanese Breakfast only defined the ether in which her music resides.

These bands are trying to speak to you not just through music, but by the language their music speaks.

This underground world of beer holding twenty-somethings that filled the floor that night is giving bands like Japanese Breakfast the space to challenge and experiment with the barriers their genres create in their live performances. For the spirit of the beehive, their slow yet imploding shoegaze riffs painted a picture of quiet mayhem that gave the gazing crowd the space to reflect. Mannequin Pussy called for you to feel (how could you not with that screeching guitar and manic voice?). Japanese Breakfast concluding the night with melancholic reflections by those syrupy bass lines and grappling vocals, made you feel like you were trapped in darkness while seeing light simultaneously.

This tint of dreamy psych punk the bands performed was more groovy and dissonant than what perhaps their albums gleam, calling for the audience to be receptive to the deep-cut moments their albums spew. Inevitably, a dreamscape that morphed life’s lingering darkness and perplexing truth was born.

The spirit of the beehive displayed how the band manages staying balanced on the ground and going off the deep-end all at once, something all three bands seemed to show both sonically and lyrically. The textured landscape of layered fuzz, warm bass lines, and gooey drum lines brought to the surface by the spirit of the beehive seemed to address the underlying questions that Mannequin Pussy seemed to follow.

Though Mannequin Pussy presents an already thrashy coil of punk and escalated noise that is quite clear in their album releases, their live performance thwarted more chaos that called for the audience to let their guard down and to fall into the jagged edge of Rubice’s biting vocals and drummer Thanasi Paul’s sharp drum lines.

I couldn’t help but keep my head low and melt into those gliding riffs and yelling drums that make their punk hit “Romantic” that song that you can rely on to alleviate inner angst and mind trapping fog. I was intrigued how exactly Japanese Breakfast’s celestial, melancholic sound would blend and counter Mannequin Pussy’s jagged grunge feel; the way the band screeched truth masked behind gritty rage…

To hear Rubice carefully craft each song to quick bursts of 90s tinged alternative rock with her rapturous vocals manages to pull you through the caustic hardcore plunges that she is singing to you. A lot is happening at once, carrying and transforming chaos in all the right ways that made me think the set belonged in one of Allston’s beloved basements where sweat drips from the walls and where guitar strings become broken.

The parallel of Japanese Breakfast against these two bands contrasted the experimental distortion presented throughout the show while still compacting a lot for the audience to carry in each song.

Opening with the dreamy ‘Diving Woman’ off of the band’s latest LP Soft Sounds from Another Planet, untangled those loud moments embellished throughout the show so far. The audience gaped with open eyes at Zauner as she melodically transcended the crowd into a swaying haze evoked by her lyrics and sonic reverb. Her atmospheric voice over synthy and slow rock arrangements seemed to drive the bass line in ‘Road Head’ to make it something of a melancholic swoon that bites at the heart, that then digressed the 14-track set list into a tapestry of sound that told a narrative of life’s turmoil, expectations, and pressures.

Though performing most of her track list from Soft Sounds from Another Planet, she did play ‘Everybody Wants to Love You’, ‘Heft’ and ‘Jane Cum’ off her 2016 LP Psychopomp. But her latest project is what I think insinuates spiritual transformation throughout each Zauner’s songs. It’s cool that Japanese Breakfast is on tour for Soft Sounds from Another Planet because I think now Zauner is ready to address and alleviate the deeper questions of life’s pain through these meditative performances that call for recollection. This performance addressed pain and healing in an eclectic array of sound that is lyrically and rhythmically serene, despite the casted shadow that lingered in her voice. Psychopomp told a narrative, Soft Sounds from Another Planet is exploration and expectancy.

This evanescent show offered moments to dig deep into a narrative. Where our minds are stained with aching memory. The shoegaze cry numbs the pain while making you feel all at once, those screeching punk riffs that bring hurt and alleviation to the surface, and those pitfalling basslines of loss and healing… that, perhaps, make you feel in the most cathartic and warm way.