Japanese Breakfast plays ‘tenderooney jammers’ at the Hi-Ho Lounge


Amid the numerous stops in its first headlining tour, Japanese Breakfast touched down in New Orleans on Sept. 13 for an intimate performance at the Hi-Ho Lounge.

Fans of Japanese Breakfast and its two accompanying acts, Mannequin Pussy and Spirit of the Beehive – all Philadelphia-based bands – filled the venue up to the stage, with those in front enjoying an especially close connection to each group as the bands performed within a few feet of the crowd.

When it came time for Japanese Breakfast to play, Michelle Zauner, the band’s creator and vocal soloist, entered the stage in flashing, LED-soled tennis shoes and white linen, smiling as she looked out on the mass of people in attendance.

“We play a lot of shows in New Orleans to f—–g no one, so this is sick,” Zauner said. During her time on stage, Zauner displayed the same dynamic energy found in her music, joking with the audience between songs and dancing between choruses. Just like her band’s sound, her personality is somehow both carefree and intensely thoughtful all at once.

The headlining set began with “Diving Woman,” a popular track in which a steady-moving drum line and sustained chords combine to create the feeling of something just beginning. Intermittent bursts of synth notes float to the surface of the sound mass like bubbles in water, totally in keeping with the inspiration for the song: haenyeo, the diving women of South Korea’s Jeju island who venture down deep in search of different kinds of shells to sell at market.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Zauner said “Diving Woman” is partially about her fears that people might judge her for prioritizing her career over having a family.

“I really admire the haenyeo — that lifestyle, of regimen and endurance, was inspiring to me, particularly during a time when I was touring a lot,” Zauner said.

Along with other hits from its second album, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” like “Machinist” and “Everybody Wants to Love You,” the group played what Zauner playfully dubbed “a tenderooney jammer,” a song better known as “Boyish,” whose lyrics lament the heartache of unrequited love.

In most of her songs, Zauner tends not to rely on lyrics alone, but on a combination of succinct phrases and powerful blends of chords. This is the case in “Boyish,” whose word count totals a meager 47 but which still manages to evoke a sense of longing and wistfulness in the listener that perfectly fits the theme of the song.

Soon, the show began to wind down, but not before Zauner, microphone in hand, jumped down from the stage, spinning freely amongst the crowd in what could have been the only possible conclusion for a night so full of positive energy between a group and its fans.

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