Story by Jamie Campbell
Photos by Aron Diaz
As I stepped into the Legion Branch #1 hours before Japanese Breakfast was set to take the stage, I could already sense the anticipation and excitement. Quickly realizing the long line-up for the ATM was actually a line-up for the merch table, I headed into the venue to claim my spot. Standing adjacent to the seemingly ceiling height set of speakers, I would be in clear eyesight of Michelle Zauner. Leading up, I could feel my personal bubble slowly deflating as people pressed closer and closer. By 11 p.m., Sled Island posted a friendly warning that the sought after performance was nearing capacity, which was evident by the people piling in. As soon as Zauner stepped on stage (in her badass Doc Marten platform boots), she was just as welcoming as she was welcomed.
Zauner’s voice has the same consistency as honey. Each word flows naturally and is bridged by her lullaby-esque humming. Performing hits such as Road Head and the beautiful ode In Heaven, the crowd seemed completely transfixed by the methodical sounds. During the set, there was no lack of energy; she created a sense of intimacy with her on-stage dance moves right along the front of the stage, often kneeling down to get even closer to the audience. I stepped away from the speaker – as I was no longer beside it, but against it as it vibrated my core – to get a far-reaching view of the Sledders.
As I walked back, the band started strumming a tune, which the entire venue recognized immediately, and Zauner’s vocals glided into the chorus for Boyish: “I can’t get you off my mind, I can’t get you off in general. So here we are, we’re just two losers. I want you and you want something more beautiful.” The concert was turned into a sing-a-long as the crowd was completely captured by the emotional lyrics and Zauner’s ability to sing them as though her heart may break open.
This was Japanese Breakfast’s first show back in North America since touring around Asia, and it certainly did not disappoint.
The beauty of Sled Island is that it gives music lovers the opportunity to get acquainted with artists they may or may not be listening to. It’s a portal of discovery that allows you to step in and continually roll from show to show. For information about the festival, make sure to head over to www.sledisland.com.