Artists: Japanese Breakfast with Yo La Tengo
Venue: Roadrunner Boston
Date: September 29, 2022
Susan and I attended our first concert since before the COVID pandemic, and it’s seems to be taking almost as long for me to write about it. The headliner was Japanese Breakfast, the Philadelphia-based band lead by Michelle Zauner. Opening was the veteran New Jersey indie rock band Yo La Tengo, who I’ve seen in concert three times before. It may seem strange that a long-time act like Yo La Tengo would be the openers for a newer band like Japanese Breakfast, but it was clear that there’s a mutual admiration among the two bands and that they enjoyed sharing the ticket.
This was also our first visit to Roadrunner, a venue that opened earlier this year. As a long time Boston resident, it felt kind of surreal that Roadrunner was among several shiny new buildings in an entire new neighborhood that was plopped on to Guest Street in Brighton while I wasn’t looking. The venue has a large standing-room area on the floor in front of the stage with a standing-room mezzanine on three sides. Simple and elegant.
Yo La Tengo played a nine song set, including two of my all-time favorite songs “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” and “Black Flowers.” They also played “Autumn Sweater” which may be their most famous song. The multi-talented trio of Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew took turns on lead vocals and a variety of different instruments. They create a really big sound for just three people. I got the sense that Kaplan would’ve enjoyed spending the night alone in a room with his guitar just as much as he would performing in front of hundreds of people. Michelle Zauner and guest guitarist Kevin Micka joined the band for the final number “I Heard You Looking,” an extended instrumental jam. I really admired the professionalism of the artists on stage when they went they suddenly all snapped from improvisation back into the tune.
Japanese Breakfast took the stage next, playing a set primarily made up of songs from the band’s most recent release Jubilee. They opened with “Paprika” during which Zauner struck a gong several times, the lights surrounding gone lit up exciting the audience each time. I should note here that the light design for the whole show was excellent. Susan, being on the short side, couldn’t see the gong and thought Zauner was holding a large bone.
The band followed with “Be Sweet,” my favorite song of Jubilee, so my desires were sated early. Zauner has a lot of charisma and energy so even though I’m only familiar with the most recent album, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance of songs from earlier albums as well as a couple of covers. The band’s guitarist was also excellent, and he had several great solos, however I have not been able to locate his name.
The concert ended with Ira Kaplan returning to the stage to join Japanese Breakfast on an encore of “Diving Woman,” the opening track from the 2017 album Soft Sounds From Another Planet. It featured another breakdown of improvisational noise from all the artists performing. It was a great show and a good night out for all.
- Concert Review: Yo La Tengo (2009)
- Album Review: Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast
- Book Review: Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner