The Monday night crowd at the Fonda Theatre is brimming with LA cool kids– not the intimidating kind, rather, the kind that grabs your hand tells you her name is Molly and she’s a Scorpio. This was my warm welcome to The Japanese House’s show in Hollywood on November 20.
The age range is astounding– there is a girl in high school asking me about my camera, while Molly laments over being 29 in such a “young crowd”. From the pit to the ceiling, everyone is good natured, swaying, donning doc martens and crystals and earth tones galore. Before the show starts, a small but steady cheer emanates from general admission, all eyes cast upwards as MUNA (comprised of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson) enters and takes their seats in the balcony. The Japanese House is widely lauded as one of the “lesbian pop” artists, taking her place among MUNA, boygenius, girl in red, and Fletcher. Beloved by the girls, gays and theys.
The Japanese House is the stage name for UK vocalist and guitarist Amber Bain, most well known by her use of synthesizer and “chill” beats. Bain and her band emerge shortly before 9:50, guns blazing with “Sad to Breathe”– an upbeat tune with heart wrenching lyrics– perhaps nobody performs this juxtaposition better than Japanese House. The light show accompanying the band is astounding, every note accounted for in the strobes. The band follows with another fan favorite off the new album, “Touching Yourself”. This is the ideal kind of show to attend with limited discography knowledge– every single song is moveable, almost ambient, but simultaneously intoxicating. No judgment from the diehards, just encouraging bopping in the Fonda’s cozy GA floor section.
Bain is accompanied by a full band– guitar, bass, keys, drums– even saxophone. The stage is full, every instrument well heard. Bain notes the crowd’s energy, and apologizes for the next song shifting the mood to something sadder, a song called “Morning Pages”. To this statement, the crowd cheers even louder. “Morning Pages” is a song off of the new record, In the End It Always Does, and features MUNA. While this track deserves a cheer regardless, it seems a few in the crowd have harkened back to pre-show, remembering MUNA was spotted in the crowd. Sure enough, at the top of the chorus, MUNA appears on the stage, the three of them arm and arm (Katie is injured and wearing a medical boot, Jo and Naomi are helping her hop across the stage). Bain greets them with kisses and hugs, the crowd mirrors with screams and a sea of phones held up to record video of the soon-to-be coveted performance.
The setlist bounces between the new record and old favorites, including “You Seemed So Happy” and “Saw You in a Dream”, all maintaining the same relative tone and BPM. The band wraps their hour-long set with Dionne, from the EP “Chewing Cotton Wool.” On the album this track is originally featuring Justin Vernon, however, no special guest this time around. Bain announces that the aforementioned song will be their last, much to the dismay of the crowd (a man beside me shrieks “NOOOOOO” upon hearing this information). Lucky for Shrieking Man, they perform an encore consisting of two tracks off the new record, “One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones” and “Sunshine Baby”. As a typical patron of shows where I know the discography front to back, I was nervous coming into a space where I knew very little and felt like a “fake fan”, if you will. However, the energy of the crowd paired with the obvious talent from The Japanese House made this concert just as enjoyable as a newcomer. I arrived as a casual listener and left a definite fan.
Words and photos by Dara Feller